Today’s stamp is one of the best-known to portray a stamp album. Even more popular may be Scott #C16 issued by the Principality of Monaco in 1947, with its photograph of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt perusing his stamp albums. That stamp was featured on A Stamp A Day in April 2017; President Roosevelt’s varied stamp-related activities are found in a number of articles on ASAD with a full (philatelic) biography appearing this past January on what would have been his 136th birthday. The stamp pictured today comes from the U.S. joint issue with Sweden mentioned in yesterday’s article, a set that remains my favorite of all those picturing some aspect of our hobby of stamp collecting. Another stamp from that U.S. issue was previously featured on ASAD in February 2017.
Most stamp collectors start using a printed stamp album very early after entering the hobby. A stamp album has been defined as “a book, often loose-leafed (to allow for expansion), in which a collection of postage stamps may be stored and displayed.” Albums are the nearly universal means for keeping stamps, used for both beginners’ and world-class collections, and it is common to characterize the size of a collection by its number of albums.
Most young collectors begin with a general worldwide stamp album. My own first album was a Scott Modern, published in 1938, given to me as a birthday or Christmas gift in December 1974. I was nine years old. My mother had started collecting along with her big brother George (I was given his boyhood album several years later) when they lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, during World War II. They lived across the street from the State Capitol building (now called the Bataan War Memorial Building) and would dig through the trash dumpsters there looking for the envelopes that government agencies received from all over the world. My mother was quite young when she did this bit of “thievery”, around five or six years old. At any rate, these were nice starter albums fairly full of stamps from Europe and Africa but weak in Asia. I wish I still owned them.
Caught up in the Bicentennial frenzy of 1975 and 1976, I saved my pennies and eventually bought a copy of the Liberty stamp album published by H.E. Harris & Company. I also had a Harris album for the United Nations at some point. Another worldwide album followed (“the Traveller”, I believe that was also an H.E. Harris product) and by my twenties I was able to afford a Scott National album for U.S. stamps, complete with slipcase. It was quite specialized but it was around this time that I took my first lengthy hiatus away from stamps. When I returned to the hobby, I fell in love with Davo hingeless albums, purchasing one for Great Britain and then forming country collections for Åland and the Faroe Islands as I felt they would be fairly easy to complete. I had other albums as well but sold everything when I moved to Thailand nearly 14 years ago.
I began collecting stamps once again not long after settling into my home on Phuket island and quickly found a complete lack of stamp dealers. Thus, stamp albums for my just-started collection of Siam and Thailand were unavailable (I could have ordered some from overseas but shipping costs are quite prohibitive). There are firms in Thailand that create “collector pages” for some of the new issues, rather ornate affairs with the stamps mounted thereon and information printed on the back in Thai. I began using stockpages in binders; at the time, three-ringed binders were difficult to find in Phuket and one was forced to use those with two rings in the center which caused pages to droop in odd ways. Luckily, three-, six- and nine-ringed binders are now available. For my “Stamps From (Almost) Everywhere” collection, I began creating my own pages but most of my collection remains housed on stockpages. Recently, I began creating a digital representation of my collection using my stamps (I have scanned every stamp that I own) and placed upon .jpg versions of Steiner pages (more on these later in the article). While I love the appearance of rows of stamp albums sitting upon a wall of shelves, this stockbook and digital approach works the best for me at the moment (and I don’t have to order hinges or mounts from overseas, saving all sorts of money).
I find the early history of stamp collecting and philately to be quite fascinating and I tried to give an account of this in an ASAD article several days ago. In that entry, I stated that “the first stamp album was published by Lallier in December 1862.” I have since found information pushing that date back to the beginning of the same year. In fact, there were several different albums issued around the same time so it is still no known conclusively which was the first to actually be available to collectors. The one that most people to have been the pioneer album was published French archaeologist Justin Lallier in Paris in February or March 1862.
