A common mistake among stamp collectors is to believe that their stamp investment is a good one simply because they like and enjoy what they have bought. This is a subconscious trick from the ego, subtly suggesting that if I enjoy what I do (collect), others will automatically... How wrong this is!
The only test for value lies on the real market. Simply because you like your accumulation of hundreds of WWI censor marks doesn't mean that you will get your investment back, or even benefits from it!
Creating a stamp collection, without neglecting its fun and educational aspect of course, should better be approached with an objective eye ... the eye of an entrepreuner starting a business plan.
Here are a few points to start with, or to reflect on:
- What is your budget and your timeframe? If you have a 250 euros monthly budget (3.000 euros per year), and a 10 years timeframe (= 30.000 euros investment), it is simply unrealstic to start a 1858-1875 specialized collection with rarities. But it is completely realistic to start a Romanov or a Postal Stationary collection.
- What do you want to achieve with your collection? Do you prefer stamp study (shades, plate flaws...) or postal history? Is the design of stamps important for you? Are you fond of WW2 history? Assessing your own preferences will help you to determine in which direction your collection should go to bring you the maximum 'joy' satisfaction.
- Educate yourself. Buy specialzed books and journals; contact relevant philatelic societies; follow auction houses; make friends in your selected field; contact and respectfully ask advices from your chosen field's experts. This is probably the MOST important point to bear in mind. You might not become an expert, but educating yourself will definitely boost your collection: you wil learn how to avoid bad material and how to extract gems from the dust. Do not limit yourself to your field: you can also educate yourself on stamp printing methods and stamp expertizing as well. Why not?
- Treat each item in your collection as a museum piece. Don't let any item take the dust. Research when and where the stamps have been printed, why, when and where the postmarks have been applied on your covers, look for the strange, the unusual, and write some nice (but short!) description of your items. Even cheap material can become lively and more desirable if you skillfully put it on a piedestal. Besides the pleasure of seing your items becoming 'alive', it will also definitely increase the value of your stock when you decide to sell.
- Quality versus Quantity. Simply put: buy quality, or even better superb quality items. Only for very rare, very special or unique pieces should you allow some flaws to enter in your albums. If you collect mint imperial stamps for example, simply run away from defective items. If you collect ship mail, buy only readable postmarks, with the sole exception of huge rarities.
- Do not be afraid to pay a good price for the 'Wow' item. Ironically, if you expect to save money by buying low quality (thus cheaper) material, then you are grossly mistaken. Defective items will always be hard to sell, and you will always have the feeling to play Russian roulette when selling such items. On the other hand, you will (almost) always get your money back with quality-outstanding items, simply because some people will desire them more. I remember a quote from a famous dealer who said 'quality and the pleasure of ownership last long after the pain of the price has been forgotten'.
I wish you a happy and quality collecting!