Modern postal history an intriguing frontier

By Jesse Robitaille

Most of the talk about modern postal history focuses on the blight of pen cancellations, something I’ve discussed in my column on a few occasions.

But despite mail carriers’ penchant for destruction – all in the name of revenue protection, of course – the modern postal history scene should interest even classic collectors. It has all the intrigue of classic postal history (rates, routes and frankings, oh my!) but with a few distinct characteristics.

Since the turn of the century, there have been 15 rate increases for domestic lettermail alone (compared to only two in the nearly 30-year period between 1943 and 1971). Couple this with a stamp program whose varied formats – intended more for collectors than mail – can only be described as burgeoning, and modern postal historians are left with uncovering a new frontier ripe for discoveries.

Simply put, opportunities abound for collectors of modern postal history.

With that, I’d like to share one of my favourite modern covers from the “Trajan Media Mail Collection.” Not only does it feature some of the fascinating facets of postal history – with attractive frankings and interesting postmarks – but it also tells a story about modern mail processing and routes.

Last summer, CSN Editor Mike Walsh and I joined about a dozen philatelists on a tour of Lowe-Martin, one of the three security printers Canada Post contracts to print its stamps. About a month later, we received a large envelope from Jim Phillips, Canada Post’s director of stamp services, who sent us some Picture Postage stamps featuring a group photo from the tour.

A beautiful cover, it’s franked with several stamps, including a 2010 $10 “blue whale” (Scott #2405) at the top right plus a pair of stamps from the 2019 program (SC #3173 and #3164) and a trio from 2018 (SC #3110, #3121 and #3127).

They’re tied by three “PC” postmarks, which was unknown to me and – after discussing with a CSN reader – raised some questions about the cover’s route.

I then contacted Canada Post to track down the origins of the “PC” postmark.

It’s used on some Ontario mail, according to media relations manager Phil Legault. Rather than being processed by Canada Post’s mechanized equipment, this cover was manually cancelled at either a plant or depot in the Montréal region, where mail originating from Ottawa is processed, Legault said.

“PC” stands for “Postes Canada” (or Canada Post).


  • Ron says:

    Dear Jessie,
    I read your nice recent Opinion on collecting modern postal history. Although I am a collector of classical Canadian Postal History, I would like to comment on one aspect of modern postal history that you didn’t mention. Living in the U.S., and being involved with BNAPS, PSSC and PHSC, participating in Canadian auctions, getting newsletters from BNAPS Study Groups, getting mail from Canadian dealers, buying Canadian postal history from Canadian sellers on eBay, communicating with Canadian collectors, etc., I get a lot of mail from Canada. I’ve noticed that a good portion of the mail that I receive has not been cancelled. Anecdotally, I would estimate about 2/3 of the Canadian-franked mail that I have received over the last few years has been uncancelled. I don’t know if domestic Canadian mail also has such a high percentage of “skips”. If so, although I don’t mail letters within Canada, I would think that potentially, Canada Post would lose a good deal of revenue if Canadians reused these uncancelled stamps, even though such activity would be against postal regulations. More importantly, this must put a “damper” on modern postal history (at least for cross border mail) since uncancelled covers are not really modern postal history since there is no record of actual use in the mail. Just a thought! Ron Majors, OTB, Vice-President BNAPS.

    • Jesse says:

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! We’ve heard uncancelled mail is fairly common in Canada (when it’s not being pen cancelled, at least), and this could certainly put a damper on modern postal history—especially for cross-border mail as you mention.

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