Stamp Collecting 101

Of course, that stamp was not the kind of stamp you lick and stick on an envelope. This was a one-cent stamp, circa 1856, from British Guiana – one of the rarest stamps in the world. It is these rare stamps that millions of people collect and then sell to other stamp collectors for what proves to be a happy day for buyers and a lucrative day for sellers.

Stamps go back to the mid 1800s with Great Britain issuing the first postage stamp, the "One Penny Black." The first two US stamps were printed in 1847. One of them was 5 cents, featuring the country's first postmaster, Benjamin Franklin, on the front; the other was a black, 10-cent stamp of George Washington.

You'd think that these stamps would fetch big bucks today, but because millions were printed at the time, they can be purchased for as little as $ 50 a piece. And stamp popularity has not lost much of its luster with certain stamps, in particular. According to the US Postal Service, the Elvis Presley stamp issued in 1993 is the most popular selling stamp of all time with 124 million of them sold.

But some stamp collectors fear stamps will eventually become extinct as the use of email gains in popularity. This fear is somewhat abated by the thousands of stamp collecting organizations that remain, where stamps of all sizes, shapes, colors and types continue to be traded and sold. But should stamps ever become extinct, now is as good a time as ever to start collecting.

But collecting and maintaining mint condition stamps – both used and new – requires preparation and research. With the help of the electronic e-guide, you'll be well on your way.

Inside, you'll find out where to buy the best stamps, where to go for inexpensive, quality stamps, specific tools you'll need (and why you need them), how to display your stamps without decreasing the quality, how quantity plays a role in the pricing of stamps, how to determine the price of stamps (both new and old) and how not to get burned by scammers selling junk.