An article by Lewis G. Quackenbush in the Philatelic Journal of America for April 1894, discussed the Lallier album:
“This work, viewed today, seems crude and primitive in the extreme, yet we can easily imagine the enthusiasm with which it must have been greeted on its appearance. Its success was instantaneous, and so great and so universal was the demand for it that no less than seven editions of work were sold in the first five years of its existence.
“The first edition of this album contained spaces for about twelve hundred stamps. No room was provided for varieties of perforation, or of watermark; in fact, no attention whatever was paid to either of these at that time. It contained no illustrations, and arrangement of the book was very imperfect, indeed, practically no provision being made for future issues, and the pages being very much overcrowded. The spaces designed for the reception of the stamps were small, and if the collector did not desire to have his specimens overlap each other, he was obliged to trim off the perforations, and sometimes even a part of the stamp itself.
“The spaces for stamped envelopes were round, and collectors were expected to cut their envelopes to fit the spaces. Very many valuable stamps were destroyed by being cut in this way, and many an old-time collector who carefully clipped off all traces of perforation on the stamps he then possessed now groans in anguish at the thought of the money which he threw away by so doing.“
English, German and Spanish editions of Lallier’s album were soon published with the English version becoming the leading stamp album sold in the United States through the late 1860s and early 1870s. The final edition appeared in 1876, several years following Lallier’s death. In Quackenbush’s words, “His were by far the greatest of the early albums and will be remembered long after the mediocre works of his contemporaries have been forgotten. His albums were, for their time, remarkably meritorious, and their influence in the advancement and building up of philately can hardly be over-estimated.”
There were a few other Parisian publishers whose stamp albums also appeared in 1862; one published by Laplante is regarded as an imitation of Lallier’s work and stamp dealer E. Requard is believed to have issued an album around this time but no definite traces of it now exist. It is thought that the first stamp albums published in Germany were those of Ludwig and a stamp dealer known as Wallig, both in Leipzig in late 1862.
In 1864, Jean-Baptiste Moens of Brussels, issued an album soon proclaimed as the best to have appeared up to that point. Moens was a Belgian philatelist recognized as the first dealer in stamps for collectors as well as one of the original philatelic journalists. Born on May 27, 1833, he began collecting stamps from his family’s mail as a boy in Tournai. He was the son of Colette Blangenois and Phillipe Moens, a soldier. He began with a small business in coins. By 1853, at age nineteen, he was buying and selling new and second-hand books, and stamps, from the Galerie Borthier, a covered walkway in central Brussels. Within a decade he was putting out a stamp catalog with illustrated supplements. This was published with Louis Hancian in March 1862. The Manuel des collectionneurs de timbres-poste (Handbook for Stamp Collectors) was the first of its kind in Belgium and the second in the French language, following that of the Parisian, Alfred Potiquet.
Also in 1862, Moens published De la falsification des timbres-poste (On the falsification of postage stamps) to alert stamp enthusiasts to the abundance of forgeries. He began the first French language philatelic monthly, Le Timbre-Poste, which ran from 1863 until 1900, as well as a series on fiscal stamps from 1874 until 1896. Amazingly, Moens also became the owner of eight of the “Post Office” Mauritius stamps and, in 1878, published the first of his works on the early stamps of Mauritius, Les Timbres de Maurice depuis leur origine jusqu’à nos jours (The Stamps of Mauritius from their Origin until Today). Author Helen Morgan noted, “All that is known of the discovery of the first specimens of the Post Office issue, indeed of much of the history of the handful of those stamps eventually found, came from his pen in the late 1890s. He handled most of the Post Office stamps discovered by Madame Borchard in the late 1860s.”
Jean-Baptiste Moens died in Ixelles on April 28, 1908, and was interred there in the Ixelles Cemetery. His passing was noted by the philatelic press, many referring to him as The Father of Philately.
