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Removing stamps from paper

Updated: May 12, 2021

It's a question I get asked a lot so how do we get these sticky little stamps off paper?

Can you imagine? A penny red, stuck on a piece of envelope quite happily for 150 years or so and then you, a stamp artist, crafter, collector or stylist comes along and asks Queen Victoria to move.

"We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat; they do not exist."

Now, modern self adhesive stamps can take a bit more work but provided you are working with older issues (e.g. pre-1970), the following steps should work just fine. Most stamps are worth little in terms of financial or philatelic value but in some cases, collectors would prefer stamps to remain on paper e.g. on a First Day Cover, postcard or piece of postal ephemera. If you have any questions about the stamps you are working with, just get in touch.

Here's my guide to removing stamps from paper:

- Take a bowl e.g. 1 litre pyrex or a large salad bowl or an old plastic ice cream tub (recyling, stamp style!)

- Fill it with hot water, not scalding but hotter than warm. The warmer the water, the quicker the process. Don't worry, the stamps will be OK. Some have been on an epic journey around the world, over seas and mountains, along dusty roads, have passed through many hands, have even been licked... they probably need a good bath.

- Do a test. Drop a few stamps into the water and left them soak. CAUTION: Don't include any coloured envelope paper as this can turn the water a different colour and will dye your stamps whilst they soak. Christmas stamps in particular are often found on red envelope paper. Also, if any stamps have a heavy pen cancel, this may also add colour to your water, so try to sift these out from your batch first.

- Now, once you've popped them into the water, you'll notice some are floating. Push them down into the water and stir them around a bit with your fingers. This helps separate them so that each stamp is surrounded by water, not just surrounded by more stamps. This will help speed up the process.

- Leave the stamps to soak for an hour or two. To be honest, sometimes I leave the stamps in water for 5-6 hours or overnight. I usually do another stir or two with my fingers during the soak time. The longer they're in there, the easier they are to remove. I did leave stamps in water for a week once and some of the colour came away so don't leave them too long unless you want blank stamps to work with (they actually looked pretty cool!)

- Place a towel or tea towel or flannel on the floor. Depending how many stamps you are working through, you may need another towel! I usually do a beach towel at a time. Sit down by your towel with your bowl of stamps and another bowl or container to use as a small bin for the scrap paper (which can be dried and recycled).

- Now, therapeutically, peel or slide the stamp off the paper and place it on the towel as flat as possible. If a stamp curls up, you can place it face down and that normally does the trick. You’ll soon get the hang of it. If the stamps do not slide off easily, I would recommend you pop them back into the bowl for a longer soak. Look out for cute little messages under the stamps too!

- Wait for them to dry. CAUTION: Avoid vacuuming while your stamp are on the floor ;-) I usually leave stamps overnight to dry and if you place the towel near a radiator, this will speed up the drying process.

- You now have stamps off paper and dry! You can then pick them off the towel one by one, sorting as you go. Or you can fold the towel in on itself and give it a shake. Some of them come off themselves, then you can pick the rest off, pulling them into a pile to sort later. Sorting is another fabulously therapeutic process and a great topic of conversation - how do you sort your stamps?

*Some people use a drying book instead of the towel on floor method - this has the added benefits of a) not taking up so much floor space and b) flattening the stamps out as they dry. Personally, I find the stamps flatten out once dried and stored anyway and I find the book method a bit of a faff when I'm working with such high volumes. As I will often soak three or four different types of stamps e.g. Japanese, machins, Christmas etc., I can also sort quicker as I go if I part sort onto the towel quickly into rough sections.

Want to give it a go? Rainbow and Christmas packs are available on the shop, and all have been checked to ensure you don't get any coloured paper or self-adhesive issues. The only limit is the size of your bowl...

1,000 GB rainbow machins: * RESTOCKING SOON

Happy stamping x

#stampart #crafts #tips

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