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A Cautionary Tale Or How To Ruin A Stamp

 
 
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Posted 10/15/2019   4:48 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add Anghus to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Recently I purchased a collection of mint stamps on eBay. The collection was mounted using black Scott mounts in a Scott Specialty album. Since the stamps were in mounts I figured they would generally be in good condition.

Much to my surprise, when I started removing the stamps to remount them in my own album I discovered that many of them were stuck to the mounts! Also, many of the mounts were totally stuck down rather than just one half. Needless to say this made removing the stamps a rather difficult and somewhat destructive process. While the majority of the stamps had started out as mint never hinged, once removed from the mounts they could at best be described as having disturbed gum and at worst as having significant thins or other damage. Luckily there are far more of the former and only a few of the latter.

I have no way of knowing whether the former collector was just over liberal with his saliva or if the album was stored in an area of high humidity but in either case the damage was done.

So what is the moral of this tale (not that most of you need reminding)? Keep moisture away from your stamps!

To that end, I would like to give a huge shout out to several forum members who clued me in to a simple way to avoid moisture altogether when mounting stamps. When I started back collecting last year after a 20 year hiatus I decided to use mounts exclusively for all of my stamps. Thanks to postmasterGS, apastuszak and others I learned about roller adhesive dispensers such as those made by Tombow and Scotch. It is a simple matter to place the stamp in a properly sized mount, apply a bit of adhesive to the album page , position the mount and gently press down. Voila! The stamp is protected and no moisture comes anywhere close.

Until you press down it is easy to move the mount around to make sure it is where you want it. Of course I place the adhesive where it only contacts the top half of the mount when using split back mounts. When using open top mounts (Hawid) I place the adhesive so that it contacts the bottom of the mount (simply my preference).

I feel that this method, using mounts and roller adhesive, has made me a better conservator, protecting my stamps for future generations of collectors (laughing at myself a little bit but hey).
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Posted 10/15/2019   5:00 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add dudley to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I attach mounts to my pages using hinges. Helps make the pages reusable.
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Posted 10/15/2019   5:05 pm  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Modern adhesives, even if they call themselves 'safe' or archival, should be considered experimental. Folks should keep a close eye on things over time and move quickly if anything suspicious crops up.

The critical thing is to control the environment no matter what how you mount your stamps or what material(s) you use. I know that some folks do not like hearing this but there is research which shows that paper should 'breathe', and paper kept enclosed in sheet protectors will acidify twice as fast as paper that is allowed to 'breathe'**.

Some folks will probably post that they have been keeping pages in sheet protectors for X years and everything is fine.

But if folks are very careful with the environment and trying modern solutions, they may not see adverse effects.

But caution is warranted and keeping a close eye on things would be good practice.
Don

**Accelerated Aging of Paper - Preservation Research and Testing Series No. 9503 - November 1995 - Library of Congress
Quote:
Paper encapsulated without deacidification became brittle by the tenth day of aging, as compared with the control which took twice as long to lose most of its strength. Even half-sealed paper aged just as rapidly as paper sealed completely. This is a clear indication of the affinity of the degradation products. They are probably hydrogen-bonded to the cellulose matrix.
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Posted 10/15/2019   5:59 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Anghus to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Don, good point regarding adhesives. We now know that even the gum on some early stamp issues can be destructive over time. I'll be sure to keep a close watch on the Scotch roller adhesive I am using even though it never comes into contact with the stamps.
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Posted 10/15/2019   6:20 pm  Show Profile Check GeoffHa's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add GeoffHa to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
This happened to me with part of a French collection that I bought. In England, the problem is more likely to emerge after storage in cold, damp conditions. The enclosed nature of a mount might exacerbate this, or, more likely, the adhesion has just shifted from the page, which would have happened with a hinged stamp, to the mount.
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Posted 10/15/2019   9:36 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Al E. Gator to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I'm with Dudley--mounts with hinges. mounts and pages can both be re-used.
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Posted 10/15/2019   9:41 pm  Show Profile Check KRelyea's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add KRelyea to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I never use split mounts only top load mounts, I think it much safer.
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Posted 10/15/2019   10:38 pm  Show Profile Check eyeonwall's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add eyeonwall to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
People should be required to pass a test before they are allowed to use mount or hinges. I'd swear some people are part St Bernard the way they slobber.

typo fixed
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Edited by eyeonwall - 10/15/2019 10:39 pm
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Posted 10/16/2019   01:53 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Stampman2002 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The key to mounting stamps with split back mounts, in my opinion, is to first attach the mounts, one side only, with an absolute minimal amount of moisture.

I use a Q-tip with water to dab the mount and then place in position.

