Removing those annoying address labels…

November 11, 2010 by  
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Fellow collector Morris Brill raises a question which others may have pondered as well: “Is there a safe way of removing the label without harming or staining the newspaper?”

Address labels come in various sizes. The earliest ones are generally from the post-Civil War years and those labels tend to be relatively narrow strips with just the subscriber’s name or an institution’s name. A city might be included as well. Those of the 20th century tend to be one-half to three-quarters of an inch tall and contain the full address of the subscriber.

If discretely placed above the masthead & not touching any text they can be quite harmless and add a certain “charm” and authenticity to the newspaper, but those which cover portions of the masthead or headline are annoying. And they can be removed.

In every case I’ve encountered the glue is water soluble, and once softened the label can be peeled off with  little trouble. Since the label is almost always of thicker paper stock than the newspaper, the quickest way to soften the glue is to moisten the reverse side, meaning the actual newspaper from page two. Once the outline of the label is felt (or hold up to the light & note the outline), I use a cotton swab and warm water (distilled would be best) to dampen the back side of the label. Patience and experimentation are important, as often two or three applications of water and up to ten minutes of waiting are required for the glue to soften such that the label can be removed by using an exacto-knife to peel it up from a corner.

Once removed and the dampness dries there may or may not be a minor water  stain which remains, but I always find this much less offensive than the label covering part of the headline. It is my opinion that the value of the newspaper is enhanced by having the label removed despite a minor stain.

If you have had success with other methods of removing address labels, feel free to share.

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2 Responses to “Removing those annoying address labels…”

  1. Steve Goldman on November 29th, 2010 9:52 pm


    I’ve had some success using Windex Brand window cleaner and applying it to the surface of the label itself (not on the back side of the page). When the Windex softens the label glue at the edges the label can be carefully peeled off of the paper with an exacto knife. After the label is off, use water to gently wash the excess WIndex from the paper and dry the paper with a hand held hair dryer on the LOW setting, angling the hot air almost parallel to the paper. Interestingly, I have not had much luck using other brands of window cleaning solvent !!

    If the label is glued with a harshly resistant type of glue, sometimes the label has to be CAREFULLY scraped off of the surface of the paper with an exacto knife and washed and air dried as above.

    Steve Goldman

  2. Tim Hughes on November 30th, 2010 5:23 am

    Steve – Thanks for the helpful comment. We’ll have to give this a try.

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