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Modern stamp issues include security phosphor or fluorescent markings. These are used to sort the mail or to deter forgery. There are two main types used.

FLUORESCENCE: This can be detected with a LONG WAVE UV Lamp. When you shine the light on the stamp, the security marks or paper should glow. You should usually see a green/yellow reflection. Try QEII Hong Kong definitive stamps of the 70's, or most of the European stamps from 1960's, or modern security elliptical perfed British definitive stamps.

Some papers contain fluorescent brighteners which are added during the manufacture of paper. These fluoresce under long wave UV light. Washing powders contain these brighteners to make your whites whiter. That's why your white shirt glows at the disco!  Nearly all modern white paper contains brighteners to make it whiter. Banknote paper does not contain these brighteners, that's why some shops have a UV detector for checking banknotes.

The paper used to print stamps sometimes contain brighteners. Collectors use LONG WAVE light to find out about the different papers used.

EXAMPLE: GB collectors use long wave light to sort the different papers used on modern definitive issues OCP-FCP-ACP papers.

Most longwave  models are battery powered, and cost about 15.

PHOSPHOR: The least understood of all! You need a SHORT WAVE UV lamp for detecting phosphor. You will seldom see phosphor in daylight. What you are looking for is the AFTER GLOW. After the stamp has been exposed to short wave light, the phosphor will glow for a short time.  It is best to work in darkened room, shine the UV light close to the stamp; then switch the lamp off.  Look for the afterglow from the stamp. A long wave light is no good for phosphor stamps. 

NOTE: Because short wave tubes do emit some long wave light as well, the best models, are the ones that contain a special purple glass filter, this filters cut out most of this longwave light. A cheaper alternative is to use a special hole  (oval opening) to try to eliminate some of this long wave light. 

IMPORTANT NOTE Short wave light can harm your eyes. So do not look directly at light, or use for very long periods at a time.

Models are available in battery powered hand held models or mains powered models. Cost from 27 - 200

TIP: You can sort out some of the modern ordinary & chalky paper stamp issues  with a  UV lamp. Try it.


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