Today, I want to look at another novel way to collect stamps: as complete booklets. When stamps first appeared in 1840, they were only issued in full sheets and the stamps had to be separated by cutting them apart with scissors. Thus, if you wanted to have a supply of stamps at hand, you had to buy a large block from the post office and then carry a pair of scissors with you to separate the stamps. Of course, this became highly impractical and meant that people generally couldn't write a letter and mail it when they were away from home.
Around the turn of the century in the decade leading up to 1910, various postal administrations came up with the idea to issue stamps in little cardboard booklets that could be sold from public vending machines that would be installed in public places. By the early 1920's this method of issuing stamps was fully entrenched, with nearly every country issuing booklets in some form.
Because the stamps in these booklets were the common definitive stamps of the periods when they were issued and because the booklets themselves were both expensive and bulky, they were not widely collected. The result is that many early booklets are quite scarce and highly collectible. However, there is a period from the late 1930's through to early 1960's where complete booklets have a definite scarcity factor, but are not overly expensive. This booklets afford a great opportunity to collect stamps from around the world in a way that will allow you to put together a collection which is very likely to increase in value.
Below are some scans that show some early booklets from the 1910's to the 1930's:
Some booklets from Canada from the 1911-1927 Admiral series.
Early booklet and typical contents of a US stamp booklet from the 1910's.
A booklet pane from England in 1936 showing King Edward VIII , who abdicated in December 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson. These were some of the only stamps ever issued showing him while he was actually King. Note the neat advertisements in the margins where there were no stamps. There are many different kinds to collect for each booklet like this that was issued.
Most of the early booklets as you can see are somewhat plain. However, in the modern period after World War II and particularly starting in the 1970's and 1980's stamp booklets become much more colourful and elaborate. The scans below show some of the more interesting modern booklets that can be collected:
A book of greeting stamps from the UK that features fictional literary characters.
This is a page from what is known as a "prestige booklet". Prestige booklets were usually associated with some entity, place, or theme that is being commemorated, with each page telling a story and containing a pane of stamps integrated into the page. This one has the same stamps in the pane, but there are some that contain different stamps printed side by side in the same pane, like this one:
Here is the inside of a folded booklet of self-adhesive die-cut stamps issued by the US to commemorate Harry Potter:
In addition to the contents, the covers of booklets have become more animated in recent years, so they have become collectible in their own right. Below are some examples of covers that show interesting designs:
The 1935 Silver Jubilee booklets from the UK. These are some of the few early booklets that were issued for commemorative purposes.
An Australian stamp booklet cover from the early 1960's. How retro is that??
A very modern booklet from French Polynesia.
Finally, in addition to the stamps and the outside covers, the inside covers can also be a source of interesting graphic designs and advertisements:
So as you can see there are many points of interest to collect for booklets. Fortunately, there are many albums on the market now that allow you to display your booklets opened out so that you can see both the inside contents as well as the cover designs. A word of caution though: many early booklets were stapled shut, and it is not possible to open them flat without putting a permanent crease in the front cover. Doing this greatly reduces the value of these booklets. So a good rue of thumb is not to force any booklet open that does not open out naturally. Fortunately, most modern booklets are designed in a way that allows them to open out easily and lie flat when open, so you can display them fully, without any fear of damaging them.