To cut, or not to cut?
To cut, or not to cut: that is the question for stamp collectors who find themselves with too many old covers with very common stamps.
If you ask readers of the Philosateleian Post Horn, the answer is not to cut.
I mentioned in the February issue of the Post Horn that I was trying to decide what to do with a bunch of envelopes that are over 70 years old—some of which date back to the late 1800s—but that bear stamps so common that the envelopes are all but unsellable, and I asked what you would do. The overwhelming response? Leave the covers intact.
Mike B. has chopped up covers in the past, but doubts he would do the same now. “I did that not too long ago when I first got into collecting stamps. I hacked off the stamps from covers dated between 1900–44. What I’ve learned since then is those stamps are a dime a dozen, if not free most of the time. So while I am still today a stamp guy and not that interested in covers, since the stamps are so common I’d leave them intact on the correspondence and, like you say, preserve a piece of postal history.”
“I don’t keep many current day covers, but I cringe at cutting the stamps off of any cover earlier than 1900,” writes Don R. “The postmarks, businesses named, and return addresses of the senders could have some historical value. You would certainly want to keep intact any covers from dead post offices.”
Mick T. says, “I have come to be very much on the side of not to cut. For me, a stamp is so much more interesting within the context in which it was used. This is true whether the stamp or cover is very common or not.” Dan S. agrees. “I always leave the stamps on cover. I find them more interesting that way.”
Linda W. is also against cutting up old covers, but as a mail artist, she has a different reason. “I have used a few similar old envelopes to send a letter in. I just add additional proper postage with a couple of other embellishments and off into the mail system they return. Another life for them and the recipient gets a thrill to receive such in their mailbox.”
Of course, not everyone feels the same way. “I have a few World War 2 covers examined by a censor,“ John G. writes. “An elderly gentleman at our club said they just cut the stamps off of all those and put them in their albums.” (I assume John is referring to covers with “examined by” Army censor markings. If that’s the case, I have a stack of those, too. And I would be reluctant to destroy those.)
Okay, you’ve been heard. I can’t promise I won’t cut up any covers, but if an envelope has any redeeming qualities at all, I’ll try to preserve it—and perhaps give it away in a future issue of the Post Horn.
What’s your opinion on cutting up old covers? Do you, like Don R., have a specific date that’s your cutoff? Or do you have some other line of demarcation? Or do you refuse to cut anything? Weigh in below.