How to Preserve Stamps

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How to Preserve Stamps

It seems that in recent years, certain types of hobby collections have become less and less popular. This is not the case with stamp collecting, which has remained popular for well over a century. Stamp collecting is a hobby that requires a good deal of specialised knowledge, such as which stamps are worth more money, and where to trade them effectively. Another branch of stamp collecting knowledge that is important is how to preserve stamps once they are in one's collection.

Preservation is especially important as stamps are not designed to last for a long period of time. Stamps that have lasted for decades have done so because of extra care and attention. Understanding the process of stamp preservation includes knowing not only what techniques yield the best results, but what sort of supplies are needed as well. Many of these supplies are found in hobby shops and other specialty stores as well as on eBay,, where buyers are able to find everything they need without ever leaving their homes. Having the right equipment and the right preservation techniques can ensure that any collector can have the best collection they possible.

Understanding Why Stamps Deteriorate

Stamps are relatively simple objects, consisting of little more than paper, ink, and glue. For this reason, they are highly susceptible to moisture, temperature and other environmental concerns. Even something as simple as sunlight can irreparably damage stamps, not only by causing colours to fade, but by heating up glue and causing it to stick. Any kind of exposure to water can damage stamps, mainly because water is very seldom pure. In other words, water can leave a residue that can cause a chemical reaction in the ink, glue or even the paper that can cause deterioration over time. Chemical reactions are also caused by the stamp's reaction to paper, air pollution, and a number of other substances and objects.

Inherent Vice

Inherent vice is a term that refers to an object's ability to self-destruct over time. While stamps made in many countries make use of the highest quality paper and glue, all stamps have an inherent vice. Inherent vice is also an issue when one material reacts with another. This is the case with metal and leather, as well as with water and many other chemicals. For this reason, stamps that have been used should be separated from the envelope that they might have been attached to. This is best done by gently soaking the stamps and paper in water in order to cause separation.

Handling Stamps

One significant problem with handling collectibles is that contact with skin can leave a layer of oil on them that can cause damage over time. For this reason, anyone who wishes to preserve stamps should not touch them with their hands. Even using gloves can cause issues or damage stamps. The best way to handle stamps is to use what is known as collector's tongs.. These tongs are similar to tweezers but there is a significant difference in the shape of the blade. While tweezers are designed for working in small narrow spaces, collector's tongs have a wider flat blade that allows collectors to pick up and place stamps more easily. Having the proper tools can certainly go a long way towards the best possible stamp preservation.

Selecting Storage Materials

Some of the worst damage to stamps can come from the very materials that are supposed to protect them. Paper with a high acid content can eventually cause deterioration and discolouration. For this reason, it is helpful to choose paper, either with a low acid content or special archival paper, that is made with a lower level of wood pulp and reduced acidity. There are specialised stamp albums that are made with this archival paper are are designed to not react with stamps in a negative way.

Stamp Albums

Stamp albums are similar to photo albums, but are designed to hold stamps. Conventional wisdom regarding stamps is that they should not be mounted on both sides of a piece of paper, as they can cause issues with each other. Stamp albums are designed with paper thick enough that any chemical reaction between stamp and paper should not cause any problems with stamps on the other side. There are also alternate designs in stamp albums that feature pockets that stamps can be placed in for more secure storage.

Plastic Storage Materials

Plastic is a helpful material in that it can protect stamps and other collectibles from environmental damage. However, plastic has its own issues, such as the fact that it can react chemically with stamps and when exposed to sunlight, can turn yellow. For this reason, stamp albums use a thin sheet of plastic that is designed to resist these issues as much as possible. This is just one area in which a stamp album is superior to a photo album, even though they may look similar.

Mounting Stamps

One tried and true method of preserving stamps involves mounting them either in an album, or on specially prepared sheets. This does not, however, mean that stamps can be placed anywhere haphazardly. Since preserving a stamps also means preserving the glue on the back, the glue cannot be used to fix the stamp to the album paper. A safer alternative is the use of stamp hinges with adhesive backing. These stamp hinges are designed for stamps that have been used and removed from an envelope. In the case of stamps that have never been used, it is more helpful to use a special stamp mount. These stamp mounts are basically small plastic sleeves that have an adhesive backing. This allows the stamps to be placed in an album where they can not come in contact with the paper.

Modern Stamps

For a long time, stamps were attached to envelopes with adhesive that had to be moistened with saliva or a damp sponge. Today's stamps are designed to be like stickers, and as such are peeled away from a backing with a ready to go adhesive. Preserving modern stamps is slightly different that preserving older stamps. If the stamps are in mint condition and have never been used, it is helpful to preserve them with their original backing, even if they are just individual stamps. The backing can be mounted with adhesive hinges. For stamps that have been used, it is generally a good idea to remove them from the paper they are attached to. This is done by soaking stamps and paper in water until the stamp can be peeled away.

Buying Stamps and  Preservation Supplies on eBay

Stamp collectors around the world can make use of eBay as a means of finding new and unique stamps to add to their collections. Not only can they find stamps in mint condition, or ones that have been used,, but they can find the supplies that they need to keep and preserve the stamps. The best way to find the specific supplies needed is to use the search bar on the eBay home page. A simple search term like "stamp album&" can provide buyers with a number of different products from different sellers. These search terms can be altered or adjusted to create a more narrow search, or to look for items with very specific details. This is particularly helpful in finding rare or exotic stamps and supplies.

Examine Product Descriptions

When it comes to specialised items like stamp albums, where paper should have a lower acid quality, it is important to read the product description. A good product description should contain information about a product's history and specifications. It is also important to read seller feedback and ratings in order to learn more about where a product might be coming from in order to make an informed purchase.


Stamp collecting is a respected tradition with adherents around the world. Rare stamps, such as those with mistakes, or those that are issued by nations that no longer exist, command high prices from serious collectors. Amateur collectors enjoy collecting stamps from various nations, or from various collections issued by international postal services. For all collectors, regardless of the nature of their collection, it is important to make certain that stamps are preserved so that they do not lose value at any point in time.

Stamp preservation consists of keeping stamps apart from the environment, or any type of harmful agents. Everything including moisture, humidity, sunlight, and air pollution can cause discolouration and various other issues that can potentially damage a stamp and decrease the value. Stamps can also react negatively to paper, especially if the paper has a high acid content. The best way to preserve stamps is to use proper tools, such as collector's tongs, along with other specialised items like stamp albums and proper plastic coverings. If stamps are stored in the right materials and under the proper conditions, without exposing them to extreme temperatures or humidity levels, they can be preserved for years and increase in value at the same time.

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