Collector's Corner: Rubber Stamping: History & Collecting Craze
By Karen Catalioto
- F.W. Dorman is said to have been the first to actually commercialize the making of rubber stamps. He started as a sixteen-year-old traveling stencil salesman in St. Louis, Missouri, and opened his first business in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1865. He learned the technique of manufacturing rubber stamps from an inventor. His eventual specialty was the manufacture of the basic tool of the trade - the vulcanizer (the process of making such a stamp). His company continues in business today.
The early days of rubber stamps were designed so folks could affix a red marking for proof purpose, such as the Post Office stamping "1st Class" on envelopes. Later, more designs were destined for offices for stamping paperwork.
Rubber stamping did not become a mainstream hobby until the early 1980s. Stamps made by companies that went out of business are sought-after and very difficult to find. Several new companies emerged and became "famous" for their trademark artwork such as dog breeds or Christmas themes. They often hired established artists to draw designs for them, either on a full-time or freelance basis. These artists create stamps from their personal experiences.
Some early companies that are still a mainstay are All Night Media, Inkadinkadoo (known for their foam mounts), Personal Stamp Exchange/PSX (also used foam mounts), Hero Arts, Stampendous (whose stamps are gray) and Rubber Stamps of America. Their full-time artists design and make their own stamps on the premises.
Most stamps are made out of gum erasers that are dyed red, deeply-etched using a set of carving knives and other related tools, and industrial-strength-glued (or rubber cemented) onto a thin foam cushion (for ease of stamping- not to be confused with foam mounts, which is thick).
The stamps are then glued onto thick maple wood (called mounted; unmounted is just the stamp design by itself), thus forming three layers of process. Some stamps are glued onto foam mounts, and the thin clear acrylic block is the newest form of mounting in place of wood. One company even makes green stamps! Very few stamps are made clear, which is not highly desired due to deteriorating under extreme humidity. Part of the stamp's popularity is the longevity, provided it's stored properly away from extreme heat or sun.
Today, there are thousands of active stamp companies and designers who have cropped up to help stamp-collecting hobbyists like myself. I discovered rubber stamps and began collecting in the late 1990s. I use the stamps for old-fashioned letter-writing, scrapbooking and to make handmade cards. I have amassed my collection to the point of displaying most on various open shelves and curio cabinets all over my home, so that I don't have to worry about storage. Like the artists or designers who created the works based on their real-life experiences, I collect them based on my own, as well.
For more information, here are three Web sites:
http://www.stampguide.com (comprehensive portal links of rubber stamp companies)
http://www.kerchunk.com/cosweb2.html (another links listing of some rubber stamp companies that also make other non-rubber stamp products that can be utitilized with rubber stamping projects)
http://www.stampabarbara.com/info.cfm?More=History interesting tale written by Stampa Barbara rubber stamp store founder Gary Dorothy of his humble beginnings in the '80s to ascension throughout the '90s)
The Rubber Stamp Album, by Joni K. Miller & Lowry Thompson. Paperback. 1978. Workman Publishing Company. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0894800450/auctionbytescom
For a comprehensive list of rubber stamp books: http://www.kerchunk.com/rubberbooks.html
About the author:
Karen Catalioto from Phoenix, Arizona, is "funcollector" on eBay.com and "Funcollector" on RubberStampAuction.com. She mainly buys on eBay and also supports buying from local merchants. She has been with eBay since June of 1999 and RubberStampAuction since June of 2002. She is an active member of the OAUA since January of 2000, as "funcollectorgirl." Check out her eBay About Me page: http://members.ebay.com/aboutme/funcollector.
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