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Worldwide Stamp Identifier

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Handbook of Stamp Collecting Basics: Part 1

Presented by
The International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors

Written by
Al and Mildred Feinberg of Bensalem, PA
Edited by Tom Fortunato

From a series of articles about the many aspects of stamp collecting
appearing in the ISWSC's bimonthly newsletter, The Circuit, 1994-1996

    Knowing What You Have
  1. Identifying Stamps

  2. Stamp ID If You Know The Country

  3. The Necessity of Using Catalogs

  4. Catalog Pricing & The Value of Your Collection

  5. What to Collect
  6. Classics

  7. Semi-Postal Stamps

  8. Forgeries

  9. Abnormals

  10. Reconstructing CB Sheets

  11. Postmarks & Cancellations

  12. Other Areas of Interest
  13. Cultural Aspects of Philately

  14. Inventories & Computers

  15. IRCS, etc.

  16. Teaching Youngsters about Philately

  17. ISWSC Services
Click [HERE] to go to Part 1.


Trying to identify stamps is the most difficult part of our hobby. Patience and experience are often the best keys to uncover a mystery. Here are a few tricks of the trade that can possibly help you.

The first thing I do is to watermark the stamp, which can be very revealing. Many times a stamp's watermark will give you a clue to its origin. You may know of the British Crown and CC, Crown and CA and such watermarks found on stamps of the British Empire. You may also be familiar with the lozenges and network watermarks on German stamps and those of its colonies. Early Italian stamps just used a crown. These can all give you a place to start. Do you know which country uniquely used a pineapple as a watermark? For the answer, see the end of this column.

Check out clear cancellations that sometimes bare city and country names on them. You may recognize a major city of a country without recognizing the native spelling of the country's name. Also check for currency. It may be marks, pounds, schillings, kronas, francs and so on. Sometimes even a coat of arms or a landmark on a stamp helps you identify its origin.

If you can make out any of the words on a stamp, check the index in the back of the major catalog you use. Scott's has a very useful one that includes overprints as well. But I guess if you're like most of us you'll buy Linn's Stamp Identifier or similar identifier and just hunt until you can figure it out.

By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


Over the last 20 years, Scott's catalogs have depicted only one stamp out of a set, making it difficult for the average collector to locate a proper catalog number. Even those of us who use a catalog regularly have trouble. They used to show them all, but now there are just too many stamps issued for every country. I'll tell you some of the things I do to make it a little easier.

If you have a used stamp, sometimes you can find a date in the cancellation that will give you the year the stamp was used. If you were lucky to find this, just look at stamps issued that year and of course read the information that describes the stamps in sets issued that year. Also be aware that some country's stamps have the year printed on them near the bottom of the design. This really makes it easy!

Another thing I do is check the stamp's denomination. For example, if you have one showing 50 pfennigs, start looking for sets of stamps that have a 50 pfennigs stamp in them, then try to find a match. You'll also notice that every so often postage rates change. Check catalog pages that have similar values within sets. That's easier than looking at all the pictures trying to find your stamp.

I find it useful at times to check the currency. There are occasions when money changes. As an example, some countries that used pence and pounds switched to cents and dollars in 1969. Start checking the catalog where such changes took place. This can save a lot of time.

Check the stamp carefully. In many cases stamps within a set depict the same subject or topic. If the unidentified stamp shows fish, look for catalog pictures of fish. If the stamp shows the leader of a country, again look for a stamp with that same theme. Sometimes the boarders of sets will look the same, too.

Even with all of these suggestions, you'll still have some stumpers. There's no way of getting around it. You have to do a lot of research. Most difficult are non-Scott listed issues, viewed as non-postal releases by the editors. Foreign catalogs are the only solution here.

I even went as far as buying foreign language dictionaries that convert to English. I have French, German and Spanish dictionaries that I refer to quite frequently. Understanding the words on a stamp could help identify it.

If you still have trouble after trying all the above, my only suggestion would be to close your books and try again another time. Often years may pass before you or your friends finally figure it out! By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


I'd like to tell you about an incident that happened when I purchased my last catalogues. I went to my favorite stamp shop wanting to buy the latest set of Scott's catalogs. There was another customer who was standing close to me in the process of buying some earlier US classic (pre-1900) stamps. He said that I was wasting my money buying catalogs and that I'd be much better off if I spent that money on stamps instead.

