Personal covers make stamp collecting relevant

I will be the first to admit that, when I first heard of picture postage, I wasn’t too impressed.

Admittedly, that was before I started working for Canadian Stamp News, but I just sort of thought the idea of letting people put their own pictures on a stamp was a bit silly. I assumed it would only appeal to a hand full of individuals such as grandparents, self-absorbed brides, egoists of all sorts, and not all the sort of thing a country of Canada’s stature should condone.

Of course, people are always nervous about change, and I still remembered a time when stamps were a selection of definitives, all with the same design with just a different colour and value.

My opinion changed a bit when I got involved with stamps on a regular basis, and started to see some really great personalized stamps. Stamp collectors, I realized, could use this as a way to be creative, and to produce some really fascinating mail. I even have a few covers which I decided to keep, just because they were so darn pretty.

More recently Canada Post has joined in, and uses personalized postage for lots of its own commemorative envelopes.

Now there have been some bad things. On more than a few occasions I have chased down a report of a new commemorative stamp, just to find out that somebody ordered picture postage, and said “Canada Post has issued this stamp which commemoratives…” Technically that may be true, but we all know it isn’t an official stamp commemorating anything.

In this issue is an article about an issue created in Ottawa to honour a famous Canadian. In this case, personalized postage is the perfect solution.

The subject matter was of local, rather than national, interest. Which means it may not have been totally suitable for a stamp. If the issue had been approved, the advocates would have found they had to surrender control of design and execution over to Canada Post and a design team.

What makes this particularly good isn’t that a small number of people in Ottawa were able to create a stamp. What is good is that a small number of people in Ottawa were able to get intimately involved with philately. So intimate that they become both the creator and the consumer.

If stamp collecting is to survive, I suspect that it will be because it is able to become a more personalized experience than in the past. When baby boomers were all young, it was easier to promote the hobby, just because there were so many more potential collectors. The new generation has fewer people, and thanks to a world built on social media, they are much more self-absorbed than at any time in the past.

I’m pretty sure Canada Post, when this idea first came up, saw it as a way to sell stamps, but it may also be a way to make collecting fun and relevant.

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