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Ideas and Tips for Displaying and Handling your Stamps ...

Stamps purchased from Western Stamp Company are shipped in either clear, archival "PolyPro" sleeves (for larger stamp sheets) or acid-free collection cards (crystal clear film over card stock); both are suitable for safe, long-term storage. Most collectors, however, will remove the stamps from the supplied holders for the purpose of displaying them by a method of their choice. For those new to stamp collecting, many display ideas and considerations are provided below. The display supplies we mention are readily available from on-line dealers of stamp collecting supplies (and Amazon.com). For your convenience, links to a few leading stamp collecting supplies dealers are provided here:

Amos Advantage

Subway Stamp Shop

Potomac Supplies

The following "main topic" links can be used to quickly navigate to that topic in the discussion below:

Safely handling and storing your stamps.

Postage stamps, being fairly thin paper, can be torn, creased, or stained if not carefully handled. Stamps can be handled with your hands or fingers (carefully), but it is best if you first wash your hands (to remove dirt and natural oils) and make sure they are dry. Stamp collectors, however, typically use stamp tongs to handle stamps whenever possible to reduce the risk of damage. Stamp tongs have polished rounded tips and are specially designed for picking up and holding postage stamps.  Using tongs to handle stamps may be an awkward process at first, but you will soon discover that moving stamps around with tongs is much easier than with your fingers.  Standard tweezers with sharp and/or ridged tips should not be used because they can crease or cut fragile stamp paper.

Stamps, and albums holding stamps, should be stored in an environment where humidity and temperature are kept at reasonable and fairly constant levels.  High heat and humidity can cause the adhesive on the back of stamps to stick to whatever is adjacent.  For this reason, attics, crawl spaces, and storage buildings without climate control are not good places for storing your stamp collection.

High pressure can also cause stamps to stick to album pages or other adjacent paper. This situation can arise when your stamps or albums are placed long-term under a stack of heavy books, for example. It is best to store your albums or stock pages containing stamps upright.

Lastly, stamps should be kept out of direct sunlight; sunlight will eventually cause a noticeable fading of the colors on stamps. If you plan to frame your stamps, it is best to use glass that provides protection from ultraviolet (UV) light.

Display Ideas

Stockpages, such as those sold under the brand names Vario and Safe, are excellent for both safely storing and attractively displaying your collection. The most popular stockpages are rigid with a black vinyl background and crystal clear pockets on both sides (double-sided). These pages are free of chemical softeners, so your stamps will be safe. They are typically hole-punched to fit both standard 3-ring or European 4-ring binders. The clear pockets hold stamps firmly in place, yet the stamps can be moved easily from one location to another as your collection grows and evolves. The pages are available with one through eight horizontal rows of pockets per side (sizes 1 through 8), or with vertical pocket arrangements. Fewer rows equals larger pocket height. Stockpages that are "all clear" (without an opaque black background) are also available for when you would like to see both sides of an item in a pocket. These all clear stockpages have pockets on only one side (single-sided). Note that we list the measurements of the stamps and stamp sheets offered on our site- you can simply match the stamp/sheet measurement with the pocket measurement, but keep in mind that it would be best to choose pocket sizes a bit larger than the stamps so that they will be fully protected (if your stamps extend above the height of the pocket, you can provide added protection by simply placing a sheet of paper between adjacent stockpages).

Binders for stockpages (and other stamp album pages) are available from stamp collecting supplies dealers but any 3-ring or 4-ring binder designed for 8.5" x 11" pages should work just fine.

An alternative to these specialized stockpages, especially for larger items, is to simply insert the stamps/sheets into archival clear sheet protectors; these are relatively inexpensive and available at office supply stores (OfficeMax, Staples, etc.). It would be best to first insert a sheet of heavy-weight paper or card stock into the sleeve to provide added stiffness and protection.

 

Stockbooks are hard-covered albums with pages made of extra-heavy black or white card stock. The pages typically have 8 or 9 clear strips per side for tightly holding inserted stamps in place. Good quality stockbooks have glassine interleave sheets between the card-stock pages to prevent stamps on facing pages from interacting with each other. The pockets in these stockbooks hold stamps in place a bit more tightly than do the stockpage pockets. Inserted stamps/sheets that are taller than the pockets, which is the usual case, are securely held in place (and protected by the glassine interleaves). A very good option for topical stamp collections.

 

Photo albums

Photo albums with archival pocket-type pages would work just fine for displaying your stamps, though you are limited by the available pocket sizes.  DO NOT use photo album pages that are coated with a tacky substance that prevents photos from moving- this will eventually stick tightly, even permanently, to stamps and the adhesive may bleed into the stamp paper.

 

Homemade stamp album pages

Many collectors design their own album pages and use mounts (see below) to arrange stamps on the pages. These pages can be hand-drawn/written, or designed with a computer software program (Adobe PageMaker, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, etc.). You will want to use acid-free paper so that the pages do not eventually discolor- the chemical change that causes this can affect stamps as well. Except for cheaper quality papers (such as cheap copy paper and newsprint paper), most papers manufactured today are acid-free. Heavy weight paper will yield a nicer and more durable album page: examples are Wausau Premium Card Stock (65 lb.), Wausau Exact Bristol (67 lb.), and Wausau Exact Index (110 lb.). These and similar good quality papers are available in a variety of colors at office supply stores (such as OfficeMax, Staples, etc.).

