Semi-postals serve to help communities

Canada’s first semi-postal stamps were issued to help pay for Canada’s first Olympic games, hosted by Montreal in 1976.

he main purpose of stamps, of course, is to prove pre-payment of postage, but sometimes they can do good work for society as well. That is the case of semi-postals, a special sort of stamp that also raises money for good causes. The concept goes back much further than many collectors realize. In 1890, Great Britain issued the first semi-postal, a postcard with a five penny surcharge over the penny postage rate. The extra money was put into a fund to benefit postal workers. The idea caught on quick, and by the early 1900s they were becoming quite popular in Europe. In 1913 Switzerland issued the first semi-postal in the Pro Juvente series. The series, which supports a charity of the same name which provides programs for children with mental and physical handicaps, continues to this day. The first stamps in the series go back even further, to a group of three 10-centime labels with no postage value, sold through the post office. Continue reading →

My philatelic heroes

Stamp collecting has a bit of a dull reputation. We all know that is true, in fact I’m not even embarrassed when my friends roll their eyes when I talk about how excited I was to discover that a third two cent large queen existed on laid paper. Anyone who thinks stamp collecting is a dull, boring hobby hasn’t looked at the people. There are more than a few colourful characters out there, even among philatelists of today. There is a dealer who uses his ex-wife as a reference when meeting new girlfriends, a few rascals, at least one rogue, and some people who have achieved so much. But I think pride of place goes to some of the great people of the past who gave us the modern post, and by association modern stamps. Continue reading →

Canadian postal records thrive online

The Canadian Museum of History can take users to the postal archives, a highly detailed online collection of this country’s stamps.

For years, one of the best-kept secrets of Canadian postal history was the Canadian Postal Museum. Tucked away in a back corner of the top floor of the Museum of Civilization, in Gatineau, across the river from Ottawa, the museum contained a collection of one of every Canadian stamp, and galleries covering the history of postal service in Canada. It didn’t get a lot of attention. I received a guided tour of the museum in 2010. When we got to the postal section, my official guide said he didn’t know much about the stamps and left me to my own resources. Compared with the main exhibits, there were few tourists taking in the stamps. In 2012, the museum was closed. At that time, the Museum of Civilization announced it would move the stamp collection into a new gallery, incorporate philately into other exhibits, and build on virtual exhibits on the museum’s website. The collection reopened in 2014 with more than 3,000 stamp exhibits in a gallery on the first level. Continue reading →

Workers on stamps tell story of Canada’s evolution

The anniversary of Canada’s second-largest postal union was commemorated in 2002. It is the only workers union to be given specific recognition on a Canadian postage stamp.

As Canadians prepare for Labour Day weekend, few people remember it was originally set up to honour unionized workers and had its origin in strife. The first labour parade in Canada was held in 1872 to rally behind a strike by the Toronto Printer’s Union in support of a nine-hour work day. For years, it was held on May 1 – the traditional day it was celebrated in Europe in the late 19th century – but eventually, it was moved to the end of summer. In 1894, Parliament made Labour Day a national statutory holiday to be marked on the first Monday of September. Canada’s early economy was based on agriculture. Even in the early part of the 1900s, a significant portion of our population still worked on the production of food. Canadian industry was only just beginning to take off, and the business of farming was based on horsepower as well as manpower. This was reflected on the 20-cent stamp of the 1928 Scroll Issue (Unitrade #157), which shows farm workers harvesting wheat using a horse-drawn wagon. Continue reading →

The constancy of the stamp collector

For many years and for many collectors, the hobby has been a solitary pursuit—a trend that's expected to continue into the future.

I have often written about the impact of the Internet on stamp collecting, how modern collectors have access to information and stamps at the touch of a keyboard. Those changes are very real, and they do have an impact on organized collecting and stamp shows, but in another way it is a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same. The old stereotype of a stamp collector sitting alone in a room with his stamps does contain more than a grain of truth. For many collectors, stamp collecting is a solitary pursuit. While there is no specific definition of a collector, most of us recognize certain characteristics that separate a collector from a stamp hoarder. The collector is someone who organizes their stamps, studies their stamps, and has a collecting goal. Those are activities best done alone. No matter how social a collector is, or how active they are in a local club, they spend a large amount of time alone with their stamps. Continue reading →

A very different five-point plan

Columnist Bret Evans explores his own five-point plan amid the ongoing review of Canada Post.

I'm a bit concerned that our ongoing postal review will completely ignore the wants and needs of the stamp collecting community. It stands to reason, Canada Post is a huge organization handling literally millions of pieces of mail every single day. There is no doubt that while mail volumes are dropping, the philatelic market remains just a drop in the bucket. At least if you adopt the approach that the corporation has used for years. But we should turn things around, and look at it a very different way: while most customers are looking for cheaper alternatives, the collector market is willing to pay extra, and often for stamps that never get mailed. Canada Post will be talking all about cost cutting, the Unions will be talking about job retention, and most Canadians will probably think that this whole thing is about home delivery not sustainable profits. So, in all modesty, I have created my own Five Point Plan, to make life better for Canada Post and the collecting community. Continue reading →

What does the postal review really mean?

Columnist Bret Evans explores the forthcoming review of Canada Post by the current Liberal Government.

The decision to hold an third-party review of Canada Post is probably the first really good idea about postal transformation in a long time. From the perspective of Canadian philatelists, this is a fascinating period of postal reform, with the way our mail is routed, processed and handled at the core, along with rate structures and even the future of postage stamps. The task is not enviable. The year-long process will attempt to juggle the sometimes competing interests of unionized workers, Canada Post, business, and of course, individual Canadians. That isn't going to be easy, but it's a lot more than Canadians have been offered in a long time. Certain things are undeniable. Traditional letter-mail is dropping more and more each year, Canada Post is a huge company with a large workforce and an expensive benefits package to retain, relations between the corporation and its unionized members is difficult at best, and increased online business has boosted parcel delivery. That's about all we know for sure. Continue reading →

Reports of our death highly exaggerated

It’s hard to find anyone involved in stamp collecting who doesn’t seem to think the hobby is dying on the vine. I have been hearing it for more than 20 years, and it has been repeated so often that it has taken on the status of an uncontested fact. Of course, the naysayers are quick to bring out their own observations. We are told that children do not collect any more, clubs are dying out, and the hobby is full of old men. Continue reading →

‘Hodge-podge’ of stories at the root of my collection

Columnist Bret Evans said he has a fondness for commemorative covers, such as the one pictured above.

I have to admit to having a fondness for special event and commemorative covers. Admittedly, that is a pretty broad field, since it covers everything from home grown commemoratives all the way to the official commemorative envelopes coming out of Canada Post. In fact the latter, while often ignored, deserve more attention than they get. At first, these sorts of issues weren’t all that common, but in recent years we have seen these covers come out with much more frequency. Continue reading →

From prig to bohemian in just five short decades

I have a confession to make. I used to be a stamp prig. That's because deep inside I'm a bit of a traditionalist. Growing up with the mail was royal, complete with the national coat of arms, posties wore military-style uniforms, and stamps from the government had the imprint “On Her Majesty's Service.” Stamps were similarly staid and solid. With the exception of Christmas stamps, which were a little more colourful, most were printed in just one or two colours and it was rare to see anything but a Queen Elizabeth II definitive on letter. Continue reading →

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