Composition of the Postage Stamp and Factors Involved in the ...

Composition of the Postage Stamp and Factors Involved in the ...

Composition of the Postage Stamp and Factors Involved in the ...


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There are three common ways <strong>of</strong> mak<strong>in</strong>g paper chemically: <strong>the</strong> sulphate, <strong>the</strong> sulphite, <strong>and</strong> <strong>the</strong>soda methods. Kraft paper is made us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> sulphate process; writ<strong>in</strong>g <strong>and</strong> pr<strong>in</strong>t<strong>in</strong>g paper aremade by <strong>the</strong> sulphite method; <strong>and</strong> papers for f<strong>in</strong>e books <strong>and</strong> journals are manufactured by <strong>the</strong>soda process.The term "kraft" means strong. The manufactur<strong>in</strong>g process uses caustic soda <strong>in</strong> comb<strong>in</strong>ation withsodium sulphate to make a strong, brown wrapp<strong>in</strong>g type <strong>of</strong> paper from wood pulp. The firstsulphate pulp made <strong>in</strong> North America was at <strong>the</strong> Brompton Pulp <strong>and</strong> Paper Company <strong>in</strong> EastAngus, Quebec, <strong>in</strong> 1907.Collectors who soak stamps <strong>of</strong>f paper will notice that stamps on kraft paper made <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> U. S.readily separate from <strong>the</strong> paper without problem provided <strong>the</strong> soak<strong>in</strong>g process is kept to anabsolute m<strong>in</strong>imum. <strong>Stamp</strong>s on kraft paper manufactured <strong>in</strong> Canada, however, requireexceptionally careful soak<strong>in</strong>g so as to avoid a bleed<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> sodium sulphate from <strong>the</strong> kraftpaper <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong> stamp. This bleed<strong>in</strong>g results <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong>re be<strong>in</strong>g a reddish color on <strong>the</strong> back <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>stamp.The bleed<strong>in</strong>g or absence <strong>of</strong> it dur<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> soak<strong>in</strong>g process is due to <strong>the</strong> fact that U. S. kraft papersgenerally have a hard coated surface, while Canadian kraft papers commonly have an uncoateds<strong>of</strong>t surface.When soak<strong>in</strong>g stamps <strong>of</strong>f <strong>of</strong> paper, be certa<strong>in</strong> that <strong>the</strong> water is tepid <strong>and</strong> not hot. Fur<strong>the</strong>rmore,check <strong>the</strong> soak<strong>in</strong>g stamps frequently. Remove <strong>and</strong> wash <strong>the</strong> separated stamp <strong>in</strong> clear water assoon as possible. Dorfman (1999) po<strong>in</strong>ts out a) that cold water should be used when soak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>small Mach<strong>in</strong> heads <strong>of</strong> Great Brita<strong>in</strong>, b) only a few stamps should be soaked at a time, <strong>and</strong> c) <strong>the</strong>amount <strong>of</strong> time for <strong>the</strong> soak<strong>in</strong>g should be <strong>the</strong> least possible. Those precautions are warranteds<strong>in</strong>ce <strong>the</strong> water can affect <strong>the</strong> phosphor b<strong>and</strong>s on <strong>the</strong> stamps. In certa<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong>stances -- see below <strong>in</strong><strong>the</strong> section deal<strong>in</strong>g with <strong>in</strong>ks -- additives to <strong>the</strong> water used for soak<strong>in</strong>g stamps may be warranted.Two general precautions concern<strong>in</strong>g soak<strong>in</strong>g stamps warrant mention<strong>in</strong>g here. First, beextremely careful when soak<strong>in</strong>g stamps <strong>of</strong>f <strong>of</strong> colored papers, particularly <strong>the</strong> red <strong>and</strong> greenpapers used for envelopes for greet<strong>in</strong>g cards at Christmas time. <strong>Stamp</strong>s on such colored papersshould be soaked separately <strong>and</strong> with care as <strong>the</strong> colors <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> envelopes commonly run <strong>and</strong> canta<strong>in</strong>t o<strong>the</strong>r papers <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> water.With regard to soak<strong>in</strong>g stamps <strong>of</strong>f <strong>of</strong> colored papers, Heiss (1999) has recently reported that hehas had good success remov<strong>in</strong>g stamps from red papers by soak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> items <strong>in</strong> water to whichtable salt has been added. He recommends one tablespoon <strong>of</strong> table salt per one third cup <strong>of</strong>water, <strong>and</strong> suggests that collectors experiment with <strong>the</strong> method to determ<strong>in</strong>e <strong>the</strong> optimum saltconcentration to be used.Barlie (1999) has reported a technique which she has found useful for <strong>the</strong> removal <strong>of</strong> stampsfrom colored paper. She places a bowl <strong>in</strong> a s<strong>in</strong>k <strong>and</strong> fills <strong>the</strong> bowl to <strong>the</strong> brim with warm water.She next places <strong>the</strong> stamp on paper <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> water <strong>and</strong> adjusts <strong>the</strong> dripp<strong>in</strong>g water flow<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to <strong>the</strong>bowl so that <strong>the</strong> water is flow<strong>in</strong>g over <strong>the</strong> brim <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> bowl but slowly enough that <strong>the</strong> stampwon't be washed over <strong>the</strong> edge <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> bowl. She f<strong>in</strong>ds that this method causes <strong>the</strong> dye released

