A guide to accessories for stamp collectors

great britain album


There are two main ways in which collectors can mount their stamps to album pages. The original method involves using hinges, small pieces of special gummed paper which allow the collector to attach stamps directly to an album page.

Plastic mounts meanwhile enable collectors to present their stamps in albums without physically attaching the stamps themselves to pages. Stamps are placed inside protective plastic mounts and the mount is then attached to the page, meaning unmounted mint stamps can remain in pristine condition whilst still appearing in an album. Mounts are available already ‘cut to size’ or in strips that can then be cut to the correct size depending upon the size of stamp.


One item every stamp collector must have is a pair of tweezersAll stamps should be handled with tweezers; they ensure that the natural oils in our fingers do not get on to the stamps and, after a bit of practice, they are easier to use than fingers as well. They come in different lengths, with different points and made from different materials (generally stainless steel or gold-plated).



Most collectors like to have a magnifying glass so they can look at their stamps more closely. Again, they come in a wide range, from the fairly basic, offering 2 or 3× magnification, to pocket microscopes giving 30× magnification, and digital microscopes such as the Pro10 Portable Digital Microscope that offer a really detailed examination of your stamps (view our video demonstration below). Another useful type of magnifier is one that incorporates a millimetre scale – ideal for measuring overprints and other features.


The Stanley Gibbons Instanta – which measures perforations to a decimal point and is easy to use – is the choice of most collectors and dealers. There is also an electronic perforation measurer which is even easier to use – but it is a bit more expensive than the Instanta.


Watermark detectors come in a variety of types and a wide range of prices, all of which are effective in their different ways. If you are collecting older stamps, watermarks are generally clearer and can be identified simply by placing the stamps face down on a dark background or watermark tray and, if necessary, adding a few drops of lighter fluid or watermark fluid.

The Morley Bright products are an excellent alternative if you do not like using fluids, which many collectors do not. More modern stamps, especially mint ones are more difficult to sort and for these one of the electric watermark detectors will probably be the answer. The Stanley Gibbons Detectamark and other electronic products are highly effective (view our video demonstration).


Happily, the standard colour guide for stamp collectors, the Stanley Gibbons colour key, is another relatively inexpensive item which will provide years of use. It features 200 different colours and will allow you to tell the difference between “mauve”, “purple”, “lilac” and “violet” with ease.

Colour guide for stamps


Finally and especially if you are collecting the modern stamps of Great Britain at a more specialised level, you will probably want an ultraviolet lamp to identify different papers and phosphor types. These come in a range of designs at different prices, so it is useful to seek the advice of an experienced collector before deciding on the one to buy. If you collect Great Britain stamps, you really need a “short wave” lamp to identify different phosphors, but some lamps incorporate both “long” and “short” wave bulbs, which give them wider potential use.

A lamp with a “hood” is generally to be recommended, firstly because direct exposure to prolonged ultraviolet light is damaging to the eyes, so you should avoid lamps which cause you to see the bulb itself while you are using it. Also, such lamps are more effective in the dark, so anything which shields the stamp being examined from other light sources, including daylight, will improve the effectiveness of the lamp.

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