Refresher Course

Proper use of stamp mounts preserves your collection's value

By Janet Klug

In the July 12 Refresher Course, I described the proper use of stamp hinges to mount your stamps onto album pages. In this week's Refresher Course we will discuss the other major method of mounting stamps onto an album page: plastic stamp mounts that enclose the stamp.

Figure 1. The required elements for preparing a stamp mount to display a stamp on an album page: a package of stamps mounts, a guillotine cutter to cut the mount neatly, a ruler for measuring both the stamp and the mount, and stamp tongs to hold the stamp and properly instert it into the mount. Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 2. To insert the stamp in the mount, hold the mount between thumb and fingers, apply pressure to open the mount at the back. Use tongs to insert the stamp in the open side so that it faces outward into the clear ungummed side of the mount. Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 3. A properly mounted stamp on an album page. Click on image to enlarge.

The major consideration in choosing between hinges and stamp mounts is cost. Hinges are cheap. Stamps mounts cost considerably more.

Mounts are very different from hinges. They offer superior protection for stamps. Mounts are the preferred method of placing stamps into albums for collectors who want to retain pristine gum on mint stamps.

Applying a stamp hinge to a mint, never-hinged stamp automatically changes the stamp's condition to unused, hinged. This can significantly diminish the resale value of the stamp.

Some collectors opt to use hinges for a mint never-hinged stamp with minimum catalog value.

But if you are mounting expensive mint stamps that have never been hinged, mounts are the way to go. They are also a good choice for expensive unused hinged stamps and used stamps, as they provide superior protection to both the face and the back of the stamp.

From a practical standpoint, mounts also add significant bulk to albums. If you use mounts for all of your stamps in all of your albums, you will require more binders for the pages.

There are many different sizes of mounts to accommodate the many different sizes of stamps.

Mounts are sold in long strips that must to be cut to size by the collector. You match the height of the stamp to the mount, and then cut it to the appropriate width.

Precut mounts to fit the most frequently encountered stamp sizes are available. These save time but add to the cost.

There are two main types of mounts. One type is sealed only at the bottom, and the top and sides are open. This kind of mount allows the stamp a little more "breathing" room, but it also means that in some instances the stamp could fall out.

The other type of mount is sealed at top and bottom. The back of the mount is split in the middle to allow insertion of the stamp.

Mounts are available with black backgrounds or clear backgrounds. Some collectors like how the stamps look against the black background. Others prefer clear mounts because it is less obvious if the mount is not cut perfectly square, or if a stamp shifts position within the mount.

Mounts are sold by sizes, measured in millimeters from top to bottom. Select a mount that gives the stamp a little wiggle room. A close fit can jam the stamp perforations against the mount's sealed edges. If you are using the long strip kind of mount, measure the stamp from side to side and cut the mount a few millimeters wider than the stamp.

Some collectors use scissors when making the cut, but I prefer to use a small guillotine type of paper cutter, which can be purchased at one of the big box office supply stores. There are also small guillotine cutters sold expressly for the purpose of cutting mounts.

Figure 1 shows everything you need to cut a stamp mount to fit a stamp and mount it on an album page.

Never cut a mount with the stamp already in it. It is too easy to miscalculate a cut and accidentally slice into the stamp. Even a tiny slice through a perforation tip is considered damage.

Once the mount has been cut to the appropriate size, use tongs to insert the stamp.

This is a simple process if the mount is sealed only on the bottom. Just pop the stamp in the open side so that it faces outward into the clear ungummed side of the mount.

Split-back mounts that are sealed top and bottom are a little trickier. Hold the mount between your thumb and fingers to gently squeeze the top and bottom of the mount to make the gummed split pucker outward. Insert the bottom of the stamp into the mount with the printed side of the stamp facing the clear ungummed side of the mount as shown in Figure 2. Bring the top half of the mount over the top of the stamp.

It is not necessary to moisten the entire back of the mount to achieve good adhesion. Whether using split backs or single seal styles of mounts, just a little moisture at the top of the mount will keep it in place and make eventual removal of the mount and the stamp a lot easier.

Excess moisture can defeat the purpose of using a mount. Don't use so much that it leaks through the slit at the back of the mount and disturbs the stamp gum.

A stamp, photographically cropped from the album page on which it is mounted, is shown in Figure 3.

Another option is to use what are called hingeless albums. These are printed album pages that come with stamp mounts already cut to size and affixed to the pages. These albums can be very attractive, but there are a few drawbacks to using them.

First, they are expensive. You are basically paying to have someone else measure and cut your mounts for you, and that is not an inexpensive proposition.

Also, the mount on the page might not exactly fit your particular stamp. This can happen when you have an example with extra large margins, or with attached selvage that you want to keep attached and unfolded.

Another consideration is that most hingeless albums use the type of stamp mounts that are closed only at the bottom. If you prefer the type of mount that is closed at top and bottom, then these aren't for you. Most hingeless albums also use clear plastic mounts, so if you prefer black, these pages might not satisfy you.

Ultimately, whether you use mounts or hinges is up to you, and will depend on your budget, personal preferences and collecting goals. Whichever method you choose, use care, caution and good materials to mount your stamps in albums.

Be a good curator and your stamps will give you pleasure for as long as you own the collection.