Stamps Are Art

Protection, Preservation, and Care


Preserve, conserve, and care for your stamps, art, comics, and baseball cards by using non-acidic paper.

What’s a Safe Amount of Light For Your Paper Collectibles? – Part 2

In a previous post I introduced you to Blue Wool cards and discussed how you can use them to quantify light exposure without having to invest lots of money in expensive light meters.  In this post I will show you how you can use Blue Wool cards to protect your paper based collections and collectibles from to being exposed to too much light.  As before, the information in this blog post applies to baseball cards, comics, posters, paper art prints, as well as philatelic stamp art. As a reminder, Blue Wool cards include rows/stripes of pigmented fabric that are calibrated to indicate cumulative exposure to different amounts of light.  Over time, starting with the top stripe, and working down, each stripe begins to fade based on increasing amounts of light exposure.   An indication that a stripe has begun to fade can be used as an indication of a particular amount of light that the stripe has been exposed to.   In this way, a Blue Wool card placed next to your paper based collectible can be used as an indication of how much light your collectible has been exposed to. This knowledge alone is valuable, but when combined with one other piece of information, Blue Wool cards can be very cheap and powerful tools in the hands of those interested in paper conservation and preservation.    As I have mentioned, each stripe has particular pigments/dyes that are known to fade in a similar manner to that of known historic items. For example, the 5th stripe from the top is know to mimic the light fastness of of the colors used in many modern 20th century stamps.  Thus, the amount of time it  would take the 5th stripe fade, is the same amount of time it would take for a 20th century stamp to fade when exposed to the same amount of light. The amount of time it takes to cause a stripe to show evidence of fading can be analogized to that of filling of a "light bucket," with each exposure to light acting to fill the bucket with an added quantity of lux (a measure of the amount of visible light per unit area at the surface of an object where the closer a light source is to an object, the higher the lux will be).  It is known that the light bucket of the 5th stripe from the top will overflow after about 32 Megalux hours of cumulative VISIBLE light exposure.  Lower intensities of light will of course take longer to fill the light bucket.  Confused, sets use the chart below to help explain the light bucket concept further. What the chart shows is how much LUX different amounts of typical light emit. VISIBLE Light Condition Light at Surface of an Object (Approximate) Direct Bright Sunlight 100,000 lux Shade in Direct Bright Sunlight 10000 lux Direct Bright Sunlight in a room 5000 lux Halogen Lamp 700 lux Typical Fluorescent Room/Office Lighting 300-500 lux Typical 100 watt bulb at a distance of 3 ft 100 lux Museum Lighting 50 lux for sensitive materials (i.e. stamps) Wax Candle at 1 ft 10 lux Full Moon 1 lux  Effects of Indirect Sunlight Thus, exposure of the 5th stripe of the Blue Wool cart to the 10,000 lux of indirect full sunlight, 8 hours a day, over 1 year (365 days) would cause the 32 Megalux bucket represented by this stripe to be filled with 10,000-lux x 8 x 365 of lux, or equivalently about 29 Megalux, an amount of illumination that would be just short of causing visible fading of a modern stamp. Effects of Office or Room Light The analogy above can be extended to understand the effects of any lighting condition. Lets consider the cumulative exposures to light that would occur in a typical room/office illuminated by bright fluorescent lamps (500 lux), in which case, with 8 hours of illumination each day for one year, a modern stamp would be exposed to (500 x 8 x 365) or 1.5 Megalux over one year. At this rate, the 30 Megalux bucket of the modern stamp would begin to overflow/fade after about 20 years of cumulative illumination (30 Megalux = 1.5 Megalux x 20 years) under normal office or room light.  Using a similar calculations, when exposed under 50 lux of illumination (proper museum lighting), even moderately lightfast materials like modern stamps would evidence fading in about 200 years. If 200 years seems to you to be very far in the future, consider the Declaration of Independence, which is displayed in the National Archives under light conditions that are much less that 50 lux, and but for this low level of light would long ago have faded from existence. Hopefully you will by now understand how it is that you can use Blue Wool cards to protect your paper based collections and collectibles from to much light exposure.  By placing a Blue Wool card next to your collectible, you can monitor how much light it has been exposed to.  Assuming you know what the light fastedness of your particular treasured item is, you can anticipate whether or not it has reached a point when if will begin fading and protect it, before it does so, by removing it from the light. BUT, before you quickly conclude that 50 lux, 200 lux, or some other amount of VISIBLE light illumination is an acceptable amount of light you can expose your collections to because the calculations above show that it would take hundreds of years before they would show signs of fading, I advise you to wait for my next post on "What Is a Safe Amount of Light Exposure - Part 3".   For those of you that can't wait - the answer is very simple, there is NO safe amount of light exposure for paper based collections.  