from <strong>the</strong> paper to be washed over <strong>the</strong> brim <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> bowl before <strong>the</strong> dye has a chance to soak <strong>in</strong>to<strong>the</strong> stamp.Ano<strong>the</strong>r method described by Politis (1999) <strong>in</strong>volves an <strong>in</strong>itial soak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> stamp on paper <strong>in</strong>hot water, follow<strong>in</strong>g which he peels <strong>the</strong> stamp <strong>of</strong>f <strong>the</strong> paper as soon as <strong>the</strong> gum <strong>in</strong> s<strong>of</strong>t enough toallow <strong>the</strong> stamp to be safely removed from <strong>the</strong> paper. He f<strong>in</strong>ds that, <strong>in</strong> most cases, <strong>the</strong> coloredpaper won't have started to run when <strong>the</strong> gum becomes s<strong>of</strong>t enough to remove <strong>the</strong> stamp. Then,<strong>the</strong> gum rema<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g on <strong>the</strong> stamp can be soaked <strong>of</strong>f <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> usual manner.A second general precaution regard<strong>in</strong>g soak<strong>in</strong>g stamps is to use <strong>the</strong> type <strong>of</strong> stamp tongs hav<strong>in</strong>gbroad tips. These spade tip type <strong>of</strong> tongs facilitate secure hold<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> wet stamp without <strong>the</strong>risk <strong>of</strong> damag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> stamp, which can so easily happen with <strong>the</strong> sharply po<strong>in</strong>ted tipped stamptong.SELF-ADHESIVE STAMPSThe world's first self-adhesive postage stamps were issued <strong>in</strong> 1964 by Sierra Leone; but <strong>the</strong> use<strong>of</strong> pressure-sensitive adhesives on materials o<strong>the</strong>r than postage stamps (some state revenuestamps, envelope flaps, etiquette labels, address labels, etc.) was employed long before 1967.The first self-adhesive postage stamps issued by <strong>the</strong> United States were <strong>the</strong> 10-cent pre-cancelDove <strong>and</strong> Wea<strong>the</strong>r Vane Christmas stamps <strong>of</strong> 1974. It wasn't long before problems with <strong>the</strong> selfadhesivestamps surfaced. These problems are far from be<strong>in</strong>g resolved today, but we have cometo know a little about <strong>the</strong> predicaments attendant on self-adhesive stamps.How should used self-adhesive stamps be best removed from paper? The answer to that questionis <strong>of</strong> <strong>in</strong>terest with regard not only to used self-adhesives, but also with regard to removal <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>self-adhesive from <strong>the</strong> back<strong>in</strong>g on which unused stamps are found when purchased.Many collectors have had some success with soak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>se self-adhesives <strong>in</strong> water followed by agentle rubb<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> back <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> loose stamp to remove any traces <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> adhesive. It is a validquestion as to whe<strong>the</strong>r or not this will remove all <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> adhesive. The latter could be bestachieved, <strong>of</strong> course, if we knew <strong>the</strong> solvent used <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> adhesive. The Preservation <strong>and</strong> Care <strong>of</strong>Philatelic Materials Committee has asked <strong>the</strong> United States Postal Service to identify <strong>the</strong>solvents <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> adhesives used on <strong>the</strong> various self-adhesive stamps issued by <strong>the</strong> United StatesPostal Service. The postal authorities responded that <strong>the</strong>ir specifications nei<strong>the</strong>r tests for norrecommends any particular solvents to remove <strong>the</strong> adhesive s<strong>in</strong>ce that is not considered part <strong>of</strong><strong>the</strong> stamp performance requirements specified by USPS. Thus, <strong>the</strong> committee was unsuccessful<strong>in</strong> obta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong> solvent <strong>in</strong>formation requested, but we are cont<strong>in</strong>u<strong>in</strong>g to pursue that <strong>in</strong>formation.As an alternative to <strong>the</strong> removal <strong>of</strong> unused self-adhesives from <strong>the</strong> back<strong>in</strong>g on which it waspurchased, Baadke (1997a <strong>and</strong> 1998) suggests that a s<strong>in</strong>gle self-adhesive be cut out to give asmall surround<strong>in</strong>g back<strong>in</strong>g border after <strong>the</strong> adjacent stamps have been removed. This may notappeal to <strong>the</strong> <strong>in</strong>dividual who is concerned with what <strong>the</strong> effect <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> back<strong>in</strong>g <strong>and</strong> <strong>the</strong> adhesivewill be over time.Collectors who save complete unused panes <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> self-adhesive stamps should pay careful

