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Saturday, December 08, 2012

Albums or Stock Books for your Stamp Collection?

I have been sorting stamps, recently.

I always presumed that pretty much all stamp collectors spent a large part of their hobby time engaged in sorting stamps and figuring out which ones to place where and in what album or book, and so forth. It wasn't until fairly recently that someone pointed out to me that many a philatelist doesn't "sort" stamps because they only acquire new material "one stamp at a time, exactly the one they need."

I have personally never collected "like that," so it served as a reminder that there are probably as many ways to collect stamps as there are stamp collectors-- and none of these ways are more "right" or "wrong" than any others.

But I digress.

A page from my Denmark specialized collection-- while there is still room!
The way I have always collected stamps-- and gotten the greatest enjoyment from the hobby, I might add-- is through the "treasure hunt method." I buy boxes and bags of random stamps, accumulations, box lots, kiloware, old collections, wads of album pages, duplicate books, even entire estates... and sort through everything in search of the items I want to add to my collections.

Later, I'll trade or sell off the stamps I don't want... but that's a whole different story, for a different day.

For about the 20th time in my stamp collecting history (which now spans some 45 years), I have been contemplating the question of "Albums vs. Stock Books."

As a specialist collector-- of postmarks, varieties, printings and so forth-- I am increasingly abandoning albums as the way to keep my collections. Albums worked fine for me when I was just collecting "one of each number" of the stamps issued by the country I was focusing on. After all, collecting "France" generally means collecting one of each stamp-- which is a very "finite" goal. There are only "X number" of spaces to fill in the album... and that doesn't really change, except by adding new pages for new issues, at the back end of the album.

The issue with this very "fixed" nature of traditional stamp albums arises when you start specializing-- and the number of stamps you might need to display in an "organized" fashion, in one area (or time period) of your album, isn't pre-determined. Sometimes you may need space for 73 stamps, sometimes for four. In this case, I am talking about the kind of album where you do your own layout on blank pages.

The problem I have repeatedly run into is creating a nice layout for a given page... and then having to repeatedly "insert" new finds where they logically/chronologically "belong," till I reach the point where the album page is either completely full... or looks like a haphazard pile of junk. Worse yet, I end up starting a new album page-- and for years I'll be looking at a page with ONE stamp on it.

A page from my France collection in a pre-printed album-- with stamps outside the spaces
Of course, I have the option of removing stamps from the overfilled page to the new page. On immediate glance, easy enough-- but since I put stamps in my albums with black Showgard style mounts, it actually becomes a pain in the rear. What's more, I'm left having to deal with all my pencil notations next to each stamp-- which I put there for identification purposes. Not to mention the fact that the whole process is extremely time consuming.

Hence, I have been gradually switching to stock books with black pages and clear strips, simply because the whole "moving stamps around" is SO much easier than dealing with an album. And the stamps still look really nice, in the book-- at least to my eye. And since I am not an exhibitor, I don't feel compelled to stick with an exhibition type format.

Stockbooks are definitely the way to go, for me, especially for the specialized collections.

My first major "moving project" involved getting my specialized collection of the Swedish "ringtyp" issue from album pages to stock books. It took a lot of time and effort, but was well worthwhile doing. As most of the varieties and plate flaws on this early issue are not well documented, I really had relatively little idea of the size and scope the collection might grow to. With stock books, I can easily move things around, as new material might demand it.

A page from my Swedish "ringtyp" collection, now housed in stockbooks
Do I still use albums? Absolutely! Most of my more "general" collections are still in albums, even though I expect some of them will move to stock books, over the years. In the future, a likely candidate seems to be my France collection (housed in a pre-printed album I've had since my teen years), which is suffering from "creeping elegance" as I have been adding SON cancels on the older issues, as well as precancels (quite common on French stamps) and a few blocks of four, as they show up.

More currently, I am considering moving my Denmark specialized from self-made album pages to stockbooks. I feel a little hesitant, because I have literally thousands of hours "invested" in creating those albums-- not to mention the many $$$'s I spent on supplies. However, some of the pages have gotten very "untidy" looking-- while others (recently added) are sadly sparse.

Maybe it's just part of the "journey" for long-time stamp collectors that we're always "tweaking" the way we keep our collections organized. And maybe that's part of what keeps us interested in our collections-- even after all these years-- the fact that there is always "something that needs to be done."

How do YOU keep your stamp collections? Are you happy with the way it's working? Do you often reorganize your collection to fit in new material?


Madbaker said...

Great post. I'm glad you added a scan of your stock book page too.

I have a bit of everything. Canada in an album. Sweden in a stock book. Norway on homemade pages. But more and more I'm moving to stock books, even for my general collection.

I figure stock pages are even more versatile than bound stock books, but I haven't really found a binder I like so am sticking with bound books.

I'm like you in that treasure hunt lots are my favourite. :)

Love the blog,


Felonius Monk said...

I have five collections; United States definitive issues, Easter Europe, Canada, ship topicals, and Christmas Seals, and they are all kept on stock pages. I have built in space for varieties, cancels, errors, etc., not to mention booklet panes, covers or any other larger item, as I can just slip a stock page with the size pockets I need into the binder.And the money I save on mounts and album pages and binders for the pages is amazing.

I am, however, thinking about switching to clear stockpages, then backing them with a descriptive page printed on cardstock. I really don't care for all the little descriptive tags stuck in next to the stamps.

Also, I'm both a treasure hunter and a one at a time guy. It just depends on what mood I'm in at the time.

By the way, great blog. Keep up the good work!