Will the Superman #1 Comic Book Sell For More than the British Guiana Stamp?

The Superman #1 comic book is coming up for auction on August 14. And I thought the price for the British Guiana stamp was something to behold. At least, unlike the Guiana stamp, this paper rarity was well taken care of.  If it was a one of a kind item, because of its condition, it could easily beat the record price spent on the Guiana stamp.  But because the comic book is not unique, it will ONLY fetch around 3 million dollars. Hope whoever decides to buy the Superman #1 comic will know to keep it out of the light, Update - the comic sold for "only" 3.2 million !   

Most Valuable Art? 1c British Guiana or Cezanne’s “The Card Players”

If you are on the fence as to what your next art acquisition should be - sit no more! In a world where gold and diamonds are valued by weight, how does rare stamp art stand up to run of the mill ordinary rare art.   Consider Paul Cezanne's "The Card Players", which is estimated to have been sold for upwards of 250 million dollars, whereas the British Guiana 1 cent Magenta stamp  is estimated to gavel in at over 10 million dollars at the auction at Sotheby's on June 17.    How is that possible that this stamp art rarity can be worth more than the most expensive Cezanne?  Well, the approximately 1 sq meter of canvas that "The Card Players" was created on very conservatively weighs no less than 200 grams, whereas the British Guiana 1c Magenta Stamp very conservatively weighs no more than 1 gram.  In other words, the one of a kind stamp rarity  weighs 200 time less than the one of a kind art rarity. Assuming the 1c Magenta stamp sells for 10 million dollars, when the weight value of each is compared, the 1c British Guiana wins and crushes not only the Cezanne, but as well as all other items that have ever been sold at auction by a factor of over 200 times!  In other words, were you to value your purchase the Magenta 1c stamp art and Cezanne art based on price per pound/gm, you should make sure your check book had more than 2 billion dollars (as pronounced by Dr. Evil in Austin Powers) :lol: . All this makes me wonder, is the rare philatelic stamp art market about to explode in value? Update 30 May 2104, just learned about this stamp article at which values the 1c magenta at $US600 billion per kilo.  At $10 million dollars, the British Guiana stamp art is really starting to look like a bargain  !!!!!  

Why You Should Use Alkaline Buffered Paper Storage Products and Stamp Album Pages

In my previous post, I discussed paper products and how they can damage to your collections, whether they be stamp or other art based; here's a summary of the previous post: 1. If you mount acidic items on or store them in "acid-free" and "pH neutral" products, they will  will not last as long as if mounted in/on archive grade alkaline buffered paper products. 2. Archival grade alkaline buffered philatelic paper products should be used to provide extended permanence to the acidic items in your collection (stamps, baseball cards, comics, art prints, movie posters, magazines etc.) (However, there is one Warning: the alkaline reserve within buffered paper can harm textile based and photographic based collections; DO NOT use alkaline buffered paper with textile based and photographic based collections). Are you still sitting on the philatelic paper fence? ... then you may want to try to imagine a day in the future, a day that you may decide to revisit your stamp collection, only to open your stamp album or philatelic storage box, and instead find a damaged version of a formerly pristine treasure. The only two 1868 Z-grill stamps known to exist illustrate that the type of stamp care you lavish on your philatelic collection can be repaid not just in value, but in aesthetics as well. The leftmost stamp has been in the care of museums for a large portion of its life, while the rightmost stamp has been held mostly by private collectors. I do not presume to know the actual reason(s) for the difference in appearance between the two stamps. Nor do I presume to make a conclusion as to which of the two are the more attractive. But, despite our lack of commitment, there "is" a reason for the difference in their appearance. Perhaps the reason stems from photographs that do not accurately reflect true colors or condition of the two stamps. Or perhaps the difference in appearance resulted from exposure of the stamp plastic, pollution, improper humidity and temperature; or excessive exposure to VISIBLE light or ultra violet UV light. Or just possibly the difference in appearance was caused by storage of one of the stamps in/on "pH neutral" or "acid free" stamp album page or container? Given a choice between archive grade alkaline buffered stamp pages and the currently sold and commonly used "acid free" and "pH neutral" album page products, use of alkaline buffered paper is a protective choice that should be implemented by you sooner than later. By doing so, you will not only extend the life of your philatelic and stamp items, but as well, increase their value.  Where can you purchase  stamp album pages that are alkaline buffered - you will have to stay tuned for that info. Tip 1: verification of the current state of the acidic or alkaline content/nature of your stamp pages, philatelic storage container, matting material, etc., can be made via a PH pen, whose applied ink will change color based on the acidic or alkaline content of the paper product it is applied onto. Tip 2: - PH pens will leave residues and marks and should not be used directly on your philatelic items. Are you now willing to implement use of alkaline buffered paper with your collection? Your philatelic items, stamps, and art await your answer. 

