Stamp Collecting: U.S. stamps a good way to start collection

By Breck Pegram/Ky. Stamp Club, Published:

Last month we looked at some approaches local stamp collectors have to our enjoyable and educational hobby. If we focus on stamps of the United States, the various areas of collecting are almost limitless.

One advantage of collecting U. S. stamps is that they are generally very good quality stamps. As the printing process has improved over the years, so has the quality of these stamps. At one time the perforating process was not nearly as accurate as it is today. Even the famous sheet of one hundred of Scott #C3a, the Inverted Jenny shows problems with good accurate perforation of this 1918 airmail stamp.

Collecting the stamps of this country is relatively inexpensive. When you get into some specialty areas such as revenue and official stamps or oddities it can get pricey, but in general collecting U. S. stamps is very affordable.

I think if I were going to start collecting U.S. stamps with an eye toward building an interesting collection, I would begin by getting as many of the singles of U.S. stamps as I could afford. Remember, there are some variations that are rare and expensive. You do not really need these to say you have a good U.S. collection. You can come back later and add these to your collection as your stamp collecting budget permits.

I recently started collecting U.S. airmail covers. The covers (envelopes with stamps and special cancels on them) are not that expensive. If, however, I was inclined to collect and could afford, such covers with say Amelia Earhart’s or Charles A. Lindbergh’s signature on them, we’re talking real money. 

If you include Hindenburg crash covers, that’s real money, too. Incidentally, I‘ve talked with a noted collector who has an extensive crash cover collection and knows two of the living Hindenburg crash crew members. This is a different vein of collecting U.S. stamps, but a very interesting one. 

Getting back to collecting U. S. stamps; one area that I think is interesting is U.S. flag stamps. About a year ago, I started a collection of flag stamps. I have probably 75 percent of the flag stamps this country has issued. 

Within this category, I have a collection of the 32-cent Flag Over Porch stamp issued in 1993 which I consider the best of the flag stamps. The recently issued Flags For All Seasons stamps are well done, but in my opinion do not come up to the standard set by the Flag Over Porch stamp.

In a basic collection of U.S. stamps, one prominent part of this would naturally be the 1938 Presidential series. These stamps were the workhorses of the United States postal system for 20 years and even today to many citizens they represent a time when we had a smooth running, well-respected postal service. 

These stamps helped teach children who the presidents were and their order of service, at least through Grover Cleveland, the 22nd president. This series includes all presidents through Calvin Coolidge. It has been suggested that the series be updated taking in presidents who have died since Coolidge, but I think that would not work well for several reasons. It would be confusing considering the fact that the series came out in 1938.

If you chose to have an in-depth collection of these stamps, you’d want numbered plate blocks of four of each stamp and First Day of Issue covers of each stamp. With all this you’d have something of considerable interest illustrating the history of the nation.

As you build a U.S. collection one defining set of stamps indicates that you are a serious collector. That set is what is known as the Graf Zeppelin set. These are Scott#’s C13-C15. These stamps were issued in 1930 to celebrate the carrying of airmail from Europe to Pan America on the German dirigible Graf Zeppelin. 

Due to their high value, $0.65, $1.30 and $2.60 there were very few sold (they were issued just six months after the start of the Great Depression) and the Post Office Department very foolishly destroyed a large percent of the issue. This has made the remaining stamps more valuable than would otherwise be the case. Today, a good unused set of the three can be had for around $1,500.

We will have more to say in future columns about collecting United States stamps. In the meantime look for the announcement of the Oct. 12 meeting of the Kentucky Stamp Club.

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