Stamp Collecting Ideas – Machins

Continuing with my theme of Stamp Collecting Ideas where I talk about ideas for collections that are relatively inexpensive to start with and yet interesting enough to keep you busy hunting for elusive stamps. I talk about Machins.

The Machin (pronounced MAY-chin) series of postage stamps is the main definitive stamp series in the United Kingdom, used since 5 June 1967. The Machin stamps consist simply of the sculpted profile of the Queen and a denomination, and are almost always in a single colour. Since their first issue in 1967, hundreds of different values have been released in many colours resulting in the largest definitive series ever produced.

Machins are named after Arnold Machin, a sculptor who designed the portrait of the Queen used on these Great Britain stamps. Machin passed away March 9, 1999 at the age of 87.

You could look to buying Machin in bulk (kiloware) and spend time in sorting them. The easiest way to get started with Machins is to sort them by value / colour and perforation. There are two basic perforations: Regular and Elliptical perforations.

Machin stamp

There are over 400 different Machins that can be distinguished by denomination and perforation. You can print a basic Machin album and organize your collection easily. One of the best sites for knowing more about Machins is Great Britain Machins run by Robin Harris. You can download basic album for free from this site.

Happy Collecting!!!

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Stamp Collecting Ideas – Precancels

A lot of times new collectors ask me questions about how can they start a stamp collection, what should they collect, what’s valuable and so on. I recently posted my advice to new collectors.

In my blog theme “Stamp Collecting Ideas”, I will share some themes for new collectors that are relatively inexpensive to start with and yet interesting enough to keep you busy hunting for elusive stamps.

I will talk about Precancels today. Wikipedia describes precanels as:

A precanceled stamp, or precancel for short, is a postage stamp that has been cancelled before being affixed to mail.

Precanceled stamps are typically used by mass mailers, who can save the postal system time and effort by prearranging to use the precancels, and delivering the stamped mail ready for sorting. Precancels were also used on newspaper wrappers in Canada, Austria and Great Britain. The postal administration will typically offer an incentive in the form of a reduced price for precanceled stamps in volume. Precancels cannot normally be purchased by the general public, although they are often seen in one’s daily mail.

The easiest place to begin in my view are the USA Precancels. There are probably 1.5-2.0 million different precancels to be collected, so there’s no dearth of collecting ideas even for precancels alone. Of course you don’t have be bogged down by the large number. You could simply start by collecting whatever you get and then slowly develop a theme for either a state or a city. As you progress in your collection, you could start with type of precancellations and specific stamp issues.

For example, Atlanta in Georgia state was the first city in the USA I spent significant time in. I could start by collecting precancels from Georgia (GA) or just from Atlanta. Remember, the focus on precancel collection is the precancel, not the stamp itself. So you could have different stamps representing a Georgia or Atlanta precancel.

Best way to get started with precancels is to buy large lots to begin with. Sort those out for your collection. As your collection grows you can be more discerning about what you buy or exchange with others.

One of the best resources for precancels is The Precancel Stamp Society website. It’s got some great articles that help you get started and even has album pages that you can print to organize your collection. You could even join their Facebook group to connect with other precancel collectors.

Happy Collecting!

Image attribution:

  • USA Precancel By Scan by Stan Shebs, Public Domain,
  • France precancel By Joseph Blanc (1846-1904) – Scan myself, Public Domain,
  • Atlanta Precancels By Manish Mohan, 
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Keep Calm and Collect Stamps

October is Stamp Collecting month.

Many times new collectors ask me advice on whether to buy an expensive item they are being offered. Most of the time I have seen the item is over-priced and usually not as described. Sometimes new collectors ask what’s the value of their stamps, are mint stamps more valuable and so on.

My sincere advice to new collectors:

Give yourself time and enjoy the hobby. Learn more about stamps and also the events they commemorate. Start collecting full sets, then perhaps full years of specific countries and themes. Start with relatively cheaper stamps and build a collection. Machins, precancels, definitive series of countries of your choice is a great way to start. These are easy to get started but quite challenging to collect if you try to complete the series. I am sure you will get to more expensive and rare stamps and other philatelic items at some point of time in your hobby.

Here are some resources to get you started with basics of stamp collecting:

Here are some resources that can help you identify your stamps:


Keep calm and enjoy stamp collecting.

