It has been said that stamp collecting is a hobby for all age groups. While it is not an obvious hobby for kids, if set up properly, a stamp collection can be an engaging hobby that will last a lifetime. It therefore helps to understand how to make stamp collecting for kids a fun hobby.
To get kids started stamp collecting, the first step is to spark an interest in the child. That is best accomplished by showing the child why stamps are both fascinating and fun to collect. You must, however, have access to the right tools and resources to have a chance at convincing your child.
Figuring out what tools you will need depends on the type of stamps your child wants to collect. That is the first step to building an interest that lasts longer than just a passing fad. The following is a guide to find the tools and resources you’ll need to help your child get started.
Understanding The Lay Of The Land
There was a time when kids were not inundated with electronics and social media. They pursued hobbies like stamp collecting and often it was handed down to them from a parent or grandparent. Getting kids interested in hobbies like that was easy for three reasons:
- They were not saturated with a constant bombardment of media
- The average attention span was potentially longer
- There was a direct family connection with the hobby
- The Postal Service was a vital part of every household and stamps were prevalent
- Most kids had a lot of free time to play, collect, study, learn, etc.
The Environment Today
Fast forward to today. Each of those points above have changed dramatically. You could argue the change may be a good or bad thing, but the world today is undoubtedly different to how it was 10, 20 and 30+ years ago.
Social Media And Attention Spans
Kids are bombarded with online information and social media from the time they wake up until they go to bed. They are in almost constant contact with friends, family, and all too often, total strangers. This constant shift from person to person and trend to trend means there are always things fighting for kids’ attention.
With that as a background, stamp collecting is a challenge for just about every person under the age of 35. It requires a lot of patience and research, something younger people nowadays can struggle with. Plus, stamps do not move, explode, shoot anything or do anything exciting – how boring! But while video games have risen to the top of hobby popularity lists, that’s not the only big change.
The USPS Is Becoming Irrelevant
The USPS is a shell of what it used to be, even as recently as 2015. Whereas kids used to see mail every day, it is possible these days to never see mail and thus never see what stamps were used on the mail. As the USPS has been gradually replaced by online communications and private delivery services, stamps have started to become obsolete.
There are several reasons the USPS is no longer a central part of everyone’s life:
- Communications can be handled by email, cloud sharing, etc.
- Postage can be expensive
- Letter correspondence is a lost art
- Slow delivery (it’s called “snail mail” for a reason)
Each of these reasons have eaten into the impact the USPS can make. A result of that is far fewer stamps floating around and far fewer young people becoming interested in stamp collecting.
How That Affects Stamp Collecting For Kids
Because of all the above considerations, stamp collecting is a hobby most kids just do not get. Many kids today are more likely to have seen more Pokémon cards over their lifetimes than they are to have seen postage stamps.
In that environment, it is up to the stamp enthusiast to try to spark an interest in the child as well as help them find the ability to focus on stamps sufficiently to build a collection they can be proud of. Added to that is the fact that not many kids understand the impact stamps played in US history or in expanding the communications options for people worldwide.
What that means is that your approach to spur an interest in stamp collecting needs to be a little different than you would use to build interest in, say, a video game. You must show the child why stamp collecting is fun and interesting and why it is important.
You need to employ tactics that help the child relate to stamps. Here are a few suggestions to spur an interest in your child for stamp collecting.
Stamp Collecting For Kids
Grab Your Child’s Interest
Unless your child is a bookworm, trying to sell stamp collecting on educational terms likely will not build a lot of momentum in your favor. You need to sell it as an adventure and the way to do that is to show them why stamps are interesting.
One suggestion is to make it a game. Challenge your child to collect an entire set of stamps or focus only on collecting commemorative stamps at first. Spend time with your child searching online for stamps that are interesting to your child.
Another suggestion is to focus on the types of stamps that run parallel to the interests your child has in other areas. For example, if your kid loves sports and the Olympics, start with stamps that highlight Olympic games, competitors, events and people.
Focus On What They Like
One idea is to start them off with the commemorative stamps that memorialize the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California. Both are significant cultural markers in America for events that happened in both games.
The 1980 Winter Olympics are remembered for the Miracle on Ice when the amateur players of the USA defeated the USSR, which was considered the best hockey team in the world. The 1984 Summer Olympics are remembered for Mary Lou Retton and her perfect 10 in the gymnastics vault event.
Both are interesting, culturally and historically, and in how they defined the USA at the time. Starting off with them if your child likes the Olympics is a perfect “in” to stamp collecting. But this is just one example. There are thousands of stamp themes issued over the years. A short list includes:
- Famous entertainers
- Sports figures
- National leaders
- International leaders
- Cats and dogs
- Disney characters
- TV actors and shows
- Zoo animals
- Famous scientists
- Famous women
These are all stamp themes sponsored by the United States Postal Service. If you expand your reach to international stamps, the topics grow into the thousands. The key is to find one that piques your child’s interest by playing on what they already like.
