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Sunday, January 08, 2012

Creating Albums for a Specialized Stamp Collection

For a while, I was considering writing a stereotypical "New Year's article," filled with a look back at 2011, and assorted resolutions and hopes for 2012. But the world is overflowing with those... to wit, I've already written this kind of article for three other blogs I keep.

So, I decided to do a bit of "show and tell," instead... about the primary stamp project I am working on, and will continue to work on, during 2012.

My original "Abria" France album from 1971
I've been a stamp collector since age six, and my stamps have been housed in an assortment of different places. I started with a large stockbook my father gave me. It had 12 pages, and the colorful cover was a photograph of stamps from all around the world. For a few years, all my stamps fit in it. But my collection kept growing, and when my dad realized I was going to stick with stamp collecting, he presented me with a pre-printed "Abria" album for Scandinavia for Christmas. I was maybe ten. The following year, I received a matching album for France-- which I still have.

This was 1971.

Needless to say, my collections have grown and morphed-- more or less continuously-- since then.

If you are a lifelong collector, perhaps it is just part of the journey that your interests become more and more specialized as you go along. For me, specialization was part choice, part necessity: I reached a point where "filling the next empty space" would cost me more money than I had available to spend on stamp collecting. So I went from "collecting one of each" to looking at "more than one" through plate flaws, printings and postmarks. This happened-- gradually-- in my mid-20s.

Of course, traditional pre-printed albums do not lend themselves to specialized collections. For a long time, I have kept my Denmark specialized in stockbooks. This served as an adequate-- but far from perfect-- solution, for many years. The upside of this approach is that it's easy to move stamps around, as you get new additions. But the main issue I have always had with this approach is that my "primary" examples of each stamp (and blocks and covers) have been in my pre-printed album, while my varieties and postmarks were separate in the stockbooks.

So, a few years ago, I decided I wanted to create my own albums for my Denmark collection.

One of the first new pages, allows for multiples, cancels and more
After looking at my options, I decided to use "Lighthouse" multi-ring binders and quadrilled blank pages. To show the stamps off as much as possible, everything would be mounted in black mounts.

As I said, that was a few years ago...

I soon realized that "layout" is not as easy as it looks. Strike that... I realized that organizing a highly specialized collection requires a lot of planning and foresight, in order to avoid ending up with a giant uncohesive mess.

So, whereas I've actually had the binders and pages for six years... I have mainly been "studying" how I have organized and moved the stamps in my stockbooks. The lesson here, is patience. I don't want to have to significant undo and change anything, once I get going.

I am keeping it very simple. For a while, I considered printing pages with my laser printer, but decided against it-- the almost infinite potential for expansion of a collection that includes minor varieties and cancels would make this an almost impossible task. Instead, I am just using the plain pages with the black mounts... and annotating everything in pencil-- thankfully I have fairly neat handwriting... well... printing. Why pencil? Well, if I do have to move a few items around, it allows me to erase and rewrite descriptions.

Individual captions done in pencil
This will be my primary stamp project for 2012... and beyond. As I assemble the collection, I will also be "putting my money where my mouth is," with respect to documenting the collection (See December 14th post), both for my own benefit... and for the benefit of anyone who might have to "deal with" the collection sometime in the future.

There is, of course, no "right" or "wrong" way to house a specialized stamp collection. My primary objective was to come up with something that works for me. Specifically, I wanted to end my previous problems of not being able to find specific items, because they could be located in an assortment of different books, boxes and albums.

Since I am not an "exhibitor," that was never part of my considerations, although I did want to come up with something fairly "presentable," for when I share with other collectors.

My advice to anyone who wants to create albums for their specialized collection is primarily to plan well. Spend some time looking at how you want to organize, then consider where you will (most likely) be adding more stamps... and where the collection is "finite." This will have a major impact on how you design your pages.

Happy New Year to everyone!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the advice - it will serve me well in the future. Right now I have just started branching out from my Canada collection. I have small numbers of each the Scandinavian countries (and the Baltics), and am trying to figure out what the best bet is for an album. I can't afford to buy county-specialized albums at $200-$400 each. My collection is mostly low-value items, so I don't mind hinging them. Are you aware of a (relatively) inexpensive album that covers all the Scandinavian countries? I sure would like to get them out of my LH stockbook!