At its most simplistic, stamps are sourced through dealers, but purchasing can be achieved through a number of methods. Here are a few to consider:-
- Many thematic dealers advertise their services in the trade press and you might think about contacting them to see what they have to offer. Some may have to be written to, but increasingly many have on-line services. Where possible, choose a dealer who is a member of the Philatelic Traders Association (PTA) as they operate within a strict code of practice.
- You can join packet schemes. The BSS operates its own packet scheme within the UK and if you take up this option available to you as a member, you will receive a packet of ten books with bird stamps roughly every quarter. The packets operate on a circuit. When received you select those issues you want, pay the packet secretary and then pass the packet on to the next member. There is also an e-packet service (Non-BSS) that is open internationally that enables you to select stamps on-line.
- Similarly, some dealers offer approval arrangements where selections of stamps that cover your collecting interests are sent to you on a regular basis. Unfortunately most tend to be geared for collecting countries rather than thematics, but the BSS can advise on a number who do specialise or hold stamps that might be of interest.
- You could attend a stamp fair if there is one nearby. Some parts of the country have major fairs lasting several days, while smaller ones are just for one day. The advantage is that you can actually meet the dealers, discuss your collecting needs and hopefully establish links for future purchases. They can also be a useful venue for acquiring philatelic supplies. The downside is that not every area of the UK is covered. The south of England for example tends to have a plethora of fairs while this is less the case the further north or west you go. Fairs in Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland are much rarer.
- And lastly, there are privately run auctions where you can view a catalogue of available issues and competitively bid for items you want. In the past, the Bird Stamp Society used to run its own auction, but this is currently not operating. However, also check-out local and national philatelic societies as many will run auctions from time to time which can often be affordable.
Generally, we would advise you to shop around. Over time you will begin to develop a small list of dealers or businesses who hold what you want and have issues that meet your needs and your purchasing budgets.