Tips For Stamp Collecting In The XXI Century

Unlike what many people believe, technology has come to help philately and here are our tips for stamp collecting in the XXI century.

The intention of sharing these tips for stamp collecting in the 21st century is to help make this hobby even more entertaining and at the same time take it to an even higher level of specialization.

One of the advantages – and disadvantages at the same time – that philately has as a hobby is that it has been in existence for more than 150 years and for most of the time it did not have drastic changes, until the arrival of technology (internet and email).

For a long time, mail was the most popular way of communication (long distance and business) both for having had a channel and improved processes through 2 centuries (XIX and XX).

Philately was for a long time a way of easy access to different areas of general culture such as politics, geography, history, art and sciences among others.

As expected, with internet making its entrance – and access to a long distance communication becoming almost immediately and free – the use of mail suffered a great impact and philately was not far behind.

We can quickly name other aspects that affected philately as a hobby:

• Access to long distance communication immediately.

• The low cost of electronic communication.

• The desire for immediate gratification and adoption of technology as a hobby by the new generations.

Although the entrance of technology to the field of hobbies affected philately, it was not all bad news. And we are here to see the positive side and use technology to improve and strengthen philately as much as possible.

1. More access to philatelic material. before the Internet, if we wanted to buy stamps, it could only be done in local stores and if you were lucky, you would receive auction catalogs by mail. Nowadays, curiously thanks to the same factor that affected philately – Internet -, we have access to thousands of pages where we can buy philately. Among the largest we can quote eBay, Delcampe and Amazon. And if you search in detail, you can find first-class material at a great price.

2. Buy accessories online. If it was previously difficult to find philatelic material locally, finding accessories was quite a challenge. As with the stamps, today we have access to hundreds of accessories at unbeatable prices. For example: Amazon has a wide variety of accessories. Also you can visit the Ultimate Stamp Collecting Supplies List.

3. Technological tools to study material. A few years ago, philatelic tools were quite rudimentary: magnifying glasses to see errors, manual perforation gauges and liquids to see watermarks among others. Nowadays it is quite different, thanks to technology. For example:

a. Instead of having to use magnifying glasses to see details on stamps, you can use digital microscopes or special smart phone lenses. This facilitates the observation of details without having to be holding the magnifying lens all the time. As easy as taking a picture and then observing the details on the screen.

Tips For Stamp Collecting
Smart phone lens

                    b. To measure the perforations in stamps, the giant of philatelic supplies SAFE created the Perfotronic 2. It is an electronic device that can measure the perforations of a stamp with accuracy of 1/100 mm. Practically total accuracy when measuring perforations. And best of all, the handling and possibility of material damage is reduced.

                    c. Last but not least, is the SAFE watermark detector. Best of all: it does not use liquid watermark detector. Everything done electronically. Like the Perfotronic 2, it significantly reduces material handling and in this case there is no need to treat stamps with chemicals.

SAFE Watermark Detector

4. Sell remnants to have extra money to buy more material. It is no secret that when you collect stamps, you get duplicate material or material that you simply do not need. The interesting thing about all this is that there is always going to be someone who needs it. Whether through direct contact via email, philatelic forums or electronic auctions, you can sell that material and get more funds to do what we all want: buy more philatelic material!

5. Showcase your collections before exhibitions. THIS IS THE BEST USE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR PHILATELY! Sorry to use capital letters, but I’m very excited about this point. For all those who participate in both national and international exhibitions, this tip is soon to become an almost mandatory practice for its effectiveness and ease for both, the collector and the judge. What is it about? Very easy, after completing the assembly of the collection, it is scanned (digitized) and published on a web page. The link is shared with the judges (or with the organizing committee to redirect them to the judges) so that they can study or analyze the collection before the exhibition. It is no secret to anyone that during the exhibitions the time of a judge or team of judges to assess the collections is quite reduced. By sending the collections in advance to the judges, we guarantee that during the event, when qualifying the collections, they will arrive with all the information we want them to have. And so, have a fair and supported qualification. Now, the ideal is to have a web site on web hosting provider (space on the internet) that is accessible and easy to use. That’s why I recommend A2 Hosting. This company offers packages at reasonable prices. The software to create and edit the web site is free (and the most used in the world). For more information about the plans, click here.

