Before you purchase your first stamp album you should have some plan in your mind, even just a few thoughts and inclinations, on the likely progress and eventual scope of your collection. Most beginners buy, or are given, a monster packet of stamps and a printed album with a page for every country. Sooner or later you will run out of space and the surplus stamps of some countries will be scattered untidily on other pages. In these circumstances enthusiasm may flag, as the only solution is a larger album with all the work of rearranging your stamps!
Start right! As you begin to accumulate stamps, you should acquire one of the popular ‘slip-in’ collecting books or ‘stock-books’ such as stamp dealers use, to keep your stamps in order and in good condition. These have strips or pockets on every page and you simply slip your stamps into them, arranged in order of country or as you wish. Some collectors use stock-books permanently for convenience, but of course the stamps are not displayed as they would be in an album. It is time to think of an album only when your stock-book is reasonably full and you have decided to build up a general collection (necessitating a large whole-world album), or concentrate on the stamps of particular countries or themes (blank loose-leaf or ‘one-country’ albums).
Your choice of a suitable album is important. It shouldn’t be too small – for the reasons stated – and not too large because, unless you have a very large collection and anticipate buying many more stamps, your existing stamps will be greatly extended and give your collection a sparse appearance. Printed albums – those with printed country headings at the top of each page – can be obtained fastbound (like a book) or with loose-leaf ring-fitting binders. The great advantage of the looseleaf system is that the leaves can be rearranged – and extra leaves added – as you wish. The ‘one-country’ printed albums usually have a space for each stamp, possibly illustrated, with periodic supplements.
The Gibbons’ range of one-country albums includes Great Britain, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, specially designed for straightforward collections of those popular countries, while there are also similar albums for Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Similar albums are also available in ‘Hingeless’ versions – that is they have transparent mounts already affixed over the illustrations of the stamps so that you only need to slot in your stamps. Obviously the affixing of the mounts by hand is a timeconsuming process and hence such albums are more expensive than those requiring you to affix the mounts yourself. For many collectors the convenience is well worth the extra outlay. The advantage of using transparent mounts is set out later (Arranging your Stamps). The Windsor album has printed spaces for all GB stamps, a guiding catalogue listing and regular supplements to keep the album up to date; it is available in spring-back and 22-ring binders. For the ‘do-it-yourself’ collector who prefers to arrange and ‘write-up’ the collection on blank leaves there are many splendid albums in the Gibbons range to choose from. They are priced according to quality, size and capacity, and the binders are spring-back (which open wide to release the leaves), ring-fitting or peg-fitting.
Multi-ring albums have the advantage of lying flat when the album is opened, while it is usually necessary to take out spring-back and peg-fitted leaves when working on them, arranging the stamps and writing-up. You can prepare your own country headings, etc for blank leaves, or you can buy special booklets of gummed country-name labels. Blank albums are, of course, especially suitable for thematic collecting – the pursuit of a certain subject or theme (such as birds, flowers or transport) – where the arrangement of the stamps entirely depends on the theme and its sub-divisions. More details of thematic collecting can be found in another guide in this series – Stamp Collecting – Collecting By Theme.
It suggests many pictorial themes and describes how you can form an attractive and entertaining subject collection. ‘Stamp Starter Packs’ are an inexpensive way of starting a stamp collection. They include an album, stamps, magnifier, tweezers and hinges. There are numerous albums for first day covers, stamp booklets, stamp picture postcards and postal stationery. However, your main concern must now be the choice of your first stamp album and you should visit your local stamp shop to see what is available. If you live within easy reach of London, then it would be sensible to make the trip and visit the Stanley Gibbons shop in the Strand or one of the other stamp dealers where you will find a wide selection. Many principal towns and cities have well-established stamp shops, or you can buy from Stanley Gibbons by mail-order or on the internet. The convenience will justify the postage. Write or phone for an illustrated price-list!