For a casual collector, storing stamps in any order in an old photo album is enough. For a serious collector, however, stamps must be organized and stored in a way that protects, preserves and presents them. Fortunately, there are many ways to store stamps safely while keeping them accessible.
7 creative stamp storage ideas are:
- Glassine envelopes
- Archival supplies
Stamp storage is not something to take lightly. Stamps show age and are susceptible to many threats. Making sure you store them in a way that protects but still lets you examine or present them is vital to getting the most out of your collection. Below, we go through some great stamp storage ideas.
Common Threats To Your Stamp Collection
The main reason you need to take proper care of your stamp collection and store it correctly is that if you don’t you run the risk of ending up with a damaged collection. There are lots of things that can ruin a stamp collection, so let’s consider a few of them in more detail.
Water can be a friend of a stamp or a mortal enemy. It can be used to help remove a stamp from a cover or it can warp a stamp and render it fragile and susceptible to tearing. When a stamp is immersed, intentionally or by accident, place the stamp on a paper towel face down and let it dry naturally.
If the place that the stamp is stored is too humid, gum can become sticky and even melt, stamps themselves can become prone to tearing, colors can smudge, etc. The proper humidity for a stamp collection ranges from 35% up to 55%. Any additional humidity can result in gum and durability problems very quickly.
Stamps that are exposed to excessive dryness can dry out. The gum can crack and crease the stamp and the paper can become brittle. Just as too much humidity is a danger to stamps, too little is a similar menace. Keeping stamps above 35% humidity is the best way to ensure your collection does not get damaged by moisture in the air.
Ambient temperature is also a concern where stamps are concerned. Temperatures that exceed 72 degrees Fahrenheit can become brittle or if exposed to humidity, can start to curl. High humidity and heat can also warp stamps as well as make the gum start to bond with whatever it touches. This can destroy a valuable stamp without you even doing anything.
Cold temperatures are also no friend to stamps. Extreme cold can dry out a stamp and make it brittle. It can make the gum shrink, which pulls on the stamp and can even rip the stamp in the right circumstances.
This can happen in dozens of ways. Stamps taken out to look at can be left exposed to pets. Young children can get into a stamp booklet and wreak havoc. An envelope with a valuable stamp can be left in a hot car.
One frequent occurrence is when a stamp collection that has been left behind at Mom and Dad’s is abandoned in the attic. There it is exposed to blistering heat, chilling cold, humidity, and in the worst-case scenario, a leak in the roof. There is no end to the possibilities of someone mishandling a stamp or leaving it in proximity of another person to be mishandled.
The only way to avoid this is to always maintain control of your stamp collection.
Fire & Heat
While fire and burning are not common threats, both can quickly destroy a stamp collection, especially if it is not stored properly. Never have a naked flame or anything excessively hot near your stamps or stamp collection books.
Even something as innocent as sitting a stamp collection booklet on a radiator can result in damage to the stamps inside. Stamps can endure a lot, but fire is one of the limits every stamp has. This is also why if you have a valuable stamp collection, storing it in a fireproof safe is a clever idea.
Thieves are everywhere, especially if you have something that is worth a good amount of money. Any home invasion runs the risk of a thief taking a stamp collection, intentionally or by accident. Other places theft may happen is at a dealer’s shop or stamp presentation venue.
Mold can appear when a stamp is exposed to flooding, but it also can happen if it is extremely humid in the environment in which the stamps are stored. There are a few ways to tell if you have mold. The first is the smell; it is unforgettable. If you have not smelled mold, find someone that has and ask them to smell in the room your stamp collection is located for you.
Another way is to look for telltale signs. One sign is a black splotchy color that resides on walls, floors, etc. Black mold is extremely harmful, so if you encounter any in your home, wearing proper safety gear when disposing of it is vital.
A third way is through physical symptoms. These can include the following:
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose
- Throat irritation
Age And General Exposure
Stamps age like everything else and that can create new ways in which they can become damaged. As a stamp dries out it becomes cracked and brittle. The gum can also dry out and recede, stressing the stamp. Paper, over a long time, can become extremely fragile.
General exposure is also an issue with stamps. If your collection is spending more time out of its storage than in it, the elements of the environment your stamps are exposed to can damage your stamps.
The sun bleaches anything that has prolonged exposure to it. If you compare part of a rug that has exposure to the sun every day and part of the rug that does not, you can see how much the sun bleaches fabric. It bleaches paper faster and deeper. That means stamps left in the sun, even for a brief time, can be bleached.
