Tuesday, June 12, 2012

stamp collecting for winners

Over the past few months, I've begun mailing letters and postcards to people whom I've met over the Internet through social networking. And with all of the mail I've been receiving, I've also been noticing the kinds of postage that my friends use (which always seem to be infinitely better than mine).

But here's the thing: if you like the stamp, how do you save it? Every single guide I've seen online has called for hot water or steam, and a lot of soaking. But I like the letters that my friends send me; I want to preserve every last scrap of it. I've been trying to find a way to get these stamps without scissors and dunking things in lukewarm water.

I think I've found the solution.

Remember me?
Seriously. Film.

This is a roll from the linen closet that's about 10 years old. It's my "sacrifice roll" - I got it jammed in a crappy $5 camera I picked up at the flea market and the leader was crumpled so badly I couldn't do anything with it. You might already have some sitting around; if not, a trip to the local drugstore will fix that. You don't need any particular kind, just grab the cheapest one you can find.

Once you've got your film, cut off a chunk. You'll only need a small piece unless you've got monster hands; even then, you probably won't need a whole lot.

Using your tiny bit of film, slide it under the stamp. You shouldn't meet a whole lot of resistance. If you do, use a corner of the film and take your time. Once you're under the stamp, slowly slide it across an edge to loosen it. If you come across any ragged edges, try again from the other side.

This is seriously all you need to do.
Work your film under the stamp a little, just to give you enough gripping space. Then, using your fingers - or if you want to feel like you're in CSI, using a pair of tweezers - begin the arduous task of peeling the stamp off. It may take you a while. Put on some slow, classy music (Clint Mansell? Abel Korzeniowski?) and try not to use your fingernails so you won't leave creases.

No, seriously. Take your time. It's totally worth it, I promise. I'll be right here.

Done? You got your stamp? Awesome! Imagine those letters are flashing nice and bright, congratulating you on a job well done!

It's more than likely that your stamp is still a little sticky. This can be an issue, especially if you're going to try to flatten it. Personally, I don't even bother. I use Elmer's Extra Strength glue sticks and apply it to the first page of my notebook, and they stay pretty darn flat.

And there you have it! The only one that failed (so far) to peel cleanly using this method was a 76p Royal Mail stamp, and I'm pretty sure that not even magic could get that one off. I'm still working on it. It's not very fruitful.

Good job!
EDIT 7/24/12: I have a friend in North Carolina who works in the state archives, and her boss was throwing away an entire box of WWII-era envelopes. My friend was allowed to take some, and she mailed me two. One of them had a stamp that I liked (and the penmanship was shoddy, so it wasn't like I wanted to keep it). The film method worked only partially. Instead, what I did was I took a brush and some water, dabbing at the envelope behind the stamp. This loosened up the adhesive just enough that I was able to use the film method to peel it off.

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