First, I’ll tell you a little bit about the stamp albums I inherited from my parents, just a couple of days ago. Well, I was actually originally given the albums when I was much younger and still living at home, but they weren’t an essential to pack when I left home for university, and in the years since have been buried by more and more junk in what used to be my bedroom. I’d actually completely forgotten about them, despite my recent stamp-collaging activities. My mum re-discovered the albums just recently, when trying to return my old room to a use-able state and brought them with her when she came to visit this week. Lovely to see her, of course, but the albums made me very happy indeed! 🙂
There are 3 albums altogether, 2 that belonged to my dad, and one of my mum’s. Unfortunately none has a publication date, but my mum has handwritten a date in hers – August 26th, 1965 – when she would have been 16. My dad was a few years older than her and his collection is far patchier (despite there being 2 albums, the 2nd seems to be an overflow for just a couple of countries, and is otherwise almost empty). I suspect he was maybe around 8-10 when he collected stamps and gave it up as he grew older, so my guess is that his albums date from around the early-mid 50s.
My dad’s World-Wide Stamp Albums are from the Cromwell Series (‘British Made’!) – tattered spine & discoloured pages, it really feels like something from a completely different era. Which of course it is. These albums are clearly designed for the beginner collector: the 64 pages are divided into stamp-sized rectangles (clearly one wasn’t expected to collect commemoratives!), with space allocated to each country presumably based on how likely it was that stamps would be circulating. For example, United States of America has 3 full pages (72 spaces); an area called the Canal Zone – which apparently was a “Strip of country through Republic of Panama under US jurisdiction” – has a full row (8 spaces); Cape of Good Hope, Cayman Islands, Ceylon and China each have half a row, but with 2 of the 4 spaces occupied with pre-printed b/w examples. I love these little colourless samples that provide character even for the pages without stamps – and I love the fact that each sample has a diagonal line cutting through the lower right corner, presumably to protect against forgery!
This album is very much a product of its time, and definitely educational half a century or more later. I’ve come across a few stamps during my collaging from a place called Sarawak which I had never heard of. In today’s modern age it only took a few seconds to find out where it was (and more!) with a quick Wikipedia search, but if I’d had this album to hand at the time, I could just as quickly have flipped to the right page and discovered the far more concise information: “Sarawak – British protectorate in Borneo”. The album is full of similar territories and protectorates that no longer exist: it really was a completely different world. As advised in the ‘Hints for Stamp Collectors’ (not very comprehensive!) on the very first page: “Do not bother about what a stamp is worth. Try to find out what it shows.”
My mum’s is a Triumph Stamp Album (21st edition): De Luxe Edition with Maps, published by G. F. Rapkin Ltd. It’s a chunky, 300 page hardcover album with dustjacket – it has proved a little more durable than my dad’s album, but is still quite patently a much-loved, much-used artefact with lots of scuffs and scrapes. Although from a slightly later period, it still boasts glorious vintage-style ads, such as the publisher’s Peerless Stamp Packets, advertised on the inside back cover: “Do not delay – send today”! It is also quite firm in its advice on the flyleaf: “Your collection must be mounted with RAPKIN’S hinges because – they are the finest stamp hinges available”. Just in case you were in any doubt!
This album allocates at least a page to each country, and already demonstrates changes in the world from my dad’s earlier albums. For example, the United States has 5 pages, the Canal Zone no longer exists, Cape of Good Hope and Cayman Islands get a page each, but Ceylon and China are upgraded to two. This album also gives a slightly more encyclopedic entry for each country, so if I had looked up Sarawak here, I would have been informed it was “A state on the island of Borneo, formerly independent. Ceded to the British Crown in 1946. The conversion of this country from barbarism to civilisation is one of the most remarkable in the history of the Empire.” Yes, most definitely also a product of its time!
My mum was clearly a more diligent collector of stamps than my dad, with lots of sets and full pages, and a few British first day covers to her name, as well. Another bonus tucked inside her album was a bonus 8 page ‘Stamp Spotting’ booklet: “Put your stamps in their proper place” (because heaven forfend they get ideas above their station! 😉 ). It’s actually a really handy identification guide, though, with an A-Z list of wording found on stamps and which country they relate to, a separate list of Arabic, Greek, and Russian inscriptions, and a visual guide to stamps entirely without inscriptions. Sarawak aside, I often come across stamps that I can’t identify (because I really am not an expert!), so I can see this list along with the actual album information proving invaluable…
And finally, one of my favourite things about my mum’s stamp album I discovered in the ‘How to Look After Your Stamps’ section on page 2:
“…all postage stamps are worth collecting. Nearly all of them have a story to tell and it is those stories behind the designs which turn the stamp album into a story book of adventure.”
Stamp albums are a storybook of adventure – seriously, how cool is that?
My latest pocket notebook collages (see more here):