Storing Stamps / Handling Stamps
This is a reference chapter. Read this chapter if you are not familiar with the safe handling and storage of stamps.
Stamps are not an easy collectible. They can be easily damaged, even when sitting on a bookshelf. The “rules” below should help you keep your stamp collection in as good as shape as possible.
1. Store the really valuable stamps in a bank safety-deposit box.
2. Do not store stamps in a home safe unless it has been specifically rated to store stamps. Many home safes will accumulate moisture on the inside, and the moisture will ruin the stamps. If you do use a home safe, make sure it is of sufficient weight that it is too heavy to be stolen with ease.
3. Never store stamps in a basement unless you live in a warm, dry climate and/or you run a 24-hour-a-day dehumidifier.
4. Never store stamps in an attic.
5. Albums should be stored on a bookshelf upright (like books in a library). Do not lay the albums flat for long periods of time, and never lay albums flat on top of another.
6. Avoid handling stamps with your fingers. Use stamp tongs whenever possible. The oil from your fingers can leave fingerprints, and it can damage the stamps.
7. Wash and dry your hands before handling stamps.
8. If working on the kitchen table, be sure it is clean and dry. A puddle of water left by a glass can wreck havoc on a stamp that falls into it.
9. Keep food and beverages away from the stamps while you are working on them. A spilled cup of coffee can cause hundreds of dollars in damage.
10. If you live in a very humid area, keep stamps in an air-conditioned room if possible. If not, store them in a closet with a small-wattage light bulb burning constantly.
Don’t store your stamps in the wine closet. A gentleman in California recently lost his entire wine and stamp collection in an earthquake. The wine was on the shelf above the stamps and it all made a soggy, red mess when it landed on the floor.
11. Do not write on the stamps. Pencil marks were okay on the back of stamps and on the selvage once upon a time. Today marks are unacceptable and can substantially reduce the value of your stamps.
12. If you have old covers, do not soak the stamps off the envelopes. The cover with the stamp attached is often more valuable than the soaked-off stamp.
13. If buying stamp mounts and other philatelic supplies with plastic in them, look for the words “archival quality.” They cost more but will protect the value of your stamps.
14. If buying stamp albums or paper to use in a stamp album, look for the words “acid-free paper.”
15. If you have sheets of stamps, do not separate the stamps. It is usually easier to sell the complete sheet.
16. If you have a booklet of stamps, leave it intact. It is easier to sell the complete booklet. If you must remove one pane of stamps from the booklet, you must leave the “tab” attached to the stamps. The tab is the part that is glued or stapled to hold the stamps in the booklet. If you tear the stamps out of the booklet, you greatly decrease the value of the pane.
17. If you have se-tenants, leave the stamps together. If you separate the stamps, you generally decrease their value.
18. Avoid stamp hinges at all costs. Nothing will decrease the value of your stamps faster. (If you really have to, you can use hinges on the cheap, used, Scott 20-cent stamps. Never use a hinge on a mint stamp or a valuable used stamp.) If you must use hinges, use ones marked as “peelable.”
19. If you need to send photocopies of stamps or covers, try to make just one copy of each. If you need additional copies, make copies of the copy. The bright light in a copy machine can cause a stamp to fade. One copy probably won’t hurt, but the less copies the better. When copying stamps or covers, it is best to place them against a black background. This makes it easier to see the perforations on the photocopy.