The first English stamp album appeared in 1866. This was the first edition of Oppen’s album, published by a London stamp dealer known only as Stevens. Prior to this, British collectors used French albums with English title pages as well as some of the German albums with bilingual text. It was followed in the same year by the Mulready album, and then after an interval of a few years came the albums of Alfred Smith and Stanley Gibbons.
The first stamp album to have been published in the United States was printed by D. Appleton & Company of New York in 1863. Apparently, there was a smaller, pocket-sized edition of this album, “hastily and imperfectly compiled” according to Quackenbush, that appeared in December 1862. The authorship of both of the Appleton albums has been attributed to J. Walter Scott, but this may be in error. The large edition of Appleton’s album published in early 1863 was made of rather cheap paper..
“The title page is embellished with a cut of the globe, evidently borrowed from some geography. In fact the whole work bears a strong resemblance to the old time geographies. The countries are not placed in alphabetical order, but under the heads of the different continents. North America comes first, then South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceanica in the order named. The British, French, Spanish and Danish possessions in the West Indies come under different heads. At the beginning of each subdivision is a map of the continent whose stamps fill the succeeding spaces. These maps and pictures of the coats of arms of a few of the United States comprise the only illustrations to be found in the book. At the beginning of each country is the name, area, population and name of largest city, as well as a brief catalogue of its stamps. Following this information come the spaces for the stamps. These spaces are not exactly square, but better described as oblong, and give ample room for the stamps without any portion of them being clipped. There are twenty-four spaces to a full page, and the entire book contains spaces for nearly four thousand varieties. On the whole, the book is about on a par with the albums for young collectors sold at the present day for twenty-five cents; yet the collectors of the ‘60s eagerly purchased these books at the remunerative price of $3 apiece.” —Lewis G. Quackenbush, Philatelic Journal of America (April 1894)
The first edition of a stamp album published by Boston booksellers W.H. Hill and Company appeared in either 1863 or 1864, written by M. Bennett Jr. of Hartford, Connecticut. The album was similar in style to that of the Appleton but in much better quality and layout. An advertisement for the album appeared in the American Stamp Mercury for February 1868:
“Hill’s Boston album contains places for three thousand stamps, including United States Revenues; is divided into countries, each country having sufficient squares for all past, present, and future issues, with places for the coat of arms and flags of each country. It is printed in carmine ink, on extra fine paper, and is the best album published in America, cloth, gilt sides, $3; post free, $3.25.”
A second edition of Hill’s album, revised by S. Allan Taylor, was published in 1865. The publishers, however, neglected to employ sufficient care in reading the proofs, and this oversight resulted in some of the most egregious blunders to be noted in the history of album making.
The first album produced by John Walter Scott was published in 1868. Born on November 2, 1845, in England, Scott emigrated to New York City, where he began selling postage stamps in 1863 or 1864. He published the first significant stamp journal in America in 1868, entitled American Journal of Philately. In September of the same year, Scott published his first stamp catalogue, a 21-page pamphlet with the title Descriptive Catalogue of American and Foreign Postage Stamps, Issued from 1840 to Date, Splendidly Illustrated with Colored Engravings and Containing the Current Value of each Variety. It purported to list all the stamps of the world, with prices for each. A notice inside does caution the reader that “it is simply impossible for any one to always have every stamp” in stock. In a short period of time, his Scott catalog became the leading stamp catalog in the United States and remains so to this day.
Late that year, or possibly early in 1869, Scott issued his first stamp album with spaces for specially printed labels showing world leaders and himself. The American Postage Stamp Album almost wholly supplanted the Appleton and Hill albums. The publishers of both of these works had lost money on their ventures, and both soon went out of the business altogether, leaving Scott in sole possession of the field. Quackenbrush described this first Scott album as follows:
“The American album had no illustrations, that custom only coming into vogue on the publication of the Common Sense album some four years later. Like all of the early albums, the American was considerably wider than it was high, and in shape somewhat resembled Scott’s Imperial album of the present day. In general arrangement it bore great resemblance to its forerunner, Appleton’s; in fact, the resemblance was so striking that many philatelic historians look on it as simply an imitation of the earlier work. The paper, however, was much better than that used in Appleton’s, and it was far more satisfactory to most collectors from the fact that it was more “up to date,” to use another slangy word which has gained considerable currency of late. It contained spaces sufficient to hold all the stamps issued up to the time of its publication, whereas Appleton’s only contained room for those issued up to 1863. There was one feature of the American album which did not prove popular. The book was printed in green ink, which, as may be imagined, gave the pages a very inartistic appearance.”
