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Buying and Using Sheet Protectors

Sheet protectors are plastic sleeves into which are placed album pages. They are used mostly by exhibitors as a means to protect their collection from the potential damage inherent in all the handling involved with exhibiting. I am talking about them here because it seems many beginning collectors are moving into exhibiting a lot sooner than in the past. Sheet protectors can also be used by ordinary collectors as a way to mount certain material. Large souvenir sheets and covers when mounted can sometimes come partially off the page; by enclosing the page in a sheet protector, it makes it much more difficult for the item or items to come loose.

The best material for sheet protectors is Mylar. It is very inert and doesn’t contain labile plasticizers. The drawback to Mylar is cost. At a dollar per page, the cost of Mylar can add up quickly. Polypropylene sheet protectors, for all intensive purposes, are as good as you will need; and at 15 cents a page, it is a lot more cost effective. What you want to avoid in sheet protectors are those made from polyvinyl acetate. The plasticizers in these sheet protectors slowly seep out of the plastic and can ruin some of the stamps enclosed within. Do not use “acetate” sheet protectors.

Polypropylene sheet protectors are available in office supply stores. They come basically in one size (8.5 x 11 in.). If you wish sheet protectors in other sizes, then you will probably have to go with Mylar. There is one company I know of that will fabricate sheet protectors and sleeves for just about any use.

One word of caution. Sheet protectors create a situation where the atmosphere surrounding your stamps changes only very slowly. If you live in a humid area, the inside of your sheet protectors will be filled with an atmosphere that is perfect for growing fungus. The sheet protectors filled with an album page and mint stamps also makes for a nice home with food for certain insects. If you live in an area where either problem is reasonably possible, it would be a good idea not to leave your collection in sheet protectors for long periods of time. As always, store your collection in a vertical position to avoid pressure damage and allow the maximum amount of air flow to your collection. I have seen acetate sheet protectors, from years ago, with fungus growth on the inside. Check your collection regularly.

Ken Stewart