Most examinations of stamps have not progressed very far from using a magnifying glass, perforation gauge, or watermark fluid, or some combination of these techniques. The previous two decades have witnessed several remarkable advances in the use of analytical methods to study stamps. Most stamp collectors are unaware of these new tools, due to their only being used in laboratories and expertizing committees.
Most collectors are ignorant of how far scientific techniques have advanced that can advance their understanding of stamps and some other related areas such as postal history. An organization called the Institute of Analytical Philately is one group dedicated to helping stamp collectors become more aware of these new techniques and tools.
The organization was formed by David L. Herendeen who passed away in 2013. In November 2012, with the spearheading of the Institute of Analytical Philately, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. hosted the first international symposium devoted entirely to the application of scientific methods in stamp collecting.
The various presentations given at the symposium are gathered in a publication: “Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Analytical Methods in Philately.” The preface of this publication summarizes the areas of investigation covered at the symposium. The preface claims that the readers of the publication will find many new insights to research methods now being used across the entire spectrum of philatelic interests.
Some of these new methods encompass the composition and physical characteristics of paper to the chemistry and mineralogy of printing ink to determining the genuineness of stamps and overprints, and to the uses of adhesives on stamps. A paper by Mr. Herendeen covers the necessity of communicating scientific findings in a form that the average stamp collector can understand.
By doing this, collectors will be able to comprehend the basic ideas, importance, and the potential applications of scientific methods. A reader of this publication is recommended to start with Mr. Herendeen’s article first, as this will provide the needed context for a better understanding of the more technical papers in the “Proceedings” publication.
I would recommend that all stamp collectors get a copy of this paper and study it. You will become aware of many new advances that could enhance your stamp collecting hobby. The paper is available as a free download from the museum’s website: www.postalmuseum.si.edu. On the webpage’s home page click on the “Research” tab. this should take you to a link to download the paper. Happy reading.