Just stumbled upon this great article written by Super Stamper Ross in the stampbears.com forum about creative and effective ways of organizing your collections of postage stamps.
In his thread, you will learn how to correctly store and archive your worldwide mint and used postage stamps, covers and other related philatelic items.
I find there are as many different ways of organizing your collection of stamps as there are personalities out there. This is my way of doing it.
As a bit of history, I sort of had a mentor when it came to stamp collecting way back when, while I was a teen. I remember long nights and days in his basement helping set up his old Commodore 64 word processing package to label and catalogue his massive collection. Manfred was German and in true Germanic fashion was a very organized person. All his albums and stock books were labelled and placed in a logical order on his large collection of bookshelves. Back then there were no hingeless mounts that I recall, although there might have been. So his stamp albums were all hinged as far as I remember. He kept mint in one set of albums and used in another. Then there were the stock books, row after row of these things. Sometimes there was one or more stock books dedicated to one stamp. All the duplicates he had of that one stamp. We would spend hours in the basement soaking stamps off of paper and drying them to be placed in one of those books at a later date. It is with these fond memories that I pass along what I learned then and what I have picked up since.
The most basic way of organizing your collection is by country or topic. That is the easy part, after all, Canada, United States, the United Kingdom, or marine life on stamps are all easy to put into separate piles.
Now it is time to get out the trusty catalogue. How do you sort those piles you now have? Well to start with for a country collection, normally there are two ways of doing this, by catalogue number or by date of issue. Now you may think that date of issue and catalogue number should be similar.
This is not actually the case. Frequently when a definitive issue is released catalogue companies will reserve a block of numbers for that issue so that all of them are located in the same place in the catalogue even though they may be issued months if not years apart, especially if postal rates change which they are likely to do on an annual basis.
I like to sort mine out initially by issue type. So all stamps belonging to one specific series, be they commemorative stamps for a single year, or definitive issue. After a while of working with a country you will easily recognise what period a stamp belongs in or what definitive issue they belong to.
Now what do you do will all these piles of little bit of paper we call our hobby, stamp collecting?
Albums are a great way of displaying your best of the best. However the pages that are in it only have space for a single copy of a specific stamp. What do you do with all those duplicates? After all you want to keep these for future use, be it trading or because some weird rarity was just discovered and you may or may not have one in your collection.
This is where the organizational systems come into play. You need stock books. You can buy these as a bound book or you can purchase them as loose leaf pages that can be placed into a binder.
I prefer the pages over the books, for when you find something that you didn’t have duplicates of earlier or you get more of a stamp already in your stock books, you may have to move page after page of stamps in an album.
However, with loose leaf pages you can just insert another page into your binder and reorganized a few pages rather than a whole book or two.
The other reason for stock books/pages is that they protect your stamps from damage. Placing these bits of paper into these pages keeps them flat and prevents the perfs from being damaged. If you have ever bought a large lot of stamps that were already soaked off their paper, you will notice that when they are bundled into a large bag and packaged, the stamps get bent, or the perfs get damaged.
Keeping your stamps in a stock book prevents that from happening. So, you have decided for the type of storage that you are going to keep those spares in, be it pages or books. What type should you buy?
First off I remember seeing an old saying on another stamp board.
“I am too poor to be cheap.”
What does this mean?
Well, when it comes to archiving your duplicate stamps, and this is really what you are doing, you need to store them in the correct type of album.
The cheap albums may look good right now, after all, you really want to put your money into stamps, right? Wrong. Those lesser costing albums will in the long run cost you more than just what you are spending on them.
Lesser costing albums frequently are not of archival quality, they are not acid or lignin free and as such over time will damage your stamps. So go out, spend a bit more now, so that in the long run you are not trashing the cheap books you bought, as well as the stamps you had in them.
Talk to other collectors, members of a local stamp club, or to a dealer you trust. They will suggest a brand out there that they feel is safe and well within the needs of your collection.
Also, remember that you don’t get your binders (if you go that route) from Staples, or Office Max, they are not archival quality. Grab them from reputable stamp dealers or from the manufacturers themselves.
The other great thing about those pages is that they come in numerous types. If you look at a series out there you will see, that you can grab pages that will fit a sheet, plate blocks (4 on a page) or rows of stamps (up to 8 to a page). This allows you to adapt your pages as you see fit.
Binders or albums you need to store them upright, not sitting on the flat of their backs as this will damage the stamps over the long run. Further slip covers for the binders (if you go that route) are always a good thing to keep your stamps free of dust.
Get a good set of bookshelves that will take the weight of large numbers of albums. Over time this will be a heavy collection, so you need something sturdy. Solid wood is usually the best here.
Colours, colours, colours, what do you do here?
You may want to think of a way of sorting your stock books so that at a glance you can figure out what country is in there, or what type of stock is there (mint or used).
Before you go any further… think. You are designing an archive here.
Come up with something that is logical for you, and is adaptable. Design this method for future use, not for the present. Think of what your collection will be in 10 years. You do this so that you do not spend your time redesigning your archival methods every year or two.
Do this once and in a large span of years you may only need to tweek it now and then, not recreate it every year or so. You know what you collect right now; after all you just sorted them into piles… right?
So what happens 5 years down the line when you decide to start collecting a new country, or a new topic? You need to set up your system so that these new fields are easily insertable into your storage methods.
The great thing about this hobby is that it grows with you, and that means your collection will grow as well, not only in volume of stamps, but places or topics that you decide to collect. The binders I use for my collection come in 5 colours; red, blue, black, green and brown.
I was originally going to use colour to sort out country, however going through my own advice got me to thinking. Where will my collection be in 10 years?
Personally I have no clue, but, I do know that it will grow and that using up all the colours to sort out countries will not be beneficial in the long run. So that being said, I went with black binders for used stamps and red for the mint stuff. The spines are large enough so that I can place labels on them denoting what country is in there, what volume it is and what years it covers. I still have 3 colours that are manufactured for other uses.
As I have come across a few oddities that I want to hold onto over the years, they will go in the brown binders. Further I collect souvenier sheets and upper right corner blocks… well guess what, I still have two colors available to me, blue and green.
None of my storage methods are set to country. Countries and/or topics will come and go in my collection over the years. But, there will always be mint/used stamps, sheets and plate blocks/booklets. The archiving methods works for now, and the long haul.
You now have the basics of storing your collection all figured out. Go out, grab those stock books/binders and begin filling them with what you already have. Remember, you sorted them out at the beginning of this article. When you are done, give yourself a treat. I recommend visiting your favourite stamp dealer.
Hope you enjoyed the read!
Do share in the comments area below ways you found best to stock your postage stamps collections.
Until next, happy stamp collecting.
Your topical stamp collecting queen.