HE began collecting as a child.

Now great-grandfather Brian Motteram has more than half a million postage stamps.

His mammoth collection fills 51 albums stacked in the spare bedroom of his Hampshire home and with the help of his wife, Jean, he spends at least four hours a week organising new stamps into albums.

However the retired carpenter has never been tempted to count how many stamps he has in total, or to have his collection valued.

There is no world record for the most stamps, but one of the biggest known collections featured about two million stamps collected by Dorset postman Alan Roy until his death in 2009, aged 76.

Brian prefers British and Commonwealth stamps and his collection includes mini sets, blocks and gutter stamps from across the eras to special editions – the majority of which were collected during the past 15 years.

His favourites include a set of six Jamaican stamps that document when Hurricane Hattie hit the country in 1961 and remind him of his national service in 1962, when he helped clear up after the disaster.

The philatelist even has one of the first stamps ever issued – the Penny Black, featuring a picture of the young Queen Victoria, which was introduced on May 1, 1840. Brian bought it for £60 six years ago. His collection also includes dozens of editions of Stamp magazine and about 500 first day covers – specially designed envelopes to mark the day when a new stamp is issued.

The 74-year-old grandfather-of-25 and great-grandfather-of-five, from Warsash, said: “I just do it because I like collecting but I would be interested to sell some of the ones I don’t need or to buy stamps from others.

“There’s so much to learn from it, including geography, culture and history.

“I collected as a youngster because in those days you didn’t have so much technology so that’s what you got into. If we’re away on holiday we’re always on the lookout but I mostly get them from charity shops, markets, church sales and catalogues.”

Wife Jean, 64, a retired Boots cashier, said: “He must have hundreds of thousands. We haven’t counted them but some of his albums you can get 100 on a line.

“He started as a child but then it lapsed when he was working and bringing up the children. My mum was into stamps and she got him back into it and he’s never looked back. I’m glad he’s got a hobby.

Everyone should have a hobby.”

Bob Betts, an auctioneer at Southampton Stamp Auctions, in Woolston, Southampton, said the collection could be worth anywhere from £50 to hundreds of thousands.

He said: “It doesn’t need to be old to be valuable but age usually helps.

There’s got to be something unusual to catch your attention.

“It is little things like that that makes the difference between a £5 stamp and a £150 stamp.”