Are “Acid-free” Stamp Album Pages and Storage Boxes and Containers Safe?

In a previous post, I provided care tip 4 which dealt with non-acidic paper and its use with your collections.  In this part 1 and part 2 in the next post, I will go into more detail as to why that should be so. (NOTE: if you are a collector of comics, baseball cards, scrapbooking, movie posters and paper prints and art, although the information below may be presented in the context of stamp collecting, be assured it also applies to you if your collection is placed in direct or indirect contact with paper, for example, display albums, cardboard storage containers, boxes .... Your Paper Album Pages or Storage Boxes may be Harming Your Stamp Collection ! For many a stamp collector, memory of their high school chemistry has been re-lived when a just opened stamp album or philatelic storage container has revealed a discolored or damaged remnant of what was formerly a pristine philatelic treasure. For those that have responded to such displeasure by investigation and purchase of supposedly protective and "safe" philatelic paper products, the association of the term "best" with "acid free " and "pH neutral" should be something that should be reconsidered. "Acid-free" and "pH neutral" paper philatelic products are NOT your the "best" choice !! So what, if anything, is wrong with paper products that are "acid-free" and "pH neutral?" The good news is that paper philatelic products made with pH and acid free qualities in mind will fade, discolor, and eventually disintegrate less rapidly than their acid based cousins. On the other hand, the literature of many manufacturers and philatelic distributors of "acid-free" and "pH neutral" paper products implies that such qualities will also in some way be transferred to the inherently acidic stamp and philatelic items they are meant to be used with. However, all that the the adjectives should be read to mean is that (on their own) "acid free" and "pH neutral" philatelic products will cause no immediate damage to your collection. In fact, over time, all acid free and pH neutral paper will turn acidic, either from their own internal decomposition (albeit via a slower process than that which occurs in acidic papers), or from external influences (such as transfer of acidity from the stamps mounted to the paper the stamps are mounted on, from interactions and decomposition of plastics mounted to the paper, and/or interactions with the environment). Still not convinced ... these 2 stamp illustrate why acid free pH neutral paper is not your "best" choice. The discolored stamp to the left was framed and mounted onto acid free pH neutral paper. The undamaged stamp on the right was mounted on archive grade alkaline buffered paper. The two stamps are shown after they were subjected to a pollutant (a component of smog) in an accelerated aging test. It's for this reason that museums do not use acid free and pH neutral paper products with their treasured items. Instead, for display and storage of inherently acidic philatelic items, museums use ISO 9706 standard archival grade "alkaline buffered" paper; the reason being is that when inherently acidic paper items such as stamps are mounted on archival grade alkaline buffered paper, the eventual acidic reactions within the paper of the stamps become neutralized by the alkaline buffered paper (not convinced - look again at the rightmost duck stamp above). During the period of time that the acidic reactions in an acidic item are neutralized, its life is extended is extended (a benefit that "acid free" and "pH neutral" paper cannot provide), but it should not be forgotten, given enough time , the alkaline reserve within alkaline buffered paper products will become depleted.  Thus, unless alkaline buffered paper products are monitored for their efficacy and replaced when needed, the harmful reactions within any acidic items (i.e. the paper items that philatelists typically collect and enjoy) they are being relied upon to protect will eventually begin anew. If your interested in the technical details of the manufacture and ISO 9706 standard archival grade paper products. The story with regard to the (P)aper doesn't end here; my next post will have more information, and of course commentary.

