Before placing stamps in their collections, stamp collectors generally remove the stamps from envelopes by soaking them in water to dissolve the gum. This technique is also useful for treating stamps that have hinge remnants still attached, stamps that have become stuck in old albums, quickstamp and stamps that have become stuck to other stamps. Soaking stamps is not difficult and requires little in the way of special equipment. However, caution, patience, and correct methods are necessary to avoid damaging stamps in the process.

Preparing the Stamps: Before soaking stamps, it is best to remove as much of the excess paper as is practical. Typically collectors trim the envelope paper to within about an eighth of an inch around the stamp. Careful trimming speeds up the soaking process, limits the debris floating in the soak water, quick stamp and also limits the amount of dirt, ink, and other contaminants that might come in contact with the stamps. After trimming, stamps should be sorted into two groups separating potential troublemakers. Colored envelopes, air mail envelopes, hand cancels, ink from inkjet printers, and ink from pens can all stain stamps.

Soaking and Rinsing: quickstamp Stamps should be soaked in lukewarm water that is comfortable to the touch. I recommend soaking using two medium-sized glass or ceramic mixing bowls. The first bowl is used for soaking the stamps and the second is used to give them a final rinse. You should only soak a few stamps at a time (typically between 10 and 20) and change the water frequently. You will want to make sure the stamps are completely submerged and you might also agitate the water gently with a finger. However, quick stamp you should avoid too much handling of the stamps while they are in the water. Depending on the gum used in the stamp’s manufacture it will take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour or more for the stamp to float free of the paper. During this time you must resist the (very strong) temptation to help the process along – pulling and tugging on wet stamps in an attempt to peel them from the paper will often result in damage. Stamp damage will also be reduced if you use a nice pair of blunt-nosed stamp tongs instead of bare fingers when handling the wet stamps. Once the stamps have floated free from the paper, qqstamp a quick rinse should be sufficient to remove any remaining gum residue. (Note that on certain older stamp issues the partially dissolved gum will remain attached to the stamp and must be removed by gently rubbing between the thumb and finger – a direct and unfortunate contradiction to the above instruction to use blunt-tipped tongs!)

Drying and Pressing: Collectors have come up with a seemingly infinite variety of methods and tools for drying and pressing stamps after soaking. The basic idea behind all of them is to pre-dry the stamps in the open air, move them for a final dry in some type of light press to avoid curling, outdoorsfan and then move the stamps to a heavier press to get them nice and crisp before mounting in your album.

I keep a supply of blotter paper and non-stick plastic dividers which come together as a refill kit for a commonly available stamp press. After removing stamps from their final rinse and gently shaking off the excess water I set them face down on an older piece of blotter to absorb some of the excess moisture and let them sit until they are nearly dry. I then move the stamps to a fresh (but not necessarily brand new) sheet of blotter, again face down, and set one of the non-stick dividers on top. Note that the non-stick dividers are going on the formerly gummed side of the stamp so that if any gum residue remains the stamp will not become re-stuck. When sorting several stamps I may wind up using several sheets of blotter paper making a stack that alternates
blotter-stamps-plastic-blotter-stamps-plastic…etc. I then place a book on top of the stack to hold things in place and leave the stamps overnight. The last step in this process is to arrange the stamps on pieces of plain typing paper and place them under a stack of books for several days as a final press.


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