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Sorting Stamps

Having identified the country of origin, the stamps need to be arranged in order of date of issue. The easiest method to achieve this is with the aid of a catalogue.

This is where the hobby can start becoming expensive. Stamp catalogues aren't cheap; there's usually a new one out each year, and if you collect more than one country you'll need more than one catalogue. Stanley Gibbons introduced an online version called "My Collection" a couple of years ago, which works out less expensive than the printed catalogues, but there's still the cost of the annual subscription to consider. One advantage of this version is that it's constantly updated.

A cheaper alternative may be to try and get hold of a fairly recent second-hand catalogue, and use that for the majority of your collection. Then for the later issues, you could try your local library. Public libraries usually have the latest version available - so these can be used for reference if you're stuck.

Having sorted the stamps into country order, the way I proceed is as follows:
Using my (out of date!) catalogue, I simply leave the stamps in the catalogue on the relevant page, and once the whole lot have been roughly dated, start further sorting and identification from the earliest date. Don't go sticking them into an album yet though. A better method is to place each stamp into a stockbook in date order. The advantage of using a stockbook is that it's really easy to move stamps around until you're satisfied.

Stockbooks are simply storage books and are available in many different sizes and formats. They consist of a number of stiff card pages, each having horizontal strips of clear film into which the stamps are placed. In the better-quality stockbooks each page is interleaved with a glassine sheet to protect the stamps. I've found Lighthouse to be a good brand. Initially you can make do with just one stockbook, but as your collection grows you'll find you require more. They're also useful for storing any duplicate stamps - and the chances are you'll have a lot of these!

By using a stockbook together with a catalogue, it's also easier to see whether you're missing certain stamps of a set, or even which sets are missing.

Once you have reached a satisfactory level of completeness, it's time to move on to the next phase, "writing up".

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