In my mind I was thinking, without the most recent catalog, how could he know a relative price for what he was buying? There could be many varieties of the same stamp with great differences in price. He has to take the dealer's word that the stamp he is buying is properly cataloged and fairly priced. Hopefully, he knows what he is buying.

My own experience tells me that dealers make plenty of mistakes, not intentionally, but they are made none-the-less. I've found that when I order stamps from a price list through the mail, as many as 1 in 5 are miscataloged, with either the watermark, perforation or the variety incorrect. By coincidence they're often catalogued as the higher priced stamp. I'm not suggesting that the dealer is intentionally wrong, but perhaps he or she needs to take a little more time in correctly identifying them. When you order a $10 stamp and wind up with a 25 cent variety, that's a big difference!

If you multiply your loses from my case above many times over the course of a year, we're talking about a considerable amount of money. In any case, I check every purchase that's sent to me. I have a budget that allows me to spend X number of dollars per month. So I buy accordingly. I very rarely return extremely low priced stamps that are wrong, but when the difference is a dollar or more I return them.

In a way, I felt sorry for the man who said I was wasting my money on catalogs. For his sake I hope he always gets what he expects. My own experience proves otherwise. I don't say that it's necessary to buy new catalogs every year. If you collect older stamps like me, you can buy catalogues that are a few years old. I have already bought them from libraries that are getting rid of old books for as low as 25 cents each volume. I've purchased specialized catalogues just a few years old for only a few dollars.

If you're a member of a local stamp club, they usually have a recent catalog you can use to check your stamps. If not, check out the reference section of your neighborhood library for another inexpensive way of checking out your stamps. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


Much has been said about the new pricing system the Scott's catalog, the "bible" of American stamp collecting, is using. Since I have been collecting worldwide stamps for about 60 years, I'd like to give you my opinion on the subject.

First of all, I collect stamps for the fun of it. I love to fill pages and it gives me great satisfaction. Here in the US, the Scott's catalog is the glue that holds our hobby together. The valuable information in it provides the means to identify and price stamps systematically. It allows us to distinguish stamps that look alike but may be different by shades, perforations, watermarks, and types of paper and printing.

Sometimes we get lucky and find a better variety of a common stamp. We all hope that someday we'll find a rare stamp and make some money from it. It probably will never happen, but we keep on treasure hunting!

Now, for average collectors like me, published prices mean relatively little. Those quoted are usually for near perfect stamps. Most of us buy stamps for the fun of it and aren't too fussy about condition. If we need the stamp offered and the price is reasonable, we buy it. It may not be perfect, but to us it fills a space.

Most dealers price according to catalog value, but at a discount to their respective values. If you examine the stamps that you buy carefully, especially those heavily discounted, expect to find minor to major defects, including short perfs, centering off a bit, a smudged or heavy cancellation, heavy hinging, or maybe a thin spot. Most of us would accept a less than perfect copy.

The point I'm trying to make is this: If you are collecting stamps as a hobby, collect for the fun of it. Yes, you'll get something back when you sell, but don't expect to make a profit. Expectations of big profits will leave you highly disappointed. A stamp dealer will look at your collection, decide what price he can sell items for and offer you a flat price for the entire collection. He will pull out the better material and then take the common leftovers and sell them off in cheap packets. Remember that a dealer is in business to make a profit. His time is valuable. He not only needs to take time to sort out collections, but he has expenses as well.

The best way to get more for your stamps when you sell is to retail them in a club that has a sales program. Price your stamps as you see fit, at a discount from what a dealer would sell them for. It takes more time and effort this way, but in general your return will be greater than selling to a dealer.

If you're collecting stamps only with the intention of making a profit then in my opinion, you're not a stamp collector, but an investor. If so, you more than likely will buy mostly from auction houses. Bidding can get fierce for more desirable items and expect to pay top dollar. Remember, even then it's a gamble, just like any other business. The market is bound to fluctuate, so be prepared for the ups and downs.

The Scott's catalog is a must. Rely on it as a reference for its valuable information, but don't completely depend on it for pricing. Buy your stamps to please yourself and I hope you all enjoy our hobby as much as I do. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


Stamps issued in the 19th Century are usually referred to as "classics," although some consider stamps up to 1940 in that category as well. Most of these stamps are engraved and have many varieties, such as; different perforations, watermarks, shades of ink used, types of paper, hidden marks and some even have grills to check. Philatelists specializing in this era refer to themselves as "classic collectors." They tend to be very advanced, spending lots of money to purchase a specific variety of a stamp they need. Before buying these stamps they should be expertized and authenticated.

