Stamp Tongs

There are four basic tools that philatelists use- watermark trays, magnifying glasses, perforation gauges and stamp tongs. Stamp tongs began to be used by the second generation of philatelists, about 1860. These early collectors, being second generation, saw that collectors who had just used their hands to handle stamps had damaged a great number of specimens. They knew that there would be collectors after them and so philately for the first time began the great conservation of quality efforts that are still with us today.  The development of stamp tongs was the first chapter in this effort to keep our stamps as pristine as they came to us.The earliest pair of stamp tongs that I have seen were a short 3″ pair of pointed industrial tweezers that an early collector had requisitioned into philatelic use around 1880.
Those of you who have had much experience with jewelry making or watch repair know how many types and sizes and shapes that tweezers come in. A good jewelry studio can have fifty or more pair, each specialized for the specific picking up and holding task for which it is designed. Stamp tongs are very simple by comparison. They come in two sizes and three shapes. The short ( about 3″) are a bit easier to handle than the large (about 5″-each measured end to end). The shape difference is more significant. Shovel type tips make it easier to pick up stamps, pointed tips make it easier to remove hinges and bits of extra perforation from perf tips. Most professionals, however, use the third type- a modified 5″ rounded tong that is a bit pointed but not sharp. Here is one tip that I wish I hadn’t learned so late in life-if the tong tension- that is the amount of effort it takes to open and close your tongs- is too strong for you, bend the top of the tongs a bit to the left or right. This will reduce the tension. If there is too little tension, spread the tong tips apart a bit with your hands.
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