Have you ever opened up one of your albums that has been sitting on the shelf for a year or so to discover that one - or perhaps a few - of you precious stamps has developed a fungal disease or has started to rust? I always assumed that I was immune to this. I live in a cold climate with very little humidity, and I store my stamps in a cool, dark place. Safe, right? Wrong! None of this means diddly if the fungus or rust already existed on the stamp microscopically before you added it to your album.
Unfortunately, I have now experienced this first hand. Several years ago I purchased a MNH set of AAT 1957-59 definitives. All of the stamps seemed perfectly clean. Then about a year ago, I pulled out the folder in which they were stored. I was horrified to discover that my 2/3 stamp was playing host to a rather nasty fungus!
Hideous, right? So what happens now? Toss the stamp out as fast as possible and buy a new one to replace it (not always easy to buy a single from a definitive set)? Well, you certainly could, and such an act would be understandable. That growth is rather disturbing. But there is a solution. A solution that was revealed to me by a stamp buddy. It involves a very simple procedure. However, the procedure does have a drawback. If your stamp is mint, the gum will be removed, as the process requires soaking the offending stamp. Of course, there are many who may not wish to do this, and that''s fine. That's the beauty of this hobby. All decisions are our own, and we can do with our own collections as we see fit. But if you are one of those who doesn't care because you never intend to get rid of the stamp, and a lack of gum is not an issue, then the following process may be for you.
The key to the process that will kill the spores, and often remove the staining, is over-the-counter Peroxide. The strength you are looking for is 6%-9% solution Peroxide. Once you have acquired this, the process is simple.
Grab your peroxide and an opaque dish and something you can place on top of it. Place enough Peroxide - directly from the bottle - in the dish to allow the stamp to soak in it easily. Then drop the stamp into the Peroxide. Once you have done this place the cover over the bowl. It is absolutely vital that you cover the bowl straight away! The key to the success of this procedure is darkness. Depending on the size and/or intensity of the stain the process can take between 15 to 30 minutes. You must leave the cover over the bowl for the whole process. It is, however, a good idea to give the stamp a quick check every 5 or so minutes to see how it is going. Give it a swish in the Peroxide, then place the cover straight back on. Once you are satisfied with the results, remove the stamp from the Peroxide and give it a rinse in water to deactivate the Peroxide. Do not soak the stamp for any longer than 30 minutes.
I used the process I just described on the fungus-infected AAT stamp I showed you above. Here is a before and after...
It looks like a totally different stamp, doesn't it? I will say, though, that this procedure may not always give this level of result. What it will definitely do is kill the mould outright and most likely lighten the discolouration, at least somewhat. After seeing the results I got from the above stamp, I'm thoroughly convinced.
Until next time...
Stay Engraver Crazy!