There are still plenty of low cost classic stamps available, but it doesn't take long to get into the expensive ones. Sometimes I wonder why some US classics are so expensive. You can find just about all of them advertised by US specialized dealers and at prominent auction houses. If so many dealers have them available, why are they so expensive? The answer, of course, is their scarcity and the laws of supply and demand.

Quality or condition of these classics is always an issue, with the best being termed "superb." Faults always reduce price, sometimes dramatically, for things such as poor centering, damaged gum, re-gummed, short perfs, faded colors, etc. Honest dealers selling you a quality stamp will hopefully consider buying it back (when the time comes) at a similar grade, but it's not always the case. This is the main reason why I like collecting worldwide. There are far more inexpensive worldwide classics than there are US ones.

I would advise anyone buying expensive early classics to have them expertized. So many been reproduced by expert forgers that even experts differ on opinions at times. Shades of stamps can be altered with chemicals to try to fool collectors and experts alike. Perfs can be repunched, covers and postmarks faked, etc.

So avoid high priced "classics" and enjoy the hobby. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


Semi-postal stamps are a form of a tax on postage. Scott's lists them with a "B" in front of their number, placing them just behind regular stamp issues. Use of these stamps is sometimes mandatory, but more often than not voluntary in nature. You can learn much about a country from these semi-postals. They usually portray the purpose for which they were issued. A good bit of the taxed funds are donated to various charities, such as youth programs, hospitals, churches, etc.

All such stamps carry a premium above face value, most often found along with the specific postal denomination. For example, 25+5 would mean 25(of whatever the currency) was for postage and 5 for the charity. Some philatelists refuse to collect them believing they were only issued to collect a "tax" from them! They're issued in lesser quantities than regular stamps and sometimes increase in value faster, but always remember that price is based on supply and demand.

My favorite semi-postals come from Belgium. Some may say that there are too many of them and are too costly, but I find them fascinating, colorful and beautiful stamps. Quite a few are engraved and I've always preferred engraved stamps.

The best way to collect them is to buy complete sets. Broken sets are very hard to fill. If you find them too expensive, you may want to buy short sets avoiding the high priced ones, thus having a representative sample of them. Of course, broken sets have little value when you dispose of your collection.

Semi-postals have never been issued in the US, but available regularly in Europe and a few other countries. Early semi-postals were regular stamps overprinted or surcharged with the extra denomination. This practice is nearly extinct today.

Once you start collecting semi-postals you'll find it hard to stop. New Zealand is an especially prolific producer of these stamps and their mini-sheets of 6 to 10 stamps are quite popular. Some countries issue semi-postal airmails. Scott lists them with a "CB" in front of the number.

I don't recommend semi-postals for everyone, but for those of you that can spend the extra money I'm sure you'll find them as fascinating as me. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


When beginners hear about forgeries, they think that only very expensive stamps are forged. Wrong! Even very low priced stamps have been counterfeited. The reason why these so called "album weeds" were produced was as a "filling" for low priced stamp packets. Unfortunately, these packets were purchased mostly by beginners.

When you first start collecting stamps, most collectors try to get as much as they can for their money. Packets serve many purposes. We learn to sort stamps by country, become familiar with foreign languages to some extent, learn about currency, etc. We often times feel compelled to try to fill sets. By this point, any collector could benefit enormously if he could identify forgeries. Higher denominations as well as lower ones were counterfeited and no one likes to be gypped.

So what could we do about it? I recently purchased a book from Linn's called "Focus On Forgeries." This book is a must for beginners who intend to move up to the next stage of collecting. It identifies the most common phony stamps. After using this book for a little while you'll soon learn to recognize the "weeds" from the genuine items. When you start buying stamps from dealers either through price lists, mail sales or auctions, you'll have a good guide and be able to recognize counterfeits listed in this book immediately. Don't hesitate to return these fakes to whomever you purchased them from and insist on a refund. "Focus On Forgeries" can be purchased from: Linn's Stamp News
PO Box 29
Sidney, Ohio 45365
Price is $14.95 delivered to US addresses.

By the way, there is a subtle difference between the terms "forgery" and "counterfeit." A forgery is a faked stamp meant to deceive a stamp collector, whereas a counterfeit is a bogus stamp created to deprive postal authorities from revenue. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


The word "abnormal" has a different meaning to different people. When used in the philatelic context it refers to the British "abnormal" stamps. Among them are Scott #59-65. These stamps were issued using several unique plate numbers different from production runs in non-standard shades and colors. The plate number is a tiny number, usually in a circle, that can be seen on the face of the stamp.

