Beginner’s Section

Your Complete Guide to Stamp Collecting

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.46.49 AMGet collectors tips and more from the stamp experts at Mystic!  You’ll learn how to start or build a collection, how to identify your stamps, collecting tools, a stamp glossary and much more.

Browse through Mystic’s Guide to Stamp Collecting now… and bookmark it for later reference.

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It’s Your Collection – Organize it Your Way!

An important and fun challenge for every stamp collector is the protection and display of your collection.  You can organize your stamps any way you want.

Some collectors accumulate stamps and keep them in glassine envelopes, stock books, shoe boxes, etc.

Most stamp collectors enjoy arranging their stamps in an attractive, organized way for easy viewing.  By doing this, you’ll not only have a collection to be proud of, but you’ll also be protecting your stamps from damage.

You can organize your stamps by country (U.S., Spain), by region of the world (Europe, Asia), or topic (animals, space).

You’ll find more tips from Mystic’s experts in this section, including advice on how to choose an album to hinging stamps, selecting mounts and more.  These are suggestions for you to consider.  But remember, this is your little corner of the world – you’re in control.  Please yourself!

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How to Identify Your Stamps

How to Identify Your Stamps

The biggest reward from collecting stamps is your enjoyment!  However, at some point you may want to learn the basics of identification and condition of your stamps.  As you may know, two stamps can look exactly the same, and yet they are different issues with different Scott Numbers and values.  Also, you know the difference between used and unused, but do you know how unused and mint stamps differ?  Let me show you some techniques for identifying your stamps! Continue reading

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Basic Stamp Terms for Beginners

Knowing the meaning of a few stamp collecting terms makes it more fun to collect – and easier to talk to other collectors about the hobby. Here’s a few basic terms to get you started!

Perforation: small rows of holes punched between stamps to make separating them easy

Design: a stamp’s overall appearance

Vignette: central part of the stamp design

Frame: the outer part of a stamp design, which can be as simple as a single line or very ornate

Selvage: attached margin paper that may be plain or highly decorative

Country: tells you which nation issued your stamp

Denomination: what it originally cost to purchase the stamp from the post office

Series and Sets: Many of the stamps in series and sets have common design elements. For example, each stamp in this series features a Looney Tunes character. Notice the style of the letters and numbers also match. (FYI – series are issued over a period of years, while sets are issued on the same date.)

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Foreign Pronunciation and Geographic Location Guide

Now you can enjoy your worldwide stamp collection even more by learning how to pronounce the name of almost any foreign country. This guide also increases your knowledge of each country’s geography and history.

Every listing gives you the pronunciation and location of the country you’re looking for, as well as its current or former name and colonial status. As you can see, the countries are listed in alphabetical order. Continue reading

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Eleven Major Types of U.S. Stamps

Ever wonder what the difference is between definitives, commemoratives, and other types of U.S. stamps? Let’s find out!


1895 $1 Bureau Issue

Definitives There have been numerous stamp types issued in the U.S. since the first stamp was sold in 1847. But the one type that has lasted throughout postal history is the “workhorse” of stamps – the Definitive, or regular-issue stamp. Performing the duties of franking everyday mail, it’s issued in a wide variety of denominations and is used for long periods of time. Definitives are very interesting to collect. Since their extended use means they are reprinted from time to time, there can be many differences among the stamps. You may find differences in design, due to the use of several printing plates and worn plates, color variations, varieties of watermarks, perforation and gum differences, or even printing method or paper differences.


1986 Folk Art Commemorative

Commemoratives In 1893, a new type of stamp was issued – the Commemorative stamp. This is a special stamp issued to honor an important person, event, or anniversary. It’s printed in smaller quantities than definitives, and is sold for a limited time only, usually a few months. Unsold remainders are usually destroyed. The first U.S. Commemorative stamps were issued in 1893 to commemorate the World’s Columbian Exposition. The 16-stamp series depicted the various stages of Columbus’ voyages to the New World.




Save Vanishing Species Semi-postal


Semi-Postals Semi-postals are postage stamps with an additional surcharge intended to raise money for a specific cause. In 1997, the Postal Service issued the first U.S. Semi-Postal stamp. Its purpose was to help fund breast cancer research. The Breast Cancer Semi-Postal was followed in 2002 by the Heroes of 9/11 Semi-Postal which raised funds for emergency personnel killed or disabled on September 11, 2001.



2008 72¢ 13-Mile Woods Airmail


Airmail In 1918, Airmail Service was started in the U.S. and the need was there for an Airmail Stamp to prepay airmail postal rates. The first airmail stamp was the 24¢ Curtiss Jenny. (This is also one of the most famous invert errors in postal history.) Although mail is routinely carried by air now, airmail stamps are still issued for use on international mail. All airmail stamps are listed with a Scott Number beginning with “C”. For a short time, from 1934-36, the Postal Service issued Airmail Special Delivery Stamps. These were to provide air postage and a fee for the special delivery. There were only two stamps issued, and these were given Scott Numbers CE1 & CE2.


1879 1¢ Postage Due

Postage Due & Special Delivery The Postage Due Stamp was first issued in 1879. Its use indicates an amount due the Postal Service, when insufficient postage is put on a piece of delivered mail. Postage Due Stamps are plain and very functional, and usually have large numerals indicating the amount of postage owed. They all have Scott Numbers beginning with “J”. In 1885, a new service was started – Special Delivery. The Special Delivery Stamps indicated that an extra fee had been charged for immediate delivery to a person’s address once the mail was delivered to the nearest Post Office. Special Delivery Stamps are always designated by a Scott Number beginning with “E”.


1913 $1 Parcel Post


Parcel Post, Official, & Revenue In 1912, stamps were introduced to pre-pay postage on parcels. There were twelve Parcel Post Stamps issued, all with different denominations, but with the same format and color. Postal workers had trouble differentiating between 1¢ and $1 stamps. By 1913, parcel post charges could be paid for with any stamp, and Parcel Post Stamps became obsolete.


1879 6¢ Treasury Official

They are listed in Scott’s as “Q” numbers. Also issued in 1912 were the Parcel Post Postage Due Stamps. They are Scott Number “JQ” and show that there is an amount to be collected from the addressee. The term “Official” refers to a stamp used only by a department of the government. In 1873, the U.S. issued Official Stamps for the Executive Branch and the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Justice, Navy, Post Office, Treasury, and War. This type of official stamp was in use for seven years. Now there is one universal official stamp to be used by all branches of government. Scott Numbers for Officials start with “O”. The final major type of U.S. stamp is the Revenue Stamp. These stamps show the collection of tax or payment of a fee. The most popular of these revenues are probably the migratory bird hunting stamps, or duck stamps, as they are commonly called. They are issued annually. Revenue Stamps are given Scott Numbers beginning with an “R”.


1862-71 50¢ Probate of Will Revenue

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