How to Store Stamps

By Kathleen Wunderly

Every collector needs a variety of storage methods, temporary and permanent. No matter how you store your stamps, always try to prevent damage - from folding, creasing, too high humidity (which can lead to mold and attract insects), too much light (which causes fading), or chemical damage from acidic paper or unsafe plastics.

For duplicate stamps and covers you won't be keeping, everybody seems to use ordinary cardboard fileboxes (or even a shoebox), sometimes in glassine envelopes. This is a short-term storage method. Glassine envelopes come in many different sizes. Often the stamps or covers you get from dealers will be in glassines, which are made of a special kind of thin paper, either see-through or a cloudy white color. Glassine paper is not acid-free, so it is not a good idea to leave stamps and covers in glassines indefinitely. Also, the glue holding the glassine envelope together sometimes leaves stains on covers stored in them. Glassines also can trap moisture if your stamp room is humid, and your stamps will stick to the inside of the envelopes. The only way to get them out is to soak them in water.

Stockpages are 8 x 11 inch stiff sheets (like manila folders are made of), usually 3-hole-punched, with strips made of the same kind of paper as the backing page, open at the top, pasted in rows down the page. You can insert stamps in the strips, and keep them safe and flat (although you can only see the top half of the stamps). Sometimes a quantity of stockpages are bound into stockbooks; some stockbooks have strips made of glassine. They also come in index-card size, and are called stockcards. Stockpages are useful for storing duplicates. You can put them in any 3-ring binder.

Another kind of stockpage, more expensive but better for long-term use, is a stiff page made of plastic or cardstock, usually black and 3-hole-punched, with clear plastic strips in rows, open at the top of each strip. The plastic strips may be in 8 or 10 rows, to hold many stamps per page, or only 1 or 2 strips per page, to hold small sheets of stamps or covers. They come in many different formats. Just place your stamp or cover behind the plastic strip, and put the page in a three-ring binder. You can rearrange items easily, and can see the entire item. Some people mount all their material in these self-storing pages, as their permanent storage system.

But, most collectors traditionally put their permanent collection of stamps or covers in an album, either one of the major standard commercial albums or one they have made themselves. Thanks to computers, it is easy to create your own album pages with whatever words and graphics you want. Standard albums come in different formats: some have a space for each stamp with the catalogue number marked, others have spaces with small pictures of the stamp that belongs there, others are blank. Some albums have plastic mounts already in the spaces (hingeless or self-mounting albums) and some have the collector use hinges or mounts to attach the stamps.

Commercial albums are not cheap; most collectors choose one brand of album and use it for their lifetime, getting supplement pages for new stamps as they become available. An album is a big decision, and until you make up your mind, you can store your stamps safely in stockpages or the self-mounting pages, or make your own album by buying some good-quality paper, a ring-binder, and stamp hinges or stamp mounts. Covers can be safely stored in plastic protectors (or glassines) and filed in boxes, unless or until you decide on a cover album, which has special pages with slots for the envelopes.

Stamp hinges are inexpensive, tiny folded pieces of glassine with glue on the back. Lick your finger and touch it to the smaller fold of the hinge and attach it a little below the top of the stamp. Then lick your finger and touch it to the other fold of the hinge and attach the stamp to the page. If you don't wet the hinge too much, you should be able to remove it safely later on from the page and from the stamp. Stamp mounts are plastic "pouches" with a self-adhesive strip to attach to the page. Mounts are the preferred way to mount your "best" stamps, especially the mint ones, because they keep the stamp untouched. Mounts also protect stamps from creasing as you turn the pages of your album.

Never use any kind of tape to attach your stamps in an album or anywhere else! There is no tape on the market today that is safe to use on your stamps - the sticky part of the tape will stain and/or tear your stamps, and ruin them.

AskPhil for a dealer in your city or area, so that you can find the storage supplies that you need, or go to a stamp show in your area, where there will be dealers selling supplies.