Refresher Course

Stamp collecting basics: stock books, albums and mounts

By Janet Klug

Most stamp collectors house their collections in albums or stock books. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

A stamp album page created by the author using a home computer. Click on image to enlarge.

Printed album pages are preferred by many stamp collectors because the publisher has already organized each page.

The pages have spaces for stamps, often accompanied by stamp illustrations, catalog numbers and written descriptions, to help place the stamps properly. Arrangement is usually chronological or by catalog number.

Comprehensive worldwide albums run to many volumes. The cost is steep. Individual country albums generally containing a space for each stamp the country has issued are also available.

Many different companies create preprinted albums for individual countries, including Scott, Minkus, Palo, White Ace, Lighthouse, Lindner, Davo, Schaubek, Harris and others. Stamp hobby supply dealers advertise albums and other collecting supplies in Linn's.

Many album publishers also produce annual supplements, which are additional album pages containing spaces for the new stamps issued that year.

All but the simplest albums are loose-leaf, so you can add pages or rearrange pages, if desired. As you add pages and stamps, you will eventually need more binders to house them.

Some album manufactures include mounts for each stamp space. These are known as hingeless album pages, and they generally cost more than regular pages without mounts.

You have to mount the stamps yourself on most album pages . You can do this by buying strips of stamp mounts and cutting them to the proper size for a given stamp. You can also use the older method of mounting your stamps with stamp hinges.

Stamp mounts protect the stamps and preserve the gum on unused stamps, but they are more expensive than hinges and they add extra weight and thickness to the album.

Hinges are much cheaper than mounts, but they damage the gum on unused stamps. Also modern stamp hinges do not peel without damaging the stamp. To remove a modern hinge without damaging the stamp, you have to soak it.

Professional Stamp Experts has published a new album for United States stamps. The album contains spaces for U.S. stamps from 1847 to 1947 by design type. This simplifies collecting U.S. stamps because you only need one stamp of each design type, instead of all of the varieties.

For more information, write to Professional Stamp Experts, Box 6170, Newport Beach, CA 92658, or visit the web site at www.psestamp.com/usd/moreinfo.chtml.

Mystic Stamp Co. also publishes a nice U.S. album. What makes the Mystic Heirloom album different is that it contains stories about the stamps. Write to Mystic Stamp Co., 9700 Mill St., Camden, NY 13316, or visit www.mysticstamp.com.

There are several alternatives to printed stamp albums. The simplest method to safely house a stamp collection is to use stock books. Stock books have heavy pages with strips of clear archival material such as Mylar or Melinex to hold stamps in place. It is a simple matter to pick up a stamp with a pair of stamp tongs and slip the stamp behind the clear strip. The stamp will stay there until you move it.

As long as you keep stock books in a cool, dry location, the gum on mint stamps will remain undisturbed. Stock books may be reorganized or rearranged to suit the changing needs of your collection.

You can also reuse stock books to store duplicate stamps if you eventually decide to mount your stamps on printed album pages.

In fact, having a few stock books around for duplicates is a good idea even if you use printed albums for most of your collection.

If you collect by topic, printed stamp albums may not be available. You can use stock books for topical collections, or you can make your own pages.

Making album pages yourself sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. The simplest album pages can be made quickly using a computer with a printer and a simple word processing program.

The following instructions are for making a simple album page using Microsoft Word. Most word processing programs will have comparable functions and will operate in a similar way. It may require a little tweaking, but you can make your own album pages.

Open Microsoft Word (or similar program) and click "File" on the menu bar at top of the screen. A drop down menu will appear. Click "New."

A "New document" window opens. Click "Blank document." A window with a blank page will appear.

Click "Table" on the menu bar at the top of the screen. A drop-down menu will appear. Click "Insert" and then when the next menu appears click "Table." A new box will open that offers various options, such as columns and rows.

Let us assume you wish to mount a page of standard definitive-sized stamps. Enter a "6" for the number of columns, and "12" for the number of rows. Click the button that says "Fixed column width" and then adjust the column width to 1.0 inches. Click "OK." A table grid will appear centered in what was formerly the blank document.

Insert your cursor into the first box in the grid. Tap the enter (or return) key five or six times. Skip down and move your cursor into the first box of the third row and repeat the tapping of the enter key. Tap the enter key in the first block of every other row in the grid until you run out of rows. You will end up with a page that looks something like the one illustrated here.

The larger boxes will contain stamps, and the smaller boxes are there if you wish to make any notation, such as catalog number, year of issue, date acquired or other information. This can be keystroked in before you print the page, or added by hand after printing. You can also add a title to the top of the page if you desire.

Other pages can be made with spaces for larger stamps by adjusting the number of rows or columns to accommodate larger sizes.

Add more lines with the enter key to include taller stamps, or adjust the column width for wider stamps.

These are simple pages. You can make them fancier by adding scans of related maps, pictures or text.

Print the pages on good archival-quality paper. Use hinges or mounts to secure the stamps to the pages. You can insert the pages into a page protector, or punch holes and insert the page into a ring binder.

You may also find web sites that offer, for a small fee, album pages for different countries that you can download and print yourself.

When you consider the expense of printer ink and paper, it is not without cost, but you only print the pages you need as you need them.

The American Philatelic Society has some wonderful album pages available for free.

All you have to do is download the pages and print them. Check out the Flags of our Nation, baseball or state pages at http://stamps.org/Education/edu_AlbumPages.htm.

Watch for new pages to be added to this series.