Ottawa collector who tracks all personal mail disappointed with findings

We recently received this letter to the editor from collector Michael Petrescu-Comnene, of Ottawa.

Dear Editor,

Two recent articles in CSN pushed me to write to you.

First, I would like to congratulate The RPSC for its effort in partnering with other philatelic organizations around the world and promoting our beautiful hobby together. Standing together always helps us reach further and improve our chances of getting the best results.

Au contraire, the article “Reusing stamps a criminal act” in your March 5 edition (CSN Vol. 43 #23) was a major disappointment. This is not because I do not agree with the fact reusing stamps is a criminal act but because of the narrow-minded approach Canada Post is taking to address the problem. Give their employee a pen, and that solves the problem!

I collect used Canada stamps. It is harder and harder to find reasonable cancelled examples of the new stamps; therefore, for many years, I have been mailing to myself letters just to get the real Canada Post cancellation.

And I’ve kept a very detailed record of all the mailings for many, many years. The good news is over the last 10-plus years, there was no letter lost in the mail. Occasionally, it took the letter two to three weeks to make the round trip, but it always showed up. The bad news is the significant increase in the number of letters that come back without a cancellation as well as the ones that are “defaced” with a pen or marker.

Here are some statistics:

  • In 2017, I sent 198 letters, of which 104 were cancelled (52.53 per cent) and five were defaced (2.53 per cent);
  • In 2018, I sent 283 letters, of which 94 were cancelled (33.22 per cent) and 31 were defaced (10.95 per cent).

The “record” is held by the 2017 Chinese New Year stamp, from the sheet, for which I had to send 17 letters until I got a properly cancelled example.

The really unfortunate situation is the “defacing” of the stamps. Most of the letters in this situation received a handstamp cancellation somewhere on the envelope plus a pen or marker strike over the stamp (see picture). This means the Canada Post employee did not know to apply the hand cancellation over the stamp to achieve his goal of protecting the Crown corporation’s revenue, and the same employee or another followed with a second action of actually destroying the stamp. So much for efficiency and respect for stamp collectors!

I would like to remind Canada Post that we, the stamp collectors, are also their clients. We spend a considerable amount of money to get both mint and used stamps as well as other Canada Post products. The more we promote philately, the more stamps will be sold by Canada Post. Most of us started collecting stamps at a young age just by soaking the stamps from our parents’ and friends’ letters. I agree there are much fewer letters today, but let’s at least take care of them and use them to promote the hobby to the younger generation. Eventually, they will become serious collectors benefitting the hobby, the associations and Canada Post.

How do we promote Canadian stamps on the international stage when Canadian letters arrive at their destination either uncancelled or defaced?

Postal history is a major area of collecting and studying. Will we forever study the Admirals or Small and Large Queens? What do we leave to the next generation to study about the stamps of today? These are all important aspects of our hobby, and it takes all the players to work together in solving the issues – Canada Post, philatelic associations and CSN.

Canada Post must solve its technical issue regarding its sorting equipment and provide proper training to its employees on how to hand-cancel a letter – while taking away their pens! I am sure The RPSC and all the other philatelic associations will be more than happy to provide all their support to Canada Post. And we will all get the full support of CSN to get the different parties together.

– Michael Petrescu-Comnene, of Ottawa

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