The Arthur Salm Foundation

The Salm Foundation was formed by the Collectors Club of Chicago in March 1991 to conduct research on philatelic products. Funding was donated by the Salm family with the CCC providing a matching grant. Officers, who served without compensation, are Lester Winick, president; Bernard Hennig, Vice President; Jacob Bard, Secretary; and Raymond Vogel, Treasurer.

The Foundation purchased commercial philatelic products manufactured around the world that are sold in the United States. These materials were submitted to a professional commercial laboratory for testing. One problem has been that stamp collectors have found that their album pages show serious deterioration due to acidic conditions present in the paper. This acidic codnition has been found to “migrate” to the postage stamp or cover attached to the page. Paper with low acidity or manufactured under neutral or alkaline conditions, can be expected to contribute signifcantly to the life of the pages and mounted philatelic material.

The CCC published a series of six pamphlets on a variety of philatelic products using an independent laboratory to do the testing. Results included the name and publisher of each item as well as a description. Testing was quite extensive and included album pages, stamp hinges, stock books, corners, glassine envelopes, stamped envelopes, computer paper for printing pages, false stamps, pressure sensitive self-adhesive U.S. stamps, and more. 146 commercial products were tested, not including the various fakes stamps specified in the reports.

More than 4,000 of these reports were distributed throughout the world, and the CCC is proud to state that not a single product was challenged. We did have one challenge from a distributor who threatened to sue the CCC. We asked for a copy of his lab test but he had none. We sent him a copy of our lab test to show to his manufacturer. Very sheepishly, he called to apologize and said that the CCC report was correct.

The six reports are available for a legal or large size self-addressed envelope with $1.06 postage affixed. Send your requests to: Collectors Club of Chicago, 1029 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60610-2803. Please allow 3-4 weeks for delivery.

Report Number 1

Paper used for Stamp Albums

In order to ascertain the quality of the philatelic album pages currently available on the market, the Arthur Salm Foundation has initiated a testing program using the facilities of an independent testing laboratory. Over the past few months, the Foundation purchased commercial philatelic products manufactured around the world that are sold in the United States. These materials were submitted to the laboratory for analysis.

Stamp collectors have found that their album pages show serious deterioration due to acidic materials present in the paper. This acidic condition has been found to "migrate" from the album page to the postage stamp or cover attached to the acidic page. Papers with very low acidity and most important, papers manufactured under neutral or alkaline conditions, can be expected to contribute significantly to the life of the pages and mounted philatelic material.

Sources for material in this report came from the Abbey Newsletter, Alkaline Paper Advocate, American Chemical Society, American National Standards Institute, Canadian Conservation Institute, Library of Congress, Mellon Institute Research Center on the Materials of the Artist and Conservator, National Institute for Standards and Technology, Newberry Library and the Society of Archivists.

There is an inexpensive method for each collector to test their own album page. A pH pen offers a convenient and portable way to distinguish between acidic and alkaline paper, however the pen will not give the exact pH. Abbey Newsletter, 7105 Geneva Drive, Austin, TX 78723 will supply stamp collectors with their pen for $4.00 each, postpaid. A simple instruction sheet is included.

In order to understand the process and terms used in this report, and in advertisements, a simplified glossary of pertinent terms follows:

Acid: A chemical compound having a pH below 7.0. Acid paper contains rosin and alum. This combination of chemicals is used as a "size" to impart good writing and printing properties to the paper. Unfortunately, the alum is acidic and over a period of time destroys the integrity of the paper. The acid affects not only the fibers of the paper, but sometimes the inks and colors on the paper.

Acid Free Paper: A paper manufactured under neutral or alkaline conditions with a pH greater than 7.0 containing no acidic additives.

Aging: Artificial aging tests to determine the relative permanence of different papers have established conclusively that alkaline paper is more permanent than otherwise comparable acidic paper. The Foundation has artificially tested the album pages for a life-span of 150 years, or three generations of collectors.

Alkaline Reserve: The presence of calcium carbonate or other alkaline material in paper capable of neutralizing acids as they are formed.

Alum: Aluminum sulfate, an acid salt used to retain rosin sizing in paper. Alum is acidic when dissolved in water and is the primary source of acid in paper.

Archival Paper: A paper manufactured to provide resistance to the effects of natural aging. Current technology requires this paper to be acid free with a min. pH of 7.0 and a mm. equivalent of 2% calcium carbonate as a buffer.

Buffer: In our context, an alkaline reserve, usually calcium carbonate, added to paper.

