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This is an essential part of every stamp collector's tool kit. There are always details of every stamp that can only be seen with a magnifying glass, no matter how good your eyesight is.

Most collectors have several magnifiers for various views.

The basic magnifier is a traveling one that can be taken to stamp shows to examine material from a dealer's offering before you buy the stamp or cover. This can vary in strengths, but one should be in your pocket at all times.

For the home, get a top-quality, color-corrected glass with a power between five and ten. Collectors claim that more than ten power actually shows too much in detail and may be useless in examining stamps. Less than five power simply does not show everything that you will want to see on a stamp.

The easiest way to check if the lens is color-corrected is to examine a black line on a white background. If you see a thin rainbow or any other color or shade besides black at the edge of the black line, then reject that glass.

Some magnifiers have built-in illumination while others are on a stand and leave the hands free to adjust the stamp in various positions. Take a stamp with you when shopping for a magnifying glass. Find the one that you are most comfortable with before buying.

Care must be used in either type. A pointed tip is easier to slide under a stamp, but it can also damage or even slice the item if not used properly. A spade end may push the perforations aside and bend them, as you are trying to get under the stamp.

Every so often plan on sanding the edges of the tongs so that your finger does not feel any sharp hooks. Do not sharpen the edges, only the point of the tongs.

It takes practice to get used to tongs, but they should be used if you plan to keep your stamps a long time. Moisture from your fingers can adhere to the stamps and eventually discolor or even wet the stamp enough to stick to the album page.