Children’s Stamp Collecting Starter Kit
Like any other hobby, stamp collecting has “tools of the trade.” These tools are critical to being able to preserve, treat and present stamps properly. The right tools and knowing how to use them also makes it easier to show your child how to collect stamps.
Starter Kit Items
One option you have is to purchase a kids stamp collecting starter kit. These are sold online and at retail stores. In the kit are the tools you and your child will need to get started on their stamp collection. Starter kit items also include stamp directories, catalogs, and educational worksheets to help both of you learn about stamps and stamp collecting.
Kid’s stamp collecting starter kits include:
- Stamps tailored to your child’s specific interests
- Magnifying glass
- Beginner album
- Perforation gauge
- Philatelic information and guides
- A small stock sheet
- Glassine envelopes
- Stamp identifier sheet
- Basic stamp collecting instructions and tips
A lot of these kits are fairly inexpensive. In many cases, the children’s starter kits are sold at cost to the producer to promote stamp collecting to potential new collectors. The downside to a children’s starter kit is that the tools are not always the best quality and the supplies provided are a bare minimum to control costs to retailers.
Making your own DIY starter kit is also an option although it will be more expensive. The upside is that you can tailor your package to meet your child’s stamp collecting needs. You can also get higher quality tools that will last several years if they are properly cared for. Additionally, a DIY kit will have more supplies than an organizationally sponsored starter kit.
The cost will run you about double that of a retail kit if you go with the least expensive items on the list. By spending more, however, you will get tools, equipment and supplies that can create a very attractive and interesting stamp collection.
At a minimum, you need to have:
- Stamps related to your child’s interests
- Tongs (or tweezers without a hard edge)
- Stamp mounts or hinges and instructions on how to use them
- Glassine envelopes
- Magnifying glass (at a minimum you want 2x and 5x magnification)
- Perforation gauge
- Stamp album (can be a photo album)
- Stock pages
- Stamp catalog or online stamp resource
- Checklist for the types of stamps your child wants to collect
Any hobby-oriented store will have all these materials, tools and supplies. Additionally, there are several online resources that can sell you each item separately, while some allow you to select the types of materials you want in your starter kit.
If, however, you want a legitimate starter kit that will give your child tools to use and supplies to organize a stamp collection with, you can save money by shopping around. Start with your standard box-department store. That type of store will have:
- Stamp mounts or hinges and instructions on how to use them
- Glassine envelopes
- Magnifying glass
- Stamp album
A hobby store or online collector’s site will have:
- Perforation gauge
- Stock pages
Once you have your supplies, tools, and materials, it’s time to start figuring out how to get your child started on their collection. If you haven’t already discussed stamp collecting with them, now is the time to do so.
7 Steps To Start Stamp Collecting For Kids
1. Explain The Concept
Many kids barely know what postage stamps are, much less how interesting they are or the story some stamps can tell. To make sure your child fully understands the concept of a stamp collection, have a few samples and download some articles on stamps. Show them the stamps you have and the articles and discuss what maintaining a hobby like stamp collecting entails.
2. Teach Them About The Financial Side Of Collecting
More so nowadays than ever before, kids understand the concept of money. In fact, while they might not know how much about money or how to earn it, just about every kid understands how to spend it!
With that in mind, it can be helpful in building interest to download some articles on stamps that sold for a lot of money. Make sure the story of why they sold for so much is included in any of the information you collect. Have pictures of the stamps to show your child.
Explain to them the amount of money the stamp fetched. Map out why a particular stamp sells for whatever it sells for. Explain rarity to them, but in a way they can understand. The goal is to look for a “hook” that creates an interest in the child to not only collect stamps, but also to want to learn about them. The more someone knows about a topic, the more interesting it tends to become.
3. Start With Beginner Stamps
It goes without saying that a new stamp collector should collect stamps any place they can find them. Years ago, that meant waiting for the postman to drop off the day’s letters and then removing the stamps from those letters. That has become much more difficult with the decline of the USPS.
Your child should be on the lookout for any stamps they come across. They should also ask friends and family to save stamps when they encounter them. While the return will be nowhere near what it was 40 years ago, it might surprise you what friends and family come up with.
Since waiting for stamps to show up is not really that realistic now, you should start your child stamp collector off with a starter pack. Starter packs can be found:
- Online marketplaces
- Virtual stamp shows
- Actual physical stamp shows
- Some hobby stores
You or your new hobbyist should also check out online stamp collection websites that have public forums and ask other collectors where to buy authentic stamps. If you mention that you or your child are new collectors, most of those forums have stamp collectors that are thrilled to help anyone that is taking up the hobby.
