By Michael Baadke
One problem that many collectors face is finding the best way to display mint or unused stamps while protecting them at the same time.
When it comes to showing stamps on album or exhibit pages, many collectors choose to use stamp mounts.
These flat, clear presentation sleeves are specifically manufactured for use in the stamp hobby. They are flexible and lightweight, yet sturdy enough to hold and protect stamps.
In Figure 1 you can see three stamps that are inside stamp mounts, along with one unmounted stamp and some loose stamp mounts.
The mount is like a small envelope or pocket that holds the stamp in place. The back of the mount can be black, like those shown in the Figure 1 illustration, or clear.
Imagine a sealed transparent envelope. If you trim off the side edges of the envelope, stamps can be slid into the envelope from the side opening.
Many mounts have a die-cut split through the back, creating two flaps that allow the collector to place stamps within the mount.
Figure 2 shows a collector inserting a block of stamps into a stamp mount.
One back flap is held open as the stamps are inserted into the mount, as shown in the photograph at the top of Figure 2. The collector positions the stamps into place, centering the stamps face down in the mount against the inside edge.
The second flap is then opened and the opposite edge of the block fits into place inside the mount, as shown in the lower Figure 2 photo.
When the flaps are released, the mount is flat and the stamps can be viewed through the transparent front.
The design of the mount allows the collector to insert and remove stamps easily, while keeping the stamps protected from dirt and other hazards.
Most popular brands of stamp mounts have a water-activated adhesive on the back, similar to the type of adhesive you might find on a lick-and-stick postage stamp.
This adhesive allows the collector to affix the stamp mount onto an album or exhibit page.
Although the adhesive covers the entire back of the mount, only a small part of the adhesive should be moistened.
If the split across the back of the mount is horizontal in relation to the position of the stamp inside, the mount should be moistened along its top edge.
It is not necessary or recommended that the entire surface of the flap be moistened.
Lightly moistening along the edge to cover about one-third of the flap should be adequate.
If too much moisture is used, the moisture will transfer to the page where it may cause the paper to weaken and become wavy (rather than flat).
There is also a danger of excess moisture getting inside the mount and possibly damaging the stamp.
One way to avoid that problem altogether is to moisten the mount without stamps inside and then put it into place. Once the adhesive has dried, the stamps can be placed inside the mount.
Of course, the collector should first make sure the mount he is affixing is the correct size by fitting the stamps in the mount first, then removing the stamps to affix the mount to the page.
Immediately after the adhesive is moistened, the mount should be put into place on the page. For that reason, it's a good idea to plan ahead of time exactly where you want the stamps to go.
Most mounts stick immediately when they are applied to the page, so it is important to use care when putting the mounted stamps on the page.
If a mistake is made placing the mount, it may be possible to remove the mount and reposition it. For most brands, this means waiting a few days until the adhesive is completely dry.
Some stamp mounts have a vertical split along the back. When these are placed on an album page, the mount should be moistened along the edge that is closest to the outer edge of the page.
That way, when the album page is turned, there is less chance of the mount opening accidentally and the stamps falling out.
Figure 3 shows a selection of U.S. plate blocks that have been placed in stamp mounts and affixed to an album page.
Most collectors mount stamps on only one side of an album page. If stamps are mounted on pages facing one another, the edges of facing mounts may catch and snag, damaging stamps or dislodging the mounts when the album is closed.
Stamp mounts are most commonly used for mint (unused) stamps when the collector prefers not to attach a stamp hinge to the back of the stamp.
Because the moistened hinge is attached directly to the back of the stamp, it will disturb the gum on a mint example.
Stamp mounts are considerably more expensive than stamp hinges, but they have the benefit of protecting the stamps they hold, which a hinge does not.
It is up to the collector to decide if the cost of the mount is worth the protection and convenience it provides.
Some collectors also use stamp mounts for their more valuable postally used stamps.
Mounts are manufactured in a wide range of sizes, fitting small definitive issues or a full pane of the U.S. Celebrate the Century stamps.
Mounts that fit covers and postal cards are also available.
Choosing the correct size mount is important. A stamp mount that is too small can bend perforation tips or even crease individual stamps.
A mount that is too large will not hold stamps snugly, increasing the risk of the stamps falling out of the mount and being lost or damaged.
Mounts are also offered in strips that can be custom cut to fit individual stamps or coil strips of unusual sizes. Special cutting devices may be purchased to help make clean and straight cuts on trimmed mounts.
Stamp mount manufacturers usually provide size guidelines to help the collector select the proper size mount.
Special variety packs containing mounts in several different sizes are also available.
Although the stamp mount provides a degree of protection for the item it holds, other hazards can damage the mounted stamp after it is placed on the album page.
High humidity can activate the adhesive on the stamp, causing it to adhere to the inside of the mount. Humidity can also activate the adhesive on the mount, sealing the entire mount to the album page.
Another hazard is undue pressure on mounted stamps. Most frequently this occurs when stamp albums are stored on their sides, rather than standing upright on a shelf.
Another cause of excess pressure is an album stuffed with too many pages.
The weight of album pages on mounted stamps can cause the ink from the stamp to transfer onto the inside of the face of the transparent mount.
When the stamp is removed, some of the design is visible on the face of the mount.
To help avoid this problem, albums should always be stored upright. It's also a good idea to page through albums from time to time.
Some album manufacturers offer filler strips that balance album pages and help relieve pressure.
Stamp mounts, like many important stamp collector supplies, are available from most local stamp dealers.
To locate a stamp dealer near you, check the yellow pages of your telephone directory under the headings "Stamps for Collectors" or "Hobbies."
Stamp supplies also are available from many advertisers in Linn's Stamp News. Look through display ads throughout the paper, or check classified advertising section 160 for accessories.