Witnessing the evolution of stamps in Canada

While the collector in us tends to have a conservative nature, stamps themselves continue to evolve.

Today’s postage stamps are dramatically different from those that I stuck into album pages as a young boy, which is to be expected. Back then most stamps were printed in one or two colours, self-adhesives just didn’t seem to exist, and designs were relatively plain.

But today’s stamps are also a far cry from even about a dozen years ago, when I first got involved with Canadian Stamp News.

By then stamps had already changed quite a bit, from the days of my little stamp album. They were much more colourful, self-adhesive issues were common, and we had even seen unusual shapes and holograms, but some things just didn’t seem likely to happen.

At that point, I certainly doubted that we would see a living person who wasn’t a member of the Royal Family honoured on a stamp for their personal achievements. I was also suspicious that a permanent-rate stamp would ever happen in this country.

Well within a couple of years, I was proved wrong in both cases.

Permanent-rate stamps are here to stay, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it extended to more of the standard rates. We may end up with a system similar to Britain, where many stamps have an inscription showing their use instead of an actual value.

As for the growth in the number of Canadians on stamps, particularly entertainers, frankly I didn’t think that putting living people on stamps was a good idea. My concerns abated somewhat when I figured out that there were a few informal rules. Although it wasn’t written down there was a sort of understanding that in order to get on a stamp you had to have received the Order of Canada, and be, to put it delicately, far enough along life’s path that you were not likely to do something to embarrass the country.

Unless, of course, you were a hockey player. Then you got on a stamp if it honoured your team, or your game.

Today, things have changed even more, we put all sorts of people on our stamps, and so far it has worked out pretty well. I’m pretty sure it sells stamps, and I would like to think that it makes stamps attractive for some potential collectors.

Another development I never saw coming was the way Canada Post would use personalized postage to create commemorative stamps outside of the official stamp program. That move sort of snuck up on me to be honest. At first, the stamps were used for commemorative envelopes. That made a lot of sense because it made it possible to integrate the cachet, cancellation, and stamp all together. In fact, collectors had been doing pretty much the same thing on their own creations. It was creative, fresh, and I really liked the idea.

The second move, to create sort of pre-made personalized postage was a little more confusing.

On the one hand, personalized postage is not totally personalized, collectors can order their own central images, but they have to fit into a frame, format, and value specified by Canada Post.

So what big changes have I seen?

Well, more living Canadians, more unexpected commemoratives, and the creation of a first-class stamp that will always send a letter.

A collector from the past may have been shocked, but most of us have just taken these changes in stride.

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Canadian Stamp News is Canada's premier source of information about stamp collecting and related fields.

Although we cover the entire world of philatelics, the majority of our readers are Canadian, and we concentrate on the unique circumstances surrounding collecting in our native land.

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