How to soak stamps off paper

A great way to get stamps is from pieces of mail. Unless the envelope has a neat cancel you want to save, you’ll want to remove as much of the paper as possible.

The following steps are helpful for removing water-activated (“lick and stick”) stamps from paper.

1. Put 3-4 inches of cold water in a sink or other container. Do not use hot or warm water – some ink or envelope colors will run in warmer water.

2. Be sure to separate any stamps with heavy black or red cancellations along with those attached to bright or dark-colored paper. Because the inks and dyes may bleed, these stamps must be soaked individually and removed from the water promptly.

3. Place the stamps face down in the water. It’s possible to put as many as 50 stamps in the water at once. If you’re soaking sheets you can soak 20-25 at once, but place them in the water one at a time, making sure each one becomes thoroughly wet before adding the next one.

4. Spread the stamps out and gently press them into the water so that it will soak through the paper. Leave them to soak for at least 10 to 15 minutes – time will vary due to the differences in stamp gum.

5. After 10 minutes or so, check the stamps. The gum should have loosened and the stamps started to float off. Some stamps will sink and some will float. It is very important to remove the stamps promptly after they have come off the paper. If left in the water for a prolonged period of time the stamp paper may begin to weaken.

6. Gently remove the paper (pieces of envelopes) and look at both sides to make sure no stamps are stuck to it.

7. After you have removed all the paper from the water, most of the stamps will be at the bottom of the sink or container. Discard the blank scraps of paper.

8. Gently run your fingers along the bottom and come up under the stamps, catching them in a net fashion. Place these stamps in rows, face down, on blotters (waxed paper, white construction paper, paper towels or any other white, unprinted paper surface) being careful not to overlap them. (Overlapping stamps could cause them to permanently stick to each other, thus destroying them.)

9. Placing a heavy object like a book on top of the stacked layers of paper and stamps will help keep your stamps from curling. It will take a lot longer for the stamps to dry.

10. When this batch of stamps is done, start over with a fresh container of water.

Note: To remove paper from a sheet or strip of stamps, the entire item must be soaked. If the stamps have water-activated gum they will remain attached to one another after soaking.  For self-adhesive stamps, we recommend you trim the paper to within about 1/8” rather than trying to remove the stamps from the paper.


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The Miller Collection & Private Bank Note Stamps


Benjamin K. Miller assembled the first complete U.S. stamp collection in history.  His amazing feat was only rivaled later by the daring theft of several of his rare stamps.  The theft became one of the greatest philatelic mysteries.  Now you can listen in as Scott Trepel discusses the Miller Collection and the era of Private Bank Note Stamps in this video taken during the 2006 Maynard Sundman Lecture at the National Postal Museum…

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The Queen’s Own


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Get an insider’s look at Queen Elizabeth’s amazing stamp collection with this exclusive video.

In celebration of “The Queen’s Own” exhibit at the National Postal Museum, the 2004 annual Sundman Lecture featured Michael Sefi, Keeper of the Royal Philatelic Collection.  Sefi was recently appointed Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order for his service to the Queen.

In this video, Sefi discusses the Royal Philatelic Collection, highlights his experiences working with this world-renowned collection and reviews some of his favorite objects.

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The Art of the Stamp

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Kick back and enjoy the 2012 Sundman Lecture, The Art of the Stamp.  This video focuses on the art, process, and philosophy of contemporary stamp design.  It features speakers from the stamp designing and collecting community, including author and Citizen Stamp Advisory Committee member Janet Klug, US Postal Service art director Antonio Alcala, stamp artist and professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology Kam Mak, artist/illustrator Howard Koslow, and photographer Sally Andersen-Bruce.

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A History of Great Britain in 36 Postage Stamps

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Now you can watch as the author of “A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps” explores his country’s history through its most fascinating, beautiful, and eccentric postage stamps.  From Queen Victoria’s Penny Black to the struggles of post-World War II reconstruction, West shows that stamps mirror the events, attitudes, and styles of their time.

West delivered his presentation at the 2013 Maynard Sundman lecture at the National Postal Museum.  To watch the video, click here.

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U.S. Stamp Collecting Starter Kit


Get everything you need to start collecting in one easy step.  It’s convenient and affordable – for just $14.95 you’ll receive our exclusive album plus 100 free stamps, hinges and a guide to stamp collecting.   You save $22 off our regular price, making this a terrific value.

This is also a neat way to introduce stamp collecting to your friends and family – makes a great gift!

Here’s Don discussing our exclusive Historic Postage Stamps of the United States album.

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