By Peter Yaghmaie
The delicate nature of postage stamps and other philatelic items and the various sizes and formats in which they are issued make philatelic storage supplies an important and somewhat complex consideration for collectors.
The options for housing your collection are diverse and can demand a large part of a collector’s budget.
However, the quality of protection and the display opportunities they can offer your collection make it worthwhile to think carefully about your storage choices.
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Here are some of my observations from years of experimenting with such products.
Most philatelic-supply companies offer pre-printed albums, either in hingeless format (that is, with some type of mount already attached to the pages) or with pages that require the collector to affix stamp hinges or mounts — a significant investment of time and effort on the part of the collector.
Albums in both formats are available for many countries and popular topical stamp areas such as Europa and the Olympic Games.
Local and regional philatelic companies in countries outside the United States might offer specialized country albums as well. For example, Mittle-Ost-Marken (MOM) in Berlin, Germany, offers hingeless albums for Middle Eastern countries.
Worldwide collectors who accumulate a variety of countries and topics may find certain options more suitable than albums for storing their collections.
The Lighthouse line of stock pages offers good storage options for miniature sheets, se-tenant strips, and blocks. Stock pages are double- or single-sided pages with one to seven horizontal plastic pockets or flaps against a black or clear background. Stock pages are hole-punched to fit corresponding ring-binder albums.
Lighthouse offers the Optima, Vario, and Grande stock page product lines, arranged by the increasing size of the pages and the number of pockets they contain.
Optima 2S stock pages will hold most souvenir sheets and miniature sheets that are square or horizontally rectangular in shape, up to about 8 inches by 5 inches.
The Vario 2ST and Grande 2ST stock pages are a standard for storing vertically rectangular-shaped souvenir sheets and miniature sheets and vertically long blocks of stamps.
Stock pages in a clear-backed, one-sided format nicely house items that are darker and thus do not display to advantage against a black background, or items that have text or graphics on the reverse, such as booklets and some first-day covers. Examples of this type of stock page are Vario/Grande 2C and Vario/Grande 2VC.
One drawback to using stock pages can be the tendency for slight curving at the edges of some types of these pages, so the items housed in them are not kept completely flat. Lighthouse Plus stock pages offer a sturdier alternative but they are currently available only in the Vario line.
Collectors using stock pages should be careful when removing items from the clear pockets, as sometimes a residue may be left behind that could harm the next item being stored there.
Safe Publications is another philatelic-supply company, and two unusual products from this source are double-sided stock pages with pockets for smaller horizontal and vertically oriented miniature sheets and blocks. This format is useful for storing large quantities of such items.
Each Safe Collecto No. 462 page holds 16 horizontally oriented items up to 4.3125 inches by 2.875 inches, and Safe No. 478 pages hold 18 vertically oriented items up to 2.875 inches by 3.75 inches.
Stock books are a flexible option for storing sets and singles as well as larger items such as blocks, if desired.
Stock books allow for the arrangement of collections by country, topic, or randomly. They can be bound books or ring binders that hold single-sided or double-sided black or white pages that have rows of clear plastic or glassine strips in which to insert the stamps.
Among the best types are stock books that feature clear strips of acetate or polyester film to show off your stamps, along with a slipcase to protect the book against dust.
Special stock books with three and four rows of acetate pockets for storing blocks and miniature sheets are made by the Canadian company Unitrade.
An economical option for storing sheetlets and full sheets from different countries are mint sheet files: oversized softbound books containing glassine-type sheets, open on the top and right side, for housing larger formats of stamps.
Companies that offer different sizes of mint sheet files, such as standard and jumbo, include UNI-SAFE (Unitrade) and White Ace.
Finally, for collectors of uncut press sheets — products that are offered mainly by the postal services of the United States and Canada — G&K offers an uncut press sheet album with refill pages sold separately. The album uses screw-posts to secure the sheets.
This album also can be used to store very large full sheets of older issues from other countries (up to 23.5 inches by 24 inches). Collectors should note that this album is not large enough to house some U.S. and Canada uncut press sheets.
Many of the product lines mentioned here, including Lighthouse and Safe, plus Schaubek, Hagner, Prinz, Minkus, and Harris, as well as the Scott product line of albums, catalogs, and accessories, are available through the Amos Advantage store, of Amos Media, publisher of Linn’s.
Like stamp collecting itself, finding the right supplies to house your collection can be a quest, but through some research and experimentation you can give your collection the attractive and fitting storage space it deserves.