The American Stamp Album had new editions published each year from 1869 until 1871. The fifth edition in 1872 was renamed The Common Sense Stamp Album, which was the first to provide illustrations of the stamps. According to Quackenbrush, “The wood cuts which adorned the pages of the first edition of the Common Sense were exceedingly crude and rough, but it was an important step in the evolution of the stamp album, nevertheless, and Mr. Scott ought to have been heartily thanked by the collectors of that time for so valuable an innovation.”
Scott issued the first edition of the International album in 1875:
“The issuance of the International album marked the beginning of a new era in album making. It was far ahead of any similar work on the market, and at once became the leading album of America, a position which it has succeeded in holding through many years of strong competition until very lately it has been left far in the rear by the Mekeel albums. Until the Mekeel’s entered the race, the International had triumphed over all its competitors, and had practically monopolized the album trade on this side of the Atlantic. Eleven editions of the work have been issued, including the new 1894 edition, recently put on the market. As, of course, most of my readers know, Mr. Scott, himself, has had nothing to do with the later editions. He severed his connection with the firm, who at present publish it, about eight years ago, and disposed of the copyright to them outright.“
Scott had been innovative in business methods apart from his catalog and album publishing endeavors and conducted the first postage stamp auction ever held. This was held on May 28, 1870, in New York City. This was a success and he continued to organize and conduct auctions in the United States and in Europe. He also was the first, in 1882, to issue an auction catalog with full color plates of the stamps on sale. He was also the first to sell a postage stamp to collectors for over one thousand dollars. In 1885, John Walter Scott sold the rights to his business to the Calman brothers who renamed it the Scott Stamp and Coin Company.
Scott continued his stamp business after a legal battle over the use of his name (which he won) and continued publishing philatelic literature, such as The Metropolitan Philatelist, the J. W. Scott & Co., Ltd. Weekly News Letter, and the John W. Scott’s Junior Weekly Letter, later renamed the John W. Scott’s Weekly Bulletin. . He was one of the founding members of the Collectors Club of New York in 1896 and was active in the American Philatelic Society where he was president from 1917 until his death on January 4, 1919.
The first albums published by the firm of Stanley Gibbons in London were the “V.R.” stamp albums in the early 1870s. Founder Edward Stanley Gibbons was born at his father William Gibbons’ chemist shop at 15 Treville Street, Plymouth on June 21, 1840, Edward’s interest in postage stamps began whilst at Halloran’s Collegiate School. He joined his father’s business after the death of his elder brother. William Gibbons encouraged his son’s hobby and allowed him to set up a stamp desk in the chemist. Between 1861 and 1871, Gibbons developed his own stamp business. Edward’s father died in 1867 and he took over the business. By this time, he was heavily involved in stamp dealing and the pharmaceutical business his father had left him was sold.
In 1874, two years following his marriage to Matilda Woon, Gibbons relocated to 25 The Chase, Clapham Common in South London, to develop his stamp business. He employed women to tear up sheets of stamps in the evening from this address. Neighbors became curious of the number of women entering the premises and reported it to the local Watch Committee, however they investigated and concluded that nothing unusual was happening there. In 1876, Gibbons moved to Gower Street, London. The Post Office Directory lists the main occupier of the Gower Street property as ‘Stanley Gibbons & Co publishers’ or ‘Stanley Gibbons & Co postage stamp dealers’.
