I recently received a piece of mail from a sender whose name I did not recognize, and when I opened it up, there was a nice surprise inside: a stack of Rattlesnake Island stamps, postcards, and covers like the one shown here from the late 1960s and early 1970s!
Rattlesnake Island Local Post was one of the earlier modern local posts, and is of course probably one of the best known. According to the Rattlesnake Island Club website, the operation based on Rattlesnake Island in Lake Erie issued stamps from 1966–1989, and then again from 2005–2013.
Although I already had a few Rattlesnake Island stamps, this donation will definitely expand my collection. The sender expressed a desire to remain anonymous, but I want to say “thank you” anyway!
Boys Town mailing includes hydrangea cinderella stamps
The vast majority of mailings I receive from nonprofit organizations are unremarkable from a philatelic perspective. Many bear nothing more than a postage paid imprint; some might have a meter mark or one of the ubiquitous nonprofit stamps with the letters “USA” and a star.
Last week, I received a Boys Town solicitation that did hold some interest for me as a stamp collector. The outside of the envelope was unremarkable, but inside were several packets of wildflower seeds, along with a business reply envelope for returning donations that bears what at first glance appeared to be postage stamps. Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that the labels are not stamps at all, but cinderellas picturing artwork from a hydrangea seed packet!
You’re probably familiar with Boys Town Christmas stamps issued over the years, and I’ve seen mailings from Boys Town and other nonprofits in the past where the postage on the return envelope is paid in whole or in part with actual postage stamps, usually low value definitives—in recent years, the coil stamps depicting various fruits. What I don’t recall seeing before is a reply envelope bearing cinderella stamps or labels of the type on the envelope that I received last week. Oddly enough, there’s no text on the labels themselves indicating the Boys Town origin, but if they’re being used exclusively on business reply envelopes intended to be mailed back to the organization, maybe no need was seen for that.
At this point, I do not know whether this is a trial to determine if response rates are affected when real stamps are not affixed to the reply envelopes, or a permanent move to eliminate the cost of real postage stamps, or simply a marketing expert’s idea for linking the return envelope to the rest of the mailing. I also don’t know whether any other cinderella designs are being used on Boys Town reply envelopes. Have you received one of these in the mail? If so, did it have the same labels as the one I’ve shown here, or something different?
Update: I wrote to Boys Town asking for more information about the cinderella stamps mentioned above, and received a reply from Mike Vcelik, Director of Annual Giving. “We tested a series of one cent stamps on our BREs and the use of those stamps lifted response that more than paid for the postage affixed,” Mike wrote. “Many non-profits are now using this enhancement.
“The USPS allowed us to test other non-postage stickers and seals on our BREs which have worked on par with the one cent stamps. We have also tested printed on images of what are referred to as ‘faux’ stamps and those also work to lift response. I think the addition of the stamps, seals and stickers on the BREs makes the BREs stand out in the package.”
Not too long after receiving his response, I received another mailing from Boys Town that included some preprinted Easter-themed “faux” stamps of the sort that Mike mentioned both on the outer envelope and on the business reply envelope that was enclosed.
I personally like the hydrangea cinderellas a lot better, but I still found it interesting that even stamp size designs printed directly on the envelopes apparently serve to boost response rates for Boys Town, and appreciated the response that Mike provided to my inquiry.
One final note: Mike mentioned that Boys Town is testing “other designs as well in this and other appeals,” so keep your eyes peeled and don’t forget to open your “junk mail.” There could be something special waiting inside!
There is one thing I wanted to mention with regard to the 2019 Cactus Flowers page that’s included in this update. You’ll note that the spaces for the stamps are rotated horizontally. That’s because on page 51 of the January 3 issue of Postal Bulletin, the design orientation is listed as “horizontal.” The “Forever USA” text on the stamps implies that they should be rotated vertically, but the Postal Bulletin documentation confirms that the USPS considers that that text runs up along the right side of the stamps rather than across the bottom.
I hope you enjoy this update. Thank you for your interest in The Philosateleian!
Purgatory Post celebrates moon landing anniversary
Purgatory Post celebrated World Local Post Day just a few days late this year, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with an 11-sola February stamp issue. The denomination is a nod to the fact that it was the Apollo 11 mission that finally put human beings on the moon’s surface.
“The design is pretty much the Life magazine cover from 1969 with added text and the denomination where the Life logo was,” writes Scott Abbot, who produces Purgatory Post stamps. The red certainly pops against the almost monochrome photograph of Buzz Aldrin in his spacesuit.
I understand from Scott that he plans a second moon landing issue closer to the actual moon landing anniversary date in July, but I’m glad he did one for World Local Post Day, too. My very own Philosateleian Post moon landing stamp is the only other WLPD issue of which I’m aware this year.
On a related note, the cover in which Scott mailed the stamp pictured here took more than two weeks to get from New Hampshire to my post office box. I’m not sure if the delay was related to winter weather or if something else was going on, but that seems like an unusually slow journey.
I am very tardy in making mention of this, but I want to publicly thank longtime Philosateleia fan James F. James recently sent a generous cash gift that will help cover a good chunk of my expenses for keeping Philosateleia running this year, and it isn’t the first time he has contributed. Thank you, James!
Since I launched The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album in 2006, more than 20 people including James have sent cash, stamps, or covers to show their appreciation, and I appreciate the contributions from each one. It’s much easier to justify keeping my project going when it doesn’t impact the household budget, so thank you again.