How to Organize and Display a Postage Stamp Collection
Avid stamp collectors who start during childhood will remember their first stamp album and the pride they felt slowly filling the book and watching their fledgling collection grow. Besides a pair of tweezers and magnifying glass, a stamp album is an essential part of the philatelist's kit. It is a place to show off your latest finds and most prized stamps, and also a way of keeping your collection organized and safe from damp, dust, and sunlight, which can all be damaging to stamps.
Choosing the best stamp album for your needs, however, is not always simple. It can depend very much on the size of your collection, the age of your stamps, and your specific field of interest. There are also stamp albums that are more suitable for beginner stamp collectors and children.
This article is designed to help you choose the best way of organizing your own collection. And please feel free to let me know what type of stamp album you personally use in the comments.
Use Archival Quality Products!
Using archival grade "alkaline buffered" or "archival quality" paper to neutralize acidity can prevent long term damage to your stamps. It is more expensive, but if you want your collection to last a lifetime in flawless condition, this is the way to go.
Preprinted Country-Specific Stamp Albums
Some countries rely on the production of limited runs of decorative stamps aimed almost exclusively at stamp collectors. Most preprinted stamp albums today are country-specific (), and include countries with long postal histories that require several volumes such as the United States and the United Kingdom. like this one
A typical country-specific stamp album will provide spaces for every stamp listed in either the Scott (USA) or Stanley Gibbons (UK) catalogue, and will sometimes even include a black and white image of the stamp with additional catalogue numbers and details to help in stamp identification. They most are also designed with room for all variations of stamps as well as souvenir sheets and any special issues.
Preprinted, country-specific albums are a good choice for completionist collectors who want to own every stamp from a given collection, date range, etc, and display them in a neat and organized way.
Here You Can See a Sample of a Vintage Stamp Album With Preprinted Pages
Loose Leaf Stamp Albums
For my very first stamp collection as a child I used a loose leaf ring binder album and black mounts. I remember carefully feeding the loose pages of squared paper into my old Brother typewriter and hand-typing the details of each stamp.
As I became more interested in philately I would collect more unusual items and look for mint stamps in gutter pairs, se-tenant strips, or traffic light blocks in the margin; using a loose-leaf album and black mounts I could cut to any size, I could easily add new pieces to my collection in an organized way. Loose leaf albums are usually either simple ring binders that snap open or screw binders. The choice is a matter of personal preference.
These are a good option for the casual collector who may wish to add to the collection or reorganize it periodically.
When and Why I Use Stockbooks
As an adult, I have been more focused on collecting Victorian line engraved stamps, including the world's first postage stamp, the Penny Black, which first appeared in 1840! Keeping tiny fragments of paper which are over 170 years old safe requires a high quality archive quality stockbook. Stockbooks are generally made of extra heavy cardstock with clear strips to hold the stamps or other philatelic items, with each page separated by a clear or glassine interleaf. They are also excellent for young collectors to amass loosely used stamps in different thematic groups.
A Wonderful U.S. Collection Preserved in Several Types of Albums
Using Stamp Hinges
Collectors have traditionally used stamp hinges made from lightly gummed transparent paper to mount stamps on album pages. Stamp hinges are designed to be peelable, but I have often seen older stamps with the remnants of old hinges permanently stuck on the reverse. For this reason, hinges are usually used on postally used stamps while mounts are used to protect mint gummed stamps from damage.
Many years ago stamp collectors didn't have the sophisticated archive-safe materials we have today and hinges were the norm. However, today, "never hinged" is often seen as a prerequisite for purchasing high-value stamps. For starter collections, low-value collections, used stamps, and stamps which have been hinged in the past, traditional hinges are just fine (). But remember to never use them on mint or high value "never hinged" stamps! Stanley Gibbons hinges are my favorite
Modern Black Stamp Mounts
Modern black stamp mounts are made from a special archive-safe polymer transparent sleeve with a black plastic back.
These mounts generally offer a higher level of protection for your more valuable stamps and are my personal preferred type of mount.