Stamps are fragile pieces of paper and can easily be damaged. This list offers things to avoid when working with yours in order to keep them safe.
Handling Stamps with Your Hands
The cleanest hands still have a lot of oil on them, it's just a fact of nature. This oil, as well as the dust and dirt from normal daily activity, can seriously damage your stamps. Avoid using your hands to pick up stamps, instead use stamp tongs
instead. They will protect your stamps while making it easier to get to specific items.
Not Checking Your Envelopes
When an interesting stamp catches your eye everything else can get lost in the excitement. But before you cut that stamp out to soak or mount in your album, take a close look at the envelope so you don't get rid of a treasure. That envelope could be a First Day Cover
or Event Day Cover
. It might have a cancellation or postmark that identifies it as having come from somewhere special. Or it might be an example of postal history, such as balloon mail or wartime mail with censorship markings. Just remember when looking at envelopes that the stamp is only the beginning of the story.
Trimming Stamps on Envelopes Too Closely
stamps or preparing to mount them with the paper they came on, you will want to cut off the excess envelope in most cases. However you need to be careful that you are not accidentally cutting off the stamp. The first risk of course is the perforation. Also stamps are increasingly being produced that are irregular in size and shape and an important part of the stamp can easily get cut off. Some stamps have labels attached to them or writing on the sheet around the stamp. Be sure to make sure that what is attached to the stamp isn't actually part of it.
Gluing or Taping Stamps to Your AlbumThis seems like a pretty obvious thing to avoid, but many new collectors make this mistake. Unacquainted with stamp hinges or mounts, they figure the only way to secure a stamp on an album page is to use glue, tape or other adhesive. And they are right, that stamp will be secure. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to take the stamp off without destroying it. This tip is a good one to start with when teaching people about the hobby.
Storing Loose Stamps in a Box
It seems like a natural thing to do, especially when you start falling behind your stamp sorting and filing. But stamps being shaken around in a box are at risk of being bent or curled, having their perforations hurt, or otherwise damaged. If left in the box long enough they might be affected by the box itself as the dyes and acids in the box get on the stamps. It is better to take the time and put them into glassine envelopes
and file those in a box or other safe container.
Using Too Small MountsStamp mounts are a wonderful way to put stamps into your albums and other presentation materials. They keep stamps protected while allowing for easy examination and relatively easy removal. They are available in a variety of sizes, with precut and do-it-yourself as options. Make sure you get a wide range of sizes so you avoid the temptation to try to get a stamp into a mount because it is the only one you have available. Cramming a stamp in the mount can lead to creases and most certainly will risk damaged perforations. Double check your fit by placing the stamp on the mount, and be careful when you put it.