"It has been said that 'Civilization' began in the East, and it must be true, as the organization of the
first postal system by 'couriers' in the world is attributed to the Persian monarch, Cyrus the Great. In
B.C.536, this Oriental Monarch after the sweeping victories and far-reaching conquests found that he
could not keep in touch with his vast empire. Therefore, he ordered all the commanding officers of his
large army and governors of his various provinces to write regularly to him about all that occurred in
their districts. And to ensure regular deliveries of these reports, he built 'post houses', and stables at
regular distances for the convenience of his postal-runners known as 'couriers'. At every 'post house' a
postmaster was kept in charge of receiving the message from the couriers on their arrival and giving
them other-orders and instructions from the Monarch to his governors and commanders on matters of
State affairs and changing their horses and looking after the other comforts of these first postal runners."
Most 'Beginner Information' provided to new collectors suggest
stamps off of the paper on which they're found but I suggest you delay
a while before you do.
a few risks. (especially watch for stamps that are heavily colored or canceled with
red or green ink, self-adhesive stamps or stamps on colored paper - set
them aside for individual treatment). For
example, a new collector
I know plunged right in and soon found that at least one variety of the
recent U.S. Christmas Issue (1999 Raindeer - "a lick and stick" as she
called it) didn't soak well; it literally turned to 'mush' - and it met
none of the criteria above. If you're the curious type, don't waste
a stamp just experimenting until you know you have a duplicate as
you don't yet know if it could
Note: Al Harris of Alabama has his 'solution' for the risk of dealing with those pesky US
self-adhesives (reprinted by permission c.2008).
and store them in acid free (i.e. archival quality) 'stockbooks,
pages and cards,
or protective 'sleeves'
(look for Mylar Type D)
envelopes are commonly used for short-term storage (oh, ..a few years...
20 or so is not uncommon) but:
An APS committee
puts it this way: "Avoid glassine envelopes and any product made from glassine
like the plague." (citing an example of color changes on the 1 cent green
stamps of Canada from the 1930's and 40's turning to blue and "Bend the
stamp slightly and it will break into pieces. The chemical migration from
glassine is severe.".)
Further: "Glassine paper is not acid-free, so it is not a good idea
to leave stamps and covers in glassines indefinitely. Also, the glue holding
the glassine envelope together sometimes leaves stains on covers stored
in them. Glassine envelopes also can trap moisture if your stamp room is
humid, and your stamps will stick to the inside of the envelopes. The only
way to get them out is to soak them in water." (from AskPhil)
Cigar and shoe boxes, not to mention cookie tins with a silica packet,
But when you are ready seperate them from the envelope or wrapper (or each other); check out this
And don't neglect thinking about creating an inventory
of what you collect... (keep track of what you paid and when as well as
all the other data).
Steven Haddock's - Caring
for your stamps notes, as many do, "A stamp's
number one enemy is sticky
tape ..." - use hinges or mounts
or, my favorites, stock books and 'archival
quality' philatelic albums - note: photo
present PVC and acidic black paper concerns. Though it seems hinges
pass in and, mostly; justifiably for expensive stamps, out of favor,
usually has a US$1 packet of glassine hinges (as well as a few free stamps)
for kids who are new collectors and an address to the supplier for near-kids
like me - and you perhaps. Hinges leave a mark and
should not be used on 'mint'/uncanceled stamps but using them on 'cut
squares' or 'covers' you gather around the house or from friends etc.
keeps them one more layer from the stamp itself and if you get around to
soaking any - no hinge mark is left on the stamp.
"The tooth, the hole tooth and nothing but the tooth!" --Anon.
"You may well ask, can there possibly be a less significant
subject than this? To the philatelist these perforations are significant
indeed. The number of such holes along a 2-centimeter distance on a stamp's
edge is often an identifying characteristic. The perforation may dramatically
influence the value of a stamp. Thus, if you are the proud owner of an
unused US 50 cent stamp issued between 1916 and 1919 it might be worth
$1,500 if it measures 10 holes/2cm (called perf.10) or $110 if it is perf.11.
Otherwise, the stamp design is the same and the colors similar. ..." (check
it out! - aj)
See Also: What Philately Teaches, John Luff c.1899, "... In 1847, Henry Archer, an Irishman, began experimenting with machines for perforating stamps. ..."
"The Michel Specialized catalog was the first postwar catalog
to list German stamps having three sides with normal perforations and the
bottom side imperforate (much like many booklet pane issues today
- aj). Since then, there have been a number of new listings. Today, some
of these have impressive catalog prices.
A brief review of perforation methods in use will help us understand
the nature of these imperforate at the bottom varieties. ...
"You have a nice sheet of stamps or a plate block and you notice
some of the perfs are separating. How can you keep them together without
having to affix unsightly hinges on the gum?
For this job, you will need a tube of
cement. It comes in a green tube and is available at hardware stores.
With the plate block or sheet face up, hold the perfs together
with one hand. Put a small amount of the cement on the tip of your index
finger and smear it down across the separated perfs while at the same time
blowing on the cement to instantly dry it. If you look at the perfs under
magnification, you will see that the perfs are separated, but with the
naked eye they look together. Try this on stamps you would only use for
postage first to get the hang of it." (from the old stingraystamps.com
above process simply creates 'filler' material - much like the damaged stamp in
Chris' collection pictured at the left; note the upper left corner - it
shows that you, at least, have something. Other options might be to turn
a plate block into a plate single if that section of it is good, split
up a sheet saving the plate block(s), if possible, and sell or trade the
remaining singles. Seems obvious when you consider that most modern
stamps can still be had inexpensively.
"Getting a reperfed stamp is certainly a danger when buying
regular stamps, but it is even more of a danger when buying coil stamps!
