Collecting Stamps - Coney's Stamps

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Introduction to Stamp Collecting Supplies & Storage:

The tools and supplies that you select as a collector can make or break a good collection. It can make a mediocre collection shine or turn a great collection into junk.

The Supplies which are covered on this page are also in greater detail in their own respective sections on this Web site but this will give you a good primer on both to give you an idea of what you’re looking at before diving into details. Additional tools, supplies and tip for their use are also available.

An introduction to the Tools of Stamp Collecting is also available in this section.

There are some items that other collectors consider supplies such as watermark detection fluid and catalogs and while these can be considered supplies because of their consumable and periodic natures I have included them with tools because of their use in identification.

No-No’s and why:

Some quick tips and reasons for beginners:

When applying these basic quick-tips you might say well it’ll only be until I get something better. If so, keep that in mind and get something better sooner, rather then later. Your collection is in your possession now but those stamps may well be the prized possession of your great… grand child or some other collector in 100 years. Taking care of them now will ensure their survival.

  • Don’t store your stamps in non-archival quality materials. Even some thought to be archival quality are not really good for long term use.
  • Don’t keep them in business envelopes with the little see-through plastic window. That window is eating them; the PVC's in the plastic is not archival friendly.
  • Glassine envelopes are good for short term storage only. Long term may be a relative term but after 20-30-40 years they will start to get darker I color and turn more and more brittle. This will eventually affect the stamps that are in them.
  • Don’t store them in or mount them on bright white paper that is acid washed or of non-archival quality.
  • Be mindful of the environment: Direct sunlight, heat, humidity! Excess of any or a combination can be deadly for a collection
  • Avoid directly handling your stamps more then necessary. The less you move or handle a stamp the lower the risk of accidentally damaging it or causing other wear-n-tare.

More tips, information and expanded explanations are available this page and elsewhere throughout this Web site.

These are generally used for temporary storage but make the stamps more accessible for viewing or moving than some of the other storage methods. I even know some collectors that use stock books with a see-through flap for permanent storage and display.

stockbookStock Books: These are usually hard bound and have pages lined with small vertical flaps which hold the stamps. Some are see-through and some are opaque or solid. The stock books with these flaps on both sides of the page generally have a sheet of interleaving in between to keep the stamps from snagging each other as the book is opened or closed. They have anywhere from 10 to 100 and usually come in your choice of black or white pages.

Stock Pages come in two main types: manila or vario. Manila Stock sheets are made from a material like that standard file folder, same color texture and weight. They come pre-punched for a binder and are lined on one side with vertical flaps to hold the stamps

Vario style stock pages have a clear plastic flaps one the hinges from the top and one from the bottom. This hold the stamp a little more securely and reduces risk of damage.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

stockpageManila pages are lower in cost and you can hold more stamps in the flaps. You can also hold different sized items on the same page. The down side is that the top half of the stamp is exposed and if you drop the binder and its top edge hits the floor then all the stamps come flying out of their flaps into one big mess. (Yes I know from experience) This is also true of any storage with a open top flap that the stamp tucks down into.

Vario PagesVario pages are more secure since the stamps are held from the top and bottom (but not the sides) and since the stamp is completely covered there is no risk of a stamp getting snagged by something else. The down side is they cost considerably more; only hold a specific size stamp (Pages are offered with strips of different heights).

Stock CardsStock cards (approval cards) are just like the stock pages described above but come in index card sizes and are not pre-punched for binder use. They earned the name of approval cards because a lot of approval services use them, usually placed in side a glassine envelope, to prospective customers.

 

These are good for a limited number of stamps and have a good display window and a place to write basic information.

Dealer Pages are usually for the small dealers binders that you’ll see at the shows but can be used by any collector with a need. They load from the top edge of the page.

Dealer cards are similar to the dealer pages but load from the long edge and are not punched for a binder. They are at home in a file box or dealer card box made for that purpose.

Sheet files, block files and pocket files:

Sheet, block and pocket files are all the same basic item but in different sizes. They are usually considered temporary storage and have a vinyl or card-stock cover with a two sided pockets for panes of stamps or blocks. They are also made in a pocket sized version which is just right for carrying in a shirt pocket while browsing a local stamp show.

Sheet Albums: These are 3-ring or 3-post binder based and hold specialty pages with the top and outer side open specifically designed to hold panes (sheets) of stamps.

