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

Philosateleian Blog

Chinatown stamps preceded modern personalized postage

It was only a few years ago that the USPS granted companies permission to begin selling “personalized” postage, stamps bearing photos of the buyer, his or her family, or a beloved pet. Precursors to those personalized postage stamps date back to the 19th century, however, and examples of such early cinderellas, stamp-like labels with no postal value, turn up even today.

Here we have a sheetlet of 16 labels picturing Chinatown in San Francisco. They are approximately perf. 14.

Sheetlet of 16 stamps depicting Chinatown
Chinatown Photo Stamps

Each label bears one of these captions:

  • Statue of Sun-Yat-Sen
  • Sing Chong Co., San Francisco
  • Bulletin of latest news
  • Chinese Phone Exch., San Francisco
  • Chinese roses
  • Latest news, Chinatown
  • Chinese Phone Exch., San Francisco
  • Chinese children, San Francisco
  • Chinese professor
  • Street scene at night
  • Chinatown, San Francisco
  • Strolling in Chinatown
  • Interior, Tin How Temple
  • A prospective citizen
  • Chinatown, Grant Ave.
  • Chinatown, San Francisco, Calif.

The exact date of issue is unclear, but since automobiles are depicted on no less than five of the stamps, I presume they were probably produced in the 1920s or 1930s, perhaps a bit later than that. If you’re familiar with automobiles from that time period and care to hazard a guess, please feel free.

This set of labels was apparently sold for a dime. The envelope in which they came bears the imprint “Gumling Importing Co., San Francisco, Calif.” My Internet searches indicate this company was in existence at least as late as 1940, but I haven’t found any current references to it.

Envelope in which photo stamps were sold
Chinatown Photo Stamps Envelope

The envelope is boldly labeled “18 photographs…gummed and perforated,” which would make one think a couple are missing. An insert in the envelope, however, says it contains “a series of 16 Photo-Stamps,” so perhaps the two affixed to the envelope were counted among the 18, or perhaps they were originally enclosed in the envelope along with the others.

The insert has room for an address, and the wording makes it clear the whole assembly was designed to be mailed to a friend.

Front of insert accompanying photo stamps
Front of Insert from Envelope

The back of the insert offers 100 ¾×1 inch gummed and perforated stamps—“photographic copies of the picture you give us”—for $1. The copyright imprint reads “Apeda Studio, Inc., New York.” That company was apparently better known for its images of actors and actresses on Broadway, along with other photography-related endeavors.

Back of insert accompanying photo stamps
Reverse of Insert from Envelope

The front of the slip of paper seems to suggest similar “stamps” were available for other cities. Have you seen these before, or do you have similar examples picturing other scenes?

Saturday mail delivery on chopping block

You might not see your friendly neighborhood mail carrier much longer on the weekends.

In a move not exactly unexpected, the USPS has formally requested permission to cease Saturday deliveries except for Express Mail.

In a report submitted to the Postal Regulatory Commission, postal officials say “there is no longer enough mail to sustain six days of delivery.” Add to that expected savings of $3 billion per year, and it’s hard to imagine the change not being approved.

There is, of course, still the possibility that Congress could mandate the USPS continue delivering mail on Saturday, but whether or not that will happen is anyone’s guess.

What do you think—do you support the plans to trim mail delivery to five days a week, or would you rather keep getting deliveries on the weekend?

Thanks for the support

As we near the end of the first quarter of 2010, I want to thank Suzanne M. for her recent donation to help support Philosateleia. It will help cover Web hosting fees, so thank you very much!

I know things are tight for a lot of folks right now, which makes donations like Suzanne’s mean that much more.

Don’t forget, you can also show your support for Philosateleia by linking to the site, or by becoming a fan of The Philosateleian on Facebook.

Post office box prices could climb

If you rent a post office box from the USPS, you may soon be paying more for it.

Officials announced late last week that they’re asking the Postal Regulatory Commission to approve a proposal that could include PO box rate hikes at nearly 50 post offices around the country.

Postal service officials say the boxes at those offices are not “market dominant,” but instead face competition from similar private services in the same neighborhoods.

The changes would immediately impact only a tiny fraction of box holders nationwide, but if the move is successful the USPS could request approval for broader adjustments as it tries to reduce a projected $7 billion loss in 2010. It’s unclear when the PRC will rule on the request.

How much do you currently pay for your PO box? Will you keep that service if the price goes up?

Collector named to Stamp Advisory Committee

The newest member of the USPS’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee should be a strong voice for collectors.

Janet Klug, a longtime collector and former president of the American Philatelic Society, was officially named to serve on the committee earlier this week.

Although Klug will not be the only stamp collector on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, her appointment does provide a bit of balance to a committee whose membership appears to include more graphic designers and college professors. It’s unclear how many of those individuals may be collectors themselves.

While Klug is only one voice on the committee, it will be interesting to see what impact she might have on the group’s recommendations for commemorative stamp topics. What do you think—will she be able to impact which people and subjects appear on U.S. stamps? Should she try, or are you satisfied with the current range of topics that are commemorated?

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