Dead Letter Office

I recently acquired a DLO postcard. This particular post card was posted from Ahmednagar City on 12 Feb 1897, destination Bombay. I am not sure how DLO works because I see another Ahmednagar postmark that overlaps the DLO slip pasted on the postcard. Not sure if they actually sent the letter back to the destination city even as the return address was not known.

“A dead letter office (DLO) is a facility within a postal system where undeliverable mail is processed. Mail is considered to be undeliverable when the address is invalid so it cannot be delivered to addressee, and there is no return address so it cannot be returned to the sender.

At a DLO, mail is usually opened to try to find an address to forward to. If an address is found, the envelope is usually sealed using tape or postal seals, or enclosed in plastic bags and delivered. If the letter or parcel is still undeliverable, valuable items are then auctioned off while the correspondence is usually destroyed. Despite this practice, in the past some undeliverable envelopes were acquired by philatelists.

Dead letter offices go by different names in different countries. Other names include returned letter office or undeliverable mail office.”

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Errors/Oddities in modern India stamps – India-Iran Joint Issue

Color variations in modern stamps are relatively common. Here’s a “teardrop”/”extra flag” error in one of the recent Indian stamps.

India Post issued a set of 2 stamps on February 17, 2018 in the denominations of Rs 5 and Rs 25 as India Iran Joint Issue. In Rs 5 stamp an extra flag in red is found on the smaller boat in the background. This variety occurs once in the sheet – Row 5 Column 4. Initially it was noticed on all sheets of this stamp. However later it was found that the sheets having color margin on top do not have this variety. Total of 501,000 stamps have been issued. I am guess there might be 2000-3000 stamps with this error out there based on the initial print run.  

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Errors/oddities in modern Indian stamps – MLV stamp 2018

After a long wait for the post offices to upgrade their systems during which time sale of stamps from philatelic counters had dried up, I finally managed to get the M L Vasathakumari stamp from the Delhi philatelic bureau.

I seem to have laid my hands on what seems to be a printing plate flaw on the lot. The error occurs on the third column stamp. I am not sure what row this is in since the lot of stamps shown in pics here is all that the counter had. There don’t seem to be any traces of paper stuck after printing as the stamps are quite smooth in texture over the portion where this flaw is visible. Perhaps experts can provide more inputs on this. There are some other minor print flaws too like black spots on the stamp.

About the stamp:
India Post released a commemorative postage stamp on M L Vasanthakumari (3 July 1928 – 31 October 1990) on 3rd July 2018 to commemorate her 90th birth year. She was a Carnatic musician and playback singer for film songs in many Indian languages. A prime disciple of the G.N. Balsuramaniam, she was the youngest among the established musicians of that era, and was the youngest female awardee of the Sangita Kalanidhi award.

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Stamps with Stories – Madras to Denmark

Stamps, postmarks and covers can be the source of fascinating stories. I let my imagination run wild when I get a good postmark or cover

I acquired this lovely cover recently and was fascinated by it’s journey. Starting from Madras (now named Chennai) on 19 Jun 1907, reaching it’s destination Vordingborg, Denmark on what looks like 7 Jul 1907.

Vordingborg is an old ferry town in Vordingborg Municipality in Denmark. It has an inner urban area population of 11,843 (1 January 2015), and a total population of 17,714 including the satellite towns Ørslev, Nyråd and Stensved. These satellite towns have evolved during the last decades, due to three large estates surrounding Vordingborg and therefore prevented a collective development of the town. Vordingborg Municipality (Kommune) has a population of 46,000. I am guessing that in 1907, the population was perhaps even lesser.

With a little help from a fellow philatelist, Rasmus Kloster Jensen on Facebook, I figured that it was sent to a Customs Manager (“Toldforvalter” in Danish) in Vordingborg, Denmark. I searched a little more about the name of the Customs Manager. I found J Blom in a Krak’s directory listing “Address book of both women and men of all classes that others would have an interest in know about.”

Given the seal used on the envelope, I would imagine it contained some sort of govt. official correspondence. In my imagination, perhaps the letter was inquiring about a Danish ship that might have docked in Madras, who knows.

It’s a pity there was no sender’s address. Maybe the seal has some clues. Maybe someone with knowledge of seals and symbols used at that time can help.

Free Stamp Album Pages

Despite the ease of stock albums and the convenience of stock pages, I still love the charm of printed album pages. These help me organize my collection with clearly identified gaps and goals to completion. You can use mounts or hinges to add stamps to these album pages. Print them on at least 160 gsm pages and or buy specially designed pages and add them to ring binders.

