Helping Young Stamp Collectors to get Started

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There are Millions of Stamps - How can I Identify them all?

Fortunately there are several catalogues available which list stamps by country and date of issue. In the United Kingdom the most popular catalogue is the Stanley Gibbons All World Catalogue. But it is rather expensive, and is reissued once a year. Your local public library will usually have a copy, or you can sometimes pick up an old copy cheaply from a second-hand bookshop or a charity shop. Other countries, notably France, Germany and United States, have recognised catalogues dealing with both their own countries and the rest of the world.

Get to know the inscriptions and emblems on stamps to identify which country issued them. You can go to the SCV Stamp Identifier for help in finding out the countries for unfamiliar inscriptions.

The Stanley Gibbons 'Stamps of the World' Catalogue.

It's worth spending a little time reading the notes in the front of the catalogue. These contain some useful information about the terms used, how stamps are produced and how the catalogue is arranged. But remember that this is really a price list. It shows you the prices for which the company issuing the catalogue is prepared to sell you its stamps. Don't expect to get the prices it quotes for your stamps if ever you want to sell them or trade them for other stamps.

There are many other useful books (called 'handbooks') that give much more detail about different stamp issues, the varieties found on them, and the postal services of the issuing countries. They usually deal with the stamps of one country or a related group of countries. Because they are normally printed in small numbers they are often out of print, difficult to obtain and quite expensive to buy. But if you wish to specialise in a particular country you will soon find that you need to learn more about the stamps than the catalogue tells you. There are specialist societies that can help you. Search the 'UK Philately' site under clubs and societies for information about them, or go to the 'Links' page on the Yorkshire Philatelic Association's web site at


The 'Penny Black' was the first postage
stamp. It was issued in Britain in
1840, and shows Queen Victoria.
Because of this Britain is the only
country allowed to issue stamps that
do not show the name of the country,
and are identified as being British
by having the monarch's head on
the stamps.

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