About My Collection
I have a very specific area of collecting:
I've recently switched from PSE to PF as my primary expertizer. I started with PSE because I preferred their 30-day turnaround to PF's 90-day (or more) turnaround. But I'm a little wary of PSE, due to the games they've played in an attempt to foist grading on the philatelic community, and I'm put off by their eagerness to label stamps "previously hinged" (I've found PF's judgement to be more accurate on hinging).
I get a certificate for any un-certified issue with a catalog value of $100 or more. I will occasionally lower that number to verify a color, type, or other minor variant. I will discard and recertify (or, more likely, refuse to purchase) any issue with a PSE certificate with a grade, unless that grade is 100. I believe grading damages the hobby, and I will do anything I can to prevent PSE from forcing philately to accept their notion of grading.
Why am I opposed to grading? Simple - it has no logical place as a requirement of expertization. The purpose of expertization is to determine the identity of a stamp. Quality is not a factor of identity. By and large, quality is subjective anyways, so there is a certain futility to attempting to quantify quality. Anyways, when I need a stamp expertized, I want to know whether or not it's exactly what I think it is. I don't want the additional, unsolicited opinion that the stamp "could be a little bit better", which is all a grade is. I'll discard grades less than 100 because I certainly don't want that unsolicited opinion being a permanent part of my collection.
These custom album pages were designed using the following tools:
I use AlbumPro 10x11½" bone archival album paper, exclusively. It runs around $14 for 100 sheets. The folks at MenuWorks claim that they foresee no danger that this paper will become unavailable in the future.
I own an HP LaserJet 5000 (now a 5100) printer. This is a pretty heavy-duty and expensive printer, especially for home use. But it's one of the few laserprinters on the market which can handle the wider format of Scott National/Specialty album paper. I have no complaints with this product, as you can drop it down a flight of stairs and it will still function.
In fact, I performed that exact test on the printer immediately after purchasing it. This printer is big - it's about two feet square by a foot and a half high, and heavy, and it's twice as bulky when still boxed. I live in a three-level condo, and "album central" is, naturally, on the top floor. I managed to get it up the first flight of stairs with considerable effort. So for the second flight, I decided to drag the boxed printer up the stairs behind me, pulling it from the box's hand hold. I literally stepped on the top step, when the box's hand hold broke, and I watched as my brand new $1500 printer slid down a flight of stairs.
Lucky for me, it slid without rolling, or else I might be without my favorite printer. Also luckily, HP uses trained monkeys in their shipping facilities, and they pack their hardware accordingly. Aside from a paper tray being out of alignment (and it snapped back into place) it worked fine afterwards.
I originally tried using a Canon BJC -5100 bubblejet printer, which is a pretty good low-end solution for printing large-sized pages, but I found the lines to be too irregular, and the ink can run when mounts are applied, so I upgraded to a laserprinter.
I design my pages using Adobe PageMaker 7.0. This is expensive software, so it isn't the right software for everyone. I use Adobe PhotoShop 7.0.1 for creation and manipulation of all images on this site.
The pages are mounted in four Scott large green specialty 3-ring binders. The airmail and back of the book issues are mounted in a small green specialty 3-ring binder. All are housed in corresponding slipcases.
I have to give high marks to Scott. Over time, two of my page lifters broke. And using 3-ring binders without page lifters will damage the pages in no time. I called Scott to try and order replacements, only to discover that they don't sell these as extras. So they sent me two for free. Really cool.
Every page is reinforced back and front with Avery clear reinforcements.
The mounts are Showgard black-background mounts, pre-cut whenever possible and cut to size using a 6" Showgard guillotine. I maintain stock of every available Showgard size, so as to use the best possible mount size for every issue. I suspect this means I'm responsible for most of the GNP of Liechtenstein, but so be it.
I use a Mustek A3 EP scanner, which is the only scanner I've heard of which can handle the wide format of album pages. This scanner is primarily a European product, and I obtained mine from eBay.