Gibbons’ “V.R.” stamp album was followed by the Improved and then the illustrated Imperial albums, the latter of which continues to be published. Gibbons’ death was recorded on February 17, 1913, at his nephew’s apartment at Portman Mansions, just off Baker Street, although it was rumored he had died in the arms of a lover at the Savoy Hotel and was subsequently transported to his nephew’s house. His death certificate gives his occupation as “A retired Stamp Collector” and the cause was stated as “Coma, Haemorrhage of the Brain, secondary to Extensive Valvular Disease of the Heart with Atheroma of Endocardium and the Blood Vessels accelerated by enlarged prostate”. He is buried in Twickenham cemetery.
In the earliest albums, stamps were adhered to the pages, using either their own gum (as if put on an envelope) or glue. Stamp hinges were introduced in the latter half of the nineteenth century, allowing stamps to be removed without major damage to either the stamp or the album page. In the second half of the 20th century, stamp mounts were introduced. Mounts typically hold the stamp between two layers of plastic, with the front layer transparent, and are attached to an album page, allowing the stamp to be displayed without an adhesive touching the stamp. When properly used, mounts allow the stamp to be removed from the album in the same condition in which it was inserted. An album in which the mounts are affixed at the factory, either as mounts for individual stamps or as larger strips, is called “hingeless”.
Present-day makers of stamp albums include Safe, Lighthouse (Leuchturm), Lindner, Palo, Scott, Stanley Gibbons, and White Ace. Once collectors have started using a particular brand, they have a strong incentive to stay with it, and the manufacturers offer annual updates for the stamps issued during the previous year. Better-quality albums have padded covers, which reduces possible pressure on the stamps exerted by adjacent albums on a shelf. Careful collectors do not cram albums tightly together, so as allow for a bit of air movement through the pages, and to prevent gum oozing or sticking.
Many collectors buy preprinted albums and pages. The gamut ranges from worldwide albums, with only enough spaces for the common stamps and a few more, to one-country albums with spaces for every type of stamp known. The usual format is to print a black-and-white picture of the stamp in each space, reduced in size so that a real stamp will cover it up, and add a thin frame around the stamp. Captions range from minimal mentions of perforation or watermark, up to a paragraph giving a little background on the stamp’s subject. Pages in better albums are almost always one-sided; two-sided pages save space, but require interleaving sheets to prevent stamps from catching on each other.
A growing number of collectors prefer designing their own album pages. The arrangement of stamps on such customized pages depends on the taste of the collector and the purpose of the collection. A collection with “one of each” stamp may have rows of stamps packed onto each page, while a specialist’s page might have a dozen examples of the same type of stamp, each captioned with a description of printing details or color shades. Traditional page creation was done by hand with pen and ink; in recent years page layout software and computer printers have become popular. AlbumEasy, available free for both Windows and Linux, is an example of one of the many page layout programs.
A popular option is to purchase digital versions of album pages, often on a media such as CD or DVD in Portable Document Format (PDF). One can then print out pages as needed onto paper or card stock to fit their own binders or albums. There are numerous retailers online (eBay, for example) that sell these by individual countries, often in year blocks. A popular version of these print-as-needed pages are those created by Bill Steiner (referred to by collectors as “Steiner pages”). His website, Stamp Albums Web, contains over 200,000 U.S. and foreign pages with a complete set of over 6,500 Classic Era pages,
Steiner are sized for an 8½ by 11 inch standard American page, which can be adapted to European A4 paper as well. What’s especially nice about them is that they can fit into 3-hole binders, providing one with an inexpensive alternative to preprinted pages. The current cost for these is an annual subscription of US $50 which gets you a username and password that will let you download and print off anything and everything on the website for one year. Alternatively, one can purchase a CD-ROM that contains all of the pages on the website (it’s updated annually) which is useful for those with slow internet connections; the cost of the CD-ROM by itself is also $50 or you can buy it plus a subscription for $75.
