How should you remove stamps from envelopes (part or entire envelope)? First, never be in too much of a hurry to do so, as the cancellation or other markings on the envelope might be of sufficient interest that all should be kept intact. However, once you are happy that it is just the stamp that is important, you can ‘float’ off the stamp. To do this, cut the stamp from the envelope, ensuring you retain a reasonable margin of paper around the stamp. Place face up in a shallow bowl of tepid water and leave. Once the stamp can be easily separated from the envelope, it can be removed.
THE Safe Electric Stamp Drying Press allows your stamps to dry unbelievably fast and presses them perfectly flat at the same time.
The stamp should now be placed between two pieces of clean white blotting paper and left to dry. Some like to place a reasonably heavy object, such as a book, on top, so that the stamp dries flat. Alternatively, use can be made of a Safe Drying Press, which dries the stamps quickly and keeps them flat.
Do note that before floating any stamp, ensure the colour is safe and will not run, and avoid trying to float stamps printed on chalk-surfaced paper.
Many modern stamps are self-adhesive and cannot be separated from their envelopes in this way. Some self-adhesive stamps also had a water-soluble adhesive that meant floating was possible, while certain chemicals will loosen the self-adhesive acrylic.
Nevertheless, the best advice is always to keep used self-adhesive stamps on the envelope cut just larger than the stamp (similarly unused self-adhesive stamps will be kept on their original backing paper).
I referred to not discarding envelopes that might bear postal markings of interest. For those whose interest lies in postal history, there is a tool that can prove useful – the Bridger & Kay cancellation gauge. The various markings applied to items of mail – and not necessarily just the cancellation on a stamp – can vary in size: even if only part of a marking is visible, this gauge will still enable its measurements to be ascertained.
This blog post is an excerpt from the August 2021 GSM article 'New Collector' by Richard West.