One of the first questions a stamp collector must ask himself or herself is: do I collect used or unused stamps? If the answer is the latter, then one must also decide whether to collect hinged or never hinged stamps. But what does all this mean?
Let’s go back in time a bit. When I was a young stamp collector, my friends and I (and a good many adults) all collected whatever stamps we could get our hands on, occasionally by purchasing collectible stamps but very often by soaking used stamps off envelopes. We would then take the used or unused stamps we’d acquired and place them in our stamp albums by means of stamp hinges, which were small strips of gummed material. One part of the hinge would get glued to the back of the stamp, and the other part of the folded stamp hinge would get glued to the album page.
Stamp hinges weren’t ideal, for a number of reasons. Even the “removable” stamp hinges weren’t always that easy to remove; try too hard, and you might create a thin spot on the stamp. Plus, they marred the glue on the back of pristine stamps, leaving a hinge mark. Nowadays, most collectors use stamp mounts to place stamps in albums, or do away with albums altogether and use stockbooks and the like.
There’s a whole list of abbreviations stamp dealers use to define a stamp’s condition as far as hinges are concerned. Common ones in use are as follows:
MNH = Mint, never hinged. (British collectors, rather humorously, are more apt to say, “mint unhinged”.) If you purchase a stamp from a post office, it will be in mint, never hinged condition. If you put it in an envelope and take it out sixty years later, it will of course still be in that condition.
MLH = Mint, lightly hinged. This is a mint (that is, unused) stamp that was once hinged. There’s evidence that the stamp had been hinged, but not much; you may need to look closely to see it.
HH = Heavily hinged. There’s no question that you can easily see that this stamp was once hinged.
HR = Hinge remnant. Part of the hinge is still on the back of the stamp. (Don’t try to remove it, unless you know what you’re doing.)
For obvious reasons, collectors and investors – when given a choice, which isn’t always the case – prefer mint, never hinged stamps to stamps that were hinged. For that reason, mint, never hinged stamps are valued more highly and sell for a premium over the other types of conditions.
Nearly all of the stamps we sell on this website are in mint, never hinged condition. Which means, every few months or so, someone will send me a note reading something like, “I saw the same stamp you’re selling on ____ for a dollar less.” Usually the stamp on the other website would be in something less than mint, never hinged condition. When this first occurred, I would send a long reply explaining about stamp condition (including, but not limited to, condition regarding hinging), mentioning the need to compare shipping charges, etc.
I’ve stopped doing that, partly because I’m a bit lazy and partly because it’s not really worth my time to do so. We charge fair prices for our stamps, a fair price for shipping, and we have a very fair return policy. What more is there to say?
Well, enough of that. This blog is about stamp hinging, and I hope it proves helpful to readers with questions on that subject.