It is also easy to adapt Steiner pages to one’s own needs using PDF-editing software. Many of the online stamp collector discussion groups online have at least one thread on “hacking” Steiner pages.
Stockbooks are storage books used by stamp collectors for storage of postage stamps placed in pockets, on pages, for easy viewing. These consist of a number of stiff pages, made up with horizontal pockets of manila paper, glassine paper or clear film, into which stamps are placed. Collectors can insert stamps side by side in a row or can overlap stamps when individual viewing is not necessary. The pages, usually double-sided, are bound into book form. The most popular sizes comprise between 4 and 32 double-sided pages with each page interleaved with a glassine, or clear, sheet to prevent stamps on adjacent pages from touching.
As with most stationery, most manufacturers refer to the number of sides in a stockbook and not to the number of pages, so stockbook advertised as a “16-page stockbook” contains 8 double-sided cardboard pages. Other philatelic items, such as plate blocks, miniature sheets, covers, lettersheets, etc., can also be stored in stockbooks.
Some collectors require more flexibility than a bound stockbook allows, because moving individual stamps from page to page can be time consuming and may cause damage. Several manufacturers produce individual stock pages that can be inserted into loose-leaf folders. Stock pages are usually sold in packages of multiple sheets of 5 or 10 to a packet. Stock pages are made from plastic or thick card. In either case they have clear pockets on one or both sides. These pockets are attached on three sides with the top side being open to insert the stamps.
On some sheets the pockets are attached to the page on one side only, that is the bottom side. The sides are left unattached so that the pocket can be lifted open to place a stamp or a philatelic item. This arrangement reduces the chance of damage, since unlike in a three-side-attached stock page the stamps are not inserted or pushed into a pocket.
Some of advantages and disadvantages of using stockpages are:
- As more stamps are acquired they can easily be rearranged.
- There is no need to use stamp hinges.
- Large gaps need not exist, as may happen with a stamp album that has fixed spaces for each particular stamp.
- There is no space for writing notes — some collectors do their write-up on a piece of paper and insert it behind a stamp or in an adjacent row.
- Stamps are not affixed so they can fall out, or become dislodged, if dropped or bumped hard.
- Stockbooks are less suitable for display since the stamps can fall out or be mishandled.
As I mentioned at the head of this article, I love the look of albums and how stamps appear on nice album pages (particularly if the page is full!). However, the cost of shipping albums to Thailand is prohibitively high and the few dealers in the country do not stock anything other than fairly flimsy stockbooks (the plastic in which is highly unlikely to be archival quality). Where I live, it is virtually impossible to find acid-free paper thick enough to print my own pages. For several years now, I have been ordering small batches of Vario-brand stockpages from a dealer in Great Britain who has reasonable postage fees and inserting these into locally-purchased binders (eventually, I will upgrade those and add slipcases). Recently, I’ve begun adapting PDF files of Steiner pages (basically just changing the font and size of the country titles) and adding scanned images of my stamps into the proper spaces thus creating a digital record of my collection on “proper” pages. Not only does it save me from having to print out the actual pages on paper of questionable quality, it saves me the dilemma of the hinge versus mount question (and the expense of purchasing either not to mention the high probably that the hinges will glue themselves to each other while being shipped to the tropics). For me, this is a good solution.
Scott #2199 was released in a booklet pane of four on January 23, 1986 (Scott #2201a, including one each of Scott #2198-2201) to promote the hobby of stamp collecting and the upcoming AMERIPEX ’86 international stamp exhibition , held in Chicago from May 22 through June 1, 1986. In an ingenious marketing tie-in, the cover of this booklet served as a free admission ticket to AMERIPEX. This was a joint issue with Sweden (Scott #1585-1588). The 22-cent stamps were The stamps were designed by Richard Sheaff, except the magnifying glass stamp (Scott #2200), which was designed by Eva Jern. The stamps were lithographed and engraved by Sterling Sommers for Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd., perforated 10 vertically.