REBLOG: Stamp Organization

*Nancy Nally's post on Scrapbook Update today prompted me to repost this from a few year's ago.  I still store my stamps this way and LOVE it*

STAMP ORGANIZATION

I have a ginormous collection of stamps.  The never-ending problem is knowing what you have, and being able to find it

In the beginning, you have a few images. Typically, it doesn't take much to have an inventory in your head. And if you can physically see them all – aren’t you lucky! But that is like buying the small tote when you are a scrapbooker. What are you thinking? It's a nirvana that doesn't last. Sooner or later, your collection grows and you find yourself buying duplicate themes, without realizing it. Not that there's anything wrong with that — but if it is because you aren't organized — it is time to fix that problem.

I’ve been growing this collection for thirteen years.  After much trial and error I have a system that is both foolproof and second nature to me now.

Physical Storage – 
Bins, Boxes and Binders – oh my!

Lots of people discuss mounted vs. unmounted, clear vs. rubber, but essentially if you love a stamp image, you will buy it no matter how it’s mounted and the result is you will have a mixed bag of every style.   The problem of how to organize, store and catalog them will creep up on you quickly.  This is how I handle my stamp collection.

  • First, I either *unmount my stamps from their wooden block, or take my purchased unmounted stamps and mount them on EZMount. I use regular EZMount for unmounted red rubber, and EZMount Thin for those that have been unmounted from the wood blocks and already have cushion.  Clear stamps don't need any help in that department.

    *The only wood stamps that typically avoid this block carnage are the big background stamps, or alphabets that in my opinion can really use the good support of a permanent mount (or I’m just too lazy to take those suckers apart!)

  • I put the stamps into a  Sterilite Show-Offs CD container for storage. These are labeled with a number.  I used to buy a smaller container for these which you will see in my pictures, but once I found the Sterlite containers, I continued on with them.  They hold more and I don’t want a lid, since not all stamps will fit inside a lidded container.
    • Larger stamp sets that can’t be easily cut down to fit inside this system, such as big honkin’ alphabet stamps go into page protectors and get filed into my ScrapRack.

 Stamp Bins – mostly Sterlite Containers:

Stampsweb
Monogram Stamps/Alpha Chipboard, etc. storage (more on this later):

Alphasweb
ScrapRack/3-Ring Binder Storage (more on this later):

Stamporganization6-web
Digital Storage –
It’s Time to Catalog Your Collection

Once the stamps are physically ready to be used and stored away it's time to add them to the "inventory" system. Gosh, that sounds so official! But it is really accessible and easy to use. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements Organizer software to catalog my stamps.  If you have Photoshop CSx you can use the Bridge program for this portion.

  • Take a low-resolution picture with your camera or scan the stamp index or find a picture on the manufacturer’s website.  You only need a 72dpi image.  Grainy is fine, because all you need is a teeny thumbnail and it’s best to keep it small rather than take up a bunch of space on your computer with these.
  • Categorize the image. 
    • As your collection grows you will quickly discover that you cannot physically store stamps by category. It’s an unnecessary burden.  So build that into your system from the beginning. This way, when Container 1 gets full, you move on to Container 2. You don't think, 'Winter is full, do I need to buy another container for Winter?' No! If you know what you have, you don't need to containerize by theme – your computer is going to do the categorizing for you.
  • Place the physical stamp into a container and make note of the container number in your digital file.

Here is a screen capture of the Organizer tool. 

Stamporganization1-web
I then create Keyword Sub-Categories as I see fit for cataloguing the stamps. The first category shown here is Stamps and the sub-categories are shown collapsed below. You could go as detailed as creating categories for wood-mounted, cling-mounted and clear; if you wanted to. I don't go that far with mine. But I do start with basics such as SOLID and LINE DRAWING. And then I cross-categorize them as much as possible.  I also created a main category for Manufacturer.

Here is a screen shot of the keyword part of the screen.

Stamporganization2-web
I’ve opened up all the keyword subcategories under the Animal keyword so you can see how little or how much detail you can add.  I even have a category for "Stuffed" – not the taxidermy ones, mind you.  I mean teddy bears and sock monkeys!  But I guess if you hunt – to each his own.  This can be added to at any time and cross categorized.  So flexible!

Let me share an example:

Stamporganization3-web
This stamp is categorized by keywords:

  • Manufacturer (Red Lead)
  • Birds
  • ATC-Sized
  • Collage
  • Nest
  • Line Drawing
  • Nature
  • Realistic
  • Sentiments

So I can find it by clicking on any or all of these categories.

So now I’m going to go searching, because that wasn’t the bird stamp that I wanted for my project.  So I’m going to click on Animals > Birds and on Music.  And this is the result. 

Stamporganization4-web
Two stamps come up.  One individual stamp and one is a set with two stamps in it that fit the bill.  How easy is that?

Finally, I use the captioning mechanism to store the kind of details you might need if you intend to submit to a publication, or sell your stamps (I know, shocking idea!) at any time.

Let me show you an example:

image from inkyheart.typepad.com
This stamp says, in its caption: BG-15 Big Pompano Fred B. Mullett $21.50

Find That Stamp!
Digital Album = Physical Container

Now how do I take this great categorization and actually go find those stamps in my studio?  I create Albums for each of my Bins that I store the stamps in.  Each album is a physical container.

I have BINS by number (these are the Sterlite containers).  I have MONOGRAM BINS (these are the cardboard boxes that I keep my larger alphabet letters in, be it chipboard, metal or individual large monogram-sized stamps.  And I have the Scraprack.

Stamporganization5-web
I simply drag the stamp image into the appropriate container (both physically and digitally!) and that’s where I can find it in the future.  I can also know exactly where to put a stamp when I’m done using it.

And if I’ve loaned out a stamp to a friend – yep, they get an album with their name on it.  I know where my stamps are at all times, missy!

Makes things simpler, doesn't it? No big clunky image binder or rolodex to keep up-to-date. Easy to reorganize and add on to at any time. I have to say, I decided to do this a long time ago and as long as I keep my discipline in the maintaining of it – I cannot fathom a better way to organize my stamp collection.

I can provide my keyword list if you feel that will help you to get started.  You can import it too!  If you'd like me to send it to you just send an e-mail (sally DOT lynn DOT macdonald AT gmail DOT com) and I’ll send you the keywords as a little cheat sheet to get started in creating your own system.

Let me know if you have any questions.

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