Mystic’s Hingeless American Heirloom album was an instant hit… one that took more than two decades to create! But the story of why it was created goes back over 50 years. Here’s how a beginner was inspired to make the perfect stamp album…
You could say stamp collecting is in Don Sundman’s blood. His dad was Maynard Sundman, who founded Littleton Stamp Company right after World War II. Don began collecting as a child, with the encouragement of legends like his dad and H.E. Harris.
But as much as he loved collecting, Don was often frustrated with stamp albums – especially the post style that is so hard to work with. Years later, as president of Mystic, Don decided he’d had enough. It was time to design the ideal stamp album for himself and his customers. And it wouldn’t be enough to simply make the perfect album – it had to be affordable, too! (If you’ve met Don, you know he often challenges himself to meet some pretty lofty goals.)
Don looked at a lot of albums – both U.S. and international – and put a lot of thought into what would make his hobby hours more enjoyable. By the early ‘90s, he was ready to go. With the help of a production team that included two full-time graphic artists and three writers, Don began working on the American Heirloom album.
The first order of business was the binder. To make adding stamps and supplements easier, Don insisted on a three-ring design that would lay flat.
Next came the pages. Thinking back to when he was a beginner, Don decided every page should be illustrated and every stamp labeled by Scott Catalogue number. He felt this was the easiest way to find the correct placement for each stamp. And even the spots waiting to be filled became more fun because they pictured stamps!
On the left-hand pages facing the stamp illustrations, Don had the writers research each stamp and tell it’s unique story. As you might expect, some are full of detailed postal history while others detail the lives of historic figures, tell the tales of great battles, and much more.
Finally, all of this had to be done quickly and efficiently to keep production costs low, which was needed to keep the retail price at a minimum. Well, Don and his team did – and the 3-volume American Heirloom quickly became the best-selling U.S. stamp album.
In the years that followed, Don decided to tackle yet another challenge. He loved the convenience of hingeless albums, but found some of their other features lacking. And the price was too high for the average collector – most volumes cost several hundred dollars or more. Don was sure he could do better.
And he did! In 2012, Mystic introduced Volume I of the new Hingeless American Heirloom album. As the name suggests, it has all the great details that made the traditional album a hit. Plus it features a premium binder that feels like leather, extra-heavy pages for durability, and archival-quality top-loading clear mounts that are pre-affixed in place. Volume I covers the years from 1847-1934.
Early response was quite good, but Don was unhappy with the first batch of albums. He felt they didn’t represent the quality and value his customers expected and he felt they deserved. So he had the issues resolved and issued full refunds to everyone who had received the volumes, and replaced the original album with the new and improved hingeless version.
With the hiccups resolved, production moved forward on the rest of the Hingeless American Heirloom. Volumes covering the remaining years became available in 2013, and a Back of the Book volume was released in early 2014.
Feedback from collectors has been phenomenal. High marks have been given for the album’s quality. And with today’s busy lifestyles, the convenience of pre-affixed hinges is important.
As for Don… well, we’re guessing he’s already planning the Next Big Thing!