The best vintage rubber stamps are those that have survived the test of time and are still usable by artists or tradespeople. Some vintage rubber stamps, while lovely to look at, are not usable due to age. The rubber used for vintage stamps can deteriorate and become brittle over time; the best way to be sure a vintage rubber stamp is of high quality is to examine the rubber portion of the stamp.
Vintage rubber stamps are most often used in art stamping or scrapbooking, where a unique and old-fashioned look or specific image is desired. Artisans who design wedding invitations, greeting cards, and calling cards may also be able to put vintage rubber stamps to good use. Old rubber stamps used for artwork should be able to make a relatively clean imprint with a desirable image. Some crafters may actually prefer a rougher image; testing the stamp on plain paper should show exactly how much of the image is intact.
The mounting block, which is the block of wood or metal that forms the "handle," should be in usable condition. If it is not, it can be replaced with a new piece of wood. A wood block from a child's play set can be used to replace the mounting block on an old stamp if needed. The best vintage rubber stamps will have mounting blocks that are intact and in good condition, though this is not critical if the image is superior or the price is right.
Vintage rubber stamps can be found at antique shops, auctions, paper crafting stores, and at some scrapbooking supply retailers. The best old stamps are often those that are not heavily used; pieces purchased from an individual at an estate sale are often in excellent shape. Stamps of any age that are cared for properly will last longer. Purchasing stamps from an artist or professional printer is one way to ensure the items have been cared for properly and are in the best possible shape.