top of page

Conservation Guidelines

Answers to common questions and misconceptions surrounding 

philatelic conservation .

When to call a Conservator

Conservation treatments extend the longevity of philatelic materials. If your collections are visibly deteriorated or significantly damaged these treatments may be essential. 


Conditions that require immediate attention are: 


  • Materials with actively flaking media

  • Pressure sensitive adhesive tapes and labels 

  • Poorly housed materials (embrittled matboard, mountburn etc.)

  • Structurally compromised materials (torn, fragmenting, wet or mouldy materials). 


It is fundamental to note that some enhancement methods (like re-gumming) are not philatelically acceptable. As such, these are not carried out. 

What is Conservation?
  • ‘Conservation consists mainly of direct action carried out on cultural heritage with the aim of stabilizing condition and retarding further deterioration’. 

       (ICON 2002)

  • Conservation is ‘the profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future’.

       (AIC 2011)

  • Conservation is ‘the preservation and maintenance of culturally significant objects’. (WCG 2018)

Conservation & Philately

In theory the conservation of philatelic items should be as popularly and proactively undertaken as the conservation of paper-based artworks. Both collection-types are in-ordinantly valuable, both in monetary terms and in cultural context. However 'conservation' is a widely misunderstood term in philately. Philatelists banter around the word conservation, with the terms 'alteration', 'manipulation' and thus conservation becomes synonomous with 'tampering', and the implication of forgery. 

  • Conservation is NOT manipulation with forgerous intent. It is simply the cleaning and repair of damaged items.

  • Conservation is NOT an interchangeable term with the multifarious flowery circumscriptions which describe unethical processes- such as re-gumming, re-margining, re-perforating etc.

  • At The Stamp Restorer items are skilfully conserved, they are NOT ‘improved’ ‘lightly corrected’, ‘geturkt’ or ‘ameliore.’


The repairs carried out are not noticeable from afar, but are always recognisable up-close, so as not decieve the viewer. 

It is paramount that philatelists begin to re-evaluate the benefits of conservation and no longer associate it with ‘manipulation’. Treated items should be certified by experts as ‘conserved’ with a treatment summary included.


In this way, the collector will know that the stamp has been ethically, technically and professionally treated without any fraudulent incentive.

Professional Standards



Science & Philately

An example of where high-performance analysis would benefit philately is in the assessment of fakes and forgeries. If modern-day counterfeiters can use sophisticated tools, then it seems only fitting that philatelic experts use equally sophisticated tools to identify them. The first and second International Symposium on Analytical Methods in Philately, hosted by the National Postal Museum, Washington D.C. in 2012 and 2015 respectively; aimed to highlight new technologies and the wide-ranging benefits that forensic analyses can hold in the philatelic arena.


Whether they be as an aid for expertization, a solution for authentication disputes, or as data to aid conservation treatment; high performance scientific analysis is useful and thus should be embraced.  

Philately has never been based on the methods of chemical or physical analysis. Analysis through elementary pre-supposition has been used instead. The reason for this is simple; techniques of compositional analysis are generally destructive in their use for the determination of elemental composition. However, increasingly fast and non-destructive techniques are becoming viable. They are already being used effectively to identify and characterize artworks, as well as philatelic materials. As such, perhaps it is time that philatelists accepted these analytical tools into their profession. 


gum arabic & wheat starch.JPG
bottom of page