Foxing on stamps....list or discard?

Assuming there is no for sure way of removing minor foxing, do you even try to sell them? Especially unused stamps as any treatment would seemingly remove gum.


  • 14 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Hi John,
    Toning or "foxing" as you state it, occurs on paper from time to time.
    You are right about not trying to remove it. Beyond gum, it will alter the stamp in other ways as well, which are detectable.
    I sell toned stamps all the time. Yes, it does diminish the value, but there is still good value to be had in a toned stamp.
    If the stamp is low value, then it has no effect on the price of the stamp (less than $5, maybe as much as $50). When it gets a bit higher, then the % reduction may increase, but there is no hard and fast. Some scarce to rare stamps may still hold value even when toned, but most likely will take some hit to value, dependent upon how bad the toning is.
    It's not an exact science. I recommend setting the price higher initially, if it does sell in 6 months, try reducing it by 10% every 3 - 6 months until you hit a selling point. That will give you what the market is willing to pay...
  • Good advice...thanks Scott. Your 10% reduction periodically sounds logical, but I'm not I'm getting enough views, so I have no idea if folks are even looking. It's odd, but when I add a group of stamps it takes sometimes weeks before any views start showing up, and usually more than half of each batch never receives a view. I've been posting some nice (IMO) stamps (mostly unused) at fair (again, my opinion) prices.

    Re: toning, I've got some unused pre 1940 stamps that have some toning. None are high value.

  • John,
    Stamps with foxing will sell. I would advise mentioning the foxing in your descriptions.

    Pete James
  • Absolutely. Mention all faults in the description, even ones that are obvious in the scan. (They may not be obvious to someone else.)
  • edited October 2022 0 LikesVote Down
    Is there a difference between foxing and toning? I suspect the terms are often confused.
  • Yes. Foxing refers to a mold/fungal/rusting mildew condition and will appear as blotchy brown spots, whereas toning, more of a paper issue, refers to browning due to paper acidity, tropical gum, improper storage, change due to chemicals/sunlight, etc.
    To complicate matters, 'toning' can also refer to any paper that is not pure white, which in some cases, is done/manufactured that way intentionally.
  • As I frequently say, "there are 3 words for everything in the English language". Foxing & toning, while perhaps have specific definitions, the Philatelic world (and by that I mean expertizing), the word "foxing" is only used against documents with spots. Do a quick search at the PF's website, and you will find a total of 4 certs with the term "foxing" in it, all of which are full size documents. The same search against toning yields 1,710 results.

    I would suggest when describing your material if it's a single stamp (or block) with spots, describe it as toning.
  • I have listed many stamps with "toning", all described as such in both title and description. I reduce the list price of an item by 50% if toning is present compared to a similar item without toning. Since all my items for sale are listed individually, with pictures of both front and back, someone can see exactly what they are getting when an item is purchased. When toning is readily visible only on the back, as it can be, this is important.

    Toned stamps do sell, even if modern. The pricing is important in this regard.

    When I was still purchasing stamps a number of years ago, nothing upset me more that when purchasing a "mint-never-hinged" item and receiving it based upon a picture of only the front. The front picture looked like a perfect stamp. The back would then be covered with heavy toning. The seller would have to have known it was present, but with no picture or description, I assumed that all was well with the stamp. Needless to say, it was returned with a demand for a refund. This is one of the reasons I always picture both front and back of each stamp I have listed for sale. Even descriptions go only so far in actually describing what is present.
  • edited October 2022 2 LikesVote Down
    "Foxing refers to a mold/fungal/rusting mildew condition"

    "Rusting" actually relates to sulphurization of certain colors on older stamps, particularly orange and yellow. "Rusting" is incorrect terminology for sulphurization, since the inks do not contains iron. Sulphurization is easily removed by giving the affected stamp a bath in hydrogen peroxide. This method will remove any gum on the stamp, but you will have the color fully restored, and the stamp will be more desirable. Rinse the stamp with cold water when the process is completed.

    Foxing is a term used to describe the mold, fungus, mildew that attaches itself to some stamps. Note what foxing is. Mold, fungus, etc are plants. They give off spores to spread. Yes, it is possible for foxing to spread onto other stamps and album pages, rooting onto the paper fibers. It is dangerous to store such stamps with your other stamps.

    I have done some experiments with removing Foxing. My results are posted on Stamporama. However, I will say that giving an infected stamp a bath in an ammonia solution does seem to remove 95% of stamps lightly infected. Heavily infected stamps do not have good results. Put the ammonia solution and stamp in a covered, small plastic container. If you don't keep it covered, the ammonia will evaporate, and you'll be left with water. You can swish the stamp around in the solution to make the wash more effective. This method will remove any gum on a stamp, and some inks may soften and bleed, such as water based inks and aniline. Rinse the stamp with cold water when the process is completed. For me, I simply get rid of stamps with foxing.
  • Michael,

    I agree on the cause of what you call foxing and what I term toning. Since the cause is an organism that spreads by spores, theoretically the presence of toning on one stamp may increase the prevalence of toning of adjacent stamps. However, I doubt that separation of toned stamps or even their disposal will prevent additional toning from occurring in all cases.

    Those spores that can lead to toning are present everywhere. Just step outside and the organisms will be present breaking down the fibers in dead plants, such as leaves, grass clippings, etc. You will not be able to keep your stamps from being exposed to these spores.

    What really leads to these spores "sprouting" and causing observable damage to stamps (and paper in general) is the right environmental conditions that will encourage their growth. Higher humidity and a warm temperature is the key. A tropical environment, such as the high humidity and generally high temperatures of the American Gulf Coast would be an example. Have a stamp collection in this area stuck in a garage, attic, or storage building and you will probably have toning occur. If you live in Phoenix or Las Vegas, you will probably never see any toning occur even though the temperatures are high as there is just no humidity.

    Store your stamps in a typical air conditioned environment within a building such as your home and toning will probably not occur and toning present on stamps in your possession will not spread to other stamps. Even on stamps with observable toning, the extent of the toning on that stamp will not increase. How can I make this statement? I have come across collections where nearly every stamp in a collection is noticeably toned, with some of the toning extensive. I have never seen toning appear on any stamps in my possession over the decades that I have owned them, nor has the toning become heavier on stamps that already had toning present.

    Everyone may not agree with my comments above. That's alright, you are free to have your own opinion. I have made them based solely upon my observations over the past fifty years that I have dealt with postage stamps.
  • Nuff said.....I will now describe foxing, toning, or whatever as "brown stuff.

    My God....there should a required college course on this.
  • Since foxing is mold, can it be killed? Is there a substance that can be applied to the stamp that only kills the mold without damaging the stamp. I know bleach will kill mold, but will affect the color of the stamp. Is there a way that a stamp could be suspended over a portion of bleach in a closed container, exposing the stamp only to vapors from the bleach? Might that work? If not bleach, then what might work?
  • Any exposure to "bleach", be it in the form of vapor ( which is still direct contact) will chemically affect it. Sodium hypochlorite is a profoundly effective anti-biological entity , but exacts a toll in whatever it comes into contact with. Fungi are profoundly tough and tenacious organisms, and they are VERY hardy surviving in all sorts of environments from the acid pools of hot geysers to the folds of your toes to the grass in your yards. Postage stamps are easy picken's for them!
  • In my trials of trying to rid stamps of foxing, which I discussed above, I also tried Clorox. I saw no improvement in the stamp condition using Clorox. The only chemical I used where I saw an improvement was ammonia. See my post above.
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