Collecting stamps is a never ending source of interest. You can collect for a lifetime and still be on the hunt for that rare gem, that odd bit of history that is captured by a stamp. Along the way, you may have a lull where the good ones just aren’t coming along at a price you can afford. But you can still keep your hobby active by looking into other, related collectibles.
Single stamps are the norm in most collections, but groups of stamps can be interesting as well as a great investment. You could hunt down and capture a ‘booklet pane’. Those are three or more stamps from the same issue.
The panes are then collected into a folder to make a booklet. One specialized type are ‘plate blocks’, which consist of four stamps from the corner of a pane. A pane is a sheet of stamps and they are typically marked with a plate number and other information.
Those markings can turn an ordinary plate block into a collectible. Misprints, historical issues and other elements can increase the worth of a set many times over.
For example, since stamps are truly works of art, their designs can be copyrighted. The copyright mark () stamped in the margin makes a set a ‘copyright block’. The US Postal System started stamping blocks with the symbol in 1978 and many are now collector’s items.
You might be lucky enough to acquire a ‘souvenir sheet’. Those are panes of stamps that have lettering or a design in the margins. Those markings can be perfectly ordinary or they can commemorate a special issue that is a hot collectible.
A cover makes for a great collectible. A ‘cover’, in philately, is anything that encloses or to which the stamp is affixed. Envelopes are the most common cover, but not the only type possible.
For example, for many years the French postal system sold combination stamp/envelope/paper sheets that could be used for writing letters to overseas friends. They were then folded, the edges adhered, and the result mailed as one unit.
‘First Day covers’ are a great alternative to ordinary stamp collectibles. First Day covers are those that bear stamps postmarked on the first day of sale. For certain issues, the combination of stamp, envelope and postmark can be a really interesting item and a valuable investment.
A First Day cover issued on the day of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge on May 24, 1883, for example, would be something truly special. Even if the stamp itself were otherwise ordinary, the combination would be a collectible, especially if the postmark were from a Brooklyn post office. Get one of those and you would be the star at any of the annual First Day Cover Collecting Week celebrations!