In addition, the sun dries things out. A stamp left in the sun will experience drying of the paper, which can make the stamp brittle. The gum can also be affected in two ways:
- Melting and becoming soft and sticky, which can adhere the stamp to a surface
- Drying the gum out and stressing the stamp, leading to creasing and ripping
Because of the drying effect on the paper and gum and the melting effect on the gum, it is critical that stamps be exposed to the sun as little as possible. If a stamp is exposed to the sunlight for any period longer than a few minutes, carefully move it after verifying that the gum has not melted. Do not try and peel the stamp or pull it off.
There are many insects that would feast on the paper and glue on a stamp. Even insects that do not come immediately to mind, like wasps, can damage stamps. Other insects like silverfish eat the paper of the stamp and the paper of the display booklet. The good news is that most insects can be easily trapped or dealt with by exterminators.
Children are the most intelligent and creative risks to any stamp collection. Stamps are colorful and can be affixed to various surfaces. They also make great stickers, especially the self-adhesive side.
The only way to prevent children from exploring your stamp collection is to store the collection out of their reach (figuratively and literally) or in a safe. Another idea is to give them their own collection to play with.
Now that you know the dangers of not storing your stamp collection properly, what are some creative ways to store your stamps safely?
7 Creative Stamp Storage Ideas
Albums for stamps come in many assorted styles and sizes. Some are focused on specific types of stamps while others are catch-all.
These types of albums generally will be oriented towards a specific type of stamp. Some of the types of stamps these albums might focus on include:
- American leaders
- Famous people
- Country stamps
Country stamp albums, for example, focus on a country’s stamps and have places in the album pages for each type of stamp. For US stamps, the listing of stamps come from the Scott stamp catalogs.
Pre-printed albums are great for those who want to pursue entire collections of stamps. In some cases, the stamp topics could cover several stamp books.
Loose Leaf Binders
These work great for the new collector. They can be used with cellophane sleeves or mounts. This type of album should not contain any valuable stamps. It is great for the new collector or someone that is actively adding new stamps.
Stockbooks are booklets designed to hold stamps, either using stamp hinges or mounts. They are more formal in most cases and offer more protection than a binder. They are like the topic-specific albums.
This type of album is perfect for the intermediate collector. They often come with slipcases and can be easily stored, including in a safe. Accessing stamps and reviewing them is a breeze and adding stamps or pulling stamps out is simple.
These are pricey, but for collections that are destined to be highlighted, professional albums are the best choice. These have hingeless mounting systems and archival quality polyester sheets that allow you to see the stamp from both sides. This type of system is crisp, professional looking, and great for presenting stamps as a collection.
No matter how you store the actual stamps or the type of albums you use, slipcases are the best choice for protecting your albums when you are not reviewing them or working on them. They are durable, and they provide protection against sunlight etc. They are also easily stored.
3. Glassine Envelopes
If you are in the process of selling a stamp or storing stamps for placement, these types of envelopes are the way to go. They are transparent and grease, dirt, water and air resistant. This is the way to store stamps you pulled from an album or have yet to put in an album.
Hinges have been around forever and are inexpensive and easy to use, with gum on one side and a fold that lets the stamp get attached to the hinge, and lets the hinge attach to an album book. The risk with hinges is that it can mess up the gum side of the stamp.
Most people today will go with mounts rather than hinges. They are made with a special archive-safe, transparent sleeve with black backing. Stamps stand out when you use these and are well protected.
6. Archival Supplies
To preserve your stamps, regardless of how you store them, use “archival quality” paper and products. These supplies are designed to neutralize acidity to avoid long term damage to stamps. Additionally, depending on how you store your booklets, a dehumidifier or dehumidifying agents should be used, particularly if you live in a humid climate.
No matter how you store your stamps, if you have a valuable collection, putting them in the best album available and leaving them out for anyone to walk away with defeats the purpose of storing them. If your collection has valuable stamps, you may want to seriously consider investing in a safe.
You want one that can manage several albums in slipcases. You also want a number-code entry system. The safe you choose should be fire and heat proof and, if possible, watertight. That means you will be investing several hundred dollars, but if your collection is worth more than that, it is a wise investment.
There are only a few secure ways to store stamps, so the focus must be on how they are presented and then safeguarded. Albums, slipcases and safes are the best ways to ensure your stamp collection is safe. Focusing all your storage on archival quality products will ensure your collection will be around for decades.