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In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes. The idea of stamp inventory program (and other stamp collecting software) is to be of assistance when either one hits the collector. On simplified level, a stamp inventory solution keeps track of what's inside the collectors collection, and what it might be worth. In my previous post about stamp collecting software I pretty much axed dedicated software solutions and hailed Microsoft Excel. With this blog entry I'll show you in more detail how I keep track of my collection.
How my approach works
I've seen multiple stamp inventory solutions, and most of them try to convert simple inventory keeping to rocket science, when all you need is simple plan and some patience.
1) Build a stamp collection and keep it in order.
I store each country separately on stamp stockbooks and place stamps in chronological order on pages. Keeping stamp id (catalogue number) next to stamp is something I recommend highly, as it will make life much easier on the long run.
Some write id's on the back of stamp (not preferred, but very common and easy practice), some write id's on the page under/below the stamp (better and equally easy, but very unpractical if you must shift stamp locations). The preferred solution is a separate mounting piece with details field; this way the information goes with your stamp.
2) Enter details of stamps you have to Excel.
The next step is to enter details of stamps You have to spreadsheet. If you have the ID's clearly marked next to stamps, this stage will be simple (but boring) typing... Having an extra pair of eyes (like wife/husband) is very useful at this stage.
I've seen several inventory programs that provide tens of fields for data entry. For me three fields is enough: catalogue id, catalogue id prefix and notes.
3) Enter catalogue values
The last step is equally simple (but boring) typing... Just enter catalogue values matching the stamps you have. And once again, having an extra pair of eyes/hands is more than helpful.
Repeat steps 1-3 as your collection grows.
What my working space looks like
Below is a peek what my desktop looks like when I work with my "stamp inventory".
On the left you can see Excel worksheet containing the items I have, on the right you can see Michel online catalogue. I must stress that this is just one possible example of how to build a personal inventory. If you don't have access to any online catalogue, then you can simply use a printed catalogue. Alternatively, if you do not like typing, you can always write details by hand on paper first, then scan the paper and finally perform OCR (meaning optical character recognition) on it.Or... The result would be same in all situations – digitalization of your collection. Level of accuracy and number of information is something every collector should judge need wise.
Why to use some kind of inventory solution
Finally there's the question "why spend time on building this kind of inventory?". To be honest, IMO most stamp collectors will do just fine without spending any time or though on inventorying their collection. But IF a stamp collection grows above the limits of "normal", one should start considering the financial aspects and "what if"-factors like insurance, taxes and even death.
A properly build inventory solves many problems involved. Take for example my collection of 50k worldwide items...If it is was put on sale (for some reason), would a dealer/auctioneer go through all my 70+ stockbooks, page by page, stamp by stamp? Heck, no! Most likely the collection would be valued as single gigantic lot with very low price per stamp. Important lesson I have learned from professional stamp dealers is that they are not interested in spending time sorting stamps. They just want to know if there are any goodies available, pick 'em up and leave the low value stamps as-is... And this is just one situation where a stamp inventory solution can be of great assistance.
PS. If anyone wants to have a copy of my "inventory file"-template (= structure, but no stamp data), feel free to leave a comment. I'll be more than happy to share it.