Preservation and Care of Stamps, Comics, Baseball Cards and Paper Based Art Collections

Welcome to Stamps Are Art.  Let’s begin your visit with a bright and illuminating statement …. “by lowering the amount of light your stamp, baseball cards, comics and art are exposed to, you can increase your collection’s value by a factor of 100x, or even more” Need/want proof? …  watch the Scott #10 stamp to the right as it fades ”magically” before your eyes.  This is an example of how one of the P’s known as (P)hotons can cause damage to your philatelic, stamp, and art collectibles. Would you expect that the amount fading the Scott #10 stamp exhibits could occur in less than 1 year or, under the wrong conditions, even quicker.  At Stamps Are Art you will learn why and how this, and other types, of damage can occur so rapidly.   Does it make sense that the faded version of the stamp would be worth much less? Now imagine if a rare Jenny Invert stamp or Horus Wagner baseball card was mistreated in the same way – oh the horror – but it’s being allowed to happen every day, not just by amateur collectors but, as well, by experts in their field. Are you interested in protecting your stamp, baseball card, comic book collection from the type of damage the stamp above has experienced? Do you want to maintain the rarity and increase the value of your collection, comic book, baseball card and stamp Art? The pages that follow (or that will be added overtime) will provide you as a stamp, baseball card, and comic book collector with easy (and some not so easy) steps that you can take to preserve the contents of your stamp albums and collections. Let’s consider the  Scott 121b stamps shown to the right and below.  Can you identify which of the stamps sold for $9000 and which sold for $40,000? Might any disparity in their price and value be due to the fading of color that one of the stamps experienced? Could the damage caused by fading have been caused by exposure to light, and if so, how much light could have caused the stamp to fade? By reducing exposure of your philatelic items, and other light susceptible items, to light, you can take your first step toward preserving and increasing their rarity and value … not just via an increased likelihood that your care will help preserve your collectible longer into the future but, as well, via the reduced damage your philatelic or other paper based art will sustain. By reducing exposure of your philatelic items, and other light susceptible items, to light, you can take your first step toward preserving and increasing their rarity and value … not just via an increased likelihood that your care will help preserve them longer into the future but, as well, via the reduced damage your philatelic items will sustain over the same period of time . The posts and pages that follow and that will grow with time intend to provide information and resources to those of you that may be unaware of the 4P’s (P)hotons, (P)aper, (P)lastic, and (P)recipitation, and the damage the 4P’s are capable of inflicting on your stamps, comics, baseball cards and art collections.    

Paper Based Collection Preservation Care Tip 3 | Use Only Buffered Non-Acidic Paper

The care tip below summarizes preservation techniques you can implement to protect your stamps, baseball cards, comic books and other art from exposure to harmful (P)aper products. Care Tip 3. Use only alkaline buffered ISO 9706 certified paper products to store and display your paper based art and collections.  Baseball card, comic book, and philatelic paper products and stamp albums that are “pH neutral” and “acid free” WILL NOT stop the acidic degradation that your paper based art and philatelic stamps are inherently subject to and, therefore, should not be used for long term collection storage and care.  Side Note: Stamp hinges are a form of paper also, which means that unless stated otherwise they you should consider them to be acidic such that if you attach them to your collectible, over time the acidity will transfer to your collectible. However, this begs the question, why would you ever want use a hinge on your rare stamp treasures.  The simple fact that a stamp has been previously hinged mean the condition of your stamp will be downgraded by stamp expertization services, which can result in thousands of dollars in price reduction. Remember, to help you focus your search of the information related to paper, you can sort the posts by the tags “paper”.  

Paper Based Collection Preservation Care Tips 7-9

Use the final care tips 7-9 to preserve, protect and maintain your art collections for you grand children to enjoy. Care Tip 7. Store and display your comic, baseball card, art, philatelic, and stamp collections in as pollutant or pollution free environment as possible (i.e. sans smog, cigarette smoke, ozone, incense …) Care Tip 8. For stamps, minimize, and preferably eliminate, exposure of your stamps to the residues of watermark fluids, cleaning fluids, tap water, archival sprays and other chemistry experiments you may be tempted to deliberately or inadvertently perform on them. Use of these common used stamp procedures WILL leave residues that cause degrading reactions that over time WILL build up and WILL damage your philatelic and stamp collections.  Did you know that for every sale of a valuable or rare stamp, the stamp will have been dipped in a water mark fluid by its prospective buyer (which can number in upwards of 10 soakings per auction). Over the life of such a stamp, the stamp will have been exposed to the chemicals in the watermarking fluid hundreds it not thousands of times !!! Care Tip 9. Keep in mind that all paper based collections are fragile art; treat your stamps and philatelic collections as you would the Mona Lisa. Will failure to follow tips 1-9 affect the future value of your baseball card, comic book, stamp or art collection?  Sort our posts using the tags, “light”, “plastic”, “paper”, “humidity” to learn more.  

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