Understanding Rare Stamp Collecting Classifications

Stamp Types generally means the difference between a definitive how many stamps do I need and a commemorative stamp. A definitive stamp most always showed a portrait of some famous person at present time or in history, although recently these have expanded to include the U.S. flag or the White House. Typically these stamps are relatively small and ordinary looking. They can be purchased at different denominations to pay for the different types of postal mail. These usually get printed in large numbers and remain in effect until the postal rates changes.

Commemorative stamps are larger than the definitive’s and are printed in much smaller numbers. They’re usually sold for the standard first class postage rate. The pictures usually show images of historical events. Once these stamps run out, they usually are not printed again. In recent years there has been another stamp type called the Special. A good example of these stamps would be the Christmas stamps that are printed out for the holidays. These are larger, decorative stamps that are sold at the standard postal rate for a certain time period until the supply runs out.

Purpose shows what the stamp is for. Most stamps are classified as regular stamps because they are used on your every day basic mail. However, immediately after the postage stamp was distributed came along other stamps showing different purposes. Some show postage due for the mail that had insufficient monies applied to the postage. Other stamps were created to show classified mail, airmail and a variety of other special services.

Stamps are issued in a variety of ways. Format is another classification term used to show how these stamps were originally issued. Whether it was as a sheet, booklet, coil or panes.

Condition of a stamp is very important to many collectors. Mint condition is one that has never been used and is still in the same condition as when it was issued. If one has been in a collection held in an album with a hinge then it is considered an unused one. The reason for the difference is that the one that was in an album has had its “gum” disturbed. One that has been sent through the postal system and been stamped is considered used.

Other classification types are whether they are perforated, what kind of printing is used and whether a watermark was used.

By understanding the different classifications, one can begin their collection based on certain criteria. Many collectors have a certain theme to their collections. There have been billions of stamps that have been issued over the years that it would be literally impossible to have a complete collection. Many people choose a certain topical theme or perhaps stamps from a certain country only. Whatever you decide to create your theme around, it’ll be interesting and fun for you to study.


Now that you’ve decided what type of stamps you want to collect, here are some tips on the best way to keep these stamps in good condition. You may end up with one that is worth a lot of money someday and you’ll want it to be in the best possible condition.

  • When looking for a stamp album, look for one that has blank, acid-free pages. Don’t go for anything that has flimsy pages for these will not be sturdy enough to house your stamps safely. Make sure you have stamp hinges or mounts that are designed for housing stamps. Using glue or tape will damage your stamps.

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