Kevin Blackston
PO Box 17544
San Antonio TX 78217-0544
United States of America

Philosateleian Blog

U.S. stamp prices on the rise

The cost of mailing a letter is going up once again in the United States.

The U.S. Postal Service recently announced that, beginning on January 22, the cost of mailing a 1-ounce letter within the U.S. will increase by a penny to 45¢.

Other significant changes include postcards, which will go from 29¢ to 32¢, and international letters. Letters and cards bound for Canada and Mexico will cost 85¢ to mail instead of 80¢, while sending a note to someone in any other country will cost $1.05, an increase of 7% from the current 98¢ international rate.

My guess is that most customers probably won’t pay much attention to the change in prices; with the recent advent of “forever” stamps, the face value is no longer indicated on the stamp. There’s less of a reminder that what you paid for your stamps the last time you went to the post office isn’t the same as what you’ll be paying the next time you go. Those of us who collect stamps, however, may notice the change, whether because of the increased cost of new issues, or because of the amount of mail we send to other collectors.

What do you think of the proposed rate hikes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Milestones of stamp collecting

The past month has been pretty quiet for Philosateleia, but that’s not because anything’s going wrong. Quite the contrary—the last few weeks have been very philatelically productive for me. I feel like rambling a bit about what I’ve been up to.

Since December 2009, I’ve been working off and on on the only thematic, or topical, collection in which I’ve ever taken an interest: landscapes on stamps. We’re talking mountains, rivers, forests, and so forth from all around the world. Think Yosemite Valley, Mount Everest, and the Amazon River, and you’ll know the kind of scenery we’re talking about.

It’s a funny sort of collection, in a way. The irony of trying to display huge chunks of the Eternal God’s creation on tiny scraps of paper is not lost on me. It’s amazing, though, the number of styles stamp designers have used to illustrate those marvelous works.

At any rate, I digress. I’ve been making a big push to “finish” this project, and last night I did just that: finished organizing my landscape stamp collection—or, more accurately, finished organizing the landscape stamps currently in my collection. For there’s always room for growth, is there not?

I ended up scanning one stamp depicting each site, then doing some image manipulation and using the results as the backgrounds of my album pages. Here’s an example of one of my Yosemite Valley pages at an intermediate stage; I added another stamp to it at a later date.

Stamp album page holding stamps depicting Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley Stamp Album Page

Thus, the page for each landscape has a different background.

The benefit of this approach? Not just the stamps, but the pages themselves, change as you leaf through my albums. My U.S. stamp album pages are formal, with the spaces for the stamps laid out in neat rows. The pages for my landscape stamps have some uniformity to them, too, in terms of font size and style, but there’s also a certain randomness, an unpredictability from one page to the next, that I’ve never encountered before in stamp collecting. And I’m not saying it would work for every collection, but for this particular grouping of stamps, it does. It does.

A negative of building my pages this way? The time involved. I estimate there are presently 350–400 stamps in my landscape collection. I haven’t counted them or even made a proper list just yet, but that’s my gut feeling. I designed, trimmed down to size, and three-hole punched 336 pages. As mentioned earlier, that did take the better part of two years. Was it fun? Yes, but there was a time investment, too, to the extent that I feel both a sense of accomplishment and a sense of relief to be “done.” So if you’re thinking of doing the same thing, count the costs in advance.

Now, to bring an end to this long-winded summary of my recent philatelic pursuits…I’m working on the October issue of the Post Horn, and then I have some commitments that will keep me busy over the next two or three weeks. Hopefully after that I’ll be able to get back to adding some new content to Philosateleia. I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Philosateleian Post stamp to commemorate wedding

My wife and I are not William and Kate, but it still seemed reasonable to have our own commemorative stamp to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. So I decided to do something about it.

The Sarah & Kevin’s Wedding stamp will be issued on September 19, our anniversary. This is probably a limited interest stamp, but if you’d like a copy for your collection, please read the press release for instructions on how to request one.

Camp Douglas prisoner of war cover

The American Civil War was one of the darkest and most bloody chapters in our nation’s history. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers died in the fighting that began 150 years ago this past April.

Much of the surviving mail that was sent during the Civil War paints a vivid picture of what life was like during those tumultuous years. An envelope often has a story to tell even if the letter it carried is no longer around. That is certainly the case with my Camp Douglas POW cover.

Front of cover bearing 3-cent George Washington stamp and Camp Douglas prisoner's letter marking
Camp Douglas POW Cover

There’s a bit of a story behind me even owning this piece. A friend of mine worked at a folk life museum/archive, and although the people there had no interest in old envelopes—they wanted only the letters inside—someone fortunately had the good sense to not throw old envelopes away, but rather store them in a box. I had the opportunity to purchase this several years ago, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I hope you enjoy the accompanying writeup about this cover. If you have any POW covers in your own collection and you’d like to share an image with other readers, please let me know.

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