But how do you get these album pages? Well, most are not free but there are still many sources on the Internet where you can get free and paid album pages. I list some of these sources that you might useful.

  • BidCurios has a few free stamp album pages along with their paid album pages. You can checkout their album pages here.
  • Stamp Albums Web — this is perhaps one of the most comprehensive sites for album pages. You need a paid subscription of about US$ 40 per year for unlimited download (please check website for most current prices), which might actually be not too bad to get almost everything you want.
  • The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album — This seems to be a site with comprehensive USA stamp album pages. Last I checked it had pages listed till 2018, along with non-postal stamps. All album pages are free.
  • Dead Country Stamps and Banknotes — A very niche site that focuses on collecting stamps and currency from countries which no longer exist — often defined as a “dead country”. Michael Adkins, who runs this site, has provided some great album pages of these countries. He is in the process of creating these album pages so you may not find everything you are looking for but I would recommend bookmarking this site and subscribing to its RSS feed (are these still a thing these days??).
  • theStampWeb — from the makers of AlbumEasy, the site provides links to free user contributed Stamp Album pages to download.
  • Hamilton Stamp Club — The site seems to provide many album pages created by William E. Steiner (of Stamp Albums Web fame). Enjoy these free album pages while they are still available.
  • American Philatelic Society — Provide free album pages of USA stamps, though it’s not as comprehensive as Philosateleian site. APS downloads section has some pages for thematics/topical collections too.
  • The Precancel Stamp Society — You can download Town and Type albums and Dated albums of US Precancel stamps.
  • Mostly Classics — Free album pages of USA classic stamps. The site also offers Iceland stamp album pages.
  • Great Britain Machins — One of the best sites for GB Machin stamps. The basic Machin album is free and can get you started on your Machin collection. Other advanced and specialized albums are available at cost.
  • BR Stamp — Free Brazil stamp album pages in Portuguese.
  • FRANCE-TIMBRES.NET — Free France album pages, site is in French. Seems to have album pages for years 1981 onwards. Please explore the site for more options that might be available.
  • iBolli Album Pages — The album pages are files, freely downloadable, containing boxes and writings that allow the insertion and sorting of Italian and Italy colonies stamps.
  • Stamp Hacks — A good collection of Ukraine album pages. The site also provide other country album pages and some interesting links, including hacks to the Mystic Heirloom pages.
  • World Stamp Albums — This is probably the most comprehensive stamp album pages website I have come across. This is Dr. Cheng Chang’s web site of world stamp collection by country. The site does NOT provide downloadable album pages. However it does provide images of album pages, which seems to be of the right size. I am guessing you could print these images as album pages. I haven’t tried this but if you do try it out, do drop a note in comments below.
  • The China Stamp Society, Inc — Free stamps pages of mainly Taiwan Republic of China and some other provinces.
  • Great Britain Stamp Album Pages 2016 — Seems to be a fairly comprehensive collection of album pages of United Kingdom and Crown Dependencies. This YouTube video might be of help when trying to understand The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England.

In spite of all these free resources, you might still want to create your own album pages. Perhaps you want specialized album pages for your topical collection, or another specialized collection that you can’t find only. You can use the following to create your own album pages:

  • AlbumEasy — An HTML-type markup language to create album pages. Has a learning curve but once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it. It’s not very visual but compiling a page into a PDF and viewing it is quite easy and simple to do.
  • — This is an online album page creator. I haven’t used it but it looks like a basic page creator with not too many layout options available.

Charm of Used Stamps

Earlier this year India post released a set of 16 stamps as one miniature sheet on head gears of India. I did buy as part of my regular buys, but I wasn’t too kicked about the stamps. They were too colorful, too big, too pompous for my liking.
And then during my regular visits to the flea market where I rummage through heaps of paper to find used stamps, I managed to find 15 of the 16 stamps in their used version. Suddenly I am liking this set a lot. Perhaps it is the old world charm of used stamps that catches my fancy. It is the thrill of finding used setenent stamps and blocks and even singles that tell a story of usefulness of the stamp and its contribution to getting a message across for someone. My son once said that to him collecting stamps is as lame as collecting Pokemon cards. Well buying mint stamps from the comfort of my home sure feels like that. Collecting used stamps however is whole different game in my view. So much more fun and now a days even more challenging.

