A stamp album is 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.
The arrangement of stamps on an album page 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 colour shades. Traditional page creation was done 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.
Many collectors buy preprinted albums and pages, which are produced by several manufacturers. 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
, up to a paragraph giving a little background on the stamp's subject. Album pages are almost always one-sided; two-sided pages save space, but require interleaving sheets to prevent stamps from catching on each other.
One of the first albums was the Stanley Gibbons
“V.R.” published in the early 1870s. This was followed by the “Improved”, and then the illustrated “Imperial” albums. Present-day makers include Lighthouse (Leuchturm), Scott, Schaubek, 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.
In the earliest albums, stamps were stuck down to the pages, using either their own gum (as if put on an envelope), or glue. It soon became clear that separating the stamp and page would likely result in the destruction of one or the other, and stamp hinges were introduced. In the second half of the 20th century more sophisticated methods of storage came into vogue, such as the use of clear plastic sleeves, ensuring that the stamps were not damaged, and that both sides could easily be examined. Albums of this sort are known as "hingeless albums".
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.
- Richard McP. Cabeen, Standard Handbook of Stamp Collecting (Collectors Club, 1979), pp. 30-34