Very few of these stamps exist, as only a handful of sheets were printed for retention by the British Archives. They were not supposed to be available to the public, but some made their way to post offices and used. Others were obtained through bureaucratic friends. Over the years these stamps became among the rare and most valuable stamps of Great Britain. Many used stamps have been identified, but others are possibly in collections of unknowing collectors.

This is where my story begins. I was about 8 years old, back in the early 1930s, when I began collecting stamps. I would save my pennies until I had a quarter, then rush to the "Five and Dime Store" and buy the largest packet of used stamps I could find. Arriving home I would quickly sort and mount them the best I could. As years passed, I bought better albums and remounted the stamps, correcting any errors I had made earlier.

About 10 years ago, I read an article in Linn's Stamp News written by Donna O'Keefe describing these British abnormals. She mentioned each of the stamps by their Scott number, plate numbers and color. I checked my stamps as I usually do when I learn about something new. In every case I had the more common variety. Then my luck changed. The last one I checked had the correct plate number, but the stamp came in two shades; chestnut and rare pale chestnut. Of course I couldn't tell which shade I had. So every time I saw this particular stamp and plate number advertised, I would buy it. They only cost a couple of dollars each and if damaged, less. I found that the 10 stamps I purchased were all the same shade of chestnut, but my original stamp was without a doubt a much paler shade.

By now my hopes were really riding high. A good stamp collector friend of mine from England who visits our country regularly was in town. We got together and talked about this possible abnormal and he agreed that it may be an abnormal. He suggested that I let him take it back to England and get an opinion there. A few weeks later he called me and said the experts at his club identified it as a bonafide rarity. He asked me if I wanted to sell it, but it has more than monetary value to me.

Linn's Stamp News wrote a story about my lucky find, not mentioning my name as I requested. The writer of the article received several offers for this stamp, but I decided to keep it in my collection. The moral of this story is that the more knowledge you acquire, the greater your chances of finding a valuable stamp, however remote those chances are. If I didn't read the story about the abnormals, the stamp in my collection would have remained undetected. Educating ourselves does pay off and I'm proof that miracles still happen! By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


It's a good idea for any philatelist to stray once in a while into uncharted territory and start a specialty collection. Trying something new certainly broadens one's philatelic perspective.

Unlike topicals, consider a single stamp specialty. Scott #33, Great Britain's penny red, is a particularly good example. This is an inexpensive stamp, with used copies costing just pennies. Condition of the stamp really doesn't matter. At times it's possible to buy this stamp in quantity but poor quality at a reasonable price. The same thing can be done with other issues from Great Britain, but with more expensive stamps.

Two letters are found in the lower corners of this stamp. By properly arranging these letters it's possible to reconstruct a complete sheet of stamps. Here's how to do it:

#1-a stamp with "A" in the lower left corner and "A" in the lower right corner means it came from the 1st row, 1st stamp;
#2-"A" lower left, "B" lower right translates to 1st row, 2nd stamp;
#3-"A" lower left, "C" lower right, first row 3rd stamp, etc.

The sheet continues 12 stamps across (AA through AL) and goes 20 down (the last row being TA through TL). When you first start your sheet it will be easy, but as the sheet fills up, trying to find those you still need is a challenge. Completing the sheet gives great pleasure and satisfaction.

If a simple reconstruction isn't enough of a challenge, this stamp also was printed from over 200 different plates. The plate number of each is found in the scroll work on either side of the Queen's portrait. Of course, each plate also has 240 different letter combinations, so you'll need nearly 50,000 different stamps to complete such a collection, which will be guaranteed impossible. You see, one plate number, #77, is very rare, with used copies typically auctioned off for over $10,000 each! By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


Cancellations are a good way to get children and beginners interested in stamp collecting. You can get them from your own incoming mail or get friends to save the envelopes. It's a great way to learn about the cities and towns of your own state and those around the country. For something different, try collecting cancellations from foreign countries as well.

This would be a good time to discuss definitions. A "postmark" is a mark that shows the place and date of mailing. A "cancel" is a mark meant to simply deface the stamp and does not carry other information. Today, only postmarks are used in the US, but there is a rich history of cancels from the 19th and early 20th century. These two terms are interchangeable now-a-days.

