When Canada Post announced the 2014 postal rates, most collectors reacted with an element of confusion.
The announcement of a two-tiered pricing system was unique in Canadian postal history, and presented simply as a rate of $1 for single purchase stamps, and 85 cents per stamp when bought in rolls or booklets. When the announcement was made, permanent-rate stamps were withdrawn from sale, and new 63-cent definitives were produced using the same design.
The announcement was further complicated in January of this year, when it was announced that a $1 stamp would be made for single sales, and that a 22-cent stamp would be issued to make up the rate for 63-cent definitives after the new rates took effect on March 31.
While most Canadians focused on the concept of a $1 stamp, collectors wondered if older permanent-rate stamps would still be valid for postage. More confusing was the use of older stamps or non-definitive stamps to make up the new rate. The specific question was if older stamps were used, did they have to make up the single stamp rate of $1, or could they be used up to 85 cents?
At the last minute, Canada Post cleared up the issue, announcing that any combination of stamps up to 85 cents would be considered valid first- class postage, and that old permanent-rate stamps would also be good for domestic letters.
Canadian Stamp News entered the fray with a call for a collector to mail in a letter with the 85-cent rate made up entirely of first-class stamps.
A Sudbury, Ont., collector, Vaclav Houdek, was first in with a letter covered with 85 stamps, all arranged on both the front and the back of the envelope. The latter was cancelled on April 1.
A second collector arranged his stamps on the front in stacks to make up 85 cents.
A review of correspondence received at Trajan Media, home of Canadian Stamp News, indicated that a fair number of people didn’t quite make up the rate correctly.
Several letters arrived with only 63 cents in postage, despite being mailed after the rate change. Apparently an unannounced 30-day grace period was applied on the older stamps by Canada Post. Ironically, none of the 63-cent stamps received were definitives, but were commemorative stamps issued between the announcement of the new rates and their implementation.
One correspondent went so far as to fire off a letter using a 54-cent flower commemorative and one even went back to the 1980s and dug out an old maple leaf stamp marked with an A, which had been prepared prior to the introduction of a 30-cent domestic rate some three decades ago.
The nice square cancel showed that this antique stamp even received special treatment at the Moncton post office.
A later version of the same stamp, but with the 30-cent rate marked, appeared on a letter from Keith Thompson, of Canmore, Alta., who made a point of mailing out a number of letters using various stamps the day the new rate took effect. The letter he mailed to Canadian Stamp News also included a 15-cent, a two-cent, and 38-cent stamp to make up 85 cents.
Among the other covers making up 85 cents came from a coin dealer in Montreal.
Carsley Whetstone and Co., neatly paid the rate with a strip of five 17-cent stamps still attached to one another. In this case the cover managed to slip through without even the slightest trace of a cancel.
We even received a letter mailed from Quebec on April 3 using a baby animal $1 stamp. The first, and only to date, appearance of that rate on our correspondence.
In more than a few cases, cautious mailers chose to split the difference, using stamps totalling more than 85 cents but less than $1.
One letter was our first sighting of the 22-cent monarch make-up stamp, not to bring up an older definitive, but in a strip of four joined stamps totalling 88 cents.
A super-cautious writer used an older permanent-rate stamp, but then chose to add a second, 43-cent stamp to ensure that the letter went through.
Other letters were found with stamps adding up to $1.14; and one at 88 cents using a combination of five stamps.
Finally, a letter received from the Postal History Society of Canada made up the $1 single sale rate using a 48-cent stamp paired with a 51-cent and a one-cent stamp.
Does our experience match that of average Canadians?
Probably not; our readers are more informed than the general public, and most have access to quantities of older stamps, often purchased for less than face value.