attention to what, if any, effect <strong>the</strong> back<strong>in</strong>g paper <strong>and</strong>/or <strong>the</strong> adhesive has on <strong>the</strong> stamps<strong>the</strong>mselves. Any collector who saved <strong>the</strong> first self-adhesive issued by <strong>the</strong> United States postalauthorities <strong>in</strong> 1974 will recall how those stamps became seriously damaged <strong>in</strong> storage.Lawrence (1999a <strong>and</strong> 1999b) has produced an <strong>in</strong>-depth review <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> self-adhesive issues.Baadke (1999) reported on <strong>the</strong> availability <strong>of</strong> a commercial adhesive remover product called"Un-Du," a solvent which has shown some success <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> removal <strong>of</strong> self-adhesive stamps frompaper. Baadke cautions, however, that <strong>the</strong> primary <strong>in</strong>gredient <strong>in</strong> "Un-Du" is heptane, <strong>and</strong>,accord<strong>in</strong>gly caution <strong>in</strong> its use is warranted.A Specific Word <strong>of</strong> Caution.The hologram stamps issued by <strong>the</strong> United Statesdur<strong>in</strong>g World <strong>Stamp</strong> Expo 2000 should NOT be soaked. These stamps were issued after thoseconsidered by Lawrence (1999a <strong>and</strong> 1999b), but Baadke (2000b) has reported that soak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>the</strong>hologram stamps <strong>in</strong> water for about 30 m<strong>in</strong>utes or more causes <strong>the</strong> holographic image to separatefrom <strong>the</strong> paper back<strong>in</strong>g <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> stamp. Baadke received confirmation <strong>of</strong> this danger directly from<strong>the</strong> U. S. postal authorities. In addition to <strong>the</strong> separation mentioned, water causes <strong>the</strong> holographicimage to dull <strong>and</strong> appear less dist<strong>in</strong>ct than unsoaked stamps. Probably <strong>the</strong> safest way to deal withused holographic stamps is to leave <strong>the</strong>m on <strong>the</strong> envelopes or packag<strong>in</strong>g on which <strong>the</strong>y orig<strong>in</strong>allycame. If necessary, carefully <strong>and</strong> neatly trim around <strong>the</strong> stamps on a portion <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> largerenvelope or piece <strong>of</strong> packag<strong>in</strong>g, leav<strong>in</strong>g a small border <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> envelop or orig<strong>in</strong>al packag<strong>in</strong>garound <strong>the</strong> stamps.The popularity <strong>of</strong> self-adhesive stamps with <strong>the</strong> public <strong>in</strong> <strong>the</strong> United States is such that it is likelythat <strong>the</strong>re will be no end <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong>ir production. In view <strong>of</strong> <strong>the</strong> problems associated with selfadhesivestamps, is it any wonder that some collectors (see for example, Cohen, 1999) havedecided to stop collect<strong>in</strong>g self-adhesive stamps altoge<strong>the</strong>r, at least for <strong>the</strong> time be<strong>in</strong>g.At least prior to 1993, <strong>the</strong> United States Postal Service has never had a paper designedspecifically for postage stamps. In part, <strong>the</strong> reason is that, even though <strong>the</strong> United States PostalService produces on <strong>the</strong> order <strong>of</strong> 40 billion stamps per year, <strong>the</strong> paper needed for that productionis less than what <strong>the</strong> Wash<strong>in</strong>gton Post uses <strong>in</strong> one month. Ano<strong>the</strong>r reason for <strong>the</strong> United StatesPostal Service not hav<strong>in</strong>g a paper designed specifically for postage stamps is that papermanufacturers <strong>of</strong>fer over two dozen different coated papers satisfactory for pr<strong>in</strong>t<strong>in</strong>g stamps.

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