Question: What tools do I need to start stamp collecting? I am retired on a limited hobby budget, but I think I would enjoy fiddling around with stamps for fun and possibly profit. What stamps are a good investment?--G.C.
Answer: A stamp album, hinges, tongs, a magnifying glass and a watermark tray with fluid are the basic tools of the philatelist. Also you will need access to reference books and stamp catalogues indicating prices of various issues. Books can be picked up used at many stamp-dealer shops, or can be borrowed from any public library.
The stamps that have proved a good investment in the past have been fine issues from the United States, the British Commonwealth, Western European countries and Japan. Nineteenth-Century stamps and covers, Zeppelin material, early air mails of any nation and certain errors are nice to have in a stamp-investment portfolio.
But the future is unknown, so my advice is to collect for fun and knowledge, hoping to make a profit when it is time to sell, but not depending on it.
Q: Recently I purchased three sheets of the new 22-cent Navajo Art issue, and I had the pleasant surprise to find one of the sheets had the printing at the bottom of each stamp offset to the left. The Navajo blanket is centered between the perforations, but the lettering is off-center and is cut by the perforation holes. The offset is about five millimeters.
I am not certain if this type of error occurs often or is a rarity. Your comments and recommendations?--W.W.
A: This is a printing error called "mis-registered colors" in philatelic talk. It would be better if one color was entirely missing from the stamps, a major error worth hundreds of dollars each if uncommon.
But your error does have some value. It depends on how many are found, but I would guess that a few dollars per stamp might be a fair price.
I'm not sure what you mean by a "recommendation." If you are asking whether you should sell it now or keep it as an investment, I have no idea what anything will be worth in the future because the future is unknown.
If you want a cash offer, I suggest that you show the pane (sheet) to the nearest stamp dealer for a professional evaluation.
Q: It has been about two years since I started collecting the current issues of Canada in blocks-of-four. Although I only collect these stamps for enjoyment, not as investments, I would like to see my Canadian stamps go up in value in the future. Are current Canadian blocks-of-four likely to increase in value within the next decade or so?--R.K.
A: No. Current Canadian stamps are sold in quantities sufficient to satisfy collectors around the world who wish to buy them.
If you can get mint inscription blocks, with the Canadian government printer's inscription in the margin, these may have a better potential for future price appreciation. But I don't guarantee it, and neither would any reputable stamp dealer.
At any rate, collecting blocks-of-four will multiply your cash outlay by four, and thereby increase the amount of money that is tied up in these stamps. I advise collecting stamps for fun and hope for a possible profit.
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.