Kiosks offer collecting challenges

I have to admit that I am kind of intrigued by the new Canada Post kiosks. The idea of putting machines in high-traffic areas and providing members of the public a form of self service promises to offer advantages in terms of accessibility. It is also exciting that the system allows the use of parcels, making for some high-denomination versions. In fact, since the stamp is issued by weight, the parcel postage version will be available in a wide variety of values, based on what is being mailed. However, it will not share the same design as the other stamps, but rather take the form of a parcel post receipt. What that means is that collectors will be best off considering this as three stamps sharing a basic format but with three different rates. I would have called them labels, except the stamps are pre-printed, with the maple leaf design.

Canada Post will include examples of all three on an upcoming official first-day cover. At the same time, each machine prints a unique code on the stamp. That means that specialist collectors can try to get one from each machine, while most collectors can focus on simply pulling together three of the basic rates. It will also be interesting if the design is changed from time to time, since that would create more collecting variety. Now I really do believe that these machines add some fun to collecting. In my perfect world, of course, they would not be necessary. I would much rather see honest-to-goodness post offices staffed by real postal workers within easy reach of all Canadians. In this mythical world, these workers would all be well-versed on philatelic issues, make every effort to ensure that gentle cancels were respected and eager to offer hand-back service. Oh, and the use of a ballpoint pen to cancel a letter would be punishable by a day in the public stocks, while stamp collectors could toss rotten fruit and junk mail at the offender.

Failing that, any effort that makes it easy for people to buy stamps and mail letters is a good thing. We can’t stop the drop in letter-mail volumes, but we can at least encourage average Canadians to send personal greetings and cards that way. It is also nice to see that the machines are issuing real stamps rather than anonymous strips of paper. Many businesses, including Canadian Stamp News, use postal meters because the economy and efficiency is essential in the modern business world. In fact, businesses continue to look toward electronic billing as a way to virtually eliminate postage costs. Average Canadians, sending only a few pieces of mail a year, don’t need that sort of economy, and frankly putting a machine in a place where it can sell stamps virtually unattended makes a lot of sense.

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