The problem is tied up with the history of the coil stamp: ..."
McCain's Hinging and How to (c.1998) Determine
"From the beginning of stamp collecting until about the 1930s
(my guess), stamps were mounted in albums with hinges. These hinges could
be made of glassine (thin clear special paper) or plain paper itself of
varying thickness. Hinges were the instrument of attaching the stamp to
the album page. Stamp mounts, which did not affect
the gum of mint stamps, came along much later. ... (hinge marks
can greatly effect value
"There are many degrees to the condition of being hinged. I will describe
the categories I use... For a stamp to be Extra Light Hinge (XLH), the
hinge mark on the gum must not be visible to the naked eye when (casually)
viewed gum side up ... (H)ow you detect Extra Light Hinge (XLH) - There
are three ways to check for it. First, if you have a Signoscope, you can
check by using it. The Signoscope
(The first - and only - optic-electric Watermark Detector) not only
brings out watermarks but will show up XLH marks. The second way is ...gum
up in a dark watermark tray in watermark
fluid... (third).. the one I
prefer ... takes much less time and subjects the stamp to no
possible damage. Take the stamp in a pair of stamp tongs. Extend it a full
arms length toward a strong light source ... reflection of the light off
the gum surface will expose any gum disturbance... "
"Mint stamps sometimes have hinge remnants on them. They can be easily
removed. Some early hinges are very stubborn and can't be removed, but
the majority of hinges can. First you will need a nice quality artist's
paint brush (or a Q-tip/cotton swap - aj.). Turn the stamp over, gum side
up. With a small amount of saliva, wet the brush and keep "painting" over
and over the hinge on the back of the stamp. Do not over wet the hinge,
be patient. You use saliva over water because you can control the amount
of saliva and not the amount of water. Eventually, you will see the hinge
start to buckle in some places. Carefully using tongs start pulling up
the hinge from the stamp. If the hinge sticks, stop pulling with the tongs
at once and apply more brush strokes to the hinge where the tongs stuck.
Wait a few more seconds and slowly remove the hinge. Take a piece of clear
pliable plastic and place to the side. After the hinge is removed, grasp
it with your tongs and hold it in front of your mouth. Breath on the stamp
with your hot breath and say the word Hah! the same way you would if you
were about to clean your eyeglasses. Take the plastic and cover the spot
where the hinge was. Take the back of your tongs near the top and rub it
back and forth over the area where the hinge was, but covered by the plastic.
Wiggle the plastic back and forth until it comes easily away from
the stamp. You will notice the gum now has a lightly hinged appearance
instead of an unsightly hinge remnant." (from stingraystamps.com - sadly
gone now- aj.)
A#1 - Tissue Hinges: The first choice of a paper conservator
would be an acid free Japanese tissue or mulberry paper (often called rice
paper) applied with a wheat or rice starch paste. Aiko's in Chicago is
a good supplier.
A#1.1 - Stamp Hinges: Stamp hinges are
a close second and are much simpler. Stamp hinges are basically glassine
paper with a starch adhesive. The starch adhesive (as
well as the starch pastes used with 'rice' paper) will leave a faint yellow
discoloration in time and become slightly acidic. They last
about 20-30 years.
To Hinge Or Not To Hinge?
"I'd suggest that you use mounts for never-hinged stamps with
a value of a dollar or more. This protects the stamp and its value as a
never-hinged item. They're rather expensive, so consider using them only
for your never-hinged stamps. Hinging them instead is still OK, but when
it comes time to sell a collection or trade material, values will be lower,
especially for more valuable items. Remember, the choice is yours! ..."
(from the ISWCS
Now we turn our attention to the underside of the issue --
the gum. Stick with us and learn about the gooey underside of fakery. ...
(follow that link ;)
Note: The 'marks' considered in this section are generally ones that take away
from the value or appearance of a stamp but
on older, rarer stamps there are, sometimes, marks called
'experts marks' which are a rather
advanced subject but deserves notice now.
The detracting marks are usually catalog numbers, old catalog prices or country names or
errant (accidental) marks but 'experts marks' are usually initials, names or ID (identification)
marks of philatelists that
were consulted to authenticate (or give an opinon about) a stamp or cover.
9. Don't write anything on the back of your mint stamps. Use
only light pressure and a No. 3 pencil for putting notations on used stamps.
Pencil Marks On The Gum? or on an envelope?
- A Tip:
"Unfortunately we collectors sometimes find someone has made
a notation on the gum side of an unused stamp. (This is also and especially
true of First Day and other types of 'covers' and was once an accepted
practice - aj.) When you take a conventional pink eraser and attempt to
remove the pencil marking, you take some of the gum (or paper) away leaving
a small area of disturbed gum on the stamp. There is a way to alleviate
this. Buy a vinyl eraser in an art supply store. They are white
in color and cost about a dollar. With the vinyl eraser, you can safely
remove pencil marks from the stamp without disturbing the gum.
First lay the stamp face down. Take a piece of clear pliable plastic
and hold it (the stamp) down with your finger on the plastic over the area you are
not working on. This will hold the stamp in place. Gently erase the
pencil mark. It is very important that you erase in one direction only.
Erase toward the perforations of the stamp and away
from you. Eventually, the pencil mark will disappear unless it is
a deep, ground-in pencil mark. It is very important you erase lightly in
one direction only or you will have two pieces of one stamp!" (from the
old stingraystamps.com site)
"These can be soaked carefully in a small amount of undiluted
liquid dishwashing detergent (not dishwasher detergent), then rinsed in
clean cool water. Very badly stained stamps can be washed gently in a weak
solution of water and a bit of enzyme laundry detergent. Careful! This
can work too well and remove the printing ink!"