Stamp Collecting – Pre-soak Sorting

Attempting to check each stamp 1 by 1 would take an incredibly long time, it’s highly inefficient and quite difficult to focus on many rules at once. But pattern matching and repetition of a few rules can be processed reasonably quickly. With differing results it’s clear that a process is required. Several stamps are held at a time, splitting the primary assessment between sight and touch makes it far easier to complete without overlap (rubbing head & patting tummy). The primary goal assessment is completed very quickly, the 2nd and third goals are then complimentary and with a calm clear mind the task is completed with reasonable speed (I’ve not actually timed it). The process works by making the question easier to answer and reducing fatigue from pushing the brain to failure by constantly changing questions and possible answers. I’m observant of detail anyway, but still find significant improvements in the handling time the more relaxed I am.

Primary Goal

  1. Paper colour separate all coloured papers, very pale blue/yellow are fine, as is natural colour of cardboard but otherwise not.
    They will be processed similarly but avoids risk of damaging other stamps, esp. metallic and red paper. Beware that that the inside of an envelope is often not coloured, so don’t assume from one side that the stamp living on the other will be mounted to plain paper, esp. red.
  2. Padded envelope plastic backing requires longer soaking and size likely to weigh down other stamps.
  3. Plastic mounted on plastic, a stamp can often be removed by gently stressing and peeling back the plastic at an acute angle.

Secondary Goal

  1. Suspected uncancelled if unsure place in this pile, as it’s far easier to identify cancelled stamps with evidence from the surrounding paper.
  2. Border/Gutter stamps with border attached (requires more care to soak).
  3. Multiple stamps joined by perforation (requires more care to soak).

Tertiary Goal

  1. Stamps obviously not mounted (such as the glue having dried out and fallen away from the paper).
  2. Damaged stamps (separate but don’t assess, torn, stained, heavy scratching, angry Biro cancellation).

Results of 1st pass

Top-right clockwise: thick backing, waste paper, damaged, uncancelled, normal handling ready for soaking, special interest (items to check immediately, postmarks, etc.), coloured paper.

Try really hard to focus on the goal of the sort and not be overly distracted. Discipline will lead to quicker completion, accurate filtering and allows for important distractions.

Uncancelled stamps are stamps that have been applied ready for postage, but have either been salvaged before the service is used or after, when the stamp is not cancelled. Estimate £30 of uncancelled stamps. Note that identification & collection of uncancelled stamps is a purely a hobby activity, pricing these stamps at current values is an aspect of the collection. Attempting to rip-off Royal Mail by using fraudulently acquired postage stamps is illegal

Uncancelled Stamps

Sleeping Bags

The first of a few posts relating to pre-Trek with Trek America on their W2 tour. Complaints on the forum about carrying sleeping bags, and exchanging tips on how best to sneak it along as an extra walk-on luggage item. Tried to explain what I think is the problem, but you can only say ‘bag’ so many times before all the words meld into one! So as promised here is a brief explanation of sleeping bags relating to carrying.

As I post more, it’ll probably become clear that I’ve got a little hiking experience and slightly more style snobbery. Leading nicely into the type of sleeping bag you may have. The most important factor in all outdoor kit is what type of outdoors-man will use it, or rather how you will get it from one place to another. If camping is something that follows a day of hiking, carrying everything on your back, your kit has to be good, really good. If you rolled into a camp site on a sunny afternoon in a tank laiden with a £100 plastic fantastic hotel, with the knowledge you can jump back into a warm car if everything goes Pete Tong, your appreciation for camping and the kit you use will be very different.

Both types of camping are valid and can often be seen coexisting on camp grounds around the country, but mixing the equipment up is a bad idea. After a hard day, Mr Atlas needs a comfy nights rest, he’ll likely be carrying a Thermarest, a stuff-able travel pillow and a good quality sleeping bag rated for the environment he’s in. Mr Astra however will be on a budget, doesn’t know the weather and is subconsciously reinforcing the assertion that he doesn’t like camping anyway. He’ll be towing a sleeping mat, the pillow he uses in bed and have a sleeping bag that is little more than a padded envelope.

Even Mr Astra would enjoy the next day better if he gets a good nights sleep, to do that you need a reasonable level of padding to cushion your hard poky bits but most importantly an efficient way to trap a large amount of air close to your body. Your option is either to heat up the air held next to you, or heat up the planet. Down (fluff feather like material from geese or ducks) is awesome at giving you a great nights sleep, being highly compressible and light. A synthetic bag is great at being cheap. My current bag is a Titan 650 from Mountain Equipment, shown on the left in the pictures below. The synthetic bag on the right, is responsible for a few bad nights, perfect for sleeping on the floor round your mate’s house…. your mate with central heating.

Any sleeping bag (or Thermarest) will become badly damaged if left compressed, but an unpacked sleeping back is unruly. A storage sack allows the bag to air, usually made of a light mesh material, but shouldn’t be used for transporting the bag. The down bag on the left is it’s storage sack.

Left: Down, Right: Synthetic

The down bag on the left is now in it’s stuff sack. The stuff sack is a strong small bag/case about 1/3 the size of a pillow case. The stuff sack is so called because that’s how you get the sleeping bag into it! With the zippers closed and the bag flat, grab the feet end of the bag and stuff it into the stuff sack, working the rest of the sleeping back into the sides, filling the sack evenly (don’t try folding or rolling). A stuff sack will cause less damage than a compression sack whilst offering pretty good size works best with down bags.

Left: Down, Right: Synthetic

The bag on the right shows the synthetic sleeping bag in a compression sack, these are sacks with straps and buckles like on a rucksack, that allow the air to be forced and held out of a sleeping bag. While offering the bet size, they do the most damage to sleeping bag. Even though the loft (amount a bag expands to) is much lower on the synthetic bag, and with compression straps done-up, the bag isn’t that much smaller than the down bag in the stuff sack. A cheaper synthetic bag requires the extra compression due to the less compressible nature of filling – foam, nylon weave, etc.

Note that your sleeping bag may come with all or none of the sacks mentioned (commonly compression sacks are bought separately). Now you know how to identify the sack available, if your packed sleeping bag looks much bigger, you’ve probably got Mr Astra’s highly inefficient £40 duvet substitute; Maybe it’s time to replace it?

If you are looking to buy a new bag, please understand the competitive nature of bag ratings. A bag rated for -10 to +20 doesn’t mean you’ll get a good nights sleep at -10. It means you won’t die, an extreme rating is actually specified as being curled up in the foetal position, outside of comfortable limits whilst maintaining thermal equilibrium – means you’re not continuing to get MORE cold, but don’t expect to get good sleep, if any.