How stamp collectors lower postage costs

Dear Editor,

Although I don’t download music, I found it interesting as I played a CD lecture with a musical introduction by Mozart, my screen said “unknown artist”. Such is the nature of our times, when the tune of the day is known to many but the classic is not even recognized by a computer program with thousands of files. Another true story, which you may or may not believe, came in my latest American Philatelist magazine. A 25 year-old postal clerk was surprised to see a collector had brought stamps that you had to lick. Most stamps today are self-stick and I suppose there are some who may not remember lick-and-sticks, as collectors call them.

Having been a collector for 55 years, I can remember days when the tail did not wag the dog. (More on that later.) The beginnings of my collection were in 1956. Back then, stamps were used to commemorate people, most dead for decades, who had significantly contributed to our culture and society. Prime ministers and presidents, statesmen and patriots. Occasionally there was a stamp for a major event such as a world’s fair, the Queen’s visit or the Olympics. Provincial anniversaries, national parks, historical explorations and industrial achievements were commemorated.

Today we’re as likely to see a set of five stamps (issued by the United States) for the Simpsons as we are to see one for a prime minister, unless he’s been dead a while, of course. Canada has now thrown aside the rule that a famous person has to be dead ten years, then five years, before a stamp will be issued for them. Now we have stamps for living people. So far among them are astronauts, the Great One, musicians Bryan Adams, Anne Murray and others. One for the great musician Oscar Peterson the year before he died.

Many countries have taken to producing long sets of stamps showing bugs, airplanes, dolls, cartoons and other popular subjects. A lot of them never get used on actual mail. They’re mainly intended to be sold to collectors. Canada Post Corporation has generally resisted but they do seem to be a few series that won’t stop. Every spring, and again on March 3rd, we’ll get another flower set. For years our regular stamps showed mostly flowers, apparently because someone did research and found women buy most stamps and they like flowers. Yah? We get four more pop musicians every couple years, and it appears the Mental Health stamp is becoming an annual staple.

In all honesty, I must say Canada has followed a fairly conservative policy in this regard. We get stamps for provincial anniversaries. One for our own province in 2008. Some issues support and educate about various causes and groups, like the Girl Guides, Mental Health, Nursing, Lions and Rotary and others. The Olympics called for and got a goodly number of special stamps, not only to advertise but also to celebrate the event.

Actually we have to pin this one on stamp collectors. After all, what do we need for stamps? Just a piece of paper that says we paid to send the letter. But once postal administrations discovered collectors will give them free money and not use their coloured paper for mailing letters, they went for broke. So the tail wags the dog much of the time. If we print a stamp honouring the Habs, and then three $3 stamps to go with it, we’ll make a bundle. Which is exactly what Canada Post did in 2009. We collectors ask for it, buy it and the upside for everyone else? Well, as I tell our Posties, we help secure their pension fund, and we keep the cost of postage down a bit for the rest of you.

The Golden Stamp Club will meet again at 3:00pm, Sunday, February 27 at Trinity Lutheran Church. We’ll bring along those Simpson stamps and a few other obvious grabs for our philatelic dollar. Don’t laugh. I know folks who bought a whole sheet of Elvis Presley stamps. They’re as common as toilet paper, and won’t even carry a first class letter any more. If you have questions about stamps or the club, call Ron at 344-5939.

~Ron Tabbert “The Stamp Guy”

Golden, BC