For a long time I’ve been thinking about writing a review of William.E. Steiner’s Stamp Albums Web but haven’t really gotten around it. But let’s give it a go… In short the deal is simple and sweet: worldwide stamp album pages for yours to keep and print for only US$30.
The good part of Stamp Albums Web is the price. Single-country pre-printed album series from the likes of Davo, Lighthouse/Leuchtturm cost notably more than the entire Steiner’s offer. And instead of single countries, Steiner is providing worldwide album pages – a total of 71,000 pages. It sounds like a true bargain, but is the deal as good as it sounds?
IMHO a lot depends what is printed, and how it is handled afterwards. If everything is printed at home using a laser printer on high quality acid-free heavy paper and stored on quality binders, the total cost will easily arise up to 12,800€ (nearly 19,000 US dollars) (see the article article about DIY album pages for details). Using an inkjet would very likely increase the total costs by 20-30%, while giving the printing job to commercial dedicated printer would cut the costs (as they can acquire acid free heavy paper on bulk rate).
Very few however need all the pages at least in one go… So I’d say that this is still a very attractively priced offer, especially as the album pages contain many countries not found in commercial album offerings.
The other area of interest is of course the question about quality. Nothing this cheap can’t be of good quality, right?
In general, I find the pages to have a very simple, but working approach. The layout and descriptions of stamp issues are both very clear and straightforward. If something should be criticized about the layout, it is the excessive use of white space on some pages.
But (yes, the dreaded BUT)… The catch is that the pages are very heavily based on Scott catalogues. And Scott is very likely the worst possible source for a European worldwide collector like me. It can lack complete issues/sets and details listed on Michel, Stanley Gibbons and Yvert (the most common stamp catalogues used outside US). If the difference was just few random issues, I would not mind. But sadly it is in the range of tens of thousands listings, if not more.
Another dreaded issue is the level of detail. The pages are sometimes very generic and have places for as such. Take for example Czechoslovakia’s first issue. The album pages do provide places for imperf. and perforated set, and even list various perforations. But there are no separate places for all the different perforations. It makes the pages more compact, but it’s also bloody annoying IMHO.
I like the fact that album pages are provided as unprotected PDF-files. They can be customized using programs with PDF editing features (such as Adobe Acrobat Professional or Open Office 3 pdf-plugin). It’s not a pleasant task, but it is the only way to overcome some of the existing faults.
What’s the final verdict? IMO this is one superb offer if You ever intend to place your collection on album pages. The pages are also a very good deal if You plan on making your own custom pages, as they provide a handy source for stamp measurements and details. Very likely I will use slightly modified Steiner’s pages to house some portions of my collections when they reach the 99,5% completeness level.