One of the most exciting ways to collect stamps is to process them while they are still attached to envelopes. It’s a bit like detective work, and doing so is pretty fun and exciting.
However, if you are careless in the processing of the stamps from the envelopes, you can easily damage the stamps. And of course damaged stamps are worthless stamps.
If you are one of the numerous stamp collectors that derive much pleasure from soaking and mounting stamps yourself, you need to learn the proper way of processing stamps.
First of all, you have to collect all the envelopes with their stamps attached. Some of this mail will come from your own mailbox. The others you can easily collect from your neighbors and friends, having a foreign pen pal couldn’t hurt either. They use stamps not readily available here in the U.S.
You may want to sort or organize the stamps before and after soaking. Make sure you can leave enough space so that it is easier to handle the stamp.
You can place the stamp along with the paper it is stuck to on a saucer of water. Make sure you put the stamp in with its front facing up. If possible avoid having the stamp getting damp on the face.
Also, avoid putting too many stamps in the saucer at the same time. The purpose of soaking the stamps is so that the stamp gum dissolves. However, the gum also can cause the stamps in the saucer to stick to each other if they are not properly spaced.
Make sure you use lukewarm water. Hot water can cause the color of the stamp to spread or stain. Now, place the stamps on a towel face-down. Use a pair of stamp tongs to separate the envelope paper from the stamps. Although can use newspaper, avoid paper that has colored ink on it as it can stain your stamps.
Let the stamps dry. It may take a while and they may end up curled and wrinkled. Don’t worry, the next step will take care of this issue. When the stamps are completely dry, place them flat in any book. Large telephone directories do well for this step.
Just make sure the book does not have colored ink to stain the stamps. This step may take a few days to complete. Make sure you remove the stamps immediately when they are done. Failure to do so can allow acid in the pages of the telephone directory to cause damage to your stamps.
When you are ready to store your stamps, you will need a stamp album. This is where you store your stamps and should be the centerpiece among your tools.
A good stamp album protects your stamps against chemicals, the elements, dust and dirt, etc. This is the one piece of equipment you will want to invest some money in. Shop around and compare products well before choosing a suitable stamp album.
A good stamp album will allow for the stamps to be laid flat and safe from damage. Always use stamp tongs to handle stamps when placing them in your album.
For stamps which you will not place in an album such as duplicates, or those you plan to trade or give away, you can use glassine envelopes. Glassine envelopes are great for storing stamps temporarily.
They can also serve as transit storage for your stamps—a place to put them before mounting them in your collection. Avoid using paper envelopes as they have a high acid content that can easily damage your stamps over time. These envelopes also make a great container when mailing or giving stamps to other people.
In all, stamp collecting can be a fascinating experience for those who do it properly. As you build your stamp soaking and mounting skills, you will better appreciate the beauty and the history of stamps.
You may also opt to purchase more specialized tools and equipment to keep your stamp collection in tip-top shape. The knowledge of these basic stamp processing skills are integral to any stamp collector’s hobby efforts.