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.