The Arthur Salm Foundation

Report No. 1 – Stamp Album Pages

In order to ascertain the quality of stamp album pages, the Arthur Salm Foundation conducted chemical and physical testing programs on a large number of stamp albums purchased from both the United States and international publishers.

One of the problems encountered by collectors is that certain album pages exhibit serious deterioration due to the acidic conditions present in the paper. This acidic condition has been found to migrate to the stamp or cover mounted on the page. Album pages having a low acidity, or manufactured under neutral or alkaline conditions, can be expected to contribute significantly to the life of the pages, and to the quality of the material mounted on these pages.

Reference sources for this report’s data include the Abbey Newsletter, the Alkaline Paper Advocate, the American Chemical Society, the American National Standards Institute, the Canadian Conservation Institute, the United States Library of Congress, the Mellon Institute Research Center on the Materials of the Artist and the Conservator, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the Newberry Library of Chicago, and the Society of Archivists

There is an inexpensive method for collectors to test their own album page. A pH pen offers a convenient and portable way to distinguish between acidic and alkaline paper, although the pen will not record the exact pH. Information for this pH-reading tool is available from the Abbey Publications Newsletter, 7105 Geneva Drive, Austin, TX 78723, TEL (512) 929-3992 (

Technical Nomenclature Glossary

A simplified glossary of the technical nomenclature used in this in this report includes:

A chemical compound having a pH below 7.0. Acid paper contains rosin and alum. This combination of chemicals is used as a sizing to impart good writing and printing properties to the paper. Unfortunately, alum is acidic, and over a period of time it is a catalyst destroying the integrity of the paper. The acid affects not only the fibers of the paper, but in some instances it attacks the integrity of the paper’s coloring and printing inks.
Acid-Free Paper:
A paper manufactured using no acidic additives, such that when infused in water, the sample reads a neutral or basic pH of 7.0, or just slightly greater.
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, being equivalent to approximately three generations of collectors.
Alkaline Reserve:
The % Alkaline Reserve of a paper product is a measure of the amount of acid necessary to neutralize the alkaline buffering. Alkaline Reserves such as calcium carbonate are added to paper products to neutralize acids that are created or absorbed as the paper naturally deteriorates over a period of time.
Aluminum sulfate, and often referred to as being the “papermaker’s alum”, is an acid salt used to retain rosin sizing in paper. Alum is acidic when dissolved in water, being the primary source of the acid content in paper.
Archival Paper:
A durable acid-free paper manufactured to be especially permanent by providing resistance to the effects of natural aging. Current technology requires this paper to be acid free, with a minimum pH of 7.0, and a minimum equivalent of a 2% Calcium Carbonate buffering agent. Archival Paper is generally categorized as being of a ‘Conservation Grade’ (an acid-free buffered paper manufactured using a wood-based pulp), or being of an ‘Archival Grade’ or ‘Museum Grade’ (an acid-free buffered paper manufactured using a cotton-based pulp).
Also referred to as a ‘Buffering Agent’, and when used in the context of this report, a buffer is an Alkaline Reserve (usually Calcium Carbonate) added to the pulp to maintain the desired end product acidity of a paper product.
Cotton Filler:
A strong, stable fiber providing archival properties to paper.
A paper product’s ability to withstand physical wear and tear. Durable paper is not necessarily permanent, since an album page may be very durable for several years, only to become yellowed and brittle when stored for a longer period of time. Because of the very many variables affecting a paper product’s durability, the Foundation testing program did not attempt to include this paper’s physical property.
Fluorescent Lighting:
Fluorescent tubes emit damaging quantities of ultraviolet radiation; in some instances, they used for the creation of artificial aging test procedures. For permanent displays of paper products, removable filtering sleeves are available, which slide over the tubes.
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.
There is no international classification of papers by permanence nor by type. There are, however, several national standards for the permanence of paper, and an international standard is in the process of being developed. They all specify a minimum pH, freedom from ‘Groundwood’, and a certain minimum strength. All of the newer standards also specify a 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, rather than across it. Album pages should have their grain direction parallel to the album spine to prevent tearing.
Groundwood Paper:
A paper product manufactured by mechanically grinding wood logs into a pulp, the most common raw material used for general papermaking. It contains many substances which impede the permanence of the paper. Groundwood pulp paper is weak, impermanent, acidic, and discolors upon exposure to light and air. For many years, newsprint was almost the lone end product for ‘Groundwood’ pulp, but new developments in the pulping process, and the creation of a bleaching process specific for this type of pulp, has resulted in a broader base of paper products being developed.
The complex non-carbohydrate chemical compound portion of the cell wall of plant material that varies in composition with the type of species, age, and growing conditions 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 lignin 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. The terms usually denote any pulp containing lignin and other impurities, as opposed to ‘Freesheet’ or ‘Woodfree’ pulp types.
(an abbreviation for the French-language puissance d’Hydrogen term, referring to the ‘Strength of the Hydrogen’). From the technical standpoint, 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 7.0 is neutral, with lower numbers being acidic, and higher numbers being alkaline. Being a logarithmic function, a pH 4.0 is ten times more acidic than pH 5.0, and one hundred times more acidic than pH 6.0. There is no such statement as a “little acidic”, as it is either acidic, or it is not acidic.
U.S.A. Federal Publication Papers Policies:
It is the policy of the United States government that all federal records, books, and publications of enduring value must be produced on acid free papers.