Sheet, block and pocket files are all the same basic item but in different sizes. They are usually considered temporary storage and have a vinyl or card-stock cover with a two sided pockets for panes of stamps or blocks. They are also made in a pocket sized version which is just right for carrying in a shirt pocket while browsing a local stamp show.

Sheet Albums: These are 3-ring or 3-post binder based and hold specialty pages with the top and outer side open specifically designed to hold panes (sheets) of stamps.

As my wife calls them Waxed Paper envelopes (just to tease me). If you buy stamps at the local post office and they hand them to you in a little milky semi-clear envelope that feels like thick waxed paper… that’s it.

These are available in many sizes and s couple styles of flap and construction. Many collectors and dealers use them for temporary storage of stamps and bulk stock. Some use them for long term storage. They are low cost and effective but long term use is not advised. Long term may be a relative term but after 20-30-40 years they will start to get darker I color and turn more and more brittle. This will eventually affect stamps in them.

A favorite of collectors are index boxes, they are perfect for the glassine envelopes or cards that they have their stock or a temporary holding place for their collection. You can flip through them, put markers in and make access quick and easy. They also have lids, are stackable and have a handy little finger pull style handle on the end with a place for a card to make note of the contents on.

Dealer card boxes are also a favorite and are the exact size of the cards themselves so if a box with the lid on gets dropped not fuss no muss. Just pick it up and go. These boxes are not quite as sturdy as the index boxes when only partially full.

Displaying stamps means something different to different people. It can mean display panels for competition at a stamp show, it can mean displaying in an album and it can mean framed for display on a wall, desk or other area. Information on these display types are available by following the highlighted terms.

Albums are the most popular housing for a stamp collection or at least a goal of many. There are many good pre-printed albums available.

Types:

There are many different types of collections and you’ll find an album to accommodate most of them. Be it singles, coil strips, blocks, etc. or by topic: transportation, flags, air mail, etc. They also come in a wide range of quality, flexibility and no surprise price range.

They are also available in a couple different formats. Older albums were often hard bound. Newer albums are loose leafed binder based. Binder formats also offer some options. Two post, 3-ring and you’ll find more ringed options. There are even album pages available on the web free for the downloading.

Mot prepared albums, including many free downloads are updated on a yearly basis.

Some are even hingless, meaning that the pages already have stamp mounts on them. Of course these cost more than other stamp albums.

Making your own:

There are several ways to make your own albums. There is the tried and true method of pen or pencil to paper or you can print them with the help of your computer. There are a number of good programs specifically designed to create custom stamp album pages. In addition almost any drawing program or office automation programs like MS Power Point, MS Word or MS Visio can also be used.

Periodicals and catalogs can help you keep your album up to date.

With a custom album of your own design you can do anything you want it’s entirely up to you imagination. But please remember to use archival safe supplies… paper, binders, etc.

Unless you’ve purchased a hingless albums, you’ll need a way to attach your stamps to the pages.
One of the oldest methods is to glue the stamps right to the pages. Please don’t do this. 

The next is to use hinges. These are small pieces which are folded in half. One side is stuck to the back of the stamp and the other is stuck to the page.

The most recent development are stamp mounts which protect the stamp and do not disturb the gum or attach itself to the stamp like hinges do. The stamp is held in the mount by s slight tension like an envelope with no sides and a clear front and a black background.

If buying paper to fit binder or existing album binder the sky is the limit however, please remember to use archival quality paper. As you will see in many commercially available albums an off white or bland ivory color are generally preferred. Ivory go well with black print and the black mounts but you may want to experiment if planning to use a color other then black for your printed borders or text.

Many commercially available albums come with binders made of safe materials (don’t ooze PVC's) and are printed on the spine and binder face. Simple binders have come a long way too. You can accomplish the same thing with some binders. They have windows on the front cover and spine into which your own printed material can be inserted.

For albums that get hard use, such as stock page albums that live a hard life I prefer to go with a leather grained piano hinge 3-ring binder from Wilson-Jones. There are prohibitively expensive but last forever. I have some piano hinged binders that belonged to my father 40 years ago and I still use them today.

Binder Accessories:

If using a standard 8.5” by 11” page then there are many accessories including tabbed dividers which are blank or indexed. Pocketed dividers for other materials, archival safe page protectors and interleaving, page spacers to help keep pages flat at the ring and much more accessories are as close as the local stationary store.