What is Thematic Collecting?.

portugal_cork_stamp  At one time stamp collections consisted of stamps from one country or a group of countries and were generally displayed in date of issue order. However, there is another way of collecting and displaying stamps. Thematic Collections consist of stamps that illustrate a topic or theme, e.g. birds, bicycles, ships, sport, etc.
Thematic Philately goes one step further! In addition to stamps, the collection includes postmarks, postal stationery, stamp booklets and other items issued by a Post Office, or sent by mail. Every item has to be relevant to the theme and the material is arranged to tell a story. There are Chapters and sub-chapters, which allow the story to be developed logically. There is a need for a good title and a Plan, similar to the Contents page in a book.

Getting Started

It is possible to make a conscious decision to start a thematic philately collection. A look around the thematic philately exhibits at any Stamp Exhibition will give you some ideas. The British Thematic Association has codes for over 800 themes! Many collections are started as side­line collections with the theme suggested to a collector by an interest or hobby e.g. astronomy or cars; a pastime e.g. gardening or golf; the collector’s job e.g. Nursing or the Law or perhaps an ideal e.g. protecting wild animals and the environment.
By selecting a familiar theme, a collector will have a great deal of thematic knowledge. He should be able to prepare a Plan of the collection, without a single philatelic item! Also, the advantage of a side-line collection is that it will only consist of a few pages, at first…….!

Once you have chosen a theme, spend a little time visiting Stamp Fairs (look in your local newspapers for details), Stamp Exhibitions and, if possible, Stamp Shops. Talk to the dealers about your theme and get an idea of how easy, or not, it will be to build a collection on YOUR theme. Browse through their stocks to get an idea of how you might break down your theme into Chapters and sub-chapters. Check Bookstalls for stamp magazines. At present ‘Gibbons Stamp Monthly’, ‘Stamp Magazine’ ‘Stamp & Coin Mart’ and ‘Stamp & Postcard Gazette’ are published monthly and cost about £3.50 (in 2010). Look for advertisements by thematic dealers. The magazines provide “New Issues” sections, with new stamp issues and summaries by theme.

Railways 150 stamp issue date 2010-06-25

Check at your local Post Office for forthcoming Special issues by  Royal Mail. There may be an issue connected to your theme coming up shortly. For more information about British stamp issues write to the Editor, Royal Mail Stamps & Collectibles, 35-50, Rathbone Place, London W1T 1HQ and request a copy of the monthly ‘British Philatelic Bulletin’. Royal Mail Letters publishes fortnightly, ‘British Postmark Bulletin’. This contains details of all new handstamps available from Special Handstamp Centres. A specimen copy of this publication is also available from 35-50, Rathbone Place, London W1T 1HQ. Details of subscriptions for both publications are available from Royal Mail, Tallents House, 21, South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh EH12 9PB.

If you are not already a member of a Philatelic Society, check in your Public Library for the name and address of the Secretary of your nearest local Philatelic Society. At the same time look for books on your theme, to extend your knowledge. Most Societies run an Exchange packet, which is circulated by hand to members. Each packet contains a batch of booklets filled with stamps, at a fraction of the catalogue price. You are also likely to obtain helpful hints on the availability of items for your thematic collection from members and visitors displaying their own collections.


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