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All collectors need catalogues. This is the most  essential item you need. You need catalogues to identify and sort your items. I know some are expensive, but you need them! Most stamp & postal history catalogues can be broken down into FOUR types as set out below. Some of the more specialised catalogues can be very daunting! So start with the basic catalogues when you start collecting, like Stanley Gibbons excellent "Collect British Stamps".


Each Company's stamp catalogues use their own unique numbering system. And if you order stamps using these numbers, state which catalogue you use. Most stamp dealers and collectors then know which stamp you are referring to. Some catalogues do change their numbering system from time to time, so check if using an old catalogue first before ordering. MICHEL and some other catalogues keep their numbers for life. Note: These numbering systems are copyright protected.

Most stamps are issued in sets, these are listed in each catalogue in sets. Prices are normally given for mint (unused), or used stamps. Sometimes first day cover prices are given as well. Some even include further information, Watermark changes, issuing quantities and forgeries to watch out for.

Opposite is a page showing the GB 1990 dog set. 5 stamps each with a SG number on the left side and priced columns for mint and used. Also prices for sets, FDC etc at bottom. It also has a box for  you to mark when you have that stamp.

Illustration shown is from Stanley Gibbons Excellent "Collect British Stamps" catalogue

Some catalogues illustrate every stamp, while others only illustrate one stamp from a set.

Prices. First column is normally for mint, second for used.

NOTE: Sometimes there is a difference in price between a stamp that has been hinged (mounted in an album by a paper hinge), or one that has never been hinged. Normally catalogues list U/M or ** for a stamps that have never been hinged. Some catalogues list only never hinged stamps after a certain date.




A good starting point for all new collectors to the hobby. These catalogues are produced by Michel,  Stanley Gibbons, Scott etc etc. They list all the basic issues of stamps issued throughout the world. Most come in sections (volumes), covering different regions or are published in Country alphabetical order in a number of volumes. Some may cover only one Country at a time.  These catalogues are obtainable from there respective Companies or purchased from your local dealer.  

NOTE: Most Catalogues are available from your local library so try there first (if you are lucky enough to have one). 


These cover either a single Country, period or  a theme in more detail. Some are available at your library. But mostly you will have to purchase them. Do not be put off by the language barrier, MICHEL of Germany Produce some of the best catalogues covering the World, but are written in German.  You soon pick up the philatelic terms used in foreign catalogues very quickly - (believe me).  Different collectors have there own favourite catalogues. "Stanley Gibbons" for UK & Commonwealth Countries - "Scott" for the USA - "Michel" for Europe - "Yang" for Hong Kong & China. etc. As well as the basic stamps, these specialised catalogues also cover other items like booklets, coils, watermark varieties, errors and varieties. These catalogues contain a wealth of information, but can be a bit daunting for the beginner.


As the title suggests, these list only stamps issued to do with a theme ie: birds, trains, chess etc. Some are produced by Companies like Stanley gibbons, but more often by individuals or groups, see thematic collecting links. Some of these books are also available from specialised book/stamp shops.


This is the most difficult group to find. Some are written by a specialised study group or individuals and published only by them. Sometimes with a very small print run. They can be a very detailed study of a subject,  like the  " POSTMARKS OF FUNNY ISLE from 1885-1886"! - and could represent a persons lifetime study. These are the books & papers you need to track down if you want to specialise in a particular area or subject. First stop is to find if there is a local study group or club you can join STUDY CIRCLE SITES, or contact a specialised book Shop like VERA TRINDER LTD of LONDON. 

TIPS: You can also try asking at your friendly local library (they can find many published books, but they do need to know as much information about the type of book you seek, Publisher or Author).

You can acquire a lot of background information about a Country you wish to collect, including it's people, by reading travel and history books also. Do not dismiss FICTION books, as these sometimes  are written by authors/authoresses that have lived in that particular  part of the world. They sometimes can contain a wealth of information about a culture or Country.


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