For the longest time in the history of the hobby, the printed country and world albums, such as the Scott International album shown above, were the most popular way to display stamp collections. Typically, the more expensive albums would cover one country, such as Canada or US, or a group of countries in several volumes, and would include a space for every major Scott Catalogue Number from those countries. The spaces were laid out in a visually appealing nature, and not just crammed into the pages. The album bindings were generally a post system with a mechanism to "open and close" the album, so that pages could be added or removed. These bindings were generally designed so that the albums would lay relatively flat when open, which is a real plus if you are trying to view your collection. Blank pages with the same border styles, but otherwise blank are often available, as are yearly supplements covering the new issues for each year, so that such albums could be kept up to date.
The cheaper, beginner albums will generally allot between 1/4 of a page to 6 or 8 pages per country and would generally only include spaces for the more common stamps from each country. So, sets would not usually be complete, for instance. Printing is usually double sided, and all space on each page is generally taken up with illustrations or blank spaces. The bindings are usually a screw and post style, which may be opened and closed as before, but generally, these albums do not lie perfectly flat when open.
The pros of these types of albums are as follows:
- They provide a ready, built-in framework to structure your collection, so that many collectors who have these albums collect to try to fill the album. This way, they do not get too bogged down in the minutae of each stamp issue.
- They provide a nice layout for the stamps in your collection, and the completed pages on the more expensive albums look quite nice when complete.
- There is a sense of satisfaction that comes from completing a page.
- They are relatively inexpensive compared to the other options, when you consider the capacity of each album, especially if they do not include stamp mounts. Hingeless albums, containing pre-cut acetate stamp mounts on the other hand, are quite expensive.
- They avoid going into too much detail, as they are generally covering a broad range of issues. This is an advantage to the collector who does not want to get into a lot of detail.
- You can achieve some flexibility for items not illustrated, with blank pages.
The cons of these types of albums include:
- Flexibility is limited, in terms of how you display your stamps. The page layouts are set, and cannot be changed. Also, although you can put unlisted items on blank pages, you will still need to find a way to print wordings in a font that matches the rest of the album, which can be difficult.
- The paper used for the pages of the larger albums and cheaper albums is of lower weight and quality, which can cause the pages to buckle when a large number of stamps are mounted on them. This is especially so if you are mounting stamps on both sides of each page. The buckling is not really a serious problem, per-se, but many collectors find it less appealing visually.
- These albums tend to emphasize what is missing, with the blank spaces on each page, rather than encouraging you to celebrate and appreciate the stamps you already have.
- They do not go into much detail, and so they are not really suitable if you plan to collect in any kind of a specialized manner, unless you are willing to use and design a lot of blank pages, in which case, they are just fine.
- Although the initial album purchase is relatively inexpensive, the cost of annual supplements can become quite high, with many years costing upwards of $30-$50 now. So they are an expensive option if you want to keep them up to date.
- They do not offer the stamps complete protection from moisture in the sense that if they are kept in a humid room, the stamps will become stuck to the pages.
- Your stamps can get "caught" on one another if you mount them on both sides of the album pages. As a result, your stamps can sometimes get creased or damaged.
- If the hinges or mounts come loose, stamps can fall out of the album.
If you decide to go with this option, you will need to decide on a brand. The leading manufacturer for world albums in North America is still Scott Publishing. Minkus and Harris used to be big names, but they are no longer in business, though you will find no shortage of used albums around. The used albums may be a good solution if you are not planning on collecting right up to date. If you want hingeless albums that already contain the mounts, then Lindner, Lighthouse and Davo are all good brand names, that produce albums for almost any country you could want.
Once you decide on a brand, you will have to decide on whether you wish to mount your stamps using stamp hinges, or whether you want to use acetate mounts. Hinges are little rectangular, pre-folded pieces of gummed glassine paper, which are moistened and attached to the back of the stamp on one end, and then affixed to the album page on the other. Acetate mounts come in strips that are of different widths, that open either at the top, or from the centre on the back outwards. The strips come in different widths, depending on the height of the stamps you are trying to mount. You place the stamp in the mount and then cut it to the desired width. I find that scissors don't generally give straight cuts. If you are going to use mounts, it is best to invest in the small guillotine cutters that are available from Lighthouse to cut them.
I find that good, peelable hinges are the best and cheapest way to mount used stamps and stamps with no gum, if you are concerned with hinging mint stamps. I don't mind hinged stamps myself, so I would use them on mint stamps without hesitation. But, because they are not very popular now, most brands of hinges on the market are not very good. For one thing, they are not very peelable. What I mean by peelable is that the hinge can be removed easily when dry, without fear of damaging the stamp. The best hinges in the business in this regard were Dennison hinges. They are a bluish green colour. Unfortunately, they have been out of production for decades. But, you can still find packages of 1000 hinges on the market for $30-$50, so they are not cheap anymore. Mounts can get expensive, but they really are the only one of these two solutions that are readily available from any retailer and will avoid disturbing the gum on mint stamps.
Blank Looseleaf Albums
This is similar to the above solution for printed albums, except that these albums have completely blank pages. Stanley Gibbons is the market leader here, with their Simplex, Senator, Utile and Frank Godden albums to name a few. Generally, the quality of the pages is much higher than the printed albums, and the bindings of the more expensive Godden albums are designed to lie completely flat when open.
The pros of this type of album include:
- Complete flexibility to arrange your collection in any way that you wish, and can include as much or as little detail as you wish, in terms of explanatory notes next to the stamps on the page.
- Relatively inexpensive for the less expensive albums, which can work out to be about 50c per page.
The cons are:
- You will have to find a way to print your borders and lettering on your pages. There are many online software templates that you can use to design your album pages, which you can find by clicking here. However, you have to take care to ensure that the album pages are of a size that are compatible with your printer. For example, much of the software in North America is designed for 8.5 x 11 inch pages, whereas many of the pages in the British Gibbons albums are A4 size, which is slightly different. Another route you can go which is time consuming, but very satisfying is to learn calligraphy and use special calligraphy pens to write your own pages out by hand.
- The more expensive albums can become a very expensive solution if your collection is large and includes a lot of blocks, proofs and covers. In addition to the album cost, you have to consider the cost of hinges or mounts and the printing costs. When these are factored in, blank albums can be quite expensive. But the nicest albums result in a beautiful display that cannot be surpassed by any other solution.
- As with all looseleaf albums, they offer only limited protection against humidity. All the other drawbacks inherent to printed albums apply here also.
Black Or Clear "Vario" or "Hagner" Pages