Collections Could Become Total Losses From Hurricane Damage

A sizeable chunk of Texas is still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and now Hurricane Irma is heading straight toward Florida and the Atlantic Coast.

Protection of personal treasures pales in the importance of personal safety, so please take care of yourselves and loved ones first. But those suffering through these weather disasters certainly need to consider and cope with their lifelong collections at some point; either before the storm hits or afterwards.

Jonathan Topper of Topper Stamps in Houston, Texas, has been front-and-center amidst Hurricane Harvey; his words are likely good warnings for anyone now in Irma’s path.

“I have lived through eight hurricanes in my life, and the devastation around Houston is just incomprehensible to me,” Topper wrote in an e-mail to the American Philatelic Society.

About 20 people so far have contacted Topper in regards to damaged stamp collections, he said earlier this week; damage to many collections has been “extensive.”

“There will be a lot more. I am familiar with the different neighborhoods that flooded (sometimes row after row of houses) and have spot checked it with our mailing list for local stamp shows,” Topper said. “I know that there are many stamp collections in these areas and I am sure we will hear more about details soon.”

The best way to cope with potential flood losses is to act beforehand. Some of the steps seem obvious, but are worth repeating:

Move precious paper material to higher, dryer ground. If you can’t move it all, move the items most precious to you.

For items you cannot move, pack in water-tight containers; some of these containers are from other realms but could be utilized for paper collections. For example, this past April, Boating magazine tested a couple dozen such containers for several conditions — from drowning to dropping — and gives the results here.

Consider flood insurance.

Hugh Wood Inc. is the society’s official insurance carrier, and works with insuring fine arts and collectibles. Hugh Wood has a satellite office in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania right next door to the American Philatelic Center.

Lisa Souders, a senior account executive based in Bellefonte, said the agency has been (gulp) flooded with calls since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. Souders concurred that planning beforehand — with everything from water sensors to builder’s plastic sheeting — is the best hedge against flood damage, though, moving material away from the potential flood zones were about the only way to save collectibles in the case of Hurricane Harvey.

Topper feels that those who didn’t prepare or act will face total losses of their stamps, covers, and philatelic literature.

“The flood waters were dirty and mold seems to starts growing almost immediately here in the warm, moist air,” Topper said. “Mint stamps become unused stamps without gum, and some used stamps are salvageable if we can get them into some clean water and soak for awhile. Tap water is actually better than bottled water as it is chlorinated and that will stop some of the mold growth.”

Topper and American Philatelic Research Librarian Tara Murray noted that helpful information about preservation and salvage of paper collections can be found on the following websites:

American Philatelic Society at https://stamps.org/Preservation-and-Care.

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works at: www.conservation-us.org/membership/find-a-conservator#.Wa6pONOGNIo.

The Library of Congress at www.loc.gov/preservation/emergprep/dry.html.

Hugh Wood Inc. can be reached through its website or by calling 888-APS-6494.

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