Many stamp collectors limit their hobby to one or two countries or topics. Surprisingly few collectors tackle a global stamp collection.
Of course, those good reasons are not such good reasons when placed up against the fun one can have finding inexpensive stamps from every country around the world. Another benefit is the knowledge gained from picking up a stamp from a country that no longer exists or that few people have ever heard of.There are many good reasons for sticking to just a few countries or topics, beginning with budget limitations and the impossible dream of completing a worldwide collection, and ending with housing dozens of thick, expensive albums to contain the collection.
What if there was a way to form a complete global collection on a modest budget, and house it in an album that you can have for free?
Last year the Smithsonian National Postal Museum produced a stamp album called A Stamp for Every Country. The title page is shown in Figure 1.
The album is available as a free download athttp://postalmuseum.si.edu/stampgallery/album/Stamp-for-Every-Country.pdf. Once the PDF (portable document file) opens you can save it to your computer and then print the pages one at a time, or all at once.
The album is arranged geographically by continent, so working on a section at a time might be the easiest way to start.
The page layout is different from other albums, with spaces defined but not mandated by images of what should go there. You can select whatever stamp comes your way, or seek out one that you like best.
The full album holds approximately 800 stamps, with spaces for at least one stamp from every stamp-issuing country. Blank pages can be added should you wish to include a map, a cover, a souvenir sheet or additional stamps.
Figure 2 shows the album page for Canada. The captions are minimal, giving the country name and the beginning and ending dates (when appropriate) of stamps being used within the country. Canadian provinces also had stamps for a time, so spaces exist for those provinces as well.
When printed, the pages fit on standard 8½-inch by 11-inch paper. Choose a good archival-quality paper at least 25-weight or thicker so it will hold up over time.
As long as you have that PDF file saved to your computer, you will be able to print replacement pages in case something happens to spoil a page or two.
There is sufficient space above the heading to use a three-hole punch and then insert the pages into a standard three-ring binder. All of the pages are in landscape (horizontal) orientation. Many pages include more than one country, and some pages document changes in country names.
The titles and dividing lines are in colors that differ between continents. If you do not wish to print in color, all you need to do is set the printer preferences to print in black or grayscale only.
Filling the pages of the A Stamp for Every Country album is a wonderful family project. Young people will learn about geography painlessly. It is also a good project for a classroom, for an after-school program, for scouts or for similar youth activities.
As wonderful as this free album is, there are other free albums waiting for you to discover and download.
At last count, the American Philatelic Society had 61 sets of album pages available as free downloads on its website. The offerings include different countries, states and cities, and a variety of topics.
An interesting feature of these albums is that the spaces designated for stamps will print on the page with color images of the stamps that fit there, so if you are waiting to acquire the stamp, the space does not look empty.
Figure 3 shows the title page of the APS album for Hawaii, which contains 19 pages. Figure 4 illustrates one of the Hawaii album pages.
You can download these album pages from http://stamps.org/Free-Album-Pages.
Digital files for blank album pages, with or without quadrille backgrounds that help you place the stamps, are available for free from the International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors. This organization also offers downloads for blank pages that have title and text boxes built in.
Visit www.iswsc.org/iswsc_pages.shtml to see what's available.
While you are on that website, spend a little time looking at what else this society has to offer worldwide collectors — or those who have an interest in becoming worldwide collectors.
There is a beginner's book (free online) and free stuff for young collectors. Membership includes the option of participating in swap circuits, sales circuits and auctions, plus a host of other benefits. Check the website at www.iswsc.org, or contact ISWSC, Box 19006, Sacramento, CA 95819.
If you don't have a computer and printer and you want any of the available free albums, find a family member or friend who will print it for you. You never know, they might become interested in stamps, too.
Thanks to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, the American Philatelic Society and the International Society of Worldwide Stamp Collectors for providing fun, useful and enlightening free albums that appeal to beginners and help promote our hobby.