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Displaying Stamp Collections and Keeping Them Safe

Posted in [Preserve your Art, Photograph or Document] By Lauren Miller
In the world of stamp collecting, one has to be aware of how to take care of these colorful, art-worthy, but small pieces of adhesive-backed paper.  Stamp collecting is, for sure, an extremely popular hobby engaged in all over the world, with an average of 10,000 types of stamps coming out world-wide each year.


There are several choices in keeping one’s stamp collection in good shape.  Collections can be framed, placed in boxes or in binders.  The environmental conditions are extremely important in keeping the stamps in excellent condition.  Stamps need to be kept free from moisture and temperature changes.

Before framing a single stamp, one needs certain materials to protect their quality and visual appearance.  Archival quality materials are the key.  Such materials as acid-free mat board, acid-free inks, and frames of conservation quality are all important.  Plus UV glass is meant to protect the color of the stamps from fading.

There are so many choices to make in framing one’s stamp collection.  You can start by choosing a theme.  It could be animals, plants, sports, music, jewelry, important figures in history, famous celebrities, or popular culture.    Your theme could be the country of issue, cancellations or first-day covers.  A single stamp could be framed, or a whole sheet.

Stamp       Yoda Stamp      Stamp

If you choose more than one stamp, you might want to sketch out the layout, or make models of the stamps’ sizes so you can move them around and see where they look best.  Before mounting the stamps, all decorating such as hand-drawn or printed designs, hand-lettering or printed text should be done first.  The color of the mat board should compliment the colors in the stamps you’re displaying, or white mat board can be used for optimal contrast. Stamps’ gumminess can be protected from damage by using stamp mounts, which are plastic sleeves with adhesive backing.  Stamps are placed into the mount, and then the mount is moistened and adhered to the backing paper.

Stamp collections stored in boxes, which also can be made from archival quality materials, could be protected if stored in proper and safe areas. It’s best to use boxes that are no bigger than a shoe box because then the stamps won’t warp.  Stamps should be kept away from hot attics or damp basements where there are extremes in temperature and humidity.   Storing stamp collections in these areas also could cause mold growth and insects could be a problem.

The best places to store stamp collections is in ones’ living space.  Stamps can be kept safe in covered boxes:

  • placed under a bed
  • in a closet
  • on the back of a bookshelf, or
  • on a high shelf in a finished basement (not along an exterior concrete wall)

Another excellent tip in protecting ones’ stamp collection from deterioration is to make sure you’re using plastic materials that are made from an inert, clear material.  Inert means chemically stable.  It won’t react with your stamp collection. Vinyl is not safe because it is not inert.  Any enclosure made with a vinyl compound will interact with the material it comes in contact with and over time, in this case, the postage stamps, will get damaged.  According to the National Postal Museum, plastic materials that are inert, would be labeled PVC free, which means they contain no polyvinyl chlorides and won’t emit hydrochloric acid as they deteriorate.  Chemically inert plastics include polyester, polyethylene and polypropylene.

Keeping your prized postage stamp collection in tip-top condition can be accomplished. It’s important to use archival and inert materials, whether framing your stamp collection or keeping it boxed or in plastic sleeves in an album.  It’s equally important to remember to keep your stamps away from extreme temperatures and dampness. 

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