6. Have a blog to explain the rarity and importance of the material that is included in the collections. Linked to the previous point, having a blog (or digital diary) helps us to better explain our collections. We can go deeper into why a piece is considered rare; what are the varieties and errors of a stamp; the story behind an issue or a piece of postal history and any other features that we want to highlight from our collection. The blog can be held within the same web hosting of the previous point, so we recommend the same provider.

7. Digital collections. This is a trend that is growing rapidly in the philatelic world. It is quite simple and consists in collecting digital images instead of physical material. Although currently it does not have the general approval of the philatelic world, it is gaining more and more followers. Digital collections can be had locally on your computer or online on a web page. If so, as in points 5 and 6, we recommend the same provider.

8. Forums to request or exchange information. It has happened to all of us that at some point we have or get material that we do not know enough about. In the past it was quite complicated because if you did not know an expert on the subject, that doubt was almost impossible to solve. Thanks to the Internet, today everything is solved by going to forums such as StampCommunity, raising our question in the indicated sub-forum and in a matter of hours we will have several answers.

Clearly there can be many more tips for stamp collecting in the 21st century. The previously shared tips are those that we have used or heard before. If you have other advice, please share it in the comments section.


Costa Rica Stamps: Unique Jesús Jiménez Issue Usage To Algeria

During the 1920’s is very rare to find Costa Rica stamps used in correspondence to Africa.

Recently came to my hands one of those extremely rare piece of Costa Rica stamps’ postal history from the 1920’s.

A beautiful postcard depicting passengers getting into a train to depart from Limón to San José. That’s nice, but there’s a rarer factor to it. It has a 2 céntimos Jesús Jiménez stamp and was sent to Algeria!

Let’s begin explaining it one detail at a time:

  • The Jesús Jiménez issue circulated for only 6 months. It was demonetized in December 31st, 1923. This postcard was sent in July 28th, 1928 from Limón.
  • The postcard has another stamp, the 10 céntimos from the 1910 issue that was also demonetized at the end of 1923. It is a common mistaken belief that this issue was demonetized before 1923.
  • This is the only piece of postal history with a Jesús Jiménez issue stamp sent to Africa! The 2 biggest Jesús Jiménez collections in Costa Rica don’t have any piece of postal history sent to Africa.
  • It has the arriving mark at Algeria. It was a common practice not to hand-stamp postcards at the arriving country during the early 1900’s.
Jesús Jiménez Issue
Jesús Jiménez Issue

You can check some really interesting Jesús Jiménez’s issue errors here.

Make sure to review our tips for stamp collecting in the XXI century.

Make sure sure to visit the ultimate stamp collecting supplies list.

To keep your stamps and postcards safe from stains and getting damaged we recommend Lighthouse stock books.

Stamp Magnifying Microscope: Celestron 5 MP Handheld Digital Microscope 

Stamp Magnifying Lamp Desk Clamp-Mount 90 SMD LED Adjustable Spring-Arm

Make sure to view these amazing full stamp pane protective storage bags.

Manual perforation measurement gauge which has a really low price.

Electronic perforation measurement gauge, that has a higher price, but is easier measure perforations.

