a magazine for the next generation of stamp collectors

Michael’s Stamps – Free Stamp Collecting Starter Kits (Full Article)

By Michael Lynn

*Published Winter 2024

I was recently asked what I thought one could do to help the hobby of stamp collecting to grow. I was happy to answer this question as I have been working on a project to support new collectors for the past year: Michael’s Stamps – Free Stamp Collecting Starter Kits.

I began my lifelong adventure with stamp collecting when my maternal grandfather, William H. Steele, introduced me to the hobby. I’m not sure how he got started, but he was a collector of U.S. stamps who only acquired stamps purchased at the post office; one of the first set of stamps he bought was the 1904 Louisiana Purchase series. He had very little money to spend (so no Zeppelins), but for many years he would buy the new stamps that were issued and save them up until I visited him in Colorado in the summers, and we would put them into his album together.

I was probably 11 or 12 when I really started my own collection. I worked on it in the usual kid’s ways of picking up stamps where I could, but once I got a job in my teen years, I started visiting a stamp dealer and bought some of my first earlier stamps. I also collected plate blocks of most everything the post office issued for a number of years. As is probably common, my collection went on the back burner for many years until I had a good enough job that I could buy interesting stamps. I spent a LOT of money on eBay, some of which was well spent and some not, but I ended up with a U.S. album cataloging around $60,000. I also bought MANY extra stamps, particularly in one of my other collecting areas, German States.

I recently retired and had pretty much stopped collecting except for some local postal history areas I was interested in. Although I had tried to interest my two daughters in collecting stamps, neither of them has the collecting bug, which is so much a part of my makeup. I sold my wonderful U.S. album, the main parts of my German States, some U.S. cover collections, and a few other odds and ends. As I looked at the overwhelming number of stamps I still had, I was frustrated about not knowing what to do with most of them. The idea of selling stamps for small amounts of money didn’t seem worthwhile and once I realized that, I started working on an idea to provide free stamp collecting starter kits. It wasn’t easy to get used to the idea of giving away stamps, but now I’m excited about creating and giving away stamps collecting kits to help build the hobby.

I set about thinking about what stamps I had, what I thought a stamp kit should contain, and what I was willing to spend to make this work – and as I worked on the idea, I realized I would have to spend a fair amount of money to make these kits really free. I decided kits should always contain an assortment of U.S. stamps, an assortment of foreign stamps, a selection of stamps requested by the customer, a plate block, a first day cover, some stamps on paper, a short document on collecting, and sometimes a few other items. I also thought it was important that the stamps be presented in an interesting manner that seemed like a small collection, not an accumulation of random material. For the kits shipped in the U.S., the stamps are all mounted in two stock sheets. I have been lucky that in the stamps I put together for this project, I have plenty of older stamps to send. I always include a couple of the nice but common 19th-century stamps and the assortments also contain a good number of stamps over 100 years old. For me, collecting older stamps, and learning about their history, has always been more interesting than newer stamps, so I’m enjoying the opportunity to share my collecting interest with others.

I started out only supplying these kits to collectors in the U.S., but discovered that if I shipped the stamps abroad in glassines, the postage cost was more than reasonable. I have now shipped to 20 different countries and shipped over 230 kits to date.

When I started, I expected to get lots of requests from people in scouting. For some reason that hasn’t happened, but I have had requests from many people truly interesting in experimenting with the hobby as well as people who, as I can tell by their requests, are already collectors. I am always extra happy when people request kits for their grandchildren, and also when requests come in from retired folks. I decided from the beginning that I was going to send kits to anyone who asked and not do any vetting. I have yet to see any of my kits pop up for sale on Facebook, so I think they are getting to the right places.

A rewarding aspect of this project is that I receive lots of very nice thank you notes and often photos of the recipients with their stamps. I think people are surprised and pleased to receive something that really is free of any charge. In fact, recently one of my kits was featured in a video on TikTok by Leven Parker.

– Michael

I urge other collectors to think about ways they can help spread the hobby.

To request a kit, please email me and include your shipping address.

Please let me know if there is a particular foreign country you would like included in addition to the U.S. and foreign assortments. Otherwise, I will choose a country for you.

If you would like to donate stamps, please contact me first – I am happy to accept most anything in collectable form. I don’t need stamps on paper or albums with glued down stamps. My kits take a fair amount of time to put together, so I don’t have time to do a lot of prep work.

Much of what I have been able to do is because of donations of stamps to my project. A good friend donated her late father’s collection and some of his stamps go into virtually every kit that is sent out. Although I never accept any money for my kits, even when offered, I do appreciate donations of stamps hoards/collections of any size. This is a long-term project inspired by my grandfather who instilled the love of stamps in me. I hope my kits can give others a similar experience.

Stamp collecting is a wonderful hobby for curious kids, historically minded adults, and older people in need of a good hobby in their retirement. I think much of what I learned about people and places in American history is due to my interest in stamps. This is my way of sharing that knowledge – and fun – with the world and making sure the hobby is still there for people who need it in years to come.

“Wow, your package just arrived and it is fantastic!!! I delivered them to the boys the next morning. They happened to be playing with two of their neighbors. The neighbors got just as enthused as the recipients and I wondered if we inadvertently recruited a couple of bonus philatelists. I had given the boys 100 or so stamps, and they had no problems sharing some of the stamps. The boys had also gotten, from me, an H.E. Harris Explorer album.”

– A message from Michael Nabi, who requested kits for his sons and was able to share them with their neighbors as well.