Stamp collectors tools can be acquired with only a small amount of money. The start-up cost for new stamp collectors is very minimal as compared to the expenses for other hobbies. Acquiring the correct stamp collectors tools will assure a beginner that they are making the right start on their latest hobby.
Most stamp collectors tools can be acquired via stamp supply dealers, but you can also find them at the local stores that sell office supplies. There are also warehouse-type stores where you can find stamp collectors tools similar to the ones sold at stamp supply stores.
Actually, there are no tools needed in order to become a stamp collector. However, to continue being a good stamp collector, one must have a few stamp collectors tools which can prove to be very useful in identifying, organizing, handling and protecting the stamps properly.
Unlike tennis players who would really need expensive tennis rackets, balls, bags, shoes, attire, and other mandatory equipment to enjoy the sport, stamp collectors, on the other hand, can enjoy their stamp collecting hobby with only a handful of items that are also known as stamp collectors tools. The stamp collectors tools are divided into 2 main groups: those tools which are absolutely important for every stamp collector, and those which are actually great to have when one's budget can afford them.
If you want to keep your stamps in tip-top condition, make sure that you handle them as little as possible by using essential stamp collectors tools. When handling dry stamps, always use stamp tongs, because no matter how much you have washed your hands, the natural oils from your skin will potentially damage your stamps.
Stamp tongs come in 4 types based on their tips: pointed, paddle or spoon tip, spade-shaped, and angled or cranked. See the photo above to view the different types of tips of stamp tongs -- from left to right: pointed, spoon, spade, and angled tip.
Magnifying glasses can come in a wide variety of sizes, magnifying powers and prices. Stamp collectors may own 2 or more magnifying glasses for different purposes. One common magnifier would be intended mainly for everyday use while another one with a higher magnifying power would be intended for viewing finer details on stamps. Do try the magnifiers out first before buying them.
Perforations found between stamps on a sheet not only help in separating them, but they can also come in different sizes and types. Finding more detail about the perforations helps stamp collectors in identifying differences of stamps. Just like twin humans that have different personalities, two stamps may look exactly alike, but each of them may have different sizes and/or types of perforations. Perforations may spectacularly influence the value of a stamp.
A perforation gauge (perf gauge) is somewhat like a scale that is used for measuring perforations (or holes or ridges) along the outer edges of stamps. A perforation gauge is one of the basic stamp collectors tools that one must have because it makes checking perforation measurements a rather simple thing to do. It can be made up of metal, cardboard, or plastic. To use a perforation gauge, start by using your stamp tongs to slide a stamp along the scales (or guide lines) until the peaks or teeth points perfectly match those on the gauge. The number of the measurement is printed on the scale. A lot of stamps have various perf measurements for the sides, bottoms and tops. When this is the case, measurements are taken first on the top portion and then on the side portion.
Watermarks, for most people, are simply just a slight thinning of the stamp paper in a design or pattern which can be seen when the paper is put into fluid or held to a light source.
Most watermarks on stamps can be easily seen from the back portion of the stamp. However, there are some watermarks that are not quickly seen and require an aid to view them. Several devices have been created for this purpose, but the easiest, cheapest, and truly the most effective is a little, black, plastic watermark tray. In the tray, put the stamp face down. Most of the times, you will then see the watermark showing, but in other cases, you may have to apply a few drops of watermark fluid to bring out the watermark.
Phosphorescence is only visible with the use of an ultraviolet (UV) lamp. UV lamps can be shortwave and longwave, and can appear in different styles and have different prices depending on the style. UV lamps may be supplied by a battery or with electricity from a wall outlet.
Longwave UV is typically harmless and can help detect tagging on a few foreign stamps. In order to detect tagging on most US stamps, you will have to use a shortwave UV lamp. Just be careful when using a shortwave UV lamp because prolonged indirect exposure to it or looking directly into its light can burn the eye's cornea and cause cataracts. Use protective goggles or prescription glasses to protect your eyes. Also, wear hand gloves and long sleeves because shortwave UV can also damage your skin.
There are actually many other stamp collectors tools that you can use aside from the ones mentioned above. In some stamp supply stores, you may find the following:
1. Rotary and guillotine paper cutters that are extremely helpful in cutting stamp mounts evenly and quickly
2. Glue sticks
3. Acid-free paper if you want to make your own album pages
4. Paper testers that help in checking if the paper you are using is acid free
5. Padded binders that have matching slip cases which make superb stamp albums
6. High-quality page protectors
7. Light boxes useful for tracing postal markings or illuminating stamps from the back to check for possible damages
Basically, you will need stamp albums, storage boxes, stamp tongs, a magnifying glass, and maybe a few stamp hinges or mounts. Get a set of stamp tongs that fits in your hand well enough that you can use it comfortably. You may have to try out some of them before you find the one you like.
You will need some storage boxes to put in your most recently purchased stamps. Then, you will relocate your stamps from the storage box to either a stamp album or a stock book. Stamps that pass inspection will then be put inside your stamp album, while duplicate and/or rejected stamps will be put inside a stock book. Stock books with duplicate or rejected stamps can be given away or sold at a later time. Organize your stock books by country, by year, or by topic, whichever you prefer.
Get maybe at least 2 magnifying glasses -- one for normal viewing, and a second one having a higher powered lens for closer inspections.
Depending on your preference, you can get either stamp hinges or stamp mounts. It is recommended for most beginners though that they use hinges. Hinges allow you to buy previously hinged (Mint Hinged (MH)) stamps, thereby reducing the purchase price. More importantly, stamp hinges allow collectors to properly view and admire the beauty of their stamps. It would be quite hard to see all the intricate detail and colors if a plastic mount cover is used.