Summary of Stamp Album Page Test Data

The initial series of tests provided the Foundation with an abundance of information. The independent testing laboratory found that there was no sulfur nor ‘Groundwood’ present in any of the papers, and that the alum that was present, was in an amount inversely proportional to the pH.

‘Alkaline Reserve’ was tested for in the ‘unaged’ (new) pages, as well as for pages artificially-aged for a period representing 150 years. It was found that the ‘Alkaline Reserve’ album page samples helped to maintain an alkaline pH even after an accelerated aging period equivalent to the 150 years, proving the effectiveness of the alkaline buffer system. On the other hand, the acidic papers became more acidic upon aging, indicating a potential further paper degradation.

The pH was tested by four different procedures: (1) cold extraction, (2) before and (3), after artificial aging for 150 years, and (4) hot extraction, before and after artificial aging for 150 years. It was found that the cold extraction test result was the most consistent, and offered the easiest-to-understand and most reliable results.

There are other factors that the collector must take into consideration, should one’s album pages be acidic, to include the cost to replace those pages, and the workload required for the remounting procedures. The Arthur Salm Foundation does not recommend any specific album pages. We are of the opinion that it is our function to bring the test results to your attention, and then to allow individual decisions as to which pages to use.

Some firms make a variety of different pages under various names, but our investigation has revealed that the Salm Foundation has tested a sampling of each of their papers. For specific questions about album pages, contact the manufacturer or supplier, and inquire as to whether or not the album pages in question are of the same paper stock as the pages that were tested by the Arthur Salm Foundation.

In order to preserve the integrity of the test results, the Salm Foundation will not make public the name and address of the testing laboratory. However, we can state that the officers and technicians of our independent testing laboratory are members of all the professional testing associations, and that they have served as officers of numerous professional groups representing their fields of expertise. They are cooperating with various institutes in establishing standards. The president of the testing firm, a philatelist, is aware of our requirement.


