Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps

‘Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps, 35th Edition’

Source: United States Postal Service Data: Collins, 384 pages, $25

This official publication, fully illustrated in color, offers philatelists – or those considering taking up stamp collecting as a hobby – a comprehensive guide to more than 4,000 stamps in every category dating back to 1845.

A ring-bound trade paperback, it is a must for those who want to learn the art of stamp collecting, with easy to follow explanations of how to rate the condition of canceled stamps. The guide gives estimates of how much you can expect to pay to purchase a stamp from a dealer depending upon the stamp’s condition. Also included are estimated prices for plate blocks, first day covers, American commemorative panels and souvenir pages.

Though I didn’t do an actual count, skimming through the pages reveals that George Washington and Ben Franklin seemed to be the all-time favorite stamp pin-up boys through the centuries. Listings for each stamp include denomination, description, date of issue, unused and used catalog prices, plate block price, number of stamps in plate block, first day cover price and quantity issued in millions.

For those just beginning stamp collections, the book gives tips on removing stamps from envelopes and the best way to store stamps.

As one who grew up, went to school and began working when a first-class stamp still cost just 3 cents, I found the suggested catalog prices of unused stamps from the recent past intriguing. For instance, in the 2002 series “Greetings from America” that featured each of the 50 states and a face value of 37 cents, the suggested price was 75 cents. So if you have any unused stamps stuffed in the back of your desk drawer with face values of less than the current 42 cents, you might want to take them to a dealer.

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