Sunday, 15 November 2020 05:57

Cleaning Stamps

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Cleaning Stamps Cleaning Stamps

Hello and welcome to Part VII of my series, Caveat emptor. In previous articles I have generally talked about the images we see listed to help describe a stamp or group of stamps. I have tried to give some insights into what to think about when looking at the images in the context of what the seller is presenting in the scanned or photographed image.

In this piece I want to talk about something a little different. After writing it I realized it was rather long so it is in two parts. This is Part I

Let’s forget stamps for a minute. One day my daughter came home from work and her hair was lovely, a clean blonde look that quite suited her. Hmmmm! I thought she was a redhead when she left this morning. She was stunning as a redhead in my biased view. Now she was stunning as a blonde!

I am reminded of this because I remember reading on a stamp chat forum some time ago about how to remove rust, or toning or foxing as it is also called, from a stamp. Yep, just like my daughter’s hair….well sort of …. use some bleach or some chemical concoction and you can change the colour, so to speak, or to put it another way, remove the rust.

I do not advocate doing it to a stamp to “remove” rust but it is done I am lead to believe and until you actually get the stamp(s) you bought you won’t know, and even then you may not realise it has been treated in someway. Does the treatment harm the stamp? Does the treatment harm the hair? some say maybe. Ultimately the hair will recover and it will grow back to its original colour. Not so with the stamp. Once treated that is it. You have what you have and as long as you as the collector are happy and look after the stamp and do not allow more rust to form then I guess that is ok. Maybe it will never be seen that the stamp was treated to remove rust – each situation is different so there is no definitive answer anyway – but if ever you want to sell such a stamp it might prove to be a problem. Buyer beware of course.

One example: Above: pair before using a chemical to try to remove rust shading on the left hand stamp. Second image below the reverse before using a chemical - third image, the reverse after using chemical and finally the front of the stamps after using a chemical on the left hand stamp.

 This is a topic that has some sellers and collectors argue is acceptable and some present the opposite point of view. It is you as the collector who has to decide what you find acceptable. Just be aware that with let’s say ”old” stamps say pre 1950s - although we can always find rust on more modern stamps if they have not been stored in suitable conditions - you will often find rust, simply because of the age associated with the paper and the paper quality the stamps were printed on and the storage of them over the years.

Let me suggest this: finding pristine condition stamps from the late 1800s and early 1900s is possible from very well established dealers and frequently at very high prices and for stamps with excellent providence, but I doubt – again generally speaking - that such material is generally available from the 1000s of part time stamp sellers one finds these days across the many internet philatelic portals that exist on the internet Simply put, if you see such material perhaps you should be asking yourself a few due diligence questions. Yes, Buyer beware.

Perhaps I can give one more example here The Great Britain George V example below shows another perspective. Not only the partial cleansing of the rusting but also a change in the colour of the stamp face after the cleansing.

 The image pair to the left show the stamps before cleansing, The image pair to the right is after cleansing. This stamp has – as best I know - 18 colour shades. This shade has clearly changed in the cleansing process. Buyer beware.
The images below show the before and after images of the reverse, and yes the cleansing has made an improvement.

 In Part II I will discuss cleaning or rather soaking self adhesive gummed stamps with particular reference to Great Britain Security Machins.