There are numerous factors in selecting stamp collections, with a number of options for display and storage. Are you starting a new stamp collection or transferring an old collection into a new home? We’ll help you through the basics of picking out a quality album.
First of all, what does your collection represent? It is important to have a clear intention when collecting stamps in order to build a cohesive and quality collection. Are you collecting any and all stamps worldwide, or prefer just one country? Are you a patriotic USA collector, or perhaps love to collect bird stamps? Do you have specialized material for the country you collect? Ask yourself what it is that you would like to collect and then focus on it. Here is a quick overview of types of collections.
There are fewer and fewer worldwide collectors nowadays because it is very expensive to keep up with new issues. If you do collect worldwide, we recommend collecting pre-1940. This is the classic era and such a collection would retain and most likely increase its value, depending on the quality you obtain. There are only two brand options for worldwide stamp albums. Scott has a worldwide album called the International Series that covers stamps to 1940. However, the issues that are shown on these pages are basic and do not cover all numbers listed in the Scott catalog. These are regular pages, not hingeless (see below). Meanwhile, Palo Premium pages are available for every country in the world to any designated year. These are offered as regular or hingeless pages. However, this can be quite expensive as there are at least 8000 pages up to 1940. But if you have an expensive and expansive collection, this would be recommended to dedicate the money and space to such an important collection. If you are a casual collector, just put your stamps in stockbooks. Other than that, any other worldwide album you may encounter will not be worth the paper it’s printed on.
The most popular of all countries, with so many options. First, determine exactly what you are collecting, and how. If you want to follow the Scott catalog listings it makes sense for you to have an album that is laid out according to Scott. There are just three options for this: Scott pages follow the Scott catalog, which include Scott numbers. These are available in regular pages and not hingeless. Scott also sells a hingeless album manufactured by the German company Schaubek. These also follow Scott with Scott numbers included. Palo sells regular and hingeless pages that follow Scott but without numbers.
Other USA albums available are Lindner, Davo, Lighthouse and Safe. All of these are hingeless albums, with the exception of Davo, which has both types. However, they generally follow the German catalog Michel which mixes the semi-postal and air post stamps together with the regular issues. If this is not important to you, then these are certainly options.
Another thing to consider regarding USA albums is how you want to collect the classic material (pre-1940). There are numerous printings for the same types of issues. One can collect all of these issues, or opt for a “simplified” album. Simplified albums generally have only one space for a stamp design that has multiple reprint varieties. The only album that offers this is Davo. After 1940, all the available USA albums are pretty much the same in the way of content. The least expensive USA album(s) on the market is Davo, both in regular and hingeless.
Palo is the only album manufacturer that produces albums for every country in the world, both in regular and hingeless forms. Scott is next on the list for selection, but they offer only regular albums. All the other companies are hingeless and offer mainly European, North American and some Asian and Oceania albums.
There are virtually hundreds of different topics you can collect. For this reason, topical collections are generally kept in stock books or mounted on blank or home-made pages. Palo sells about a dozen types of topical albums, with subjects ranging from Butterflies to Princess Diana, Disney to Dogs.
Whether you are starting a new collection or choosing to upgrade an older collection, it’s now time to look at what is available for storage and display. For the beginning collector, let’s start with the basics. There are two types of stamp album pages: regular and hingeless. Regular pages do not have mounts for affixing your stamps to the page - you will need to cut them yourself or use hinges. Hingeless pages already have mounts attached to the pages, so all you have to do is slide your stamp in. Much easier; but as a result, hingeless albums can cost up to 3 or 4 times the cost of a regular album. We estimate that if you buy a regular album and enough mounts for the entire album, it would cost about 20% less than a hingeless album. You will save money by doing this, but you also need to consider your measuring, cutting and application time. Not to mention that the accuracy of mounting may not be as precise as hingeless pages produced by manufacturers. Note that all hingeless albums have clear mounts, not black.
Stamp album companies lay out their pages according to different catalogs. The most common catalog in the United States is the Scott Catalog; both Palo and Scott albums are laid out according to this. Michel is a German catalog that is used by Davo, Lindner, Lighthouse, Safe and Schaubek (note: Schaubek’s USA album is Scott listed). Michel listings are more concise and thorough, as many varieties are included. Scott is very simple to read, and again – the majority of US collectors reference Scott.
Below is a brief description of the different album brands that are available. While other stamp album companies exist, the ones listed below are the most common and most likely to remain in business for years to come. All companies sell the pages and binders separately, except for Davo:
Davo: From the Netherlands, Davo offers about 60 different countries. All albums are hingeless, though they also offer USA in regular format. The binders are post binders and have the country coat of arms embossed on the cover and spine. Davo is the only company that includes the binder and slipcase with the album price.
Lighthouse: One of the leading companies in the world for philatelic albums and numismatic accessories, offering hingeless albums mostly for Europe and North America.
Lindner: Probably the best quality album manufacturer in the world, offering Europe, North America and some Asia and Oceania. Their hingeless system is a bit different. The pages are manufactured with an overlay plastic sheet with pockets that is attached to the paper page. Once the stamps are inserted, you can lift the plastic sheet and observe the back of the stamps without removing them. Another difference is that there is a black background behind the stamp image. This gives the impression of black mounts being used, therefore creating a contrast between the black background and the actual stamp.
Palo: Offers every country, current or dead, in the world in both regular or hingeless formats. Pages can be in color or black & white.
Safe: This German company offers a product similar to Lindner, except that their plastic overlay sheet is not attached to the page, but placed in the binder as a loose page in front of the paper page. Their country offerings are a bit fewer than Lindner.
Schaubek: Another German company with a quality level and selection that is similar to Lighthouse.
Scott: Mostly known for its catalogs, they offer an extensive selection of country albums with regular pages.
Selecting an album based upon the quality level of your stamp collection is crucial. If your collection is mostly used or very inexpensive, why spend money on a hingeless album? Chances are that the album will be worth more than the stamps – we wrote about the stamp album collector a few months ago. Instead, we suggest opting for a regular country album or a stock book. But if your collection is valuable and of good quality, then buying a quality album is a good investment - not only for organizing, but also for appearance. It is much more satisfying to view your stamps in this manner. And after all, the stamps’ beauty is what stamp collecting is all about!