4. Buy In Bulk
Additionally, check out online sites that sell stamps in bulk. Almost none of these hold any value beyond the fact they are interesting. They are a great way, however, to get a kid interested in collecting stamps. There is something enticing about searching through a bag of hundreds of stamps looking for that one diamond in the rough.
5. Focus On Their Interests
Knowing what to focus on when you are trying to get your child started in stamp collecting can be tricky. Much depends on their age and interests, but one type of stamp that is easy to find and always seems to spark interest are country-specific stamps. Focus on USA landmarks or historical figures. Look for stamps from countries in Europe that highlight something about those countries.
If you go this route, the best tactic is to start working on stamps from your own country. This way, you have a pretty good idea about the subject matter on the stamp if you are asked about it. If there are images you are unfamiliar with, it also provides a great opportunity to learn together.
6. Consider Commemorative Issue Stamps
Commemorative issue stamps are stamps that memorialize something that is significant to the country issuing them. Generally, commemorative stamps honor people or events, but other topics that have been covered include:
Commemorative stamps are usually only sold for one year. Once they sell out, no more are printed. A typical run of a commemorative stamp is about 50 to 100 million. After that, the only way to get that specific commemorative version of the stamp is to buy it from a collector.
The reason commemorative stamps are a good gateway is that they almost always cover something that is pertinent to the country issuing them. They teach a child about different countries, cultures, and national interests. Plus, the artwork is usually very detailed and attractive.
7. Get A Friend Involved
Hobbies can be more fun when you have someone to share your interest with. With stamp collecting, that principal holds true even more so. When you have a friend that is interested in collecting stamps, you will have a companion to compare and discuss stamps with, leading to a much more fulfilling hobby.
If your child does not know any friends that would be interested, look locally for a stamp collecting club. These do exist, although they are often only online now. Another idea, if your child is old enough, is to start a stamp collecting club at school.
Or you could decide that stamp collecting with your child is your gig. That would let you get involved with a new hobby and keep up with your child’s life. It also provides an amazing bonding opportunity.
Why Should Kids Collect Stamps?
Stamps Open Doors To Learning
Stamps open the door to many different topics. A child learning about different countries might see a country-oriented stamp commemorating a famous person and be prompted to research why that person was important to that country. A stamp that celebrates World Cup soccer might spawn an interest in soccer or the World Cup in particular.
Since most countries celebrate on stamps what is important to them nationally, a stamp allows the stamp collector a glimpse of that place at that time and what was important to the country. When a child sees something that interests them, it almost compels them to investigate.
Stamps Are Multi-Faceted Educational Opportunities
Along the same lines, stamps help educate children about the world and often about more things than just the imagery. A child looking at a Jesse Owens stamp commemorating his dominance in the 1936 Olympics in Germany will be introduced to several different topics:
- Jesse Owens
- 1936 Olympics
- Racism and segregation
- Triumph over adversity
- Olympic sports
- Hitler’s rise to power
- Track and field
Each of these are topics that have some relevance to one stamp commemorating an amazing man and athlete. So, from one stamp can come many new interests.
Stamps Teach Geography
Stamps are some of the best and most effective tools to help kids learn about geography. Every nation has had some iteration of national postage stamps. Most nations have had stamps that commemorate the nation, its people and culture. A child that gets a stamp from a faraway country will be prompted to learn about it, or at least where it is located.
Many countries run official stamps that highlight something special about the country. These open the door to learning about those cultures and countries. Some vendors even sell batches of stamps that are just related to specific countries, which is a bag full of learning opportunities.
Stamps Teach History
Jesse Owens, President Kennedy, Henry Ford, and Shirley Temple may not seem to have a lot in common besides being famous for something. Each, however, is part of American history and has been featured on an American stamp. Most countries have the same types of leaders and heroes and stamps to commemorate them.
Stamps show us who is nationally or culturally significant and that can prompt a child to want to learn more about that person. In some cases, the child might know the basics about a person, but in the case of many people featured on a stamp, they will know very little.
Stamps Teach Organizational Skills
Your child will learn how to care for stamps, tools, and stamp materials. They will learn how to organize a stamp collection in a way that is easily presentable and comprehensible. As their stamp collection grows, they will learn how to showcase stamps they are particularly fond of.
Stamp collections should be organized and neatly presented. These are skills a child can learn from stamp collecting that they will use their entire lives.
Stamps Raise USPS Awareness
The postage stamp reinvented how commoners could communicate with each other. The impact was immense and on par with the later inventions of the telephone and email. Suddenly, communicating from afar was not beyond the financial scope of an everyday person. Stamps help tell that story.
Stamps also tell the story of the USPS and help raise awareness among young collectors about the service, what it provides, and why it is still important, even in the days of instant, online communications.
Stamp collecting is a great hobby for kids. Stamps offer historical and cultural perspectives that a child may never learn about, as well as a chance to collect something potentially valuable. It may seem tough to get a child interested in stamps, but it is possible with the right tools.