Stamp care is almost as important as actually finding a stamp worth collecting. After all, if a stamp gets ruined, it doesn’t matter if it’s one in a million or one of a million. In order to keep your stamps in great condition, it’s essential to learn to mount them in an album.
To mount stamps in an album you first need to have the right equipment, including stamp mounts. Properly using stamp mounts and stamp hinges is vital for mounting stamps, and you also need to control conditions such as humidity to ensure your stamp collection doesn’t get damaged over time.
There are several aspects to stamp care that must be considered before mounting your first stamp. These include the methods chosen and how to use each one to minimize stamp damage. Below, we go over things you need to consider and tell you how to properly mount your stamps.
The Initial Choice To Make When Mounting Stamps
The most intense debate pertaining to stamp care is whether to use hinges or mounts for your stamps. Each has its pros and cons, and often the method chosen comes down to personal preference. Here is a summary of the debate and a suggestion at the end to get the most out of both.
Hinge Or Mount – A Debate For The Ages
If you collect stamps, chances are you have heard both sides of this debate. Hinges can damage stamps, primarily the gum on stamps. Mounts are expensive and some maintain that they really do not bring all that much different to the table.
What is not disputed are the historical trends. Over time, non-hinged stamps have almost always outsold (by volume) stamps that were hinged. Non-hinged stamps also sold for a higher value than hinged stamps. In fact, some estimates put the value difference between the two as a non-hinged stamp being worth double that of a stamp that has been hinged.
How Stamp Hinges Work
Hinges are small, rectangular pieces of paper that are folded about a quarter of the way down. They are coated on one side with a mild adhesive (adhesive is “gum” in stamp collecting terminology). The larger part of the rectangle is applied to the page the stamp will be stored on. The shorter part is applied to the stamp.
Where hinges run into trouble is if the stamp ever needs to be removed from the page. The hinge’s adhesive bonds to the adhesive on the stamp and taking the stamp off can ruin the gum, thus reducing its value. It also can mark the stamp, which also reduces the overall value of the stamp.
Modern hinge adhesive is better than it used to be, although it’s not perfect. A stamp that was affixed with older hinge adhesive usually means that removing it is an impossibility. Removal damages the gum and usually the stamp significantly. It can even ruin a stamp.
Pros Of Stamp Hinges
Hinges are affordable and a good option for less valuable stamps. Hinges are also very quick to learn and easy to use. In addition, hinged stamps are affixed exceptionally strongly and remain in place even when actively viewed and inspected.
Cons Of Stamp Hinges
Where the debate intensifies is when the subject is more valuable stamps and stamps in mint condition. Hinges can and often do damage stamps when removed from an album. This can damage and even destroy the stamp.
When this happens, a damaged stamp is significantly less valuable while a ruined stamp is worthless. There is also the disparity in price between a hinged and non-hinged stamp.
Additionally, hinges must be applied properly. Wet them too much and the stamp can be damaged. Making sure you purchase high-quality hinges is also important as inferior hinges cannot adhere properly.
How Stamp Mounts Work
Stamp mounts are tiny sleeves or envelopes that hold stamps in place. They are usually made of transparent plastic, which allows the face of stamp image to be seen. The background is black and that helps highlight the stamp’s perforations.
Pros Of Stamp Mounts
There are multiple advantages to using stamp mounts:
- Mounts are clean and leave no mess
- The stamp is not ruined when a mount is used
- There are no hinge marks
- Mounts protect stamps better than hinges
- They do not damage the gum on mint stamps
- They enhance a collection and make it much more attractive
Cons Of Stamp Mounts
The primary disadvantage of stamp mounts is that they are expensive and not worth the price unless the stamp or stamps being stored are valuable. It is fair to say that if stamp mounts were to cost the same as hinges, the stamp hinge industry would disappear.
Another drawback of stamp mounts is that because they come in strips and need to be cut out, they are labor intensive. A final critique is that they are bulky and make any album they are used in significantly larger. Stamp mounts also make stamp albums extremely bulky.
Alternatives To Hinges And Mounts
There are a few alternatives to using stamp hinges and mounts on their own.
Use Both At The Same Time
Some collectors decide whether to use hinges or mounts based on the status of the stamp. They will use hinges for used postage stamps and mounts for stamps that are in mint condition.
