Best Ways to Store a Stamp Collection

Looking at stamp
Getty Images/Tetra Images

Stamps are one of the most fragile collectibles. The value of the same stamp can be $100 or $10 depending on its condition, which can vary based on tears, creases, thins, or intact gum. How you store your collection can make all the difference.

There are many ways to store a stamp collection and, unfortunately, most are expensive. There are many fine albums available, but many collectors do not put their stamps in them. The expense of a quality album and the mounts one needs to display mint stamps in the album can take a big chunk out of your budget. The plastic mounts alone often cost more than the stamp's worth.

Most collectors do not necessarily buy stamps to display them in an album. But some may want to access them for their viewing enjoyment while being confident that the stamps are well stored. Many stamp collectors have experienced that heartsick moment when they open a mint sheet file or "safeguarded" album to only find that dampness or insects have wrecked a portion of their collection.

To protect your collection and go the do-it-yourself route, take advantage of alternate methods of storage and preservation.

Basic Stamp Storage Supplies

A manila-paged stock book or pages is the minimum for storage. But beware: The pockets are thicker than a stock book with plastic pockets and can easily bend your stamp slightly and leave a mark, particularly on the gum. Save your manila for used stamps.

Individual pages that can be put in a plain binder with plastic pockets have the advantage of lacking the separation that the back of mounts feature which, while offering ease of entry and exit for your stamp, can also leave a horizontal line across the back of your stamp. Although not as great a concern for self-stick stamps, earlier gummed stamps can lose a significant part of their value from that simple gum disturbance.

You can find more expensive plastic pocket stock books that look nice on a shelf, although most of these types of books are about 20 pages. You likely have to buy multiple books and it can be cost-prohibitive. If you do decide to get this type of book, go with the white page version, not black. With the white pages, you will be able to see any creeping climate damage, mold, or foxing (reddish-brown staining) immediately. The black pages hide the problem, meanwhile, your collection loses value.

If you take great pride in the presentation of your stamp collection and enjoy showing it off, the fancier albums are the way to go. For a smaller collection, you can get a few binders and pages for a few hundred dollars if hinges are included on the pages. But for those who collect stamps from multiple countries, the outlay for a lot of albums can be significant.

The Challenge of Self-Adhesive Stamps

Current wisdom for self-stick stamps says that to be considered proper mint stamps, they have to be saved on their original backing. This creates problems—and expense—for collectors. The U.S. Postal Service does not sell a single stamp from a self-adhesive sheet. If you are not willing to buy an entire sheet of the stamp you want, you may need to buy the stamps on the secondary market from a stamp dealer. This is usually not a problem if it is only one or two stamps, but for the serious collector of U.S. stamps, the expense can become significant.

In terms of storage, do not use manila stock pages for self-adhesives. With the stamp and the backing paper's combined thickness, the page's pocket edges have the potential to leave a crease on the stamp. Your best bet is to buy plastic mounts and put the stamps in them for display purposes. If not that, then trusty, old glassine envelopes and a sturdy storage box in a dry environment are your best storage solution.