The Eclectic Quill

Website of Joshua McGee


Save money collecting stamps with other hobbies’ supplies

There's an odd phenomenon in which one collecting field will have some things much more cheaply than in other fields, and some things much more expensively.  Here are some ideas for using other types of stores, or other collecting fields' supplies, to help with stamp collecting, sorting, and shipping.  There are of course converse cases, but  those belong in other posts.  :-)

Trading cards

  • Padded 3-ring binders are much cheaper in trading card collecting than in stamp collecting, and sometimes even cheaper than non-padded ones from the office center.  They're great if you don't mind a logo on the front (most have one) -- or those can be easily covered with a label.
  • "Toploaders" -- hard cases -- are cheap and great for inserting a stamp or small pane or cutout into to mail cheaply, and are thin enough that they never get tampered with in customs.  These are under 15¢ apiece.  Look for these at Amazon.
  • "Penny sleeves" -- thin archival plastic sleeves to securely hold a trading card --  are crystal clear (you can easily scan through them, for instance) and are great for stamps.  They don't seal like most stamp bags do, but they are super-cheap (about $1 for 100 -- it's not just a clever nickname!)  One can fold them over and hold them securely with sticky tape.  Make sure to fold them -- you don't want stamps sliding up and touching tape adhesive!  Here are some at Amazon.


  • Comic "Bags & Boards" have lots of uses.  Put a backing board into the mylar sleeve, slide a stamp sheet in front of it, fold the flap over and seal it.  A "Current Comic" size cut into thirds fits perfectly into a #6¾ envelope; therefore they can be used to stiffen covers sent for first-day servicing or can stiffen FDC-size polybags and glassines.  The bags themselves can hold panes.  These are around 9¢ apiece for a pair of bag and board.  Here are some at Amazon.

Office Supply Stores

  • Letter filing and storage boxes are frequently much less expensive at office supply houses than through stamp supply mail-order houses.  If you buy your envelopes in bulk, keep the boxes and store (a smaller number of) full envelopes inside.  The cardboard will almost certainly be non-archival even if the envelopes are -- line them or make sure your envelopes are in archival plastic.

Craft Stores

  • "Archival mist" -- an aerosol can or pump bottle/can full of alkaline fluid to deter yellowing of acid paper -- can be a tenth of the cost at a craft store compared to stamp supplies.  This is easier to get in a walk-in store than by mail order, too, because some have shipping restrictions.

Any other ideas for cost savings in philately?  Add them as you like!


Stamp Trading Offers Updated

Really bad insomnia past few days.  So I'm taking the time to do a bunch of work on the site.

Tonight I revamped my stamp offers page.  It's now basically a "What I collect, or used to collect before it was all stolen" page, due to lack of funds.



Awesome Machin Stamp Cancel

I collect Machin stamps -- the long-running series of renderings of a plaster bust of the head of Queen Elizabeth II.  If you've received any mail from the UK since 1967, you are likely to have seen them.  This picture of the Queen -- printed in various fashions after a bust sculpted by the late Arnold Machin -- is history's most-reproduced image (in print), with billions that have run off the presses.

This is the picture on Wikipedia:

I collect examples with 22m circular date stamps -- the "cancels" -- situated squarely on the stamp and clearly readable.  But I set aside other ones that catch my eye.

And this one did catch my eye:

Isn't that cool?!  I'm working on a Machin album right now -- designing specialized album pages to print from my computer.  This image will be reproduced on the album cover, and the actual stamp will appear on the first page.

I plan on a set of pages on this site on the topic of collecting postmarks on Machins, that will have a literature review -- if you are a stamp collector or just an interested person, please reply with any suggestions of what else to include.  But until then, I'll give links to what I consider the best current printed references:


Surrealism-on-Stamps Study Unit?

No, I haven't gone to sleep yet.  I felt the need to relate one of the oddest email exchanges I've ever had in 17-or-whatever years of emailing:

"sharon":  send my free stamp mounts to [full address]

Joshua:  I'm sorry, I do not know what you're talking about.

"sharon":  the mounts you put over your stamps to protect them

Joshua:  No, I understand what stamp mounts are, I'm just not offering any, free or otherwise.  AFAIK Gopher Supply has the best prices.  Could I ask why you think I'm offering free stamp mounts?

"sharon":  thats what it sed

Joshua:  That's.  What.  It.  Said.  Where?

"sharon":  where i was looking it stamps up it said it was free

Joshua:  I'm sorry.  I'm not offering free stamp mounts.  I have never offered free stamp mounts.  And I was trying to find out where you saw what you interpreted as an offer for free stamp mounts, but I'm being unsuccessful in communicating that.

As far as I know, this is the cheapest place for stamp mounts:

If you can tell me where you thought you understood the mounts to be free, I would be appreciative so that I could address that, but if you can't, there is no need to burden you with writing again.

"sharon":  go to google and put in free stamps and look at every thing about free stamps and look for your web site under eather on of thoughts sites


Fanciful Q and A with a stamp collector specializing in remote islands, wherein the stamp collector asks questions about Google Voice and attempts to answer

Q: So, where is the most expensive place in the world to call with Google Voice?

A: It appears to be Tuvalu.

Q: How much does that cost?

A: US$0.55/minute.

Q: Wow.  That is really cheap for a series of atolls about 1m above sea level.

A: Yeah, I thought so too.

Q: Wow.  Again.  More expensive than Ascension Island?  Wouldn't Google have to buy a satellite to talk to them?

A: I would have thought so.  But, in addition to radio towers and useless stamps, they have a newspaper, so you never know.

Q: A newspaper?  But there are fewer than 1,000 people there, and none of them live there permanently!

A: Yeah, I know.

Q: Wow.  I wonder how I could get a subscription.

A: I can see you are a collector.

Q: Guilty.  Maybe they would send them with otherwise-unusable Ascension Island stamps!

A: Might be expensive.

Q: Like what?

A: Like, US$0.55/word.  Or thereabouts.

Q: Oh.  Well, I still can't believe Ascension is cheaper than Kiribati.

A: Wow, you have heard of Kiribati?

Q: Yeah.  You see, I collect stamps and specialize in remote islands.

A: Ah, yes.  We established that in the post title.  Apparently you cannot call Kiribati at all.

Q: Oh, yeah, that's reasonable.  I'm not sure there are any phones to ring even if we called.

A: You know, many of your responses don't qualify as 'Q's.

Q: They don't?

A: There you go.  Welcome back.

Q: Gotta go.  I just got a bank mixture of Atlantic island stamps to sort.

A: Like, St. Helena and stuf?

Q: Now you are just showing off.

A: That wasn't a question.

Q: No?

A: That was.

Q: Seriously, I'm leaving now.  Call me later?

A: How much would that cost?

Q: Not sure.  Where am I again?