All you need to start is a 3 ring binder, blank pages and a pack of hinges. Make a page for each state. Mount the entire envelope or cut out a 2 inch by 4 inch piece along with basic information about the place. You can find information from encyclopedias, almanacs, and books from the library or on the Internet.

Besides regular cancels, special pictorial postmarks are available around the country, commemorating anniversaries, events and alike.

Some collectors I know use a large map of the US and mount it on their hobby room wall, marking the cities where they have cancellations from. Others try to get a cancellation from every city in a state, or specialize in just one state or region. Also be aware that town and city names change over a period of time. Very few places are named the same as when they were founded. The town in Pennsylvania where I live changed names three times since I've been here. When I came here it was called Eddington, then Cornwells Heights and now Bensalem, and I never moved once!

Postmarks and cancellations make an interesting and inexpensive second collection. If it's not for you, consider saving them for collectors who do. Imagine if no one saved stamps many years ago. They would be scarce today. I'm not suggesting that the cancels or stamps of today are or will be valuable in the future. Collect for the fun of it!

Every collector could learn much from this kind of collection. For a change of pace from just stamps, give it a try. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


There is another side of our hobby that I find fascinating. I think most of us stamp collectors have a secret desire to learn about the history, geography and culture of foreign countries.

As we sort and admire our stamps, we vision ourselves visiting all these wonderful places that are shown on our stamps. As we go through our albums we are taking imaginary trips to some countries that we probably never visited or even heard of before. How many times have we day-dreamed of being in one of these places and wonder what it would be like to have a friend there who could show us around? They could introduce us to their friends, explain the ways of their people, and see all of the interesting things in their country.

To most of us these dreams are far-fetched, but in reality we can do the next best thing: get a stamp collecting pen-pal in that country .I correspond with an 18 year old young man named Xing. He lives in Datong, Shanxi Province, in the People's Republic of China. We have been corresponding and trading stamps for about three years. I have learned so many things first hand from Xing about China that you don't usually read about in the newspaper.  Xing fortunately writes near perfect English. He translates our letters into Chinese so the rest of his family can read them, too. They are extremely interested in learning about our lives, and in particular our schools and the way we raise our children. Xing tells me that teachers in China are looked down upon and apparently not too happy, preferring to change professions. School children in China form opinions about their teachers before they get to know them, just as ours do.

He tells me computers in school are rare in China, but that interest seems to be growing in them. English and math are especially important subjects to all school children. Corresponding with Americans helps him immensely with his English. Xing says that in order to go to college one must have extremely high grades. While he was third in his class, he felt he was letting his parents down by not being first. He's now in college in Beijing.

The younger generation in China has much respect for their elders. Their families are close, as most live with elderly grandparents and other relatives.

Other letters additional insight into his everyday life. School hours in China start at 7:00 AM to 12:30 PM, followed by a two hour break for lunch and rest, resuming again at 2:30- 7:30 PM, six days a week. Soon they expect school will be open every day of the week. Teenagers have no dating privileges. Parents do not watch TV while children do homework and study so as not to distract them.

I could go on with interesting things that I learned about China. You, too, can experience the pleasure of corresponding with collectors anywhere in the world. It's easy and fun. So come on, get a pen-pal! By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


Inventory! How to know which stamps you have and, of course, which stamps you need.

Years ago when the Scott's catalog was complete in one volume, I'd simply check off the stamps that I had on the pages. If I'd go to a bourse or stamp show, the catalog came with me. While checking through dealer stocks, I immediately knew what I was missing. I always had a want list with me with the individual stamps I needed to fill sets. When price lists came through the mail, it was always easy to check what I needed. All I had to do was pull out my catalog. It wasn't necessary to constantly go through my albums, except for newer issues. That system worked great. Now the Scott's catalogs are in 6 volumes. Although I still use the catalogs as my check list, it's a lot to carry when you go shopping for stamps!

Well, we now have a computer. We're in the process of inventorying our collection in the computer. We bought an inventory system from M.S.L. Software in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called "Stamp Keeper." While we like this system, it's not exactly what we wanted, but it did give us some ideas to develop our own.

Al created a simple inventory program from spreadsheet software. We can easily input newly acquired stamps, then sort by catalog number, printing as we go along. We're very happy with this solution, which could also be very useful in the event the collection is stolen. We can now print out specific want lists instead of lugging our catalogues everywhere we go. It's also easier to add special notes about particular items in the database. In the near future we plan to design our own album pages.