Download CRRPS’s Philatelic Magazine Timbre For Free

Download CRRPS’s philatelic magazine Timbre Vol. 37 for free. Edited by Alvaro Castro (most articles are in Spanish), this issue contains great articles:

  • Colecciones aceptadas para Thailandia 2018 (Accepted Collections For Thailand 2018).
  • Próximas Exposiciones (Future Expositions).
  • El Pez Vela de 1937 (1937’s Sailfish).
  • Vuelos desde Honduras y hacia ella (Flights from and to Honduras)
  • Belice: Un paraíso escondido (Belize A Hidden Paradise)
  • La Producción y las Marcas de Agua en la Prefilatelia Centroamericana – II Parte (Production And Watermars In Central American Pre-Philately II Part).
  • PANAMA: Butterfly Country And Butterfly City.
  • Butterfly – Mariposa
  • Mophila Report La Gran Flota Blanca (Mophila Report The Great White Fleet)
  • Los puentes en Angostura, Turrialba (The Angostura Bridges, Turrialba).
  • Años conflictivos en la filatelia del Centenario (Conflictive years in Centenary’s philately).
  • Actividades de la Asociación (Activities).

Download CRRPS’s philatelic magazine Timbre Vol. 37 for free!

Make sure sure to visit the ultimate stamp collecting supplies list.

Make sure to review our tips for stamp collecting in the XXI century.

To keep your stamps and postcards safe from stains and getting damaged we recommend Lighthouse stock books.

Stamp Magnifying Microscope: Celestron 5 MP Handheld Digital Microscope 

Stamp Magnifying Lamp Desk Clamp-Mount 90 SMD LED Adjustable Spring-Arm

Make sure to view these amazing full stamp pane protective storage bags.

Manual perforation measurement gauge which has a really low price.

Electronic perforation measurement gauge, that has a higher price, but is easier measure perforations.

Costa Rica Stamps The Guanacaste Overprints

I’m publishing the transcription of the booklet with base knowledge of the Guanacaste overprints, better know as the Guanacaste stamps. It was written in 1985 by Ricardo Alvarez, great philatelist and researcher. Author of many high-quality-philatelic-publications, considered a fundamental player in Costa Rica’s philately.

guanacaste overprints

Costa Rica – The Guanacaste Overprints

by Ricardo Alvarez P.

Member of the Association Internationale des Experts Philatéliques (A.I.E.P.)

Many countries have a philatelic “era” or period during which the stamps, because of chance, become rarities. The urgent need of the 1847 Mauritius; the Anglo-French occupation of Togo in the first world war, or the German take-over of the Zara in the second, the Ponce and Coamo provisionals of Puerto Rico, the Aichach of Bavaria, the Port of Prince issue of Cuba; the “Aero Correo” first issue airs of Honduras; and many more, that are not rarities of a regular issue, but provisionals needed to fullfil a specific need, fortuitous due to unforeseen circumstances.

Generally, these issues, as you would suppose, were made on the spur of the moment in small quantities -at least some of the values- limited in number, thus now rare and expensive.

One of these fortuitous events occurred in Costa Rica and the Guanacaste overprints became the gems of Costa Rica philately. Their history and distinctive characteristics are subject of this brief resumé.

At the onset of the XIX century, Costa Rica comprised the province of the same name, with Cartago as the capital and the “Partido” or district of Nicoya, that had for two centuries maintained total independence from both Costa Rica and Nicaragua as an “Alcaldía Mayor” (or district). Nicoya then became a “Corregimiento” by royal decree under a magistrate and it´s jurisdiction was extended into a small area in Nicaragua, but more so into Costa Rica. This major move towards Costa Rica started the political trend that culminated in total integration years later – let us see how.

When France invaded Spain, in 1808, Napoleon, an unscrupulous man, practically kidnapped the Spanish king Fernando VII, holding him confined to quarters in Bavonne. France, until he had obtained the concessions and privileges claimed, without doubt, at the expense of the Spanish people. The Spanish patriots, in open rebellion against the invader, name a “Junta” and established the constitutional government, rejecting the absolute monarchy.

The first “Cortes” or Congress, under the new system, met in Cadiz in 1810. The kingdom of Guatemala was represented in this Congress by various deputies, among those the presbyter Florencio del Castillo, in the year 1812.

The Cortes of Cadiz made great liberal reforms one being a constitution, but the defeat f Napoleon in 1814, and the return of Fernando VII to the Spanish throne, resulted in abolishment of all done by the Congress and reinstatement of the absolute monarchy. Nevertheless, after a bloody battle, the patriots commanded by Rafael del Riego in the year of 1820 forced the king to reestablish the 1812 constitution and invoke que Congress.

