Stamps Are Art

Protection, Preservation, and Care

Stamps Are Art Blog

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.


Museums with Lousy Light Control

You would think that all museums would be worried about damage to their collections from light.   Well you thought wrong. What are these pictures doing here - read my post about the damage that direct and indirect sunlight and indoor illumination can cause to your collections, whether they be art, stamp, comic or baseball card based. Compare the images below the image of the William Gross Exhibit at the National Postal Museum.  The National Postal Museum knows there "stuff".  Their rarities and treasures are exposed to light only when a person's body is sensed and kept darkened otherwise,  which over the lifetime of the stamps being exhibited, will greatly reduce any fading or other damage they might suffer otherwise - your Federal government isn't as incompetent as you may have thought, is it?  :lol:  Images from "HOW TO KEEP FOR A WHILE WHAT YOU WANT TO KEEP FOR EVER" by Tim Padfield http://www.padfield.org/tim/cfys/phdk/phdk_tp.pdf


How “Ordinary” Room Light Can Harm Your Stamps, Comics, Baseball Cards

In this post we will begin with the following statement: under normal indoor room light conditions, the visible light can cause more damage to your comics, stamps, baseball cards and art than any of the UV light that would normally present. When it comes to the beach as well as to stamps, you may think that when we talk about avoiding exposure to light, we mean avoiding exposure only to ultraviolet UV light, after all that’s what sunscreen is for, right? In fact, exposure of physical bodies, as well as our physical stamps, comic collections and baseball cards, to visible light can also be harmful.  Of course, Stamps Are Art will address only the damaging effects of visible light on paper, and will leave the aging effects of visible light on our bodies to others. So what’s the big deal with exposure to visible light, you may ask?  We’ll begin by asking the question a little bit differently, what happens when we avoid all exposure to visible light? The answer is very simple. Consider how it is that after 2000 years this Dead Sea Scroll was found in a very readable and mostly unfaded condition. Is it because it was left in a dark cave for most of its life? The answer is in part, yes; although the fact that there was a low temperature and stable humidity environment no doubt also helped. Compare the Dead Sea Scroll to our Declaration of Independence, which is in the process of fading from our sight as we speak.  Why is it that that this historical document has ended up in such poor condition.  The answer can be found in the table presented below.  Don’t fret to much if you have difficulty understanding the chart, below the table you will find a summary of what you should take away from it.     Increase in the survivability of paper based Philatelic, Stamp, and Art collections given their susceptibility to UV radiation and VISIBLE light Intensity   VISIBLE light intensity UV component in VISIBLE light 30,000 lux (average daylight) 3,000 lux (near windows, fluorescent lamps) 300 lux (Good visibility) 30 lux (minimum needed for fair visibility) + 750 mW/lm (daylight) x 1 x 10 x 100 x 1000 75 mW/lm (good UV filter) x 10 to x 30 x 100 to x 300 x 1000 to x 3000 x 10,000 to x 30,000 1-10 mW/lm (best UV filter) x 10 to x 100 x 100 to x 1000 x 1000 to x 10,000 x 10,000 to x 100,000 Adapted from S. Michalski, Canadian Conservation Institute, Ottawa; October 1994 In the table above, the top set of horizontal white squares from left to right represent different decreasing amounts of room light, where 300 lux is the amount of light radiation that the light bulbs in a typical office emit. The vertical blue squares in the chart represents that a paper based article displayed in a room with 30 lux would degrade/fade 10x more slowly than when displayed in a room with 300 lux, and 100x more slowly than when placed near a sunlit window (via comparison to the values in the white squares that are directly to the left of the blue squares).  The vertical purple squares represent that which we all expect, that as the amount of UV radiation is allowed to increase, for any given amount of visible light present (for example as represented by the blue squares that are to the right a corresponding purple square), the chance that your paper based collectible will fade will similarly increase You as a philatelist collector of other paper based articles should aspire to maintain your viewing conditions in the blue squares.  Unfortunately, the red squares represent the illumination that many of us actually prefer to use, as the amount of light represented by the red squares makes it easier and more pleasurable to view our collections with.  However, by viewing and displaying your collections using the illumination in the red squares, your treasures will begin to exhibit fading or damage as much as 100 -1000 times more quickly than the when using the illumination in the blue squares, or even more. Stated another way, improper exposure of your rare stamps and art care can cause them to be damaged in as few as 1 year, rather than 100 years! Now, consider a stamp that may have been born into this world in 1847; what if for the last 150+ years it was exposed to visible light in the red 300-3000 lux range near a sunlit window of an exhibition hall or museum, where despite any UV filters that might be used, the stamp would have nevertheless been exposed to indirect sunlight and/or illuminated by interior lighting?  Is it possible that such overexposure to light could occur in a museum? Sadly enough, the answer is, yes. The literature is replete with examples of museums, dealers, auctioneers, as well as ordinary collectors that continue to over expose their collection to light.  Unfortunately, because the visible wavelengths of light are those that give us the ability to view and enjoy our stamp collections, most of us are loathe to change our habits with regard to them, but change our habits is exactly what we all must do if we don't want our collections to end up like this U.S. Scott #1.   The story about the damaging effects of light do not end here (sort our posts for more information about the harmful effects light  by using the tags "light", "visible" and "UV").


