Stamp error recall creates challenge for collectors

By Jesse Robitaille

While some collectors are excited about Canada Post’s recent recall, others have expressed concern about the difficulty in acquiring some of this recalled material, which was only available for a few days before being returned to the Crown corporation’s headquarters and destroyed.

One of these concerned collectors is noted philatelist Irving Osterer, whose letter to the editor can be read on page four of this issue of CSN.

“While I can certainly appreciate the design issue that caused Canada Post to recall the UNESCO stamps from general circulation in July, those of us that are true collectors – that relied on Canada Post to supply us with our standing order – now find that the booklets, souvenir sheets, postcards and FDCs [first-day covers] in question were sold over the counter for a time, and have now become a scarce commodity,” said Osterer, who added he relies on Canada Post to keep him informed on new issues.

Osterer said he thinks because the items were available to purchase over the counter, Canada Post has an obligation to “their loyal core of philatelic subsribers” to have all standing orders honoured.

“I am not looking to profit – like many other collectors, I just wish to keep my Canadian album current – and since all these stamps will have separate catalogue numbers, annual supplements will contain spaces for these issues,” he said, adding the recalled booklets and souvenir sheets are expensive but reasonably priced; however, the FDCs, being sold for upwards of $300, are not.

“I have every official FDC issued by Canada Post, but this one will be almost impossible to get,” he said. “I would suggest that Canada Post consider at least filling the orders for the official first-day covers; that would meet collector demand half way.”

Jim Phillips, Canada Post’s director of stamp services, said a response was sent to Osterer to apologize for the Crown corporation’s embarrasing error.

“We apologize and regret sincerely this error that we caused,” said Phillips, who added a correction was issued on Aug. 21. “We understand and note your comments about the consequences of removing all items from sale and we’re very sorry for the disappointment this has caused long-standing collectors and customers like Irv.”

Phillips said Canada Post “understands and notes” these comments from collectors and takes its role “very seriously.”

“We’re proud of our program and strive for stamps with no errors, but at the end of the day, we’re only human; things happen. As soon as we were made aware of the error – and it was on a Friday night – we did everything we could to stop these sales immediately.”

According to Phillips, Canada Post notified Osterer these erroneous items would be destroyed once recalled from the roughly 6,000 post offices across the country.

“We didn’t fill any orders after Monday morning, and by Tuesday, orders went out to recall all the items,” he said, adding  there’s a notice published in the recent issue of Details explaining the items that have been destroyed.

“In a perfect world, none would have gotten out. Unfortunately, with a network as broad, diverse and deep as ours … it’s not an easy task to do an automatic recall. We understand some got out and some hit the aftermarket, and we were fully aware that would happen, but we think we did the right thing in recalling the error, which was causing major embarrasment to the mayor of Drumheller and the people at Badlands Tourism.”

All things considered, Phillips said the Crown corporation did “the right thing” in recalling the erroneous items and issuing a correction.

“We knew there would be some consequences for long-standing, loyal collectors, and we apologize,” he said, adding there were more of the erroneous stamps found than first-day covers, so the latter has become considerably more valuable because of supply and demand.

“The reality is things get catalogued all the time – the Inverted Seaway [Scott #387a], the Missing Moose [SC #1693a] – and a lot of collectors cannot afford them or get them. It’s unfortune, but it’s a similar situation.”

However, Phillips said he can sympathize with these collectors who are now met with the near-impossible task of finding a first-day cover that was so quickly recalled.

“I feel for Irv and understand fully the disappointment it has caused, but in this case, we took the high road and did the right thing,” he said. “Some collectors are actually really happy and excited about this.”

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