Your album pages can either be hole-punched or inserted into clear sheet protectors (with 3-ring holes in the margin); add a nice binder and you are all set.

Attractive and high quality papers can also be found at scrapbooking stores and many general craft stores. In fact, a scrapbooking album would serve well as an album for displaying your stamp collectibles (perhaps together with your other paper collectibles or artwork).

 

Mounting Postage Stamps

For the mounting of stamps and stamp sheets, special mounts with crystal clear archival pockets (with either a clear or black backing) are available from stamp collecting supplies dealers. Also available are clear, archival mounting corners for larger items. We will also describe the use of stamp hinges, but their use with mint stamps is not advised.

Mounting corners for use with stamp sheets, cards and envelopes have a permanent self-stick acrylic (archival) adhesive on the back and a triangular pocket for insertion of a stamp sheet or envelope corner (you will need one for each corner). Different sizes are available.

Stamp mounts are available from supply dealers in a large variety of types and sizes. Common brands are Scott, Prinz, Showgard and Hawid. Scott and Prinz mounts are identical (produced by the same company; only the branding is different). Each of these brands are available with black-backs and with clear backs. Stamp mounts are easy to use and they protect your stamps. All mounts are pre-gummed (moisture-activated adhesive) on the entire back. Some mounts are supplied pre-cut (e.g., for standard-sized horizontal or vertical U.S. commemorative stamps), but they are also available in strips that are intended to be cut to a desired width. Using either a paper cutter (guillotine-type cutters work best) or a straight edge and razor blade (or Exacto-type knife), the mounts can be trimmed to the desired width. Scissors can also be used for trimming, but it is difficult to obtain a perfectly straight edge.  Stamp mounts are a good option when mounting corners are not acceptable (e.g., for individual stamps, for framing projects, or for appearance reasons) and you would like to keep your mint stamps or stamp sheets with pristine gum in unhinged (see below) condition.

Scott, Prinz and Showgard mounts for individual stamps are open at the sides and have a slit opening in the middle of the back for insertion of the stamp. Hawid mounts are different- they are open at the sides and top. The back side of Hawid brand mounts and the inserted stamp/stamp sheet will lie flat against the page, while the top side of the mount may not lie completely flat against the stamp or stamp sheet.  Despite the very slightly raised top side, stamps will be held securely in place- they should not shift around during normal album handling or page turning.  An advantage of Hawid mounts is that stamp insertion and removal is easier than with Scott, Prinz or Showgard mounts.  An additional advantage of Hawid mounts is that the tops, as well as the sides, can be trimmed to the desired dimensions (Scott, Prinz and Showgard mounts are not to be trimmed at the top); this means that a single mount size can be trimmed to fit stamps of varying heights (the height of the original mount and lesser heights)- fewer mount packages need be purchased to accommodate your variable stamp sizes. Unfortunately, Hawid mounts are also more expensive.

Scott, Prinz and Showgard mounts hold stamps a bit more firmly in place than do Hawid mounts, and the top side of the mount lies flat. As mentioned above, to aid in the insertion and removal of stamps, these mounts are slit (open) along the center of the back. When the back is wetted to activate the adhesive, it is important to wet only the top half or the bottom half (but not both) of the back, and to be careful not to wet the back too close to the slit (which could cause moisture to reach the inserted stamp).

Stamp hinges are small pieces of pre-folded glassine paper with a water-activated adhesive on one side.  One part of the fold is lightly moistened (with tongue or damp sponge/paper towel), then adhered to the stamp; the other part of the fold is similarly moistened and adhered to the album page.  Larger items (e.g., souvenir sheets) may require 2 or more hinges (mounting corners are recommended for large items).  Supposedly, stamp hinges are peelable, meaning that, after the adhesive has dried, they can be peeled off of the stamp without damaging the stamp paper.  While this used to be true (prior to the mid 1980's),This is rarely true in practice with any stamp hinges being manufactured today. Therefore, be very careful if you wish to remove a hinge from a mint stamp; the best option may be to leave it attached to the back of the stamp, trimming off the non-adhered portion.

If disturbing the gum on the back of mint stamps is not a concern and you do not care that a stamp cannot be removed from the paper to which it is attached (perhaps the case for framing, scrapbooking, or an art project), you can of course lightly moisten the back of the stamp (or simply peel and stick self-adhesive stamps)  and use the stamp's own adhesive for mounting. Do note that by doing so you will have essentially eliminated the value of the stamp to other collectors.

 

Framing postage stamps

Being miniature works of art, stamps and stamp sheets that are matted and framed can look great hanging on a wall.  Framing projects may involve a single stamp in a miniature frame (a nice small scale building or doll house idea), a large selection of stamps, or stamps together with collateral memorabilia or artwork.  Any of the postage stamp mounting techniques mentioned above could be applied for stably mounting the stamps, though the use of clear stamp mounts is a popular method for mint stamps. 

The easiest approach to framing stamps, though likely also the most expensive, is to mount your stamps and collateral material with a pleasing arrangement on heavy-weight paper or card stock and to then have a professional framer complete the matting and framing work.  Whether you decide to take this route, or to do all of the work yourself, a visit to the website Framing4yourself.com would be beneficial (link provided below).  This is the best framing web site we have come across; it is loaded with tips and instructional guides.

Framing4yourself.com



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