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 Tips 1-2 | Avoid Exposure to Light

Is there a reason why the Declaration of Independence is displayed and held in a dark hall … is it because that exposure to (P)hotons/light is the equivalent to condemning this rare treasure to a slow death. Have you ever visited the National Archives in Washington D.C. to view our heritage via this and other historical documents.   If so, did you notice how faded most of them are, some parts having faded to be barely legible.  Why not avoid imposing the same fate on your art collections? Yes, you can stop your philatelic stamps, prints, comics and baseball card based from fading to oblivion. To gain a quick understanding of how you can prevent your collections from being sentenced to the “death penalty” the Declaration of Independence was saved from, Care Tips 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 are provided in a series of posts that you can find by the tag “tips”. On this page you will find Care Tips 1-3, which provide easy to implement techniques to preserve and protect your philatelic stamp collections, baseball cards, comic books and other paper based art from exposure to (P)hotons/light. Care Tip 1. Use only the amount of VISIBLE light that is necessary to view of your baseball card, comic book, art and philatelic and stamp collections “comfortably”. Exposure to the amount of light of a typical office/room/exhibition hall should be avoided. First easy steps that you can take to lower the number of photons that your rarities are exposed to are: (a) lower the wattage of the light bulbs and lights you use as indoor room illumination (b) use window shades to block outdoor light from shining directly or indirectly on your collections. That was easy, wasn’t it? Care TIP 2. Minimize the amount of ultraviolet light your comic book, baseball card, art and stamp collections are exposed to, by which we mean, not only to the UV light present in normal room light/illumination, but also to the high intensity light of UV lamps that are typically used for philatelic authentication and expertization.  To reduce UV light induced damage you can loer the wattage of your UV lights, and filter the UV light from your regular room light by using UV filters. Remember, to help you focus your search of the information on Stamps Are Art, the topics related to light may sorted by the tags and categories that they are associated with – for example, by the tags “light”, UV, photons.  


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 Tip 4 | Avoid Use of Harmful Plastic Mounts

Use stamp care tip 4 below as a summary of how you can protect your philatelic stamps, comics, and baseball cards from exposure to harmful (P)lastic. Care Tip 4. Mount, display and archive yours stamps using only boPET polyester  archival grade plastic sleeves and mounts. Do not use plastic holder or plastic mounts that use UV inhibitors or UV coatings to protect your paper based collections. All types of plastic, other than boPET polyester archival grade plastics expose your paper collectibles to future, if not immediate damage. The image of the sleeve and it’s browned adhesive that goes with this tip, shows just one kind of damage that use of harmful improper plastic storage products and sleeves can cause. Future posts will go into greater detail as to what constitutes a “safe” plastic storage product – stay tuned. To help you focus your search of the information related to plastic, you can sort the posts by the tags “plastic”.  


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