The Constitution required that a province, to be eligible for an election of a deputy, to have at least 60.000 inhabitants. Costa Rica had only 53.000 at this time, so it was decided to incorporate, by popular consensus, but provisionally, the “Partido” or county of Nicoya and the towns od Santa Cruz and Guanacaste; this last one is now the city of Liberia, Costa Rica.

With this conventional union, the province of Costa Rica elected Jose María Zamora, from the city of Cartago, to the Spanish congress in November of 1820.

The independence of Central America came in 1821. From this moment on the district of Nicoya snd outlying towns, initiated s strong movement to separate themselves from Nicaragua, to become a permanent part of Costa Rica. Finally, in 1824, a plesbiscite was held, the result being a majority vote for the unions with Costa Rica, and in 1825, when the Central American states formed a federal republic, the congress of this federation decreed that the district of Nicoya should be separated from Nicaragua, and join Costa Rica until definite state boundaries were established.

This is how the “Partido de Nicoya” and sorrounding towns became the seventh province of Costa Rica, called from then on Guanacaste, possibly because of the abundance of trees of that name that exist in the region (species “Enterolobium cyclocarpum”).

Costa Rica began to organize a state mail system startin in 1839, and the first postage stamps, the 1/2 real and 2 reales, were issued in April of 1863. During the colonial period and post independence, there was almost no private mails and that emanating from the tobacco monopoly at Villa Nueva (San José), and the other governmental offices in the main populatin centres, provides us with the scarce, interesting pre-adhesive postal markings, many of which help in the study of our postal history. When the regular post was stablished, another problem arose, specially in the outlying provinces, the lack of roads and, why not mention it, the lack of correspondence.

The few letters sent and the lack of adequate transport dictated the employment of private merchants to sell both postage stamps and fiscal paper in lieu of having government run post offices, a practice still prevalent in Costa Rica. But if we consider the small mark up permitted by the government on the sale of stamps (8%) you will understand why this business was of little interest to the businessmen of the area.

However, the government understood the problem, and on the 14th of August, 1885, issued the following decree. DECREE No. CIX 14 August, 1885: National Palace, San Jose. Owing to the difficulties presented in trying to establish sales agencies for fiscal stamps in the province of Guanacaste, S.E. (His Excelency) the General-President of the Republic decrees: concede 6% discount on assistance vouchers, and 15% on the purchase of stamped paper, revenue and postage stamps, on the condition that these stamps and fiscal paper, once marked with a special counter-mark, be used only in that province. This decree takes effect the 1st of September, 1885.

This decree it seemed, solved the problem; it almost doubled the discount on the sale of stamps for the residents of Guanacaste. At the same time, however, it left open the possibility of fraud seeing that anyone could buy the stamps at the new discount and even with the Guanacaste overprint, nothing really stopped them from being used in the rest of the country. To avoid this possible fraud, the government issued, on the 3rd of September, 1885 a new decree No. CXIX stating that the fiscal paper and the stamps sold for use in the province of Guanacaste, cannot be used anywhere else to the detriment of the treasury because of the greater discount given in that province. The decree states: stamped paper, postage and revenue stamps and other fiscal paper overprinted with the word Guanacaste can only be used in that province, and if used everywhere else, they will have no value, effect or consequence.

In this way the Government created an obstacle to fiscal fraud, without suspecting it fixed a philatelic norm: that the used Guanacaste overprints are only authentic if cancelled with a postmark from the cities or towns of that province. Later on, I will indicate the postmarks i have seen, including some of those that were used during the first few years of validity from the “Jefaturas Políticas” (Government Offices) that acted as provisional post offices.

We have now explained the raison d’etre for the Guanacaste overprints. Let us now run quickly through the distinguishing characteristics of these stamps that circulated, and were valid, for use in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica from September, 1885, until November, 1891, that is six years and “why” the rarity and high value given to some of these stamps.

