Every year, countries all over the world issue stamps related to scores of different topics. Collectors of new issues know well that sourcing and acquiring these stamps is an entirely different beast than buying stamps that are a few decades old, or centuries old. Our contributors for this section, William “Bill” Silvester and John Stefanek, both New Issue columnists and collectors themselves, have compiled a list of sources and advice for anyone who finds a new issue drawing their eye. Silvester has written the “New World Issues” column in The American Philatelist since February 2020, and Stefanek sources new issues for APS affiliate and ATA study unit Gay and Lesbian History on Stamps.
Please tell us about your column and your writing process.
John: I write a new issues column for the quarterly digital newsletter of Gay and Lesbian History on Stamps, and I mean it to be a complete topical listing, so the members can decide what they want to collect from that list. So it gets quite long. It may surprise you how many new issues are out there these days that pertain to our topic. During each quarter, I make a list of new issues that I happen to hear about that fit our collecting topic.
As I get nearer to the issue’s publication, I will go through country by country, using the online catalogs to see what’s depicted on the stamps, and check the individual country’s philatelic bureau or post office. Sometimes the online catalogs aren’t completely upto-date and there’ll be even more current information available on these websites.
Bill: In my writing I attempt to present a cross section of the many and varied issues that become available every year. I tend to seek out some of the more popular topics to present to APS readers, such as new stamps featuring animals, trains, sports and so on. Unfortunately, I am not always able to spotlight issues that I think will be of interest as they do not fit in the criteria I have set out for inclusion. When writing my column, the first thing I need to find is a high resolution image. I have found a few sources that use a higher resolution and others that are willing to send me updates of their new issues in advance along with background information.
Once I have gathered a dozen or so suitable images, I begin researching the subjects, either through the website of the philatelic agency or country responsible or from other sources in my library or on the web. I look for little tidbits of information that would be of interest to readers as well as an overall synopsis of the subject. The third step, and strangely, sometimes the most difficult, is finding a page on the country’s website where the stamps can be purchased so that I can include that information with the write-up. Sometimes there is none, so I step back and regretfully delete that stamp from my New Issue list.
What sources do you use for identifying new issues?
Bill: Each month, as I prepare to write my column, I first go to the websites of the more popular countries such as Canada Post, Royal Mail, Australia Post, all of which are easy to order from. I also have a few philatelic bureaus that send me periodic updates on their new issues. Next, I go to wholesale new issues dealers and check out what they have listed. Finally, I check out the auction sites like HipStamp, eBay, or Delcampe. Having done all that I usually have a nice list of new issues to use in my column.
John: I usually find information about new issues from publications – Linn’s Stamp News is fairly complete with coverage on the United States, Canada and Great Britain issues. Besides publications, I also try to get issue information from places on the internet – blogs, discussion forums, online stamp catalogs. There are discussion forums where some members keep threads where they talk about new issues, and other threads keep abreast of certain countries’ new issues. I also use two online stamp catalogs, such as stampworld. com and colnect.com.
Is the internet the best resource, or are there dealers who act as middlemen? Is there usually an opportunity to comparison shop between vendors?
Bill: The best, and generally the cheapest, place to buy new issues is from the country issuing them as they sell at face value from online websites. It’s not always easy to find this. One would think that selling stamps would be one of the primary objectives of a country’s postal website but apparently not. In some cases, a great deal of searching is required to find a place to buy postage stamps from a philatelic bureau. This is unfortunate as that leaves collectors unable to purchase their stamps at face value from the country of choice and instead they must rely on sites selling stamps at over face value. Using a subscription service from that country also keeps shipping costs down as well. Wholesale new issue dealers, like those mentioned earlier, charge a percentage above face and often a discount if a specific number of a certain stamp are purchased.
In some cases, collectors can order from a philatelic agency. This is handy if more than one country is of interest as these agencies represent numerous countries and can also be searched by topic. Countries that do not sell stamps on their own postal websites will sometimes refer you to their agent. There will often be a postage and handling charge so the more you can order from a country or their agent the better, to even out those charges. Some offer free shipping if a certain amount of dollar value is ordered.
New issue services abound and naturally they charge a bit extra plus postage and handling. Most stamp magazines list new issue services in their classifieds or, like The American Philatelist, feature advertisements from their post offices. Do your research before selecting one. Some have the stock on hand, others will wait for you to order and then they will order from the country requested making the process much slower. However, having said that, if you have a new issue service you are happy with, then by all means stick with them.
John: You can always find new issues to buy on online auction and market sites. Some postal administrations sell their new issues through those, as well. For example, Canada Post and the USPS sell on eBay. This also gives you an opportunity to comparison shop, which is helpful. Sellers try to keep costs down to stay competitive.
There must be a gap of time after a new issue is sold and is no longer available from that country’s agent when a fairly new issue is difficult to find. Do you have any tips for those situations?
Bill: Many postal administrations have new issues on sale for at least a full year after they are first issued. Most agents keep issues on sale for as long as they have them in stock. If a collector has waited too long or was unaware of the stamp and the stamps are sold out then the auction sites, HipStamp, eBay and Delcampe, are the best alternative.
What are those countries that are extremely difficult to collect?
John: Getting information about some of the Latin American countries is very tough, and some of that must be because some countries are just not releasing as many stamps as they used to. If I find information about some of them, it’s very difficult to actually find a place to buy them – and that’s when you go to eBay or Delcampe. My best advice would be to go sit out on the auction site to try to get the info. Or you can hunt down special collecting societies. If I’m having trouble finding out information about stamps from Peru or Bolivia, there are several South American philatelic societies. Or you get a pen pal, right? An exchange partner of some sort.
What else should our readers know about collecting new issues? Any other tips?
Bill: Every year, countries all over the world issue stamps related to scores of different topics. Most topical collectors usually find at least one new stamp, set or souvenir sheet to add to their collections throughout the course of a year. Many philatelic agencies and national postal services keep an eye on topical themes when deciding what they will suggest to their clients or Post Office departments for the annual new issue fest. Some countries restrict their topics to subjects that are pertinent to their nation, others will issue anything they think might sell to an eager topical collector.
Collecting new issues is not much different from collecting old issues, excepting the more prompt one is in getting the stamps from seller to buyer, the better. Some popular topics sell out quicker than others, so it is advisable to get them on order as soon as possible.
You will find more fantastic and educational articles in the The American Philatelist, The Stamp Collectors Buyers Guide, March 2021.