Notes from the Past

Hinge, an Important Discovery

The more you think about it, the more you realize what an important part the discovery of the stamp hinge has played in the history of philately.  The lowly stamp hinge should really be enshrined in every stamp club the world over, for it is likely that philately would never have amounted to much without it.

Someone, back in the dim and must long-ago came through in the clutch and brought forth the little gummed sticker that forever after made it so simple to attach, detach, transfer, buy, sell, trade and dispose of stamps.  To stamp collecting, it was just as important as the invention of the wheel to the ape-man.  It assured the future of the stamp trade and endowed a new industry.  While I am no philatelic historian, I am certain that any serious research into the matter would prove that the stamp trade, stamp collecting, and the value of stamps advanced by long leaps and strides immediately after the introduction of the hinge, when as you might say, Philately (now with a capital P) emerged from the stuck-down era.

Philately, in its primitive stage, was somewhat uncouth.  People acquired a few stamps, and soon thereafter an album.  Crests were fashionably collected in those days and they were just stuck flat in albums, so what more natural than that stamps be handled in the same way?  You can find an article in the American Journal of Philately (April, 1868), wherein instructions were given on how, properly, to mount specimens, and it read in part, "a strong solution of gum-arabic will meet every practical purpose and it may be applied with a medium sized paint brush."  You were to smear a streak of the gum-arabic across the top of the stamp, and again across the bottom, and this would be, "sufficient to affix the rarest stamp, and will admit of an easy removal, when required."  Stamps did of course come off with thin spots, frequently, upon removal, if they did not rip in the midriff at the first yank.

Stamp collecting has come a long way since that foresighted and anonymous pioneer, whoever he was, created the first stamp hinge.  The early hinges such as I have seen, were crude, and many of them stuck as loyally as the gum-arabic.  But that was all changed by constant trial and error over the years and with laboratory experiment, until today, with modern machine methods and precision equipment, we have the glorified "Peelable" hinge, diet and no feathered edges, at only a dime a thousand, count guaranteed.  And for the ultra-fastidious, there is the super hinge, the ultimate in peelability, that hardly touches the stamp, although, unfortunately, most of the time you find your stamps down in the binding of your album.  The time is coming, though, when we are going to dispense with hinges entirely, or so I hear.

- George B. Sloane
Sloan's Column
July 19, 1941
Posted July 10, 2000

Editor's Note:  How prophetic!  It is hard to believe that we lost the recipe for making hinges.  I think one can make a case that stamp collecting has been very adversely affected by the mint never hinged craze which caused the stamp mounts to exceed the value of the stamps.  I think this expense deters a lot of collectors.  Time to get back to producing good, peelable hinges and stop promoting the mint never hinged heresy.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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