Staples corrosion or the nonsense of keeping games sealed ?


To make it short, manual staples get corroded with time. And no one can stop time...

This may be an intersting topic for those collecting original games. So, below is a discussion about this issue.
I launch this subject here because I expect some members to have observed the issue, and I'm wondering if anyone found a solution.

Sometimes staples get rusty so bad, that they start to corrode the paper of the manuals itself, which vanishes as rusty orange powder (litterally), leading to large holes in the paper. So this may be an interesting topic for those hoping to retire in a few decades with lots of time to replay their favorite Saturn games. :)

Ah, and yes, the discussed issue is particularly true for Sega Saturn Manuals (at least PAL) ... :confused:
(Pictures below are from Dreamcast PAL manuals, where the problem is the most advanced).

My observation : the problem actually seems to originate from chemicals present in the paper.
  • Some solvents or the glue itself ?
  • I do not know, but clearly in 50% of my Saturn and Dreamcast games corrosion started where the staples are in close contact with the paper, e.g. where it pierces the stack of pages. The parts exposed to air comes second, when the state of corrosion is more advanced.

  • Here is a batch of staple removed from different Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast Manuals. Left image without annotation, right with annotations. You can observe that the corrosion mostly starts where the staples were in contact with the paper (orange lines on the right image indicates the paper layer). More rarely, it started also where the staple was cut (green circles on the right image).

  • Of course, humidity may accelerate the process... But mine were stored in a nice condition, aroud 20~25°C all year around, and low humidity.
  • The problems seems to be far more worse for some systems than others. During the last weeks, I removed all the staples of all my Sega games manuals (around 300 Sega games in total) and had a look to some of my others systems too. The pattern repeated again and again.

Which systems are worse ?

Please note that most of my games are PAL, with around 20% of USA and JAP games.

  • General observations :
1. Low quality paper is more corrosive : typical example, dreamcast PAL and PAL Saturn manuals from Sega in-house games. It is a grainy paper, generally thin and makes me think about this cheap recycled-style paper that is commonly used for cheap, mass market paperback books.

Below an example with Crazy Taxi PAL Manual, so rusted that the paper started to get counter-attacked.


2. Glossy paper is less corrosive : generally these are manuals from Saturn and Dreamcast third parties, and most of my oldest games (Master System, Megadrive...).

Below an example with Unreal Dreamcast PAL Manual, high quality glossy paper, not a single trace of corrosion.


  • Per-system observations :
- Dreamcast (particularly PAL) manuals are by far the worst : Paper is of relatively low quality (grainy, very thin,mass market paperback style). Blackish corrosion was present on the surface of EVERY staples of my manuals. This turned out to derive to real rust in more advanced case, where the corrosion was spreading all along the staples. In the worst case, the paper of the manual itself got corroded back by the rust, leaving holes. Definitely, Sega did every mistakes with PAL Dreamcast packaging...

- Saturn manuals are second worst : for this system games uses either some mass market paperback style paper, or better quality glossy paper. Funny, Sega-made games (Sonic, Shinobi, Panzer Dragoon, Virtua [placeholder] ...) use the low quality paper. So beware, you beautiful copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga is probably baking some corrosion inside your box while you are reading this. Third-party games (Ubisoft, EA...) use better glossy paper or no staples at all (pages are glued).

- Megadrive, 32X, Mega-cd, Master System... : Somehow, the problem is less pronounced. In my case, the majority of my manuals use different grades of glossy paper and the issue was limited or absent, despite some games being one or two decades older then the systems mentionned above. Maybe they used a different chemical formula in the paper used back then ? Still, low levels of corrosion are present on some manuals, meaning that ultimately corrosion will develop. For US 32x games, paper is lower quality than European and Japanese manuals, so this could take the 3rd place. Anyway, I also removed every staples for these systems to avoid any issue.

Conclusions, and I'm happy to discuss them further :

  1. Remove staples from all manuals in your collection. Time flies, metal corrosion happens.
  2. When it comes to Sega games, clearly do it ASAP for Dreamcast (PAL mostly?) and Sega-brewed Saturn games.
  3. Do not replace the staples. If you followed your chemistry classes, you will know that corrosion (actually oxydation) calls for more corrosion by contact. New staples will probably start to corrod again in the coming years.
  4. Collecting Sealed games is a nonsense. Not my hobby, but I know some people doing that... and inside their beautiful sealed boxes of Panzer Dragoon Saga, chemistry is doing its job right now... on the manual. :cool:
Alternative solutions ? let's discuss that .

- Is there any staples guaranted corrosion-free out there ? That may be a long term solution ?
- What are doing libraries collections to conserve old documents ? Staples are systematically removed ? replaced with strings ?
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