This approach is a good way to treat stamps with the care each one needs. It also helps alleviate the cost of the mounts by only using them selectively. Using both comes with all the pros of both, but the cons are also there.
Stamp stock books are albums with plastic sleeves where stamps are placed on a sheet and the sheet is inserted into the sleeve. There are multiple benefits to this approach:
- Stock books are great if new stamps are continually being added to a collection, or the collection needs to be rearranged
- The need for hinges is eliminated
- Continuity throughout the stamp collection is maintained (there are no black spots for anticipated stamps)
Stock books also have a few drawbacks:
- There is no write-up space to make any notes regarding a specific stamp
- Stamps sit loose, so if the book gets put upside down, the stamps can fall out
- Stock books are not easily displayable because the stamps can separate from the book
Using The Right Equipment And Materials
As with anything you do, having the right equipment and materials does more than make affixing stamps to an album easier. It also ensures that the stamp is affixed properly. Here is a list of what you should have on hand. It is not exclusive, and you shouldn’t rule out any other equipment or materials that are recommended.
Equipment For Mounting Stamps
Magnifying glass: This allows you to examine the stamp; both image and gum side. It can also help you position the stamp and make sure the position in the album is what you want.
Gloves: Use latex gloves if possible as this will ensure oils from your hands do not get on the stamps. Stamps are susceptible to degradation from handling with bare hands.
Tweezers or stamp tongs: These will help you position and hold stamps, and to position hinges and mounts on the album page. Tweezers can also be used to remove stamps in the appropriate circumstances, thus avoiding putting stress on the stamp.
It is important, though, to make sure that your tweezers are made for stamp handling or have flat end surfaces. Eyebrow tweezers, for example, have ridged end surfaces for gripping that can damage a stamp.
Applicator for water: A sponge that is damp but not soaked works fine for both mounts and hinges.
Small, thin knife: With luck you will not have to use this tool, but if you must remove a mount, a knife between the mount and album page is about the only way to ensure the mount is not damaged, short of immersing the page in water.
Drying book, blotter, or rug remnant: Have one of these on hand in case you drench a stamp. If you use any of these correctly, you can save your saturated stamp.
Materials Required For Mounting Stamps
Hinges or mounts: Whichever you opt to use, having a stock of both on hand is important.
Album: This is kind of obvious. You need an album that can handle the size of mounts you plan on using to avoid crowding of stamps on the pages.
Album pages: Most albums come with several pages. It is a good idea, however, to have a few more on hand in your materials inventory just in case.
How To Use Stamp Mounts
1. Slide The Stamp Into The Mount
Using tweezers, slide the top of the stamp into the mount by lifting the flap on the back.
2. Lie The Stamp Flat
Next, lift the other flap and let the stamp lie flat.
3. Position The Stamp
Close both flaps and assess the position of the stamp and make sure it is entirely flat. Make sure that the stamp is not cramped or bent inside the mount.
4. Secure The Stamp In Place
Wet the backside of the top of the mount on its gum, then press the mount onto the stamp album page firmly.
Stamp mounts present several options to the stamp collector. You can purchase mounts in different sizes or mounts that fit single stamps, coils or full panes of stamps. Additionally, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of affixing a stamp mount onto your album pages, you can buy pages with the stamps already affixed to them.
If you want a mount that is “affixed for life,” wet both the top and bottom of the mount’s gum side and affix the mount to the page. Make sure you can live with the mount being where it is for a long time, though, before taking this step.
How To Use Stamp Hinges
1. Set The Stamp Face Down
Using tweezers, set the stamp face down. Make sure you note which end of the stamp is up and which is down. You do not want to affix the stamp to the hinge upside down.
2. Fix The Hinge To The Back Of The Stamp
Wet the short flap of the hinge and affix it to the backside of the stamp, just below the perforations located at the top of the stamp. Make sure the hinge doesn’t cover the perforations.
3. Position The Hinge
If the stamp has no perforations, set the hinge flap just below the top edge. Make sure the hinge doesn’t slide up over the edge of the stamp. Position the hinge so that the fold is roughly at the top of the hinge with the longer part of the hinge pointing downward.
4. Position The Stamp
Pick up the stamp and wet the bottom half of the hinge. Using tweezers, place the stamp and hinge on the desired position on the album page.
