No tools are required to be a stamp collector but a few may prove useful in organizing, identifying, and handling your stamps.
Keep your stamps in good condition by handling them as little as possible. We suggst that you use tongs to handle dry stamps because no matter how well you wash your hands, oil from your skin will damage your stamps. Tongs look like tweezers, but have a smooth gripping surface designed to handle stamps. Printable "Three Tips" brochure may help you with using tongs (print, fold, and share.)
Some stamps appear to be alike, but with close inspection you will see small differences that can help to identify a rare stamp. Considering the size of a stamp, a magnifying glass is a great tool to help see the details of our stamps and to find differences. When selecting a magnifying glass, choose one that magnifies clearly, without distortion. We recommend a magnifying lens with at least 5 times to 10 times magnification. It's also a good idea to select one that folds into a case to help prevent scratches on the lens.
Stamp Albums and Stock Books
It is a good idea to store your stamps in albums to help protect them. You can buy stamp albums from local stamp dealers, make your own, or even use a photo album with acid-free paper. (Do not use a photo album with pages that are sticky as these pages will damage your stamps). Some stamp albums that you purchase feature specific categories with pictures of the stamps that should appear on each page. A stock book is another type of album with plastic or paper pockets on each page. Stock books do not picture the stamps, so you can organize them however you wish. Printable "Three Tips" brochure may help you with finding a stamp album (print, fold, and share.)
Hinges and Mounts
Put stamps in your albums with a hinge or a mount. Don't use tape or glue as you will decrease the stamp's value and possibly damage the stamps when you try to remove them from your album. Hinges are small, thin, folded pieces of translucent paper or plastic with special gum on one side. Mounts are clear plastic sleeves. Both hinges and mounts are available from local stamp dealers. We discuss the proper way to mount stamps in further detail in our "Stamp Tips" section.
A variety of stamp catalogs are available. They are very helpful, and can be borrowed from some libraries. A stamp catalog is a great reference book filled with illustrations that can help us identify and learn about our stamps. They provide us with such information as, the date when the stamp was issued, a description of the stamp, why it was issued, how it was printed, and gives the value of the stamps in used and unused-condition. Learn How to Read a Stamp Catalog Listing
Here's another tool to help us find differences in stamps. Some stamps have the same design but different numbers of perforations (holes between stamps that make it easy to separate them). Of course you could count the perforations yourself by counting how many appear along a row 20 millimeters long on each edge of the stamp -- sounds confusing, don't you think? That's why perforation gauges are a good idea. They are usually made of cardboard, plastic, or metal and make the measurement of perforations simple. The gauge has different scales showing the various sizes of perforations so that you can simply place your stamp against each scale until its perforations match exactly those on the gauge. Here's a YouTube video to help you with How to Use a Perforation Gauge
Watermarks are another way to recognize differences in similar stamps. A watermark is a design (maybe a letter, a number, or a picture) that is pressed into the paper that a stamp is printed on during manufacturing. Watermarks are used to make it harder to counterfeit stamps. Sometimes watermarks are visible, or can easily be seen by looking at the back of a stamp as you hold it up to the light, or by placing the stamp face down on a black background. If these methods don't work, a watermark detector can be used. A watermark detector is a shallow, glass black cup or dish. Simply place your stamp face down in the detector, and pour watermark fluid over it; if there is a watermark, it should become visible. Here's a YouTube video to help you with How to Detect Watermarks A few advanced collectors may also desire an ultraviolet light to detect faults or to determine if a stamp is tagged, or glows under light of a certain wave length to enable the use of automatic facing and canceling machines.