Do you know how many times I've heard that? A collector laments that they've filled all of the spaces they can in their album. And the spaces left to fill are too expensive. Rather than give up on collecting, here are a few suggestions of things to try to broaden your experience:
· What about errors, freaks, and oddities? You don't have to buy a #C3a. There are lots of stamps out there with minor misperforations, color shifts, and other printing anomalies. Many are available for only a few dollars.
· What about tagging varieties? You'll need a good UV lamp for this job. Some catalog numbers come in both tagged and untagged varieties. Some stamps come in multiple varieties of tagging (block, overall, etc).
· If early US issues interest you, how about collecting die varieties? There is a book on the subject, "Encyclopedia of Plate Varieties of U. S. Bureau Printed Postage Stamps" by Loran C. "Cloudy" French. The book was printed in 1979. It's 337 pages packed with distinguishable die varieties on early US stamps. You can still find this book at literature dealers for about $40. You'll need a good magnifier too. Die varieties can provide endless hours of hunting and there is a great opportunity to find new and unlisted varieties.
· How about postal history? If you collect used stamps, try finding them properly used on cover? Some issues like the 1938 Prexy series can be especially challenging for some of the odd denominations like 19¢. Postal history is a huge field of its own.
· Consider space filler material. Not everyone can shell out thousands of dollars for mint, never hinged, perfectly centered sets of dollar value Columbians. Have you considered copies that are still visually attractive, but they have a thin or tiny crease that doesn't detract from their appearance? Such copies still look great in your album and you won't have to take out a second mortgage on the house.
· Have you considered back of the book material? What about airmail issues, special delivery, postage due, officials, parcel post, special handling, offices in China, revenues, and other issues? How about postal stationery? If you have a Scott US Specialized catalog, flip through the pages in the back. Something may peak your interest.
· Starting in 1916 and continuing into the 1980s, the BEP produced precancelled stamps on many US definitive issues. Most precancels consist of two lines with the city and state name between the lines. The Precancel Stamp Society publishes a catalog for Bureau Print Precancels. There are about 10,000 different ones to collect. Some of them can be challenging to find.
· Have you considered specialization? Now that you've filled your album with copies of all major Scott numbers, perhaps there is a set of stamps that really intrigues you. Or maybe there is only one stamp that is your favorite, like the $1 Trans-Mississippi issue, Scott #292. Take that stamp (or set of stamps) and learn all that you can about it. Collect the EFOs, proofs, essays, plate blocks, etc. Study that stamp (or set of stamps) to its fullest. Read the literature about that stamp and learn all that you can.
· On the flip side, maybe you're already a specialist in a particular set of stamps or a single stamp. Have you reached the end of the road where new material only comes along once a decade? What about starting with another set of stamps or a single stamp and building a new specialized collection? Or perhaps it's time to collect general US and obtain copies of all major catalog numbers.
Stamp collecting is a hobby. It's supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be relaxing. There are countless ways to collect stamps. So when someone tells me that they've reached the end of the line and there is nothing left for them to collect, I challenge them to find new areas. Try one. You might like it. If not, try something different until you find one that you do like. You'll be glad that you did.