Collecting on a Shoestring 7: Visit to a Post OfficeQ: What is the most obvious way of starting a collection?
A: Visit the local post office.
It sounds obvious but what exactly does one say at the counter? Probably, it would be best to time your visit to a quiet period. That way the counter staff should have more time to help you and you certainly won't upset the people in the queue behind you.
The most common stamps that you will find available are the definitive stamps. In Britain, these tend to be the Machins but each of the four countries has its own "pictorial" definitives. Obtaining example of each mint (unused) will give you a start. For some collectors, the important part of the sheet is the bottom left hand side which has the "cylinder" details and is usually collected as a block of six. But that is the road to another speciality. There are also booklets of stamps.
It may also be possible to obtain examples of recent comemmorative/special issues. These are usually available from the philatelic bureau (in UK) for up to 12 months but there may be some available in the counter book. Some of the main post offices still have someone who deals with philatelic inquiries and should be able to help. William IV Street/Trafalgar Square, in London, has one such position.
Note that these stamps should NOT be mounted in your album using stamp hinges. Either us Hawid strips or use a stockbook to store mint stamps. Some albums are available that allows one to collect used which a mounted directly on to the page and mint stamps slotted in to "pockets" on a clear leaf over the page.
Royal Mail have about 150 offices equipped with Wincor-Nixdorf ATMs marketed as Post and Go to the customer which allows the purchase of stamps for a number of services as well as allowing the payment of other goods. These kiosks can have a definitive Machin version or a pictorial issue. That depends on which roll is withdrawn from stock to refill the kiosk. There are labels that look like the computer generated Smartstamps. There are some, including myself, who collect these.
When abroad, it is always worth a visit to a post office. You can compare their services with the your at home service. But most of all you can add to your collection at face value rather at dealers' prices.