In going through a collection I recently purchased, I found all kinds of old pill bottles from a pharmacy. The collector bought rolls of coil stamps. After removing some plate number strips, the collector used empty pill bottles to store the leftover stamps. This is the first time that Iíve seen coils stored this way. It didnít cost the collector anything; the bottles were free. Their round shape nicely accommodated the round coil rolls too.

It didnít require the collector to flatten out the leftover coil rolls. They could remain in longer strips. Using tape, he marked the outside of each bottle with the contents. The stamps were undamaged as I examined them.

In this same collection, I found some glassine envelopes and old mint sheet files where the glassine material turned brown. The discoloring was due to age. In a few cases, the stamps themselves were becoming brown too.

In my years of dealing, Iíve seen good and bad ways used by collectors to store their stamps. The use of the empty pill bottles was a new one to me. In thinking about it, it seems safe because the stamps were not damaged. And these stamps have been in there for at least 15 years. The pill bottles are not air tight, allowing the stamps to breathe.

On the other side, Iíve seen old collections mounted on everyday writing paper. The paper has high acid content. It gets brown and brittle with age. The acid in the paper sometimes migrates to the stamps, turning them brown too.

I see four ways to store stamps:

  • There are many acceptable ways to safely store stamps, such as in albums using mounts or peelable hinges. These are safe for long term storage.
  • Some storage techniques like glassine envelopes are fine for short to moderate lengths of time. In some cases, glassines turn brown with age and should be changed out.
  • There are non-standard ways, such as the pill bottles, that seem safe and may be practical and economical
  • There are non-standard ways that may damage the stamps
  • Whatever methods you use, my recommendation is that you periodically check your stamps and make sure they are not becoming damaged. Put some thought into your storage needs. Look at the containers youíre using. Do they seem safe? If youíre trying something different, look at your stamps after a month or two. Are they still OK?

    It makes sense to check your stamps on a semi-annual or annual basis. In the case of glassine envelopes, you may notice them starting to discolor a little bit. This could be 10 years from now or 50 years from now. Itís time to discard the old glassines and transfer your stamps to new glassines.

    You donít have to spend large sums of money to store your stamps. The pill bottles are a good example. However, you donít want to do something that can lead to damage. That can be a disaster. Donít put your stamps away and go back to them in 20 years to find that they are all destroyed by improper storage.

    Have you tried anything out of the norm to store your stamps? Was it successful? Or did you have problems? Iíd like to hear of any interesting stories you may have.