Why You Should Care for Your Collectible Rare and Old Stamps and Paper Art
Whether or not you consider your philatelic and stamp items to be art, your old postage stamps have in common with art that they are both perishable, not only because of past events and processes over which you no longer have control, but also from present and future preservation and care you as a philatelist may fail to apply to your old stamps
Many of us would like to ignore that without extra effort on our part, our paper based rare stamp treasures will eventually decompose and disintegrate to dust, perhaps even in our own lifetimes. The United States Declaration of Independence is an example of one humble piece of old paper that might not have survived, but for the relatively recent extra efforts taken to preserve it.
After you finish reading the following paragraph, ask yourself the question, could it be that the small pieces of philatelic paper that you and I enjoy so much will suffer the same fate as the 1847 Scott #1 below?
"What I find remarkable is that we are nervous about our stewardship for a scrap of nineteenth century paper that issandwiched between a layer of corrosive ink and a smear of gum.
Our historical charge was born in a coal-firedpressroom, dried and cured in a warehouse filled withthe acidic stench of an industrial city; it was hefted and hoisted and handled by men and boys who washed but once a month, and laid out then for a month in a drawer of foul inks, glues and gums until a charwoman paid a pence for it, and gave it to a eight-year old girl who licked away most of the gum and smushed the remains with sticky fingers to a rag-based envelope. Our charge then sat there for weeks in the damp bottom of a canvas sack, among the dead rats in the hold of a leaking wooden ship before the dripping bag was hauled ashore through the mud by thoughtless natives sweltering in the tropical salt sea morning – and hauled again, and tossed and sat upon until it was called for by a boy and a dog cart.
Our stamped envelope may then have been taken to the big house where it was delivered through the odorous, splatter-spilled kitchen, to a servant who open it with a fish knife, finally, and delivered it’s contents to the master who raged about it’s message, tossed it and stomped on it and fetched it to the bin, from which it was saved and stacked and tied tightly into a bundle of its kind – and where it lived for a hundred years at the bottom of a wooden trunk. Through heat and hurricanes and floods, our stamp survived unimaginable wars, plagues and pestilence in the company of a child’s chemistry set, a box of damp linens and a tin of melted chocolate.
And one day in our century, a ten-year-old boy found this envelope and popped it into a pot of boiling water, which floated the stamp free to dry on a sheet of yellowed newsprint. Pressed beneath five volumes of Holcomb’s World History, our small scrap of paper was finally consigned to a penny album, fixed with a bit glued tissue, and there was pressed for fifty years until it was discovered to be a rare shade of burnt umber and hurried to an auction house in New York City.
One wonders, then, about the effects of a drop of hydrogen peroxide?" Reprinted with permission of Richard Coffey; all Copyrights reserved
Are you the steward of one of the rare stamps of the world or the owner of a stamp worth only for its particular aesthetics or stamp history? Regardless if your stamps collection is composed of the rarest stamps or only common topical stamps, your philatelic collection's future depends not only on its past treatement, but also on the present harmful effects of visible light, ultra violet light, temperature, humidity, pollutants, paper, and plastic.
With regard to how much and what type of care you should expend to protect your stamp collecting albums and the treasures within, the following pages will try help you make that determination.
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