I. How Do I Get Covers?
  • Getting started...
-Ask friends and relatives to pick them up for you.
-Ask for them when going into any business that might have them (hotels, restaurants, clubs, gas stations, etc.).
  • Then...
-Run a local ad in an advertising circular offering to buy accumulations (there are a lot out there) (3-8 cents each for most covers)
-Take advantage of the freebie tables at your local club meetings, swapfests, and conventions
-Participate in room hopping at swapfests and conventions.
  • Ultimately...
-Trade with other collectors
-Participate in auctions (from club bulletins, hobby web sites, swapfests, and auctions)
-Buy collections (depending on your financial circumstances)
II. Cover Care
  • Stripping
-At least 95% of collectors take the matches out and just collect the covers.You can certainly collect full-books if you wish, but you're going to complicate your life with trading, mailing, safety, and storage problems (try telling your insurance agent that you have a house full of matches!)
-Carefully remove matches by taking staple out. Be certain to soak matches in water before you discard them.
-Matches that have art work on the sticks should not be removed. Those are Features or Printed Sticks and are collected as full-books.
  • Flattening
-Once the covers are stripped, they normally need to be flattened so that they lay straight, especially the older covers which are thicker and hold their creasing more stubbornly.
-There are all sorts of ways to do this, but basically all involve small stacks of covers at a time being subjected to opposing weights for at least a couple of days. For example, a small vise works admirably (just take care to protect the covers).
  • Don't's
-Don't use rubber bands to hold stacks of covers. They bind and bite into the sides of the top and bottom covers. Also, with time, they can fuse onto the surface covers. (paper bands work much better = paper strips held with scotch tape)
-Don't leave covers in sunlight. The colors will fade.
-Don't leave covers in any humid environment for any long period. Strikers will corrode and deteriorate.
-Don't leave covers at floor level in case of bursting water pipes and Great Deluges.
III. Storage
  • Albums
-Most collectors eventually house at least most of their covers in 3-ring binders, which come in a variety of sizes and colors. Albums allow you to organize your collection and know exactly where everything is...which is important in this hobby because you're probably going to have tens of thousands of individual covers!
  • Trays
-Some collectors use trays rather than albums. Trays can be anything from shallow cardboard boxes to low wooden or metal drawers. Trays are especially effective when having to store extra large collections (i.e., 60,000 Bank covers would be fairly expensive to house in plastic pages and albums) or lots of dupes (extra covers of the same type).
  • Boxes, Cans, Jars, etc.
-A temporary solution, at best, but boxes are better than cans and jars. At least boxes will allow you to lay your covers or stacks of covers flat. That's harder to do with cans and jars, and both infer that you're just simply going to throw covers in them loose and haphazardly...and that's how covers get damaged.
  • Pages
-Using albums requires some type of pages that covers can be mounted on and then inserted into the albums. There are several different types:
-Hand sewn pages: this was a common option of early collectors in the 1930s and 1940s, especially. I only know one collector today who is willing to put in the time and effort required for such home-made pages.
-Blank paper pages using photo album corners: These have been used off and on by some collectors for decades. They don't work well. The corners tend to dry out and come loose. Also, they make the pages very bulky in the albums.
-Blank photo adhesive pages with plastic overlays: These don't work well either...bulkiness...and they're expensive
-Slotted pages: these are paper pages with pre-cut slits allowing covers to be inserted. These were the standard pages within the hobby from the 1960s-1990s.
-Plastic pocketed pages: These have become the preferred pages within the last twenty years. They're not cheap, but they afford the best protection for your covers, and you can see both sides of the cover without actually having to handling it. The earlier plastic pages were thick, heavy, and became stiff when the room's temperature dropped, but today's pages are thinner and much more supple. Several of the regional clubs act as outlets for plastic pages, and there are other distributors on our Supplies page.


IV. Bookkeeping
Organization is the difference between a collection and an accumulation. You're going to be dealing in covers by the thousands, most probably, so organization is imperative. Good bookkeeping also keeps things running smoothly and efficiently. Computers are invaluable for this.
  • Covers
-Covers should be organized in any way that makes sense to you. Normally each category is looked upon as a separate collection. You can organize the covers within that collection by size, age, manumark, state, city, subject matter, etc.
-Many collectors also find it helpful to keep a running tally of how many covers are in their collections so that he or she always knows how many there are.
  • Correspondence
-If you end up trading by mail, especially, good record keeping is a must. Who sent how many covers when? Whom do you owe covers to? Whom are you expecting return trades from? Which categories does each trade want? etc.
-You'll also need to keep track of things such as when your various club dues are due. See the Clubs page for a helpful schedule.
-If you participate in hobby auctions, you'll need to keep track of your lots, whether buying or selling.
  • Lists
-Over the years, individual collectors have compiled listings of exactly what covers are know to exist in specific categories. Many of these listings run into the the thousands and are nothing short of labors of love. When the lister eventually passes away, another collector usually steps up to continue the listing. Some collectors use lists in their collecting; some don't. They are very helpful, though, in showing you, the collector, just what exists and how many there are currently known. They also serve as very useful checklists for what you actually have. The Girlie catalog and the COMBINE listing of Navy Ship covers are good examples. Refer to the Master List of Lists page at The Vault to see just what's available.
-Depending on the specific categories, collectors also often reach a point where it's very helpful to generate want lists of specific covers they are looking for.
  • Insurance
-Most collectors don't have their collections insured, except, perhaps, indirectly under their home insurance. You can get specific riders to cover your collection. The collections might have to be evaluated by an expert to determine value, though...and since there are no set values on any of this hobby material, that's a very murky area.
  • Estate Planning
  • -Eventually, we all either pass on or get to the point where collecting is no longer possible. You should plan ahead of time as to just exactly what happens to your collections in that event. The disposal of those collections...the ones you have spent years of care, time, and effort putting together...is your choice. Make one! More than one collection has simply been thrown out by a disinterested and ignorant relative.

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