August 2019

How to organise your collection

album pages

The essence of a good stamp arrangement is neatness – stamps placed squarely in the spaces provided for them or in level, tidy rows on a blank leaf. It sounds simple – and indeed it is – but it does require care and thought. Some printed albums have stamp ‘squares’ in rows across the album page. Usually, these are big enough to accommodate the majority of stamps, which are invariably rectangular – horizontal or vertical – in shape.

Larger stamps will extend beyond the confines of the square and in such cases, the printed background should be ignored, with two stamps taking up the space of three squares. Personal preference and ingenuity should be employed. 

Some printed albums have provision for stamps on both sides of the leaf and the danger here is that stamps on facing pages will rub or tangle with each other and may become damaged. Where transparent interleaving is not provided it can be purchased, or some other form of thin paper can be placed between the leaves to prevent rubbing.

For the average collection, gummed stamp hinges are the most convenient to use. These are small slips of gummed paper which attach the stamp to the album page – just fold down about a quarter of the hinge, gummed side outwards, and lightly moisten the narrow folded portion with the tip of your little finger: if you use your tongue to lick the hinge there is the danger of wetting the stamp as well.

Attach this portion to the back of the stamp at the top, just below the perforations, and then moisten the lower part of the ‘flap’ and place the stamp in its appropriate place and press down.

The best hinges are ‘peelable’, but only after they have completely dried out, so if the stamp is crooked or in the wrong place, leave it a while before attempting to remove it, otherwise you may damage the back of the stamp or part of the album page.

The alternative to using hinges is the system of transparent mounts – gummed strips or ‘pockets’ – which employ the ‘slipin’ principle (rather like your stockbook) with transparent fronts and black or clear backing, tailored to fit your stamp and sold in convenient singles or strips. The advantage of these is that you can keep your unused stamps in pristine mint condition, which most collectors (and dealers) now consider to be essential. Hinged mint stamps are worth less than ‘unmounted mint’.

Whichever method of mounting the stamps on the blank album leaf is used, the basic principles are the same (although the transparent mounts may take up more ‘stamp space’) in arranging them – neat, orderly rows of say, five or six stamps, depending on their size and format, and perhaps six or more rows to a page.

Each page should be carefully planned to ascertain how many stamps you will get on a page without overcrowding. A certain group or set of stamps may be incomplete and you should allow spaces for the missing ones if you have a reasonable chance of obtaining them. A completed page looks good and is a source of satisfaction. So-called blank leaves are not strictly blank – they have an imprinted quadrille pattern (like graph paper) that, with the aid of light pencil marks, enables you to plan your album page.

The monotony of page after page of uniform rows of stamps can be avoided by paying attention to balance and symmetry – the ‘lozenge’ pattern, with short rows at top and bottom of the page, or the ‘hourglass’ arrangement with the shorter rows in the centre, like a ‘waist’. Bizarre and fanciful layouts should be avoided – invariably they waste space and lack symmetrical cohesion. Some sets of stamps contain irregular shapes and in such cases, the usual order of face value (lowest to highest) can be varied, row by row – horizontal designs in one row, verticals on another, or a  balanced mixed row, e.g. pairs of horizontal designs flanking vertical ones or vice versa.

Country names or other page headings should be uniform throughout the album and sufficient space should be left above and below the rows of stamps for subheadings and captions if it is your intention to write-up the collection. It is generally preferable to complete the written work before you mount the stamps (even if you haven’t got all of them) – it’s tempting fate to write with pen and ink over and across the stamps. Of course, if you prefer to use a typewriter or word processor then you obviously do your typing first. Some collectors type on to clear paper, which is then affixed to the album page. All this preparation is tedious but ultimately rewarding.

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