Kevin Blackston
PO Box 217
Floresville TX 78114-0217
United States of America

Philosateleian Blog

Free postal cards for me, free postal cards for you

While poking around on Facebook last week—did you know The Philosateleian has a Facebook page?—I ran across a post from the USPS Stamps page regarding the Scenic American Landscapes postal cards issued earlier this year. There was a link to the USPS Stamp of Approval blog, and being a huge fan of the Scenic American Landscapes series, I naturally clicked through to read.

As it turned out, the good folks at the Stamp of Approval blog were giving away several sets of the postal cards, and on a lark, I entered. And lo and behold, I won! Score! The postal cards were waiting on my when I checked my post office box today. Here's the writing side of one of the cards from the set:

Forever U.S. postal card with imprinted stamp design picturing 13 Mile Woods in New Hampshire, USA
13 Mile Woods postal card

First, many thanks to the people at the USPS Stamp of Approval blog for the awesome freebie. If you have a chance, you might like to check them out; they post some interesting material.

Second, these postal cards come in a booklet of 20, and since there are only 10 designs per booklet, that means there are two copies of each card. That means I have a set to share!

So here’s the scoop: a set of all 10 cards from the Scenic American Landscapes postal cards set two will be the giveaway in the January issue of the Philosateleian Post Horn. If you’re not already subscribed to the Post Horn (which is free), sign up now. You’ll be able to enter to win the postal cards. Good luck!

Winter 2012 update for The Philosateleian

As 2012 comes to an end, you can update your copy of The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album using the Winter 2012 Supplement (245 KB, 3 files, 8 pages). As always, these pages are free to download!

This supplement adds spaces for U.S. stamps issued since early September. It also relocates the 8¢ General John J. Pershing stamp from the 1954-61 Liberty series to the 1961-63 definitives group—a move also recently made by the editors of the Scott catalogue.

Again, this supplement is completely free, but if you want to donate to support The Philosateleian’s development, I will most definitely appreciate your support. Download the updated pages now!

Dealing with damaged stamps

Philosateleian Blog reader Danny J. says he has a little problem with his incoming mail:

Has anyone else noticed that envelopes with actual stamps attached seem to be mutilated more often than not? These days only a small percentage of mail is processed with an actual definitive or commemorative stamp, but I’ve noticed that most of them are mutilated somehow.

Sometimes the post office has canceled the stamps by scribbling through them with an ink pen; other times the stamps arrive ripped or torn as if they barely made it though a sorting machine of some type.

In my experience, Danny’s not too far off the mark: a lot of stamps on modern mail do seem to be damaged in some way, and often the mailpiece itself is bent or has suffered other damage along the way.

The explanation I’ve most commonly heard for ink scribbles on the stamps is that mail carriers are supposed to ensure that stamps cannot be easily reused; that is, they are supposed to be canceled. Mail carriers don’t necessarily have an official post office canceler with them on their routes, however, so they make use of whatever is handy, and that’s usually an ink pen or—even worse—a marker. The horror!

Although we as stamp collectors would prefer to have every stamp arrive in pristine condition, the folks in charge of postal services are more concerned with moving the mail than with fulfilling our every wish, so I’m not sure there’s much that we can do to protect our incoming mail. There are a couple of things you can do with your outgoing mail, however:

  1. When affixing stamps to an envelope, leave at least ¼″ of space between the stamp and the edges of the envelope. Many of the damaged stamps I see have been placed as close as possible to the edge of the envelope, and it takes very little for the stamp to end up damaged in that situation.
  2. If mailing anything other than a standard sized envelope, have it postmarked by hand at a post office counter if possible. I’ve noticed that large and non-rectangular envelopes are often not postmarked at all; I presume the cancellation machines in at least some mail facilities simply don’t accommodate larger items, and those larger envelopes seem to end up with a disproportionate share of pen cancellations.

Have you noticed the same problem Danny pointed out with damaged stamps? Have any ideas on how to prevent the damage from happening? Share your thoughts below.

Kudos to the overachieving postal employee

As stamp collectors, we often have a bone to pick with one postal service employee or another who just doesn’t see things the way we collectors do—issues like having our stamps postmarked by hand, for example, or not destroying mail in the process of delivering it. Despite that, there are some that really go the extra mile in doing their jobs.

Philosateleian Post Horn reader Danny J. shares with us some of his experiences with employees at various post offices in his area of the Appalachians:

There are many small, isolated rural post offices where you can expect and get personal attention to your needs. When I want to cancel my own stamps, they usually give me their stamp canceller and an ink pad and let me go at it. They also will go through their cash drawers checking their limited stamp inventory and hand me sheets to tear off any stamps I want. I’ve even had some postmasters willing to tear off stamps from long rolls so I don’t have to buy an expensive complete roll.

Sounds like wonderful service to me. But the postal employees’ accommodation of stamp collectors is hardly their greatest contribution. Danny continues:

I’ve heard some great stores from the postal carriers who check on the elderly, take care of pets (and occasional stray cows) along their routes, and generally keep an eye on the communities they serve. In my last job before retirement…we actually had carriers who would take the time to stop on their routes to ensure our patients got their daily pain meds if the caregiver had to be at work or out shopping!

You don’t hear nearly as many stories about things like that as you do about less positive developments with the USPS. The cynic might argue that there aren’t nearly so many positive stories to tell, but I say kudos to those postal employees who care about more than just getting a paycheck—not just in terms of customer service, but with regard to the intangible extras they give to their community.

Have you encountered particularly helpful postal employees recently? Share your experience by posting a comment or by e-mailing your story.

Going plateless

Last week, I had the opportunity to fill in in the mail room at work. While “playing mailman,” I got to exchange pleasantries with the various mail carriers and other shipping service drivers who deliver to the office.

One day, Joe the mail carrier was a bit behind schedule because his mail truck had broken down. He mentioned that the truck, which was built in 1987, has around 450,000 miles on its original engine (which has not surprisingly been rebuilt).

I joked that Joe could probably get license plates identifying his truck as an antique, but he caught me off guard when he replied that USPS trucks don’t need plates.

Once I thought about it, I realized he was right; I’ve never seen a license plate on one of the little white trucks that carriers to deliver mail in the city. On the personal vehicles rural carriers use, sure—but never on the USPS-owned vehicles.

This little revelation left me wanting answers, so I did a bit of research. It turns out that USPS-owned mail trucks are not required to have license plates per federal regulations instituted in 1973. Who knew?

Have any other odd tidbits about the mail? Leave the details in a comment.

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