Let the page dry for a full day.

Then mount your stamps and place it in the album.

Too many stamps are ruined by trying to rush the process, placing the stamp in the mount and then attaching the mount to the page. Regardless of how careful you are, there is ALWAYS the possibility of water (or saliva) migrating to the narrow opening on a split back mount, thereby gaining access to the gum on the stamp.

Patience veritus!
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Posted 10/16/2019   01:57 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Stampman2002 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Top opening mounts are fine for stamps which are either used off-paper or mint with water activated gum.

They are not a good fit for the pressure sensitive adhesive stamps as the thickness will cause them to fall out of the mounts on a regular basis.

I recently broke down a U.S. Platinum album collection with the split top mounts and quickly realized this problem once I got to the stamps which are not water activated gum. Turning the page would cause as many as a half-dozen fall out of their mounts.

For the thicker stamps with their backing, a split back mount is almost essential.
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Posted 10/16/2019   03:23 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add DrewM to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I've also been disassembling a few older collections, moving stamps into newer albums. In doing this, I find that some collectors moisten both the top half of a split-back mount and the lower half! Why in the world? This means that quite often in order to remove the stamp from the mount, you have to tear the mount from the page. It's not always possible to bend the mount on the page enough to get it open so your stamp tongs can remove the stamp. In any case, this ruins an awful lot of album pages. At times I've taken to slicing open mounts (using an X-acto or pen knife). Very frustrating, and I hate to ruin perfectly good albums this way.

A mount, split-back or open-top, does not need a great deal of moisture to hold it on the page. I'm intrigued by the idea of using dispensers with "roller adhesive" strips to hold the mounts on the page. But one concern is that they will add even more thickness to albums. The page has a thickness, the mount adds more thickness (quite a lot, in fact), and so does the stamp. This is the major reason albums bulge so much -- they're packed with multiple layers of plastic and paper. I think my least favorite albums are the German albums with paper album pages topped with separate matching plastic stamp-holder pages. I understand the purpose -- to display both sides of the stamp as well as to allow the possibility of mounting a mint stamp above a used stamps (which German collectors seem to like). But the end result is a massively thick, very heavy stamp album. They're like picking up a brick! I wonder if a stamp in a mount held onto the page by a strip of adhesive tape isn't going to produce a similar situation -- albums bulging with mounting materials far more than stamps.

On the subject of caring for albums, airing them out, keeping moisture away from stamps, and so on, I couldn't agree more. A dehumidifier in your stamp room is really a must, in my opinion. And you should leaf through all your albums every once in awhile. That's the simplest "airing out" process. There are also inexpensive air filtration units which may provide some benefit in removing air pollutants and dust.

One problem created by collecting mint stamps, especially by the Never Hinged Mania in stamp collecting (that I don't much like), is that the gum on the back of the stamps is just waiting to pick up some airborne moisture and glue the stamp to the page. A bit ironically, stamps without gum are much safer in that regard. They're not going to stick to album pages and get ruined. And their fronts can look just as pristine as MNH stamps even if their resale value isn't as great. I mix used with mint stamps in my albums, and I have to say that the used ones are a lot easier to take care of than the delicate mint stamps which must not get moist under any circumstances. A collection of mainly used stamps or stamps without gum on the backs is going to be a lot safer than a far more delicate collection of mint stamps with gum on the backs unless you're especially careful.
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Edited by DrewM - 10/16/2019 03:29 am
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Posted 10/16/2019   06:33 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Gummed stamps are not all THAT sensitive to environmental moisture (humidity) if common sense is applied. After all, for a long period of time stamps were produced, shipped, stored prior to use and collected in non-air conditioned spaces. Heck, there are tons of original gum stamps from 100 years ago that are just fine when it comes to gum. Do not store your stamps in the bathroom if it is used for showering nor in a non-climate controlled storage locker in Florida nor in a non-conditioned basement and you should be fine. Avoid direct contact with moisture whether it be plain H2O or saliva just as you would prolonged storage in direct sunlight.
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Posted 10/16/2019   07:16 am  Show Profile Check 51studebaker's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add 51studebaker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
My concerns are more with the paper than the gum but luckily the environmental recommendations are the same; a cool, dry and stable storage environment with temperatures held at a constant 70°F and a relative humidity held between 30% and 50%.

Paper can be thought as being a sponge, it is constantly exchanging (absorbing and dissipating) atmospheric gases and moisture. This is why environmental stability is important.
Don
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Posted 10/16/2019   07:26 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Totally agree Don. I also should have added that from experience storing paper in a safe can be a bad thing without humidity control. Very bad.
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