The Guanacaste overprints were applied only in complete series on the postage stamp issues of 1883, 1888 and 1889, and on the “Timbres Proporcionales” (revenue stamps) of 1884-1888. See basic stamps Figures 1 and 2.

Guanacaste overprints
Figure 1
Guanacaste overprints
Figure 2

Any other stamp that appears overprinted Guanacaste is an absolute forgery. There exist 13 types of overprints (Figure 3) distributed over 8 plates, all authentic, and one more plate, not identified, called type G8, status still in dispute all these years. The difference between types and plates is because in those “golden” years the Costa Rican National Printing Office lacked sufficient type of the same kind to prepare a plate of 50 identical subjects! And so we have plate 1, the only one with vertical overprints and it has five different types as can be seen in Figure 4 and 5.

Guanacaste Overprints
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5

I would like to clarify here that this G1, G2, G3, etc classification was established in Costa Rica to facilitate the study of the different types in each plate.

So the 13 known types, authentic and doubtful (G8) are identified from G1 to G13. The quantities of each type printed are unknown. But the reduced postal usage, already mentioned, and the difficulty one encounters trying to find genuine stamps mint or used, indicates that the printings were few, and the reason the stamps have a higher market value than the estimated by the major catalogues. Precisely due to this scarcity, some of the constant varieties (Figure 6) are very rare in certain types, almost impossible to locate, and reach very high prices internationally.

guanacaste overprint
Figure 6

Among the plates, there are two, IV and VI, that are the most important because they have two printing types in each one; the first types G1 and G3 (see Figure 7); and in the second the G11 and G10 types in this order (see Figure 8).

Figure 7
Figure 8

In both these plates, in addition to the printing errors: eg double and, offset overprints, letter type displacements, etc. we find some interesting and attractive combinations, such as vertical pairs se-ténant with both letter types including double overprints. And in plate VI, besides the vertical pairs se-ténant there is a peculiar case of two different letter types side by side in the center of the plate which give us the unique possibility for an horizontal se-ténant pair. It is easy to understand then why such a piece is so scarce and eagerly sought after, and subsequently missing in most collections.

We continue with plate VII, type G11 (Scott Guanacaste 55 to 63). These stamps are not too difficult to locate, but there were two printings; one in London -Waterlow & Sons and the other in Costa Rica -Imprenta Nacional. The first has no varieties of any significance, but the second, done in Costa Rica, has a spelling error that appears in four values: 50 cts, 1, 2 and 5 pesos. The error os a substitution of the letter “N” with a “G” which makes the overprint to read Guagacaste. A difficult piece to acquire, and the four errors are now valued at a few thousand dollars. Also the local printing has a second error on stamp number 22; the overprint Guagacaste is double! Until now only one stamp has been recorded (see Figure 9).

guanacaste overprints
Figure 9

In plate VIII, we had know four minor varieties and a fifth very important: the second “A” exists without a bar in the 1, 5 and 10 cts valuesin which we have found three more varieties, and one for the 2 cts value only. This 2 cts plate has 14 varieties, some of major importance.

And finally plate IX (Scott Guanacaste 39, 40, 41) type G8 vertical, is a mystery, because nothing concrete is known about this type. Mint copies of this are unknown as are multiples. The four values (four exist even though Scott mentions only three) are really rare. The appear always used, with unidentified postmarks. in Costa Rica, stamps from this plate are classified as “not identified” and permanently quarantined.

Nevertheless, they command high prices, and the 1 and 10 cts values are very scarce and expensive.

It is impossible to give all the details relative to the Guanacaste overprints in only one article, necessarily condensed. I should like nevertheless to detail, using the Scott numbers the scarcest of the 67 regular values/types listed in the catalogue.

  • No. 13 very rare.
  • No. 19 rarest of all, only six known.
  • No. 20 rare.
  • No. 27 very rare.
  • No. 31 very rare.
  • No. 32 rare.
  • No. 33 very rare.
  • No. 35 rare.
  • No. 37 rare.

