A: Stamp tongs look like tweezers without any serrated rough edge on the grasping surfaces. The best tongs are made of stainless steel and are sold with a variety of points: narrow and pointed, spade shape and round. Personal preference determines what type is most comfortable for you. I use all types, depending on the nature of the job: Delicate stamps with brittle paper may require a wide-tip tong; modern cheap stamps are easy to pick up with narrow points that can damage a stamp's paper if the narrow tips are pressed onto the stamp at the wrong angle.
Go to a stamp dealer's shop and ask to see some tongs and ask how to use them. Cheap nickel tongs are fine for beginners and retail for about $3. A proficient philatelist can hinge a stamp into an album without ever touching it with the hands. Remember that stamps are fragile, and human fingers often have dirt and oils that can affect paper when touched.
Q: I have three airmail stamps showing a dove, map and the word RYUKYUS at the top. The denominations are 8 yen, 12 yen and 16 yen. What are these?--T.S.
A: The first airmail issues of the Ryukyu Islands, better known to some people as Okinawa. These islands were seized from Japan by the United States in 1945 and were given back to Japan in the spring of 1972. Many collectors save Ryukyu stamps issued under U.S. postal authorities, and your set has a current retail price of $75 mint.
Barry Krause, a member of several national stamp-collecting organizations, cannot answer mail personally but will respond to philatelic questions of general interest in this column. Do not telephone. Write to Your Stamps, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.