5. Test The Hinge
Test the hinge by lifting the stamp to make sure the fit is snug, but not so tight that the stamp cannot be lifted upward. The ideal movement for the stamp is for it to swing at the fold, much like a door on a hinge opens and closes.
6. Lift The Hinge And Stamp
Lift the hinge and stamp away from the page. This will give the gum extra time to dry. That will prevent the stamp from becoming affixed to the album page.
Hinging is the answer if you are looking for an inexpensive, quick way to assemble a stamp collection album. Stamp hinges also allow air to get around the stamp, which helps control moisture. Hinges are not as bulky as mounts either, so an album full of hinges won’t increase in size much, even if it’s full.
Hinges come in a standard size, measuring one half inch by 7/8 of an inch. Each hinge has moisture-activated adhesive on one side. This is different to how it was done in the past when hinges were peelable off a sheet of paper.
Most stamp hinges are pre-folded. A quarter to a third is folded over with the gum (adhesive) side sticking up (out). This part of the hinge is for the stamp. The longer part of the hinge also has moisture-activated gum, and it’s affixed to the album page.
If you misplace the hinge on the album page, do not peel it off. Let both the stamp and hinge dry completely, then use the tweezers to gently peel the hinge off the album page. If it doesn’t come off easily, don’t force it. This can damage the stamp and the album page.
Tips For Mounting Stamps
Stamps are exceptionally susceptible to humidity. To the greatest extent possible, controlling the environment in which your collection is stored and keeping it dry is vital.
Stamp mounts should also only be used on one side of the page to avoid page snagging. For both hinges and mounts, spreading out the presentation of stamps within the album will help it look balanced.
Removing A Stamp From A Hinge
To remove a stamp from a hinge, soak the hinge and stamp in water. The hinge will eventually float free. This will not hurt the value of the stamp if you let it dry completely. Do not moisten the entire mount as this will ensure it is stuck on the page forever unless you want to damage the page. If you do over-wet a stamp, you can still rescue it.
First and foremost, be patient and let the stamp dry naturally. Do not rush it by blotting it, using a blow-dryer on it, or by holding it over a flame. Using tweezers, lay the stamp flat, face down in the drying book, or on the blotter or rug remnant.
Letting It Dry
Let the stamp dry naturally. Do not rush it. Occasionally move the stamp carefully to prevent adhesive on the front of the stamp from sticking to whatever you are drying it on. If it becomes stuck, soak the stamp and allow the gum to dissolve in the water.
Once the stamp is dried, carefully pick it up off the drying surface using tweezers and continue the process of hinging or mounting it to an album page. Always use the proper tweezers or tongs to pick up stamps. This reduces the amount of oil and dirt the stamp is exposed to from your hands.
Stamps prefer around 65 degrees Fahrenheit and about 50 percent humidity. They will do fine, however, in temperatures up to the mid 70s. If you have old, mint condition, unused stamps, use mounts, as dealers will pay more for stamps with the original gum on them.
Any unused stamp should be appraised. Even older stamps with missing gum can still bring in top dollar if the stamp is rare enough. A valuable stamp with gum issues will be worth more if the image is in good shape. Consider removing the gum if it becomes cracked. If you do not feel comfortable working with a pricy stamp, call a dealer and ask for a referral.
If In Doubt Use Mounts
If you plan on selling part or all your stamp collection or think that you might at some point, using mounts is the more sensible way to go.
Precautions For Mounting Stamps
The importance of the environment stamps are kept in cannot be over-emphasized. Stamps that are exposed to humid or extremely dry air will suffer. If the exposure is for a long time, the stamps will eventually degrade to the point that they lose value.
Remove cracked gum from a stamp as soon as possible as the stamp will eventually break along the crack line. Do not eat, drink or smoke around stamps. All three are stamp killers. If you do drink around your collection, beware of condensation. One drop of liquid can destroy a stamp’s value.
If the choice is between the original gum of a stamp and the image, the image is what makes the stamp worth more. If the gum begins to crack, warp, shrink or discolor, remove it (there are many tutorials on how to do this online).
To mount stamps in an album you will first need to have stamp mounts or hinges. You need to know how to use these properly, and you also need to control things like humidity and make sure you handle your stamps with care. This will ensure your stamp collection stays in good condition over time.