When philately was first introduced, stamp collectors once thought that collecting stamps from around the world was the only way to go. But towards the end of the 19th century, countries began to produce more stamps and it was impossible to collect all postage stamps from each nation.
Luckily, a new type of philately was introduced and this time, collectors focused on stamps with similar subjects. They called it topical stamps or thematic stamps.
You can start topical stamp collecting in two ways:
(a) Either you are a newbie philatelist and you want to begin stamp collecting by pursuing postage stamps about your favorite topics.
(b) Or you already own several stamps and you are sorting your stamp collection under a unifying theme.
How to collect topical stamps
Your eagerness to collect topical stamps easily takes off if your subject is too specific. After all, there is no challenge in getting only a handful of thematic postage stamps.
On the other hand, the interest to complete your thematic stamp collections also wavers if you opt for a topic that is too broad. Remember, the best part of thematic stamp collecting lies on how you acquired the stamps.
Selecting a topic for thematic collection
In forming a topical stamp collection, selecting a topic is a vital aspect. It should be something that fascinates you and fuels your passion for thematic philately.
The best way is to start with a bigger theme then break it down to smaller subtopics. This is way, you can asses how immense or how limited your topic will be.
For example, if you choose flowers on stamps as a condensing theme, you can have a specific topic on orchids, and from there you can be more distinct with the types of orchids.
Preparing a checklist of themed stamps
If you want to prepare a checklist in the tedious way, scan several stamp catalogs like the Scott’s Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, and jot down each postage stamp’s catalogue number.
Another way to do it is by securing a prepared checklist from the American Topical Association. However, this is only available to members of the ATA stamp club.
But perhaps the easiest way to do it is by searching for topical postage stamps in the internet. Online philately gives thematic philatelists a chance to search for their stamps of choice in their wide topical stamp inventories.
Choosing topical stamps
Even if your thematic stamps revolve around a single idea, there are ways how to tackle your topical stamp collection.
- by selecting similar stamps with a principal design. For example, postage stamps with magicians on them.
- by picking collectible stamps which have the same parts of the stamp. Perhaps you fancy thematic postage stamps with identical borders?
- by opting for postage stamps that feature your topic as a symbol or stamps than can be considered as supplementary for your collection.
Acquiring thematic postage stamps
Study your checklist and classify the topical stamps into sub categories. Now it is better to see the bigger picture of your topical stamp collection.
There are many ways to buy postage stamps. Topical stamp packets, containing 50 to 200 stamps per bag, are usually sold by stamp dealers.
If you have other stamps that do not fall under your thematic collection, you can always trade stamps online with topical philatelists who might want your stamps for their collection.
Organizing your topical stamp collection or thematic display
Just because your thematic stamp collections are growing in size do not mean you should not be systematic when you present them.
Be creative in displaying your topical stamp collection. Arrange them in a way that they tell a narrative. For instance you might want to chronicle your trip to Paris. There are numerous pictorial stamps about the Eiffel Tower and other landmarks.
Creating a thematic display is not only limited to postage stamps. You can also include philatelic covers, postcards, maxicards, and stamp-like items.
Mounting your thematic stamp collection
For a well-organized topical collection, you need a stamp collecting album. Devise your stamps in an orderly manner. This way it will be easier to keep track your thematic stamps.
Keep aesthetics in mind when you arrange your topic stamps. Though it is awkward to group stamps that vary in sizes, make sure your thematic display is balanced and symmetrical.
To be sure, use quadrille sheets to aid you in making a uniform spacing from one postage stamp to another. You can also sketch the position of the stamps on the album before mounting them.
Always use a good pair of stamp tweezers when you are handling your collection. You might damage your topical postage stamps before you can even display them. Using stamp mounts rather than stamp hinges protect your thematic stamp collection better.
Writing descriptions about your topical stamp collection
Make write ups about your themed stamp collection to make them more interesting. However, make it short and not overly ornate. Thematic philately tells a pictorial narrative so it is best you let your postage stamps tell the story.
What are the popular topics on thematic philately?
Wildlife on stamps is one of the most enduring themes in topical stamp collecting. There are birds on stamps, fish-themed stamps, insects on topical stamps, postage stamps with tigers on them, and so on.
Other favorite topics are ships on themed stamps, people on stamps, and stamps on postage stamps. Most collectors fancy postage stamps with medical themes and stamps with magicians on them. The 2-Clicks topical stamps directory lists all the possible subjects covered by thematic stamps.