Here we are, twelve months down the line. What have we been up to since our decision to do something about our massive stamp collection?? We’d like to share with you how we went about it.
Knowing where to start was a difficult decision, so after many conversations, we decided to divide the work three ways. We selected 3 random albums. Willy would start by scanning the stamps in the album, then identifying the stamps from the Stanley Gibbons catalogue, and putting their number and year on the sheet where the stamps have been stored. We checked a few other albums to see what countries were going to come up, and while he was busy I started writing a brief intro and history of the stamps of the various countries. Carl in the meanwhile, created the website, and in doing so, created a page for each country we expected to have stamps from. He also added a flag and a coat of arms at the beginning of the page for every country. When Willy was finished, he and I fed the information into a spreadsheet, then Carl cropped & uploaded the images onto the website.
When these 3 albums were done, we realised we only had 8 countries, of which 7 were in southern Africa. The decision was taken to carry on in the same fashion as before with 2 further albums. The albums selected had many countries. However, there were several things we had to change to be more efficient. When finding the stamp in Stanley Gibbons, Willy had to include the page of the catalogue as well. This made things much easier when we entered the information on the spreadsheet, as it was always necessary to refer to the catalogue again. When putting the stamps into the spreadsheet, we had also decided that we needed to add keywords with the stamps for Carl to include this in the website. We also changed the format of the spreadsheet including formulas and other information to make it easier for us going forward. These last two albums took much longer than the first three as just about every page was a different country. At this point we had catalogued 6337 stamps from 194 territories from stamps in five albums. The end is not even nearly in sight as we still have over 100 albums, boxes of loose stamps and first day covers still to catalogue.
The images Carl uploaded onto the website were in no particular order, did not have a date and were the size of the scanned stamp. Carl and I had to check every single stamp we had done and Carl had to re-size every stamp during this process. This meant that often I sat twiddling my thumbs while Carl was resizing, because as soon as he was finished I needed to be there so that he could add the year and the name of the series and any other relevant information from the spreadsheet. This was quite a mission.
Since then, Willy has started on new albums, but we have again changed the process. Scanning is no longer the first thing he does. After finding the stamp in the catalogue, and writing the year and number next to the stamp, he and I put the stamps onto the spreadsheet. If we already have a stamp, then he can indicate this next to the stamp, so that Carl does not upload an image that we already have. We add the keywords and any other information we may need later. Only then does he scan, so that a lot of the information is on the sheet which Carl uses when he crops & uploads the stamp. Firstly he can size the images while he is alone, then he can place the stamps in their right order (by year) and when this is done, then he and I can sit together (one album at a time) and check that everything is correct. We believe that this final process will go much faster with all the changes we have decided on.
The work we have done has been an amazing journey for the three of us. For Willy and me, our computer literacy has increased hundredfold. Although we both used the computer, by Carl’s standards we were barely computer literate. Willy is now able to identify most of his stamps via Google, instead of looking for the tiny print in Stanley Gibbons where a reference with no picture makes finding the stamp almost impossible. Although I knew the basics of using a spreadsheet programme, I feel really confident and am doing what he calls “pretty advanced things” – some praise from somebody a generation younger who has been around these things for the last 20 years. I have also been able to teach Willy quicker ways of finding things. Writing the introductions to the countries has been an awesome experience, one I keep on sharing with both Willy and Carl and whoever else is prepared to listen. Both geographically and historically we have increased our knowledge one hundredfold. This is very necessary in identifying the stamps. If you know for example, who the King of England was in say 1912, it is much easier to find the stamp in Stanley Gibbons. Much research has gone into such things as presidents and monarchs of countries, their spouses and offspring to help us discover why they suddenly no longer appear on stamps. Things we learnt at school are coming back to us and although I have always loved geography and history, the quiz programmes on the TV are so much more interesting if you know the answers. Little bits of information have urged me to do further research and our links in the introductions to the various countries are full of information.
I am looking forward to the future and the potential that this project has already displayed.
However should you have any thoughts or ideas on our project, please feel free to leave me a comment below, and I will definitely get back to you.