Cotton Filler: A strong and stable fiber providing archival properties to paper.

Durability: The paper's ability to withstand physical wear and tear. Durable paper is not necessarily permanent since an album page might be very durable during the five years that a collector works on it, only to become yellow and brittle when stored for a longer number of years. Due to the many variables, it was decided not to include durability in the Foundation testing program.

Fluorescent: Fluorescent tubes emit damaging quantities of ultraviolet radiation and are sometimes used in artificial aging tests. For permanent displays, separate filtering sleeves are available which slide over the tubes.

Foxing: Tan or brown spots often seen on old paper. The discoloration is thought to be caused by iron, which is introduced into the paper from water, tree fibers, papermaking chemicals and paper machine corrosion. Copper and fungi have also been implicated.

Grading: There is no international classification of papers by permanence or even by type. However, there are several national standards for permanence of paper and an international standard is being drawn up. They all specify a mini-mum pH, freedom from groundwood, and a certain mini-mum strength. All of the newer standards also specify 2% alkaline reserve of calcium carbonate or its equivalent.

Grain Direction: Direction in which most of the paper fibers are aligned. Paper tears more readily with the grain, than across it. Album pages should have their grain parallel to the album spine to prevent tearing at the hinge holes.

Groundwood: Pulp produced by mechanically grinding wood logs. It contains many substances lirniting the permanence of paper. Groundwood pulp paper is weak, impermanent, acidic and discolors upon exposure to light and air. Newspaper is the most common example.

Lignin: The noncarbohydrate portion of the cell wall of plant material that varies in composition with type of species, age, growing conditions, etc. of the plant. Lignin reverts to its natural brown color on exposure to light and produces peroxides on aging, which deteriorates any paper exposed to them. Complete removal of lignins requires harsh chemical treatment of the wood fibers, which can reduce the strength of the paper.

Mechanical Fiber or Pulp: Sometimes used as a synonym for groundwood, which is a narrower concept. Usually denotes any pulp containing lignin and other impurities, as opposed to freesheet or "woodfree" pulp.

pH: This is the most important figure as far as collectors are concerned. Technically, it is the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion activity in an aqueous solution measured on a scale of 0 to 14. Numerically expressed, pH 7 is neutral, lower numbers are acidic, higher numbers are alkaline. However, pH 4 is ten times more acidic than pH 5 and one hundred times more acidic than pH 6. There is no such statement as a "little acidic;" it is either acidic or not.

U.S. Law: It is the policy of the United States that federal records, books, and publications of enduring value be produced on acid free papers.

Summary of Album Page Test Data

The initial series of tests gave the Foundation much information. The laboratory found that there was no sulfur or groundwood present in any of the papers and the alum that was present, was in inverse relationship to the pH.

Alkaline reserve was tested in the unaged pages as well as pages artificially aged for 150 years. It was found that the alkaline reserve in specific album page samples helped to maintain an alkaline pH even after an accelerated aging period equivalent to 150 years, proving the effectiveness of the alkaline buffer system. On the other hand, the acidic papers became more acidic after aging, indicating further paper degradation.

The pH was tested four different ways; cold extraction, before and after artificial aging for 150 years; and hot extraction, before and after artificial aging for 150 years. It was found that a cold extraction test result was the most consistent and gave the easiest to understand and most reliable results.

There are other factors that the individual collector must take into consideration. If your album pages are acidic, then only you can decide whether or not to go to the tremendous cost and work of remounting your collection. The Arthur Salm Foundation does not recommend any album pages. We feel that it is our function to bring the test results to your attention and then let you make up your own mind as to which pages to use.

Some firms make a variety of different pages under various names, but investigation has shown that the Foundation has tested a sampling of each of their papers. If you have a specific question about your album page, write to the manufacturer or supplier and ask if the page is the same paper stock as the page that was tested by the Arthur Salm Foundation. The Foundation will continue to test newly marketed album pages or pages that might have been missed in this initial series.

In order to preserve the integrity of the test results, we have decided not to make public the name and address of the testing laboratory.

We can state that the officers and technicians are members of all professional test associations and have served as officers of many professional groups. They are cooperating with various institutes in establishing standards. The president of the testing firm, a stamp collector, is aware of our problems and needs.

The only expenses of the Foundation have been to purchase materials for testing and to pay the testing firm. The officers serve without compensation or reimbursement for expenses and the Collectors Club of Chicago has donated its facility as an office.

View table of test results.