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A collating party was an event where friends were invited over to physically help put together the finished pages of a fanzine, an APA mailing, or convention publication. It was a volunteer effort and a major social event.
How To Collate -- Some Tips
This is where a club comes in handy. Consider borrowing your little sister's girl scout troop. Place the neat little piles of printed pages in sequence around a table -- odd numbered sides up. Get as many people as possible (12 people can collate 300 copies of a 12-sheet zine in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours) and go to it. Start at the beginning and each time you pick up a sheet, turn it over to make sure the even-numbered side has printed clearly. Consider giving all your helpers either a free copy, a half-price copy, or a hearty handclasp on the back. 
From Nancy Kippax:
"Did I mention the collating parties? These evolved, too, over time. We sent out a call to everyone within driving distance to come on a specified date and help collate. The grand incentive was that collators got a free copy of the zine. This, of course, didn't really matter to those who were already contributors, but they came anyway. Bev and I would provide food and drink – buckets of fried chicken, or a crock pot of barbecue beef, chips and other snacks, cole slaw, whatever we decided was appropriate for the weather and the season. We would lay out the pages all along Bev's extended dining room table, fanning them as we'd been taught in the beginning, and we'd usually get about 15 pages (that would be 30 pages of the book) on one trip. We'd take up our places and walk around the table, picking up a sheet at a time. When the first section was finished, we'd lay out the next, and so on, until we reached the end of the zine. Workers weary of trudging around the table, sat down and put the separate sections together. Let me tell you, my friends, that was a lot of trips around that table! For a long while, Bev had green shag carpet in her dining room (well, it was the '70s, after all!) and I tell you honestly that we eventually wore a path in that carpet! Another staple of the collating party was the music. In the beginning, we had a vinyl 45 record that I had bought by mail without hearing, and I regret I'm unable to say now who it was by. It was called "The Ballad of Star Trek" and it began, "The Great Bird of the Galaxy/Swooped down on prime TV. . ." and the resounding chorus went something like, "Star Trek Lives/The Trekkies grow stronger each day/Enterprise flies on/Meeting aliens and planets on its way". It was a delightful little ditty. We'd also play the albums recorded by Leonard Nimoy. (Bilbo/Bilbo Baggins/Only three feet tall/Bilbo/Bilbo Baggins/Greatest little Hobbit of them all. . . Rollin', rollin'/Rollin' down the river. . .) Later, of course, we had our own Omicron Ceti III songs to sing aloud, with or without music. All that enthusiastic singing made the work more bearable! 
Another DescriptionFrom Fandom is for the Young:
Collating the fanzine requires the cooperation of the neighborhood! Since our dear lady has become the comic relief of the neighborhood, no one wants to miss out on all the fun.
Lord, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from collation! Never in this world has ever there been a disorganized mess like that of collating a fanzine. Running a mimeo is the relish tray in the meal of amateur publication. Collation is the entree. A large working space is required, preferably the round table from King Arthur's Court. Karen has found that the round table is not nearly large enough. It takes the entire eleven hundred square feet of her basement! Theory requires that you first find page one and continue in sequence until you have collated the entire fanzine. Often, page one is at the bottom of a stack of pages four feet high- ingenuity liberates page one without disturbing the rest of the pile, though probability reigns high that, since your children have helped, page two is somewhere in the center of the pile. Having liberated all of the pages and spread them in orderly fashion, you step back, only to realize that the pattern formed on the floor resembles the mainspring of a watch. Bending and stretching, being careful not to step on any of the precious piles, the master fanzine is collated and proofread. Oh my! Well, what do you know! Page three has been mysteriously printed on the back of page ten! Page eleven is found in front of page thirty-seven, and page thirty-seven is in place of page three.
All right! Reprint is impossible since the mimeo has managed to neatly destroy most of the stencils. To avoid typing six new stencils and having to argue with the mimeo through them all, we make one explaining that the readers will have to read out of sequence to finish the story. We arrange our explanation to be collated with the rest and send oul our invitations. Now is the time for all good neighbors to come to the aid of the collating party. We supply the pretzels and the beer. They supply the labor. Collating a fanzine is better than a game of Twister, and Jack LaLanne would leap with joy at the exercise we get in the process. What starts out as great fun, has muscles as we try to avoid stepping on stacks of pages, lifting, stretching and bending, screaming in agony. Any neophyte attending his first collating party finds that he wakes the next day feeling as though he has overnight contracted an acute case of all-over arthritis! Pretzels, anyone? While collating, we find that the mimeo has foiled us despite all our efforts, and we have pages that are blank, pages that are printed but unreadable, and pages that are only half printed. It calls for a watchful eye. All those pages not usable are committed to a trash can situated five feet above the floor. When the collation is done and the barrel is full, we con the two strongest men into carrying it out. Finally, all good things must come to an end, and the fanzine is collated.Now, we must declare another party! We still have to staple. Twice! Why for you staple twice, you say? Because the staples are never long enough. The innocent little things have no delusions of grandeur Never in their existence have thev dared think thev could hold together some ninety-odd pages of twenty-pound bond. Once stapled, we must find envelopes. And stuff them, and lick them shut, and address them. We now find we have seven stacks of stuffed, licked, and addressed envelopes five feet high!
Wash Your Hands
The editors of the Southern Enclave offered the following advice to wannabe zine publishers in 1991:
If you have the money to spare, your printer will collate and bind your zines for you. If you're on a limited budget, then you're stuck with the grunt work. The most fun solution is to throw a collating party — invite in all your friends, provide the munchies (but make everyone wash their hands before the collating starts), throw on some music and get to work! Collaters get a freebie copy of the zine for helping out. 
For the first time, I looked into paying to have my zines collated, since I could no longer host a collating party in my sister’s apartment. I missed the social aspect of the collating party – they could be so wonderfully chaotic and fun – but I actually ended up with more saleable copies of the zines. Ultimately, it proved to be less expensive to pay for the collating than to have a party to do the collating as a group. Yet another step in gradual passing of fannish traditions as new technologies came available.