Almost any hobby requires a certain amount of money to support it - if not for the collectibles themselves, perhaps for tools, supplies, mounts, exhibit cases, or other paraphernalia. Depending on your degree of specialization and interest, costs can range from pocket money to many thousands of dollars.

If you pursue a hobby with the intent of making money at it, you will frequently be disappointed in the results, and will be more concerned with your material's monetary value than with the pleasure you derive from it. Still, you would like to feel that there will be residual value when the time comes to dispose of your holdings. Below are listed a number of suggestions which we hope will be helpful to you.

First, don't try to take on too much. Start with one country or topic, and add others as you feel comfortable. The volume of stamps being issued by some 250 countries is so great that even the well-heeled collector can't keep up with them all.

Second, remember that collectors are looking for the scarcer material and not the commonest used material. The latter is of interest primarily to the general collector, of whom there are fewer and fewer these days. Try to obtain the material in complete sets, except for the earliest issues.

Never-hinged material usually commands a big premium, but is often easier to sell. You will have to decide whether or not the NH premium is worth it if you have a choice. Remember that many early stamps have been regummed. The American Philatelic Society has addressed MNH since 1990 and have stated so on their certificates during the last seven years.

Third, don't spend a large amount on fancy albums unless are sure that your interest in a country or topic is well fixed. Many times, collectors have begun in one area and lost interest after a few months or years.

Fourth, if you make a large purchase, buy in an collecting area with which you are familiar. You will be more likely to know from dealers, price lists, "Trends", and your own shopping experience if the offered stamp or lot is reasonably priced or not.

Fifth, think twice before subscribing to fancy cover services which advertise in magazines. The covers come with beautiful writeups and fancy albums, and cost several dollars each. There may be some demand for these on the novelty market, but the philatelic value is only a small fraction of what you paid.

Lastly, stay away from fads and novelties such as the "Face on Mars" set from Sierra Leone. This set, which has been offered at prices up to $3000, is of no interest to serious stamp collectors. Try to collect stamps of countries who issue stamps primarily for postal purposes, not those who are out to get as many dollars as they can from unknowing collectors! - Dan Anderson

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