|Introduction to Stamp Collecting|
Caring for Stamps
By Jim Watson
Stamps are relatively fragile pieces of paper and require care and common sense in their preservation. The first step is to mount stamps carefully in an album. This will protect the stamps while making them available for viewing. If you haven't read the section on Displaying or Storing, do so now. It discusses albums and mounting of stamps.
Since stamps have to be handled to be mounted, one should always use tongs to pick up a stamp. Oil and dirt on the hands can soil a stamp. It's always advisable to have clean hands when working with stamps.
Stamp mounting should be done with care. Hinges are quite satisfactory for used stamps but must be used with particular care for mint stamps with original gum. There are many varieties of mounts made of clear plastic which are useful for mint stamps but all are considerably more expensive than hinges.
Stamp stockbooks and stocksheets are available for storing duplicates and stamps awaiting mounting or being studied. These provide stiff sheets of paper with rows of slots for storing stamps. Some are made of clear plastic and some are made of stiff paper like that used in file folders.
Covers should be mounted with large clear mounting corners available from most philatelic supplies sellers. There are also plastic sleeves which can be used but which are considerably more expensive. If you do not mount the covers, glassine envelopes are recommended for valuable covers. Often covers are stored loose in shoeboxes but this practice can lead to damage.
Glassine or plastic envelopes are also useful for storing blocks of stamps. Sheet albums made of glassine are often used for storing sheets. Each sheet has an individual slot made of glassine for storage.
Albums should be stored upright so that stamps are not under pressure. This will lessen the tendency of mint stamps to stick in humid conditions. It also will lessen damage to the gum which comes from pressure against mounts. This can give the gum, and even the stamps, a glaze which is a defect.
Stamps are affected by humidity and collectors in moist climates should protect their stamps with storage in air conditioned areas. This will also avoid tropical problems which discolor stamps and sometimes even cause mildew. The gums used for stamps used to be organic vegetable products and are food for vermin.
Sunlight can damage stamps so, if you want to display some favorite piece on the wall, use artist's glass made for the purpose. Ask your framing shop for details.
Just a couple of don'ts. Never mount a stamp with pressure sensitive cellulose tape. This will destroy the stamp. Also, avoid the use of ball-point pens near stamps. Accidental touching of the stamp with a ball-point pen can leave permanent damage.