Mounting & Storing Stamps & Covers


Stamps and covers are perishable commodities whose greatest enemy is water, in liquid or in vapor form. More stamps have been ruined by moisture than by any other cause. To preserve the value of your philatelic material, you must take precautions to keep it safe and dry.

Never store your albums, stockbooks, cartons, etc. in the attic or the basement. Attics can get extremely hot in the summer; basements can be very humid and are subject to flooding.

If your collection is mounted, keep the books in an upright position. Otherwise the weight of the book or books will compress some of the stamps against their pages and will make sticking easier. Stuck stamps are very difficult to remove from the page without damage to the gum.

Covers (stamps on envelopes) or postal cards can be stored upright in convenient sized boxes in a dry place. The box should be provided with a lid to keep out dust. There are many kinds of clear plastic storage boxes, which can be used without harm to the material.

There has been much concern the last few years about the acidic content of paper and other materials such as PVC (vinyl). Over a long period of time, some of the acidic material may leach out and cause the stamp or cover to discolor or become brittle. We've all seen how a white newspaper page will become yellowed after a few days' exposure to the sun. If your material is to be permanently mounted, it would be a good idea to find out if the pages or mounts are acid-free.


For many years, the commonest form of mounting stamps was by using stamp hinges, pieces of gummed glassine material which were moistened and folded, with the small part attached to the stamp and the larger part to the page. Invariably, when a gummed stamp is hinged, a mark is left on the gum when the hinge is removed. In recent years, the trend among many collectors is to want never- hinged stamps, which command a price from a 50% to several hundred percent premium over that of the hinged stamps.

Manufacturers of stamp supplies have developed products to aid in the mounting of stamps while keeping the gum intact. Stamp mounts, which consist of plastic sheaths of various widths, gummed on the back, are readily available. The stamp is measured to select the proper width of mount, and the mount is cut to the proper length. The stamp is easily placed in the mount, the back moistened, and the mount affixed to the page. Disadvantages of the mount system are the need to have a large number of widths on hand, and the cost of 2.5 to 5 cents per stamp for the material.

Hingeless albums are also available. These have the mounts already attached to the album pages, so that you need only to insert the stamp in the mount. These have the advantage of convenience, but are not cheap, with a cost of $150-300 for even a middle-sized country.

The method of mounting is a question of economics. If you collect used stamps, if your material has already been hinged, or if it is predominantly inexpensive material, special mounts would not repay their cost. But if you buy expensive never-hinged material, or if you have high-value used material, the added protection of the mounts will help protect the value of your stamps when it comes time to dispose of them.

No type of tape, rubber cement, or any other adhesive should be used to mount the stamp. Likewise, the gum on the stamp should not be moistened to stick the stamp to its page. For covers, there are albums with plastic pockets of a fixed size, which are useful for U.S. First Days, which are pretty well standardized in size.

Cover mounts, similar to stamp mounts, are available, but expensive. A less expensive method is to use philatelic mounting corners, which hold the cover in place on a page. For added protection, a plastic page protector can be used over the page. Do not use so-called magnetic photo albums, as they have adhesive on their pages. The pages will discolor badly after several years, and the covers may stick to the page, resulting in damage when they are removed.

Most beginning collectors aren't too sure of what they want to collect, and often a well-meaning parent will purchase a gigantic album about five inches thick, covering all the countries of the world. The scattering of stamps which the beginner acquires are lost in the immensity of the album, and the impossibility of filling more than a few pages soon becomes apparent. Interest is lost, and the investment is wasted.

A more modest beginning album is recommended. When that is outgrown, perhaps you will have a better idea of your collecting interest. If you decide to specialize in a certain country or group of countries, specialty albums can be bought at a moderate price.

Many collectors find that printed albums are not the answer, as they might want to mount different shades, plate variations, or multiples of the same stamp, or they might have two copies, both of which they want to keep. In those cases, blank pages are available. Some have fancy borders and most have a faint squared design printed on the paper to help in locating where you want to mount the stamps. Blank pages are available for three-hole binders, or for various types of matched philatelic binders.

If you are accumulating material, but haven't definitely decided what to collect, consider temporary storage on manila stock cards. These are punched for a three-ring binder, have as many as twelve pockets, and can hold from 100-250 stamps. Cost is about 35 cents each, and they may be obtained from almost any stamp dealer. - Dan Anderson.

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