  • A = ph Previous to Aging.
  • AA = % Alkaline Reserve Content, after Aging.
  • AC = Alum Content, Aged Sample; P = Present.
  • AU = % Alkaline Reserve Content, previous to Aging.
  • B = pH After Aging.
  • GD = Grain Direction, S = Short, L = Long.
  • GW = ‘Groundwood’ Content, N = None.
  • RS = Reduced Sulfur Content, N = None.
  • TR = Trace Amount
Stamp Album Product Test No. A B GD RS GW AC AU AA
Artistry Engraving & Embossing Co., Chicago, Blank Pages 909-1 8.1 6.9 S N N P 2.2 2.2
Battle Green Stamp Co. 909-10 9.3 7.2 S N N P 7.0 7.1
Collector’s Supply House, Retail Davison of Canadian Wholesale Supply – 1987 ‘Old Glory’ Supplement 904-4 6.9 6.0 S N N P 0.0 0.0
“ – 1988 ‘President’ Supplement 9011-14 7.6 6.8 S N N P 0.2 0.0
“ – 1988 ‘Worldwide’ Supplement 9011-13 7.0 6.5 S N N P 0.1 0.0
Customs Impression Philatelic Publishers, Printed ‘Succulent’ 912-9 6.6 L
Dover Publications – ‘A First Stamp Album for Beginners’ 912-3 6.6 5.6 L N N P <0.1 0.0
Elbe – Quadrilled 710-06 909-4 5.4 S
“ – ‘Roosevelt’ Quadrilled 1462-Q 909-5 5.0 L
First Day Cover of the Month – 1974 FW 9011-12 5.9 S
Stamp Album Product Test No. A B GD RS GW AC AU AA
Fleetwood, Cheyenne WY – 1983 1003-B 9011-11 5.9 S
Fort Howard Paper Co. – Vatican 2 9011-1 5.7 L
“ – Quadrilled [Note 1] 909-11 8.9 6.8 L N N P 5.8 6.2
G&K-100, Printed Blue 9011-4 6.4 L
“ -135, Quadrilled Blue 9011-5 8.1 7.2 L N N P 8.7 5.9
“ -350, Quadrilled Blue 9011-6 6.3 L
“ -M99, White 912-1 8.5 7.2 L N N P 10.8 8.1
Gibbons – Canada 909-6 6.5 S
Grossman Stamp Co. – Supplement Nº 8 9011-15 5.7 L
Harco – Nº 60 3-Ring Quadrilled Pages 905-5 8.7 7.9 L N N P 7.7 7.8
Stamp Album Product Test No. A B GD RS GW AC AU AA
H. E. Harris Co. – Blank Pages, U.S. Albums 904-1 7.8 7.6 S N N P 4.1 4.0
“ – Supplement, U.S. Classics [Note 1] 909-8 9.2 6.8 S N N P 4.8 4.8
“ – ‘World-Wide ‘Explorer’ 9011-7 6.5 L
“ – ‘Liberty’ – 1989Addendum 909-9 7.2 7.3 S N N P 0.3 0.2
“ -‘Patriot’ 9011-8 6.5 L
Hartmann, Quadrilled Light Blue 9011-2 7.2 6.6 S N N P 2.2 2.0
“ – Paneled Pages 9011-3 7.0 6.9 S N N P 2.3 2.3
Jona – ‘Enterprise’, U.S. 912-8 6.3 S
Kendall – ‘Mostly Classics’ 909-12 8.9 7.5 L N N P 5.6 6.4
Stamp Album Product Test No. A B GD RS GW AC AU AA
Leuchtturm (‘Lighthouse’-brand), Germany – N83 United States Pages [Note 2] 912-10 6.0 L
“ – N83 United States Pages Composite 912-10A 6.2 L
Lighthouse – Blank Pages BL-22 [Note 2] 904-8 5.4 L
Lindner Publications Co. – Transparent 909-7 5.1 L
“ – Transparent Composite 909-7A 5.1 L
Minkus Publications Co. – ‘All American’ Nº 34, 1984 Supplemental 904-1 5.4 S
“ – ‘Printed Stamps’ Nº 39A, U.S. Postal Issues, 1989 904-2 7.0 5.5 S N N P <0.1 0.0
Mystic Stamp Co. – 1984 Commemoratives 9011-10 5.4 L
Philatelic Concepts – Printed Album 912-5 6.2 L
Post Impressions Inc. 909-3 9.2 7.2 L TR N P 7.4 7.1
Stamp Album Product Test No. A B GD RS GW AC AU AA
Postal Commemorative Society, 9”x9.75” Printed Sheets 912-12 5.8 S
“ – ‘Royal Wedding Panes’ 912-13 6.3 L
“ – ‘Royal Wedding Panes’ Composite 912-13A 6.1 L
Readers Digest Assn. – 1984 Commemorative Pages 912-14 7.0 6.6 L N N P 0.1 0.1
“ – 1984 Commemorative Pages Composite 912-14A 6.8 5.7 L N N P <0.1 0.1
RV ‘Special’ 909-19 5.0 S
Safe Publications Inc. – Blank Pages, Printed Borders 912-11 6.0 L
“ – Dual Blank Pages 909-18 5.6 L
“ – Dual Nº 2472, United States, 1978 9011-9 5.0 L
“ – Dual Nº 2472, United States, Composite 9011-9A 4.8 L
Stamp Album Product Test No. A B GD RS GW AC AU AA
Scott Publishing Co. – ‘Advantage’ Stock Sheets 912-15 6.3 5.8 S P 0.2 0.0
“ – ‘Advantage’ Stock Sheets Composite 912-15A 6.3 6.0 S P 0.2 < 0.1
“ – Border ‘A’ Specialty Series Green Quadrilled Pages 904-6 8.8 7.8 L N P 6.4 6.1
“ – ‘Minuteman’ Nº 18 Album Supplement 909-16 5.5 S
“ – U.S. Postal Card Border ‘B’ Blank Pages 904-7 6.1 L
“ – ‘World Cruise’ Stamp Album 909-2 5,2 S
Stamps ‘n Stuff – Mint U.S. Coils Pages 912-6 5.8 L
Strathmore Visual Journal, ‘Bristol’ 2-Ply, Smooth Finish 904-11 8.5 7.3 L N N P 0.5 0.4
U.S. Fulton Publishing – Stock Nº B102-XX, Quadrilled Pages 904-3 5.8 S
Union Camp Corp. – 3-Hole Loose-Leaf Notebook 909-13 6.1 L
Stamp Album Product Test No. A B GD RS GW AC AU AA
USPS – American Commemorative Panel, Jefferson 912-7 5.9 S
“ – Souvenir Pages, Love/Elliot 912-4 4.7 S
The Washington Press, ‘White Ace’ Historical Album Pages, Supplement ‘M’ 904-9 4.8 L
“ – ‘White Ace’ Supplement BC3, 1974 9011-16 6.0 L
Whitman Publishing Co., Nº 6740 Blank Bordered Pages 909-17 4.7 L


1. These two papers, the Fort Howard Paper Co. Quadrilled Paper and the H.E Harris Classic U.S. Supplement pages, both evidenced an unusually large drop in their pH values as a result of aging, and the reasons for the phenomena are not apparent. The presence of a standard alkaline reserve normally maintains the pH at a steady rate during the aging process. However, it is noted that the final pH attained is at a satisfactory level. It is recognized that the calcium carbonate will buffer the paper within its natural pH range of 6.5-8.0, even with further aging. These papers may vey well be long-lived, but without additional testing or other factors not covered in this report, it is not possible to present additional information.

2. The German-manufactured ‘Leuchtturm’ (Ger., ‘Lighthouse’)-brand of philatelic supplies, and the ‘Lighthouse’-brand of of items marketed in the English-speaking countries both are manufactured by the same company: Leuchtturm Alnenverlag GmbH & Co. KG., Am Spakenberg, D-21502 Geesthacht, Germany.

1st Edition, March 1991; 1st Revised Edition, March 2012.
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