We've also installed an encyclopedia and world-wide map on the computer. This helps us find towns and cities that we find on cancelled stamps that are otherwise hard to locate.

We realize that a computer doesn't fit into everyone's budget, but if you can afford one, you'll find as we have that it really enhances the hobby. I'd be glad to hear from anyone who has a computer. Perhaps we could put our heads together and come up with an ideal program. As collectors, we could probably develop a system that suits us much better than a commercially produced software program. Computers are just another way to have fun with our hobby. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.

23. IRCS, ETC.

Did you ever write to a stamp dealer or a stamp collector in a foreign country and not get a reply? Children in particular write to other youngsters for trading and correspondence and hope to get an answer. Postage is a big expense, especially for kids in less developed countries. The price of postage is a burden on their finances. You have a better chance for a reply if you enclose an International Reply Coupon, also known as an IRC.

All countries that are members of the Universal Postal Union issue IRCs. You simply need to go to your neighborhood post office, purchase one of these small forms (about 4 by 6 inches) for about $1.05 and include the IRC in your letter. The recipient can redeem this coupon at his or her post office for the airmail stamps needed to return a letter to you. This only pays for the lightest weight airmail letter back to you. Additional IRCs are needed if the return letter is heavier, or special services such as registration is needed.

Businesses have their own form of prepaid mailers called the international business reply service. This program allows specially marked envelopes and cards to be returned to the sender from certain countries without prepayment of postage. It works like the familiar BRCs (business reply cards), which are postcards or envelopes sent within the US at no charge to the sender. Companies pay the postage and fees only for the pieces returned. Consult your post office for details, or ask for Publication 513.

If you need to send money overseas, international postal money orders can do the job for you. Most countries have agreements with the US Postal Service for exchanging these securities. The maximum amount for a single money order is $700.00. Check with your post office for fees and further information. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


I was invited to the Village Park Elementary School in Falls Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to give a presentation about my hobby- stamp collecting. I spoke to a class of twenty five children in the third grade. Fortunately for me I had my wife Mildred and my daughter Deborah with me to lend a hand. The children were so excited and had so many questions that the three of us were kept jumping for hours.

Our intention was to keep the children busy the whole time we were there. We started out by giving each child an envelope with a city/state cancellation on it. Inside the envelopes were an assortment of off-paper worldwide stamps. I spent my time explaining the many things that could be learned from stamps. I included information about some of the many aspects of stamps, such as watermarks, perforations, colors/shades, tagging, etc. which we demonstrated later. Mildred passed out copies of Linn's stamp newspapers plus some older catalogues. We tried to keep the whole presentation as informal as possible. The front table was filled with the tools of our hobby along with an assortment of philatelic items for the kids to look at. We displayed several moon landing envelopes, 3-D stamps, railroad cancellations, and other interesting items. While I talked, kids were encouraged to walk around the table and ask Mildred or Deborah questions, and believe me, they had plenty.

We asked the kids to locate the city and state found on their individual envelopes. If they could, we rewarded them with another packet of stamps. Everyone took part, helping those that needed assistance so that they, too, could get a prize. I wish you could have seen their faces when we handed them their gifts. Then we had them remove the foreign stamps from the envelope and rewarded them again if they could find a country their stamp came from. We had so much fun that afternoon. I'll never forget it.

At the end of our demonstration we decided to have a contest, with the prize being a stamp from Turkish Cyprus, inscribed "Kibris." The stamp depicted President Reagan and President Gorbachev signing an arms agreement, which was in fact the beginning of the end of the Cold War. We explained the history of the stamp and what it would mean to each and every one of us.

For a contest, each child was asked to design and draw their own stamp over the weekend. The teacher collected their pictures and the winner was picked by their fourth grade peers. Incidentally, the design that won was for a British stamp. We sent it to Queen Elizabeth and she sent a beautiful letter to the winning child.

The principal and the teacher say they haven't seen such enthusiasm since. It was a day of fun that I'll never forget and am looking forward to doing it again as soon as possible. By the way, early stamps from Jamaica have a pineapple watermark! When you get a chance, take a good look through and see all of the interesting designs watermarks reveal.


ISWSC has available for interested philatelists and club leaders a library of low cost albums. They are equally valuable to beginners and children. Some will be especially useful to teachers for use in classroom projects. For the most part, they can be filled with common, inexpensive stamps. Due to our production costs, only one of each album may be ordered, however they are easily photocopied. For a complete listing of available titles and prices, please see elsewhere on this site.

[Part One]   [ISWSC]