50 Best Philately Accounts to Follow on Instagram

I completed a year on Instagram a few months back and it’s been a fun journey sharing my collection there. I have found many other interesting philatelists on Instagram. I am compiling the list of best 50 Philately accounts to follow on Instagram. I started with preparing a list of best 25 accounts but just couldn’t get myself to stop at 25.

I have tried to not include professional large philately dealers, except one, Stanley Gibbon, for tradition. I also tried to not include pure dealers or sellers though many included in the list are also selling their stamps on eBay. Mostly I tried to include accounts that are specialized (a country or a theme), have great images, have some description and detail of what they are posting, and some really interesting quirky look at stamps too.

Feel free to write your comments on this post in case there are some that I should have considered and missed.

S No.
Instagram account
Why you should follow this account      
Give It Laldy
One of the best sources for El Salvador stamps and philatelic material (covers, envelopes etc.). Provides very useful commentary with the pics shared.
Stanley Gibbons
If you are a philatelist, you don’t need a reason to follow this account.
One of the best feeds of British empire stamps, mainly British stamps, but some colonies too.
Khalid Malik
Some great Pakistani stamps and stamps and covers from Middle Eastern countries.
A quirky funny look at stamps of people with facial hair.
One of the most creative postal projects, sending letters addressed to Ursula in different parts of the world to incorrect addresses and collecting the returned mail.
Great collection of British covers and stamps
Classic stamps from all over the world, and a few post-boxes too.
Mint Never Hinged
One of the best collection of graphic design stamps.
Brazilian Stamps
As the name says, awesome and beautiful Brazilian stamps. One stamp at a time, nice clean images.
Ravikumar Babu
Not a purely philately account, more a photography and philately account. Follow for detailed background information about the stamps he posts.
Ghasem Safari
Nice collection of Iran stamps and other postal stationery. Write mainly in Arabic, but Instagram translation feature comes handy for this.
Great stamps and postal stationery mainly from the Middle Eastern countries.
Some unique stamps from strange lands that don’t always exist
Graphic design stamps
Phil Krebs
Tiny little rats (I think) and a very organized stamp collection in album pages (mainly Singapore but many others too).
The best collection of Laos stamps and covers
Undust the Beauty
Great collection of classic stamps
Machin Collector
How can I not include a Machin account? Sharing the colors of Machins.
Shares USA stamps and other items, typically one stamp at a time.
South African stamps, one stamp at a time
Some great postal covers from Great Britain
A snapshot of Danish art, culture, nature and history through stamps from Denmark. Great quality images.
Detailed statistical information about the stamps shared, one stamp at a time.
Covers and FDCs from Spain
Encourages philatelists to use hashtag #philategram to share their pics. Curates and
Interesting collection of reptile and amphibian stamps
Classic stamps, errors and forgery with detailed information about them. Very useful information about rare and expensive stamps.
Interesting stamps, covers and other memorabilia from a personal collection.
World stamps, clean images with information about the stamps.
Mainly classic GB used covers (lots of Penny Reds and other classics here).
Tampere in old postcards | FI
Beautiful classic used postcards with detailed historical information about them.
Sharing a personal collection and some interesting eBay bids.
A great collection of mostly European classic stamps
Philately is FUN!
Great collection of world stamps, mainly older ones. Plus there’s a cat around, I mean who doesn’t like cats.
The Punk Philatelist
Don’t miss to read her blog posts accompanying here stamps. Lives true to her name.
Some great pics and corresponding description of the stamps. Mostly classic worldwide stamps.
Some interesting postmarks from postcrossing worldwide.
Worldwide stamps, nice clean images
Poor Man’s Art Collection
What an interesting way to describe stamp collecting – Poor man’s art collection. I do believe there’s art in stamps. Follow for Indian stamps.
Mainly stamps but also some other collectibles like covers and bonds/share certificates. Mainly Canada and USA items.
Mark Postington
If you thought Japanese stamps were cool wait till you see the postmarks
Carly’s Postmark Collections
Some really interesting Japanese postmarks
Carolyn Marks
Custom First Day Covers from USA
Dean Boswell
True to his bio, “Every stamp tells a story”, Dean tells you the story of every stamp he posts.
Hassan Al Hadethi
I have a feeling that Hassan hasn’t taken to Instagram completely yet. I have seen his Facebook posts, he is definitely a philatelist to follow and watch out for on IG.
Stamps from around the world with explanation.
Carolina Saheli
A personal collection of stamps
Daily Stamps 📚
A worldwide collection of stamps
Amateur Philatelist
For compiling this list… 😉