Stamp collecting is the most popular hobby in the world. Philately is a broader term for the study of stamps, and it is frequently - but wrongly - equated to stamp collecting.
Through stamp collecting, people find information about history, currency, science, politics, arts, architecture and customs of different nations and countries of the world. All stamp collectors have fun with their stamps because no collection is ever complete, and there is always a challenge.
First, decide whether you would like to collect unused (mint) or used (canceled) stamps. If starting a mint stamp collection, purchase unused stamps from the post office. And if you see interesting stamps coming in the mail - collect them.
Many collectors prefer used stamps because they are less expensive or they may cost you nothing.
Some collectors save stamps by "topic": for instance, if you are interested in ships, you may want to collect stamps of ships and boats. Car fans often collect stamps with cars on them. You can disregard the countries and only collect stamps that have pictures that you like. Some people like to collect stamps of one or several countries, but which are all of the same subject. Popular topical themes are birds, cats, butterflies, flowers, sports, space, art, chess, famous people and other.
Specialized collecting means that you can collect all the varieties of a single stamp or collect stamps used for a special purpose.
Country collecting is usually done chronologically by date of issue, sub-divided into reigns or political periods.
Some collectors specialize in collecting only the first stamps, one for each country that has ever issued a postage stamp, or collecting first-day covers.
Some areas of collecting cost less than ten cents a stamp, while others can cost thousands of dollars.
A lot of people collect "Cinderellas" - stamps that are not official stamps issued by a country's postal administration. Cinderella collectors include in their collections local postage issues, telegraph stamps, tax stamps, forgeries and counterfeits.