There are also fiscal stamps known as “Timbres Proporcionales” overprinted Guanacaste that were used to frank correspondence during times of postage stamps shortages. These are rare specially the type G3. Many counterfeit overprints exist, and does with the entire Guanacaste issue, and one should acquire only those that have been expertised by a recognized expert un this specific field.

Complementing the foregoing please look carefully at Figure 9 that shows six of the major printing errors of this issue. Some of these pieces are unique, of irreplaceable value.

Lastly, a comment about the most difficult of all: Guanacaste overprints used on cover. I was very fortunate, after forty long years of continued search, to find one in 1981, only four years ago. Much to my surprise, I received word that a genuine cover was coming up for auction. I even left the hospital, where I was waiting for a minor heart surgery, and travelled with my wife, in mid-winter, all the way to the Canadian border to participate in the sale and obtain it. You can imagine the joy when i held it finally in my hands, oblivious of the high price paid and pains that reminded me i should be in the hospital’s operating room.

The cover is almost perfect, with a pair of Guanacaste Scott No. 66 mailed at Liberia, Costa Rica, February 15, 1890, arrived Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 7th, same year. Circular postmarks of origin, New York transit, and arrival back stamps all well executed and in order.

No one knows exactly how many Guanacaste covers exist; the last I heard, there were eight including the one described. If we could really compare this type of thing given the philatelic importante of one area over another, it is a fact that there are more Mauritius “Post Office” covers known than those overprinted for use in our small province in Costa Rica.

Why should not one be so happy to locate one!

I will close here with this brief explanation about the overprints issued for the Guanacaste province (1885-1891) in which I described briefly those plates that are of most importance for collectors. it is sincerely hoped that this modest work, and above all the illustrations will help my colleagues better understand these overprints and why here in Costa Rica we consider them gems of our philately.

guanacaste overprints
Figure 10

Thanks to the Costa Rican Philatelic Association for allowing me to reproduce the major part of the illustrations that enrich the text.

Finally, the stamps, multiple pieces, cover and cancellations that are illustrated in this article, are part of the collection of the distinguished Costa Rican philatelist Mr. Estanislao Scriba G.

This booklet is published with his permission.

To keep your stamps and postcards safe from stains and getting damaged we recommend Lighthouse stock books.

For this kind of studies, we recommend the following tools:

Make sure to review our tips for stamp collecting in the XXI century.

Make sure sure to visit the ultimate stamp collecting supplies list.

Costa Rica Stamps: Museo Nacional Postal Card

It has happened to us all: when you think you know it all, something appears and hits you with the awful truth: you know nothing! That happened to me the first time I saw this Museo Nacional Postal Card.

Let’s start by first describing it:

Museo Nacional Postal Card

This postal card’s design is very basic. It has Costa Rica coat of arms on the top left corner. In tHe center it reads: Tarjeta Postal – UNION POSTAL UNIVERSAL – COSTA RICA. On the top right corner is a picture of a pre-columbian artifact. Below is a dotted line to write the address.

Museo Nacional Postal CardOn the back, there’s a form to be filled to notify the issues the museum received.

This museo nacional postal card was sent to the Netherlands in 1951 to notify the reception of a botanical publication. There are some things to highlight. It has the seal from the museum, making it an “official postal card”. If it’s an official postal card, it shouldn’t need to pay for postage which it did. It has a meter cancelation.

There is not much literature on this postal card. There are other two tones known: light green and pink. As far as I have been able to investigate, there’s no clear issue date, nor valid time to be used.

All we can do is to investigate more and wait for more info to hit the surface. Meanwhile, let’s just admire this beautiful piece of Costa Rica philately.

To keep your stamps and postcards safe from stains and getting damaged we recommend Lighthouse stock books.

Make sure to review our tips for stamp collecting in the XXI century.

For this kind of studies, we recommend the following tools:

Make sure sure to visit the ultimate stamp collecting supplies list.