As an English As A Foreign Language (EFL) teacher in southern Thailand, I usually explain that one of the main requirements of a hobby is that some sort of equipment is used. I often need to explain that sleeping is not a hobby although most of my students insist it is their favorite free-time activity. Hobbies are actually a diverse set of activities and it is difficult to categorize them in a logical manner. A recent study by Robert Stebbins categorizes casual leisure and serious leisure by dividing hobbyists into five broad types of activity: collecting, making and tinkering (like embroidery and car restoration), activity participation (like fishing and singing), sports and games, and liberal-arts hobbies (like languages, cuisine, literature).

As we all are aware, collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying and storing. This is appealing to many people due to their interest in a particular subject and a desire to categorize and make order out of complexity.

Collecting stamps has its own unique pieces of equipment needed in the pursuit of our hobby. We call these ACCESSORIES. Some accessories are used in varying degrees by all stamp collectors while others may never be used at all by the majority.

A few basic accessories are needed to collect stamps. Tongs are non-striated tweezers used because they are a reliable way to hold and move stamps without damaging or getting skin oils on them. Collectors have a choice in how to store their stamps, many opting for stamp albums using either stamp hinges or more expensive hingeless mounts, while others use stock books which hold stamps in clear pockets without the need for a mount. Magnifiers — either the traditional handheld magnifying glass or the modern digital counterparts — aid in viewing fine details. Other accessories aid in the proper identification of stamps including perforation gauges, watermark detectors, color charts, and UV lamps used to determine tagging varieties. Catalogues and philatelic literature can also be regarded as accessories. Each of these will have their own article in the “Philatelic Terms & Tips” blog series.

Living as I do in southern Thailand, the only stamps I can buy locally are new issues from the local post office.  There is not a single stamp shop on the island where I live.  While there are still a few stamp shops remaining in Bangkok, along with at least one large show each year, neither my schedule or budget offer many opportunities for travel to the capital.  Thus, the vast majority of my my collection is built up through online purchases, primarily via eBay auctions.

This means that I am constantly having to take into consideration the shipping costs of whatever stamps I want to bid on.  This is also the reason that I rarely purchase much-needed supplies such as catalogues or album binders and even things like mounts and stock books fall by the wayside.  While my inventory records only the base purchase price for each stamp, my philatelic-purchasing budget needs to factor in costs with shipping included.

Continue reading “The Shipping Dilemma”