Add a new dimension to your passion for lighthouses - stamps! Hundreds of postage stamps have been issued by the United States and other countries picturing and celebrating lighthouses since the first postal stamp was issued by Great Britain of Queen Victoria in 1840. As you recently read in Lighthouse Digest, New Zealand issued a set of stamps this past January commemorating the 150th anniversary of New Zealand’s first lighthouse. The New Zealand stamps even have a glow-in-the dark feature showing a beam of light emanating from the lighthouse. In fact, New Zealand has been issuing lighthouse postage stamps since 1891.
Last year, Canada issued some absolutely beautiful lighthouse postage stamps as we reported in the March 2008 issue of Lighthouse Digest.
As you are aware from previous stories in Lighthouse Digest, this July, the United States Postal Service will issue five stamps featuring Gulf Coast lighthouses. The images used for the stamps were based on photos taken of the lighthouses just one year following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. In the series are the Biloxi Lighthouse on the Mississippi coast; the Sand Island Lighthouse located in the Gulf of Mexico, about three miles south of the entrance to Mobile Bay, Alabama; the Fort Jefferson Lighthouse, 70 miles west of Key West Florida; the Sabine Pass Lighthouse in southwest Louisiana where the Sabine and Neches Rivers meet; and Matagorda Island Lighthouse which stands at the northeast end of the Texas island.
The United States Postal Service began issuing series of lighthouse stamps in 1990. Among the series were sets of Great Lakes Lighthouses, Pacific Lighthouses, Southeast Lighthouses, and West Coast Lighthouses. Other United States stamp issues feature a single lighthouse or a lighthouse that is part of a landscape design. It is fun to search for lighthouses on stamps.
Putting together a topical stamp collection featuring the lighthouses you love is easy. Here are some tips to light the way.
The first step is accumulating stamps. Post offices (foreign and domestic), stamp shops, the internet, specialized stamp publications, stamp shows and your own mailbox are great sources to gather stamps from. Do not forget friends and relatives. Tell them about your search for Lighthouses on stamps and they will surely join the hunt.
For most collectors the search is often as much fun as the find. A topical collection can include more than stamps with a common theme. Postmarks, postal covers, first-day covers and post cards featuring lighthouses are other welcomed additions.
Stamp collecting is a hobby in which you set the rules. Your collection can be anything that you want it to be, but there are a few basics to follow so that your stamps will not be damaged and can be enjoyed for many years to come.
You can collect mint or used stamps—or both. Mint, means the stamp has not gone through the mail, and the gum on the back of the stamp is intact. Used, means the stamp has gone through the mail.
There are many different postal markings and cancellations. Some collectors choose to collect these markings, and they save the entire envelope with the stamp on it (on-cover).
Stamps can be collected on-cover, or off-cover. See “Soaking Stamps Off Envelopes” to learn how to remove stamps from their envelopes if you want to collect used stamps off-cover.
You can collect stamps from a specific country, or from many different countries. You can also collect stamps topically. That is where lighthouses come in. With a topical collection you pick a theme and collect stamps picturing your theme. Other popular topical themes are flags, ships, flowers, or trains to name a few.
There is no right or wrong way to collect stamps. However, you do not want to ruin the stamps, so never use tape or glue to mount stamps. Use stamp hinges or special stamp mounts, that can be purchased at stamp shops or online.
Use stamp tongs (special smooth-edged tweezers purchased at stamp shops), not your fingers to handle stamps. The oils from your fingers can damage stamps.
Stamp albums are among the many items that can be purchased at a stamp shop. (Check the Yellow Pages under "Stamps for Collectors" for local stamp shops. If there are none in your area subscribe to a stamp publication like Scotts Stamp Monthly, Linn's Stamp News, or American Philatelist, which contains information on where to buy stamps and supplies by mail or online. )
Some albums have printed pictures of the stamps. There is usually some information about the stamp printed underneath the picture. When you get that stamp, you simply mount it over the picture.
You can also buy albums with blank pages. With blank pages, you decide where and how you want your stamps to be organized. This is usually the preferred method for topical collections which are often more varied than collections based on a specific country.
A Few Basic Stamp Collecting Terms
Cachet- pictorial image on cover
First Day Cover- a stamped cover postmarked with the stamp’s first date of issue
Mint- stamp that has not been through the postal system
Used- stamp that has been through the postal system
Philately- the collection and study of postage stamps and other postal materials
Postmark- marking of the date and location
These websites and publications are beacons for reliable information about stamp collecting.
The American Philatelist Society offers general stamp collecting information on numerous topics and a monthly magazine, the American Philatelist with membership. www.stamps.org 814-237-3803 (Philately is a fancy word for the collection and study of stamps!)
The American Topical Association, www.americantopicalassn.org, offers information about many topical stamp clubs and study groups. One such group is The Lighthouse Stamp Society which promotes the collecting of lighthouses on stamps and other philatelic related items. Visit www.lighthousestampsociety.org for an application to join. The site contains a wealth of information about collecting lighthouse themed stamps. Fees to join are $12.00 for US members; $20.00 for foreign which includes a subscription to their eight page bi-monthly journal, The Philatelic Beacon. There is also a comprehensive listing of lighthouse stamps that have been issued by countries around the world. Hundreds of images of these stamps are also on the site providing a wonderful venue for lighthouse gazing!
Linn's Stamp News is a weekly general stamp publication. www.linns.com. 937-498-0801
Scott Stamp Monthly is a general stamp publication. With a subscription Scott stamp catalogs and other stamp collecting supplies are discounted. www.scottonline.com. 800-572-6885
Visit the United States Postal Service website to purchase and view upcoming United States stamp issues including the Gulf Coast Lighthouse Stamps. www.usps.com.
Visit www.zillionsofstamps.com to purchase and view a variety of stamps from countries around the world on just about any topic imaginable.
Soaking Stamps Off Envelopes
Sometimes a stamp may have a greater value on-cover, so it is wise to leave the stamp on the envelope or postcard until you can research its value.
But, if you do decide to remove the stamp from its envelope, snip around the stamp with
scissors—carefully, because you don’t want to cut into the stamp. Unfortunately some of the new self-adhesive stamps do not soak off of their envelopes successfully so collectors are saving them on the cut square.
For the older stamps that were lick and stick put the cut square in a bowl of lukewarm water. In a few minutes the stamp will separate from the envelope paper; the new self-adhesive stamps may take a little longer to separate. Be patient, if you pull the stamp off the paper too soon, you may damage it.
Next, put the stamp face down on a white paper towel. Then, place another white paper towel over the stamp. Place a heavy book, such as a telephone book, on top of that paper towel. This will keep the stamp from curling up as it dries. In a few days the stamp will be ready to mount in an album.
Note: When soaking a stamp off of a colored envelope, soak it separately so that the dye from the envelope won't color any of the other stamps that are soaking.
About the author: Diana Erbio, a freelance writer and stamp collector enjoys writing about linking stamp collecting to other interests.
This story appeared in the
August 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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