Protecting Your Stamps

A Stamp BurglarFor many years, few stamp collections required many steps be taken for their security. Few collections were valuable enough for the average burglar to bother with, and even if damaged by fire, the low value of stamps in general meant that they were easy to replace. But the rise in philatelic values in the last fifteen years, both actual and relative, to the rise in prices in general has made a good stamp collection eagerly sought after by even common criminals and difficult to replace in the case of fire loss.
Most people never experience a house fire, and even though burglary rates are alarmingly high, most residential areas have few, and these are generally of the “steal the silver and run” kind. Still, statistics say that the average person can expect to be burglarized at least once in his or her lifetime, and some steps can be taken to mitigate the risk of losing your stamps.
A safe is very important in protecting a collection, but oddly, more effective for fire than for theft. This is because most stamps damaged in fire are not burned, but instead experience smoke damage (which makes the paper become discolored or brittle) and especially water damage from fire fighters dousing the flames. Safes, too, are valuable in protecting against theft, but unless they are quite tamper-proof or well hidden, they often only signal that valuables reside there. Once broken into, the safe then reveals to a non-philatelic burglar that the homeowner believes his collection is valuable. Thus a collection that might have been left behind becomes a prized piece of property for the burglar to steal.

However, there are easy and inexpensive ways to protect a collection. Collectors may use subterfuge in protecting their stamps from theft. Few burglars know anything about philately; valuable collections look the same as worthless ones. This can be used to your advantage. Most burglars, like most non-collectors in general, think that old stamps mean valuable stamps. Since most collections are in many volumes, and burglars prefer taking only a few of the heavy volumes, labeling your volumes has afforded protection for some burglarized collectors. Putting “Dad’s old collection” on a worthless volume and “Billy, Jr’s” on your best album has resulted in many fine collections being saved.

Most collections that are stolen are stolen by someone known to the collector- perhaps a neighborhood youth who heard of what you have or a fellow club member who believes that your collection is valuable. Discretion is required whenever discussing your stamps. Leave the price tag off when boasting to your non-philatelic friends, and always preface your comments to philatelic friends with “when I last went to the bank vault…” In the end, safe deposit boxes at banks are your best assurance of safety. Even if you like your stamps at home, at least half the value of most collections can easily be put on a few stock cards and placed in a small safe deposit box.
Fires occur much less frequently than thefts and are usually discovered before the damage becomes total. While electrical fires can occur anywhere in a house, most fires are kitchen fires. Knowing this, it would be a wise choice, if possible, to store your collection in a den or bedroom away from the kitchen so as to maximize the possibility that your collection will safely weather a fire. In addition, the protection a fire file or safe provides will minimize water and smoke damage.
The only way to totally protect your stamps from being stolen or damaged in a fire is not to collect at all. But even if you lose your stamps (remember stamp theft is rare, and fire cases even rarer), you can economically protect the financial asset that your stamps represent. Stamp insurance is available from most homeowner writing insurance companies and is available very reasonably without an appraisal requirement from the American Philatelic Society. A loss is terrible, but an uninsured loss is a tragedy.
Share on:
Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top