4 ways to maintain your stamp collection

July 29, 2015

Stamp collecting is timeless, as they hold all kinds of interesting information about history. Here are some tips on how to keep yours in the best possible shape — whether you're holding onto them, passing them down, or looking to sell.

4 ways to maintain your stamp collection

1. Store stamps carefully

Most serious collectors keep their stamps in acid-free albums, available from local and online outlets that specialize in gear for stamps and similar collectibles. There are two main ways of holding individual stamps:

  • Peelable stamp hinges, which have adhesive backing, are fine for mounting most used stamps in an album.
  • For mint-condition and valuable uncirculated stamps, it's better to go with a stamp mount, a clear plastic sleeve with a gummed backing. Stamp mounts are specifically designed to preserve the original adhesive gum on the backs of your best stamps.

2. Steam stuck stamps

  • If your stamps become stuck to one another, you can usually peel them apart by briefly steaming them for several seconds. Be very careful not to rip them as you're separating them.
  • If the adhesive still holds, repeat the steaming process.

3. Keep old envelopes

  • Some antique stamps are more valuable with the original envelope and postmark intact.
  • Be sure to consult a philatelic expert whenever you're in doubt about whether or not you should throw away the envelope.

4. Handle with tongs

  • Stamps are inherently fragile. Don't handle them with your bare fingers, and never use ordinary tweezers, which may pierce or otherwise damage the stamps.
  • Instead, whenever you need to hold or move stamps, use stamp tongs.
  • These specialized instruments — available from hobbyist-supply stores — are usually made of stainless steel and resemble large tweezers with dulled or flat blades at the ends.
  • They protect the stamps from bending and limit the need to handle them with your fingers.
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