By Janet Klug
"Stamps are small pieces of paper, and therefore, a collection of stamps does not take up much room."
Those of us who have been collecting for more than a few years laugh at that statement.
The truth is that a stamp collection has the capacity to grow to fit whatever space is allotted to it. Albums, stock books, supplies, catalogs, reference books and shoe boxes full of stuff multiply and creep into other rooms in the dark of night.
Your quick fix might be to put some of the overflow on shelves in the basement. This is not a good idea. Most basements are more humid than the upstairs living areas of the house. Even just a few percentage points of humidity can mean the difference between proper stamp storage and a disaster waiting to happen.
Figure 1 shows some mint United States stamps that spent too much time in a basement. The combination of humidity and stamp adhesive melded the plate blocks into solid bricks that were all firmly stuck inside glassine envelopes.
The solution is to keep stamps and covers out of damp basements and attics. Stamps are best stored in the same sort of temperature and humidity level enjoyed by human beings.
If you have a spare closet in your stamp room, perhaps you can re-purpose that into dedicated storage for your collection. Installing a steel shelving unit is an inexpensive solution and is something that you could probably do yourself. Since the unit will be behind the closed closet door, it only needs to be functional, not fancy. The big plus will be that your materials will be better organized and easier to find and enjoy.
Have you ever been happily hinging stamps into one of your albums when you unexpectedly ran out of stamp hinges?
You spot a roll of cellophane tape nearby. You reach for it and begin pulling little strips of tape from the roll. You bend one in half and put part of it on the stamp and the other part in the album. You flip the stamp up and down. It works. You are happy. It is easier and cheaper to buy a roll of cellophane tape than it is to buy a packet of hinges – but it most certainly is not a good solution when you run out of hinges.
Figure 2 illustrates a part of an album page on which stamps were affixed using cellophane tape.
Over time, the adhesive on cellophane tape turns brown and greasy. That discolors the stamps, removing their value as collectibles.
Eventually, the tape loses its stickiness and the stained stamps fall off the album pages, leaving only greasy brown spots behind to remind you that you once had a nice stamp collection, but now it is ruined.
Here is the solution. If you use hinges to mount your stamps, buy packs of them in quantity – five or 10 packs at a time. Attach a note to the last pack in the stack to remind yourself it is time to reorder. Linn's readers can easily obtain stamp hinges and other hobby supplies from advertisers in each issue.
It is a good idea to have a spare empty stock book handy for occasions when you do run out of hinges. A stock book has pages with horizontal strips of paper or plastic, behind which you can insert stamps. The strips hold the stamps without requiring a hinge or a mount. The stamps in the stock book will be safe until you get the proper hinges or mounts for your album.
It is handy to have a few stock books that are not already dedicated for specific purposes. Put new additions for your collection directly into a stock book instead of leaving them on top of your desk, where they can intermingle with other papers and get lost, damaged or thrown away. When you are ready to put the new stamps into albums, you will know where they are, and you won't have to spend hours in frustration looking for them.
A pair of stamp tongs is an essential tool for anyone who collects stamps. Tongs help keep stamps free from any dirt or oil that your hands could transfer to the stamps. That kind of soil might not show up immediately, but over time, a little dirt or oil from your skin will leave discoloration on stamps that you touch.
Using tongs is strongly recommended. It takes a little practice, but eventually you will find that the tongs become an extension of your fingers and you can actually work faster with them than without them.
The problem with tongs is that they are easily lost. Sometimes they fall between the cushions on your sofa or easy chair. Other times tongs hide in a stack of papers or get closed up inside a volume of Scott catalogue.
There is nothing more frustrating than getting all set to work on your collection and being unable to find your tongs. The missing tongs problem has caused me to be the owner of more than a dozen stamp tongs.
After losing tongs, buying new tongs, then finding the lost tongs, then repeating the entire process, I have finally figured out how to keep the tongs safe in one place. I put a small basket on my desk, and the dozen or so tongs live there. When I use a pair, I put it back in the basket. It has become a habit, much like switching off the light when leaving a room. The tongs go in the tong basket and are not lost – except for when they fall in between the cushions.
Do you use social media such as Facebook or Twitter?
Help promote stamp collecting by occasionally showing a picture of a stamp and telling a one-line story about it.
You can reach hundreds of people that way. One of them might say "wow, that looks like fun!"
blogIn this column in the Aug. 24 issue of Linn’s, I referred to the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., as a “gift to stamp collectors.” The BNAPS library and the APRL are two of many libraries available to stamp collectors, and some philatelic libraries are available online. Read More ›
blogIt’s often been said that one of the salutary benefits of collecting stamps is the friendships made along one’s philatelic journey. If I were asked to place a value on the bonds thus forged with collectors in locales near and far, I would be rich beyond measure. A few of these hobby friends I have never met in person. Read More ›
blogToday, Nov. 11, 2015, is Veterans Day. Over the years, a number of United States stamps honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces have been issued. Read More ›
blogMy previous blog post focused on a mystery: the apparent indentations of paper clips on United States Purple Heart forever stamps that were used to mail payments to the circulation department of my employer, Amos Media in Sidney, Ohio. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses Great Britain’s final stamp issue for 2015, a Star Wars prestige booklet, and reveals what is included in its stamp program for 2016.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses a registered 1967 cover from Qatar that recently sold for almost $1,200 and the latest discovery of an Upright Jenny Invert pane.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman announces that Linn’s has been named official daily publisher of World Stamp Show-NY 2016 and provides an update on the reorganization of the Scott catalogs.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Marty Frankevicz reports on the suspension of Canada Post’s cluster box conversion plan after the election of a new prime minister.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.