Making 85 the hard way

I still remember the first time I purchased a stamp.
It was the mid-1960s and my friend and I were upset that the decals that came with our slot car sets didn’t stick very well. We decided the best thing to do was write a letter to the manufacturer Eldon Industries, expressing our displeasure. We wrote our letters and trotted down to the local drugstore to purchase stamps. The post office was way downtown and we weren’t paying bus fare. In my memory the stamp I bought was a Wilding but I’m not so sure judging by the date. In any case, it was a simple matter. I went into the store, bought a stamp, stuck it on a letter, and dropped it in a mailbox. For most Canadians that sort of sums up the mail experience even to this day. Very few of us stock up on stamps, and just buy what we need when we need.

Even though I had a stamp album at home back then, I never thought about the stamps I saw in use, as they were boring because they were both new, and not from an exciting far-away place. If anyone had told me back then that one day I would edit a stamp publication, and take an interest in the appearance of the covers that crossed my desk, I would have thought them crazy. Yet today, I often find that the outside of my mail is as interesting as the inside. As a matter of fact, I even have an album full of interesting mail. Looking through I see a whole whack of personalized postage, many with carefully applied pictorial cancels, a few visually interesting stamps, some that are just plain pretty, and then some unusual rate combinations. There is, for instance, a letter mailed from the United States to my office with the postage made up entirely of one-cent stamps. The mailer needed to use both sides to fit all the stamps on the number nine envelope. I often wonder if anyone at the post office bothered to stop and add up the postage to make sure the right amount was paid.

I recently received a catalogue from Europe with a whole pane of low value stamps taking up the back. In this case, the post office didn’t even cancel them, I’m sure they just figured close enough, and sent it along. Today such a thing seems normal and natural to me. I know that old stamps can be purchased in bulk, often at less than face value, and get used in postage. So I can understand that Canada Post was a bit confused when I asked what would happen if someone made up an 85-cent rate using odd stamps. I proposed three 25-cent and one 10-cent issues, but could just as easily suggested a letter mailed with 85 examples of the lowly one-cent stamp. I’ve never seen such a monstrosity, but in the interests of expanding my collection I hereby offer a six-month subscription to the first person to mail me a letter posted April 1 or later with the domestic rate made up entirely of one-cent stamps. In the event that two letters arrive on the same day, I will pick the one with the earliest post mark.

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