Long-Term Stamp Storage

Storing your stamps for a period of time?  Follow these tips to help keep them safe…

Whether at home or in a storage unit, stamps and covers should be kept where humidity and temperature are at safe and fairly consistent levels.  High temperatures and humidity can activate the gum on the back of many stamps, which may cause them to stick to each other or to pages in stock books and albums.  Stamps that are kept in cold temperatures may become brittle, which can also be damaging.  Ideally, stamps should be stored at room temperature with a relative humidity of 50%.  (Tip – silica gel, which is available at most hardware and craft stores, is an easy and affordable way to control humidity.)

In addition to heat and humidity, mold can do serious damage.  Never put anything that has begun to mold, no matter now slightly, near a collection because it will spread.  Sunlight is also harmful as it will fade the colors of stamps and album binders.  The heat from sunlight may cause an album cover to become brittle and crack and the pages to turn yellow.  Even overexposure to room lighting can change the color of stamps, so never store stamps in frames for any length of time.  Food, beverages, and tobacco are also natural enemies of stamps.  Chemicals can also cause color changes, so protect stamps from cleaning products and other products that contain them.  (Watermarking fluid provided by a trusted supplier will not harm stamps.)

Choose a storage container that allows stamp albums and binders to always be stored upright.  Storing albums upright distributes the weight evenly and reduces pressure.  Otherwise, pressure can increase the risk of stamps sticking to a page or of damaging fragile stamp edges and perforations.  Attach valuable stamps to album pages using stamp mounts, which help prevent damage caused by creasing or folding.  Full sheets of stamps should always be stored in mint sheet folders, which are sold by stamp dealers and also available through Amazon.com.  Covers (envelopes, postcards, and wrappers) need storage boxes with enough room to remove the covers easily but not so much that they slide around and damage each other.  Transparent sleeves are also available and are adequate if they are sturdy enough to prevent bending.  Glassine envelopes are not recommended for covers or stamp sheets because they are easily bent.  Only use containers, albums, and other storage items that have been made of chemically neutral (archival-quality) materials.  Using a water tight or fire proof container as an added precaution is always a good idea when renting a storage unit.  They can help protect stamps against sprinklers, leaky ceilings, flooding, smoke and fire.

Use tongs whenever handling stamps costing more than 10¢.  Even freshly washed hands can leave damaging body oils on stamps.  Also make sure hands are completely dry when working with a collection.  Take an inventory and insure valuable collections.  Storing albums and stock books in slipcases is an additional barrier to dust.

30 responses to "Long-Term Stamp Storage"

30 thoughts on “Long-Term Stamp Storage”

  1. I assume that the climate control in my gun safe would be okay for the stamps, but would the oils be a problems if I kept them on a different shelf, or should I get a small one to hold the stamps. With the rechargeable gel and the small fan to move the air around. I have just started again after a 10 or 12 year break when I had to sell my album for money to save the farm when my late wife got sick and died. It is fun to be back but I feel like a newbie.

    • Hi Capt Kirk,

      We do not recommend storing the stamps near oils. The potential for fumes from the oil damaging the stamps is too great. This is especially true in a sealed environment.

      If you keep your stamps in archival quality mounts, your home will likely be perfectly safe for your stamps. Ideally, you want your stamps kept in an area with 40-60% humidity and in normal room temperatures. I know there are some parts of the country where that’s a challenge.

      I hope that helps. Have fun with your stamps!

  2. Is there any way to clear unpleasant smells from first day covers and old stamped envelops? A dear friend gave me some stamps that had been in storage and they have a musty smell. There are envelopes and letters dating from the 1860’s through the early 1920’s. The stamps are good and the paper is fine it’s just the smell that I would like to improve. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

    • Hi Merle,

      Our first suggestion is to find some space in an well-ventilated, temperature controlled room. Lay the covers out on a flat surface to “air out.” The odor should dissipate or lessen in a few days, depending on the severity.

      If that doesn’t work, there are a few old tricks which can work. We suggest you test these methods on some covers you can bear to part with, just in case the results are not ideal. There’s a small chance these methods could have an effect on paper. So be cautious before using these tricks on your most precious covers.

      Wrap up a few pieces of charcoal in paper towels and put them with the covers in a paper bag. The goal is to make sure the charcoal doesn’t touch the cover. Close the bag. Check in a day or two and the odor should be gone. You can use cat litter and/or baking soda as odor eaters in similar fashion. Just remember to test first and don’t lay the covers directly on the litter, baking soda or charcoal.

      Good luck!

  3. Hi, I’m looking for an airtight container for my old collection. The album is 12.75 tall x 11 wide x 3.25 thick. Plastic? Needs to fit a gun safe shelf.

  4. I have ben collecting stamps for forty years. I am now retired and have begun again to working with my stamps. I purchased a lot of stamps over the years and I have not yet placed most of the stamps I collected in the albums. I wanted to this right, I have a program that I can enter each stamp,
    My question is, where do I find out for each stamp, what perforation they are supposed to have, watermarked or no watermark? I can not wait for your answer.
    How and where do I find this information?

    • If you are collecting U.S. stamps, you can type the Scott #’s into the search bar. Each U.S. stamp listing on this website gives you that information.

  5. I have recently inherited my dad’s collection of British Stamps in albums and envelops. I need to store them for a while before I can dedicate some time in sorting through them. Would I be ok to use a sterilite plastic storage container to keep them in inside our home?


  6. I used to purchase stamps “on approval” from you many years ago as a kid and young adult and glad to see you guys are still around decades later! Question: I have read differing opinions about airtight plastic storage for stamps. Some say it’s the way to go and others say it can promote fungus as it doesn’t allow the stamps to “air out”–and that the plastic “chemicals” can affect the stamps. Any thoughts?



  7. Would short-term exposure to near zero degree temps damage my stamps? I’m moving from Wisconsin to Arizona and I wonder about the stamps sitting in the moving truck in Wisconsin for a week.

    • We don’t suggest keeping stamps in any extreme temperatures. Humidity is certainly worse but if it’s necessary to move them in any extreme temperatures, be sure albums are stored upright and not laying on top of each other. Weight from albums can make stamps stick to pages, or crack if it’s too cold. Carry the most valuable albums with you just in case.

  8. As a youthful collector long ago I collected many full sheets and number blocks but did not properly store them. As a result, likely due to humidity, many of them have stuck themselves to adjacent sheets. Is there any way to separate these sheets without soaking in water which would remove the adhesive?

    • Unfortunately, you’re likely going to lose some gum. You can try getting the sheets humid again, perhaps with steam. to see if they will come apart with minimal gum loss. If that doesn work, you will need to soak the stamps. Good luck!

  9. I recently bought a box of commemorative mint stamps in large white envelopes. 1960 through 1985. I also recieved a book called United States Liberty Stamp Album. I am new to collecting. My question… should I leave the mint sets in the envelope they are in? (The stamps are sealed together in a plastic bag unopened and come with a booklet about that year) or should I mount in the book? It’s in great condition.

    Also… I have about 20 first day issue envelopes… early 60s through 80s… What is the best way to store..showcase them appropriately?

    Thank you for your time.

  10. What a great web page and catalog service!!

    My issue has to do with that never ending problem of mildew and fogging. Some of my Mystic album pages have developed these spots on the edges and sometimes in mid-page.

    What is the best way to treat this once you have it?

  11. I live in a tropical environment without climate control in the house. I’ve got a dozen or so albums I need to keep safe here. What kind of storage should I be looking for?


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