Refresher Course

Use stock books to organize and enjoy your stamp collection

By Janet Klug

I recently spent several days organizing some stock books that had gotten out of hand. You know you are in trouble when you waste a lot of time trying to find something.

Figure 1. An assortment of different stock books.
Figure 2. Two stock books filled with multiple examples of single stamps from the author's collection.
Figure 3. A stock book full of post-1955 stamps of Spain.

I began the process by pulling out about a half-dozen stock books and started carefully turning page after page. This took much longer than I had anticipated because I got lost in admiring the beauty of the stamps. Each stamp had a story that required a stroll down memory lane to recall the story or remember when and where I acquired the stamp. Multiply this by thousands of stamps and understand that what should have taken a few hours took many days.

Most stamp collectors maintain their collections in albums where stamps are either hinged or mounted. Specialist collectors will have albums devoted to their specific collecting interests, such as United States or France. General worldwide collectors have albums that have spaces for stamps from every country.

Stock books are useful additions to any kind of stamp collection. They keep stamps safe and require no hinges or mounts. Stamps are held in place with strips of glassine paper or clear plastic strips, depending on the style and brand.

A stock book is a good place to safely store new issues until such time as the appropriate album supplement is acquired. With reasonable care, a stock book will last a very long time. The key to keeping them in good shape is to not overstuff them. Don't overload the strips of glassine or clear plastic because the glassine will tear or the clear strips will pull away from the backing board.

Figure 1 shows an assortment of stock books, ranging from a pocket-sized book that is perfect for taking along to a stamp show for the purchases you make there, to a jumbo one with 32 pages (64 sides) that holds an incredible number of stamps.

As you can imagine, prices range from a few dollars to $50 or more for the big ones. I find the ones with eight pages (16 sides) are the most utilitarian. They hold a good number of stamps, but not so many that it stresses the spine when full of stamps. Should you happen to accidentally drop a stock book, odds are pretty good that stamps will dislodge and you will have a cleanup. Putting back into place 16 pages of stamps is a lot easier than 64 pages of stamps.

Duplicates of stamps that you have in your albums can be stored in a stock book to await sale, swapping or sharing with others. You might find interesting postmarks or varieties for which there are no spaces in an album. Put them in a stock book and enjoy them just as you enjoy the albums.

Perhaps you limit your collecting to one country and you are at a stamp show where a stamp from another country or topic catches your eye. You bring it home and need a place for it. A stock book is that perfect place.

If you like to exhibit your collection at stamp shows, a stock book is a great tool for helping you arrange the material you have. Use one page in the stock book for each page of the exhibit. You can even lay out the pages by moving the materials around on the stock book page. A stock book that contains eight double-sided pages (16 sides) is ideal for laying out an exhibit. An exhibit frame at a stamp show holds 16 pages, a perfect match for this stock book.

Collectors who are bothered by the empty album spaces for stamps that are beyond their budget or are simply extremely difficult to locate might be happier without printed albums. Stock books do not have printed spaces for stamps so there are no reminders of what is missing. The added benefit is that stamps in a stock book are easily removed or rearranged and there is no concern about hinges that do not peel, or using new expensive mounts.

Personally, my fondness for certain stamps has turned me into a hoarder.

I have several stock books that are devoted to row upon row of what at first glance appears to be the same stamp.

Figure 2 shows the manifestation of the hoarding. One of the stock books is full of Australian George V stamps, lined up like soldiers. These particular stamps have many different types, varieties and flaws, all of which are collectible. Keeping them all in one place according to denomination and sorted by watermark types will make it easier to sort them for types and varieties when time permits.

Another stock book is just plain crazy, loaded with a 3-penny Christmas stamp issued by Great Britain in 1966 (Scott 478). This stamp has the head of Queen Elizabeth that was heat stamped in gold foil. The process was imperfect and so the head wanders up and down, left and right and occasionally the head is malformed. I have no idea why this appeals to me so much, but it makes me smile every time I look at the hoard of them neatly arranged in a stock book.

My worldwide collection generally stops around 1955. When I buy a country collection, there are generally stamps that go beyond that cutoff date. Those stamps go into a stock book until such time as I decide whether to keep them or to dispose of them. Figure 3 shows a stock book that is full of post-1955 stamps from Spain.

Stock books can also become a hodgepodge of miscellany. I couldn't help but wonder if I had a good reason for putting a stamp from Brazil right next to a stamp from Austria. The reorganization of stock books has taken care of some of those haphazard stamp placements. I found stamps I had been looking for and was able to put them in their proper place in an album or into a stock book with stamps from the same country. The next task is to use my little labeling machine to put identification on the spines of every stock book. That will really make it easy to find the stamps I'm seeking.

Find stock books for your collection by checking the advertisements in this issue of Linn's.

Help promote the hobby of stamp collecting. With the holidays approaching, along with setting out multiple bowls of snacks and sweets for visitors to enjoy, include a bowl of colorful duplicate stamps from your collection and some glassines.

Visitors young and old will enjoy picking through them and taking a few stamps home. Maybe this will spark a new collector, and even if it doesn't, the stamps are not fattening.