Question: I want to start a collection that can be completed for less than $200. What countries or topics do you suggest?--R.S.
Answer: And what do you do with this collection when you finish it? Start another one? Stash it away for 20 years in hope of profits? Sell it or give it away as a present?
I have found the greatest joy in stamp collecting is the thrill of the chase, the difficulty but possibility of finding elusive issues and the excitement that can only come when discovering a rare variety that others have overlooked.
Pick any country and any time bracket--for instance, Norway since World War II or Peruvian commemoratives of the last 30 years. A representative showing can be made of these two specialties for about $200, if you avoid the rare items.
But the best collection is the one that is never finished, the one that you constantly dream of, the one that keeps you going as a philatelist.
Q: My Playing Card stamp is inscribed U.S.I.R., Playing Cards, Class A. It is small and blue in color and appears to be unused. Please evaluate.--R.L.
A: Issued in 1922, this is a U.S. Internal Revenue stamp that paid an 8-cent tax on playing cards. Current catalogue price is $10 mint, $1 used.
Q: Last summer you stated that a reissue of the famous U.S. Columbian set of 1893 "would effectively devalue all existing Columbians from 1893."
Why must this be so? A reissue might increase the collector interest in the originals and cause them to go up in value.
Difficulty in distinguishing which issue is which could be resolved in many ways besides altered colors. Modern gum is different from 19th-Century gum. The Columbians are perforated 10 on the perf. scale, while most current U.S. commemoratives are perf. 11.
Owners of stamps as valuable as the 1893 Columbians would protect their investments by obtaining expertizing certificates identifying their stamps as being in existence before the reissue varieties.--L.C.H.
A: You could be right. But I would hate to have a lot of money tied up in the original Columbians when the flood of reissues appears.
I implied in my June comments that identical colors in the reissues would devalue the originals. Of course, if the colors are quite different, that would be the best way to keep the century-apart stamps separated financially as well as philatelically.
As it stands now, if you want a Columbian, you either get the real thing or a counterfeit. If the U.S. Postal Service reissues the Columbians, even with altered colors or designs, then it seems to me that some collectors will be content with the 1993 versions at face value, thus decreasing demand for the 1893 originals. Replicas substitute for genuine items.
Q: Enclosed is a photocopy of four English stamps that I have had for some time. Can you tell me the value of these?--J.S.
A: Your photo shows the 1 1/2-pence King George V Silver Jubilee Issue of 1935 (Scott catalogue No. 228). In mint condition, which your stamps seem to be, it lists for 75 cents per stamp in U.S. money.
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.