In my last post I suggested that before making assumptions about the safety of the plastic sleeves, sheets, films, envelopes, holders and storage products you use with your collections, you might want to learn how wrong choices of plastic could negatively affect the condition and value of your collections. To support this suggestion, look at my next example below: where ink from the stamp on the right can be seen to have been transferred onto the clear plastic sleeve that is has been removed from on the left. The transfer of ink was caused by interactions between the chemicals the clear plastic was made from and the ink of the stamp. Can you imagine your reaction if you were the one using the plastic stamp sleeve below and saw the damage, but instead of with the stamp below, with a Jenny Invert or British Guiana 1c magenta philatelic rarity? You should ignore the warning this stamp sleeve is trying to give you only if maintaining the value of your rare stamps, baseball cards, comics and art is of no interest to you. Image from Collings and Schoolley-West, The Care and Preservation of Philatelic Materials, London and State College, The British Library and the American Philatelic Society, 1989, reproduced by permission of the British Library "To many people, plastics materials all appear the same but their variety is enormous. Many contain plasticizers, which act as molecular lubricants and are incorporated into the plastic's manufacture to increase the flexibility of the plastics in sheet form. These external plasticizers can volatilize and cause the plastic to become brittle or migrate into adjacent material where they can act as solvents for many inks, particularly gravure printing inks, ball-point and felt-tip pens and typewriter inks. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics have been commonly sold for storage of stamps, postcards, first-day covers, etc and are amongst the worst offenders. In addition to the plasticiser problem, PVC degrades to emit acid gases which can migrate into adjacent materials. Under no circumstances should PVC be used for any long or even short term storage." Page 43 of Collings and Schoolley-West, The Care and Preservation of Philatelic Materials. In addition to the PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic describe above, four other types of plastic have been and continue to be commonly advertised and sold as mounts, holders, slabs, l-sleeves, and pages for storage and display of collectibles: PET - archive grade polyester film (sold as Mylar D and Melinex 516) PE - polyethylene PP - polypropylene PS - polystyrene Even though all of the types of plastic have been sold by plastic suppliers as being safe for storage and display, the evidence presented by the stamp above clearly illustrates that some of the suppliers of plastic storage products are not telling the truth. So which of the plastics above is the "safest" and the "best"? Even though your "trusted" stamp supply dealer may be selling and advertising their storage, display, and paper conservation supplies and products as being usable for archival preservation, at this time, there is only one type of plastic that is considered by the United States Library of Congress Preservation Office as being "safe", which has very stringent requirements for the protective films and and plastic sleeves they use for paper preservation and archival storage of their collections. If you are serious about paper protection and paper preservation, your protective plastic films and their "omposition must be clear, colorless, (biaxially oriented/stressed/drawn) film such as DuPont Mylar© D, Melinex © 516 or equivalent. The clear and colorless polyester film must not contain any plasticiser, surface coatings, UV inhibitors, or adsorbents and be guaranteed to be non-yellowing with natural aging. As received, the film must not contain any coloring agents. A certification of compliance with the above requirements must accompany the shipment." (The Library of Congress, Specification Number 400-005-1/93). See brief background on types of plastic for more info about which plastics are safe and unsafe. However, remember, even though your plastic or stamp supplier may sell their clear plastic sleeves and envelopes with labels stating them as being mylar sheets, polyester film, mylar film, and/or PET film suitable for archival storage and display, the products should be labeled as being DuPont Mylar D, Melinex 516, or equivalent. With out such labeling, all bets are off as to safety. So how long are you willing to wait before your rare stamps and their value is reduced by your use of harmful plastic stamp products? If you are willing to wait, in a future post, I will be providing sources for DuPont Mylar© D, Melinex © 516 or equivalent plastic storage products. Stay tuned!
CAUTION ... ALERT ! ... many plastic philatelic, comic book, baseball card, art sleeves, mounts and holders sold as "inert" and "safe" may not be what they purport to be! Most collectors trust (and leave to) the manufacturers and distributors of the collection storage products to sell plastic merchandise that is "safe". The next few posts will provide examples of plastic sleeves, holders and mounting products sold by "trusted" manufacturers that over time have not lived up what collectors should expect. The first example illustrates a portion of a plastic sleeve for holding larger items such as envelopes, letters etc, which was sold to trusting collectors by the well known manufacturer Lighthouse Lechturm. As can be seen, the top sheet has started to decompose and turn a discolored yellow brown, which is a sign that a chemical breakdown of the plastic in the sheet has begun. Any paper items held within or by this plastic product would be exposed to its chemical reactions and eventually would be damaged. The bottom sheet is shown without discoloration in the condition one would expect the holder to remain. The "safe" stamp holder shown above implicates the art and philatelic products of other manufacturers, who in most cases purport their plastic products to protect and be "safe" and "inert", even when they with or without knowledge know that the plastic, rubber, adhesives, and paper being used with/in their is not. How is a collector to know whether the plastic storage products they have purchased are safe? Well the first step is to conduct a visual inspection. If any discoloration is present, its a good sign that your collection is in danger and that your plastic storage containers need to be replaced. But as you will see in further posts, just because there is no discoloration in the plastic is not a sign that it is necessarily safe to continue to use. All this begs the question, how can a collector be certain that the manufacturer of the plastic storage products they are about to purchase is selling a product that will be safe? For my answer, you will have to wait to the next post.
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.
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”.
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.