SCM 2015
Our Solar System

Why collect stamps?

Did you know that stamp collecting is the most popular hobby in the world? Why? Because it is easy and fun!
In Australia there are over one million stamp collectors. People often begin collecting because they like the designs on particular stamps, or because of an interest in a favourite topic, such as sport, animals or space exploration.

Stamp collecting is also a great hobby because you can learn about all sorts of things – this year you can learn about “Our Solar System”! One of the easiest ways to start your collection is to ask friends and family to save their used stamps for you, or to swap stamps with friends.

Getting your stamp collection started

First, you will need some stamps and an album in which to keep them.

  • The most popular album is a loose-leaf album. This has separate sheets to help you organise your album any way you want. It also allows you to add new sheets to your collection whenever you need to.

  • You can make your stamp album more interesting by adding information about the stamps, such as when and why they were issued, or the designers' names.

  • Transparent stamp mounts or stamp hinges are the best way of storing your stamps to avoid damaging them.

  • Never lick stamps to stick them in your album, and never use glue or stamp tape. They will ruin your stamps!

  • You might also like to purchase a pair of stamp tweezers. They have blunt ends, so they will not damage your stamps and they make it easier to put your stamps in the album.

  • A magnifying glass is the best way to look at your stamps. They help you to see small details that you might not notice without them.

Your local Post Office has everything you need to start a stamp collection.

How are stamps made?

The stamp making process is fascinating. Did you know that it usually takes about two years?
Researchers, illustrators, photographers, designers, printers and marketers are all involved in taking a stamp through the process of research, illustration, design, printing and preparation for sale.
In Australia, all stamps are issued by Australia Post, but they also produce stamps for Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Australian Antarctic Territory.

  1. Research

    Before a stamp can be created, the theme must be researched and the number of stamps to be printed must be decided.

  2. Illustration and design

    Would you believe that about one billion stamps are printed in Australia every year?

    • Stamp designs are created in a variety of ways. Graphic designers, artists or photographers may be asked to produce new images for stamps, or existing images from collections of art in galleries, museums or libraries might be used.

    • Not every drawing or photograph will make a good stamp. Producing designs that look appealing at such a small size is a challenge, and each finished stamp must include the word "Australia" and the price.

    • The stamp designer also needs to include the year of issue on the stamp, small enough so it does not interfere with the design, but large enough to read. Why not use a magnifying glass to try and find the date on your stamps?

    • Australia Post has only been putting the year on stamps since 1989. Can you find an Australian stamp that does not have a year on it?

  3. Printing stamps
    • After the stamps have been designed they can be printed.

    • Australian stamps are printed using a process called “offset lithography”. Offset printing is fast and ideal when large quantities of printed items are needed.

    • Our stamps are colourful, but, believe it or not, most of them are printed using just four coloured inks: cyan (bright blue), magenta (pink), yellow and black!

    • When different percentages of each colour are combined, they produce the huge range of colours we see on our stamps. If you look closely at a stamp that has been printed using this four colour process, you can see that the image is made up of a pattern of tiny coloured dots. The four colours are cyan, magenta, yellow and black, known as CMYK). Check out the “4-colour stamp printing process” video.

    • Part of every stamp is invisible to our eyes and can only be seen by Australia Post's sorting machines. A special phosphorescent coating is placed on each stamp that only shows up under an ultraviolet light. This light is what the sorting machine uses to position the stamp for cancellation (postmarking) when a letter is sorted for delivery.

    • Stamps can be printed on either gummed paper that you have to lick or dampen before it will stick to an envelope, or on self-adhesive paper which can be stuck straight on to an envelope.

    • The first few sheets of printed stamps are called "proofs". The proofs are inspected closely for any errors or colour variations before the final printing begins. If there are any faulty sheets of stamps, they are destroyed.

    • The large sheets of stamps are then perforated for easy separation. Perforation is achieved by punching small holes between the stamps using hard steel pins called "combs".

    • Self-adhesive stamps are made to peel off a backing sheet but they still have the same perforated appearance. Check this out next time you purchase a book of stamps!