At the risk of being contrary, I will share my experience with Polymax Fine Art paper.
Polymax F.A. surface C is my favorite paper. But it is now discontinued. I would have stocked up but from my experience with it, the contrast is gone at the very month of the printed expiration date. This holds for surface C. I do not know how the other surfaces last.
I have other papers that are great even though they are years outdated. So if its just a 25 sheet pack it might be worth the risk.
I figured if I don't like it, it still would work good for contact sheets.
I've just had a bad experience with out of date paper. I couldn't understand why my first two contact sheets and two prints were really dark and grainy. Awful. Then I changed to a different box of paper and they came out fine. When I looked at the first box the exp. was '03 and it's a box of 100. It was a bad buy in the first place. I went in for a pack of 25 glossy and came out with 100 matte because "that's all they had at the moment". I never really liked the matte so I used it for contact sheets and tests. Being a beginner I didn't know paper went off, but boy does it. Oh well another lesson learned.
I guess 25 would be okay, but I'd advise you to use it up first.
We don't get too much Polymax in the UK, the last pack I had was some outdated variable-contrast RC paper and the low-contrast emulsion had died, i.e. it would only make maximum-contrast prints, any filters just absorbed light but did not change the contrast. I have never experienced this with Ilford VC paper (fiber-based or RC).
At the other extreme, in 1969 I was given a box of Kodak 16x20" white smooth glossy double-weight paper which had lain in a cupboard (not especially favorable storage conditions) since 1941. This had shifted from a nominal grade 4 to about grade 2 3/4 and was a little slower than fresh paper, but made some great prints!
It depends on storage conditions (cold is better). But there are huge differences between paperbrands too. I once had Agfa MCC go bad even before the its expiration date. Kodak Polymax FineArt doesn't keep for years after its expiration date. But I recently discovered Bergger, Oriental, Ilford Galerie, or Kentmere to be good still, ten years after that.
Originally Posted by KevinR
In short : TRY IT. When there is a big difference in paperbase white between a non-exposed but fixed print and a non-exposed developed and fixed print, you could add benzotriazole or potassium bromide to your developer. If that doesn't work anymore, get rid of the paper.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
I had a darkroom clearout before Xmas, and being miserly tested all the old paper before getting rid of it.
1968'ish and later Ilford & Kodak bromide papers still printed fine, just lost a bit of contrast, about a grade, they are probably slower too. Early 1990's Sterling had built up a fogging, quite strange and useless. Some Kodak Polyfibre 30"x 40" which I expected to be duff was actually fine.
Now I have some early 60's Kentmere yet to try in larger sizes.
I should ad that I've inherited a lot of paper from various sources and of the old stuff all I ever bought was the Polyfibre which never took of in the UK so was remaindered.
Kodak never seemed to break Ilfords dominance of the UK's B&W market despite excellent materials.
To answer the original question, if I saw paper with a 1994 date on it I'd happily buy it. I've been using Ilford and Agfa papers at least 10 years old alongside newer materials and you cant tell the differance in the final prints.