I’ve been experiencing my own snail mail renaissance over here. It’s been lovely.
Part of it is a bit unfair because as a shopkeeper (of a stationery shop no less) I receive mail from customers and people who have stumbled across the blog and who write just to say hello. The act of writing a short note on blue paper and a wet fountain pen, sealing it up and adding postage, is a ten minute pleasure that requires relatively little long-term commitment—although of course it’s from the long-term commitment pen pals that I get the most joy. There is nothing like familiar handwriting on a letter, and knowing that you’ve got a treat ahead of you to open with a late evening tea and cookie from the package you’ve been hiding from the kids.
I’ve been slogging my way delightfully through a backlog that has been accumulating for years. I no longer feel bashful about offering apologies in the first line (you wrote me a year and a half ago, and since then much has happened, including a pandemic!) but having done it dozens of times now, I feel it’s just all part of the times. It has been incredibly satisfying using up some of my stationery stash, and seeing small, dense piles of envelopes stack up to head to the mailbox. Wax seals, and washi tape. Putting on stickers with abandon. What’s another cat sticker if not more joy! Ah, how the unhinged have redirected their energies.
The other day I ordered some more stamps from Canada Post, which is always fun and exciting. I enjoy going into the local post office also: I think they’re individually franchised and it’s nice to support your local branches and also to get to know people in your community, but we often order large amounts for our Lettermail operation. Our Lettermail operation isn’t massive, but we do go through stamps quickly.
What a delight to find these Group of Seven stamps! In a package of seven as well, that clever Canada Post philately department. I picked up a few because you always need extras of the good ones. Plus there are only seven in a booklet! I tucked the extras into my storage box of stamps—I shudder to think of how Marie Kondo would shudder—and thought what a good time it is to shuffle through some of my vintage stamps, and perhaps pull out a few to use. I have a bin on my desk that I fill with stationery, envelopes, stamps, wax seal supplies, stickers. All the letters that have newly made their way to our mailbox or perhaps have been retrieved from the back of a drawer. Things that I’m ready to use, half-opened packages. Fun things to include in mail that’s going out, like flat tea bags or stickers.
Often times vintage stamps are so low in value that it can be challenging to add up enough value to mail a letter, even domestically. It’s $0.92 now to mail a letter within Canada, and a lot of my vintage stamps are worth 34 cents or 17 cents or 8 cents, so sometimes I just put on a permanent stamp worth $1.07 and tack on an extra vintage one for fun.
I’m learning to let go and put some of these on snail mail. Most of the time I’m no longer trying to fuss so much about perfect envelopes, but just getting things done and sending things out. But sometimes adding a vintage stamp or using a few can be a nice touch. They’re meant to be used! Why should I leave them to wither in a box only for Caleb or Naomi to stick them all to a cardboard fort?
Here are some of my favourites.
The golden question: where do you get vintage stamps? There’s no easy answer. There are some vintage stamp “fairs” or shows, sort of like pen shows, if you’re super committed. This is probably the cheapest way to get them, but of course the cost of making it out to a stamp show, depending on where you live, might tip the scales either way. I think the main purpose of these stamp shows is for collectors looking for or selling rare and valuable stamps, but there are sometimes? Usually? vintage stamps available for sale that are low value, that you can purchase at or near face value, and that you can use on your snail mail. (Please don’t be disappointed if you go and find nothing!) I once visited a pen show and got a big box of used/cancelled international stamps for $20. They’re fun to sift through, and the box comes out during Traveler’s Notebook meet-ups and for journaling.
Otherwise, you can look on eBay, and sometimes lots come up, or maybe also on Etsy. It’s a hunt through a rabbit hole, and my only advice is to pursue it if you truly enjoy the search.
Because really, vintage stamps or the regular kind, wax seals or just the glue of the envelope, the whole point is for a letter to make it across the country or across the street and to connect with someone. Cheer someone up, catch up, remember a birthday, share some news, enjoy a break from the fast pace of emails.