I’ve been experiencing my own snail mail renaissance over here. It’s been lovely.

Part of it is a bit unfair because as a shopkeeper (of a stationery shop no less) I receive mail from customers and people who have stumbled across the blog and who write just to say hello. The act of writing a short note on blue paper and a wet fountain pen, sealing it up and adding postage, is a ten minute pleasure that requires relatively little long-term commitment—although of course it’s from the long-term commitment pen pals that I get the most joy. There is nothing like familiar handwriting on a letter, and knowing that you’ve got a treat ahead of you to open with a late evening tea and cookie from the package you’ve been hiding from the kids.

I’ve been slogging my way delightfully through a backlog that has been accumulating for years. I no longer feel bashful about offering apologies in the first line (you wrote me a year and a half ago, and since then much has happened, including a pandemic!) but having done it dozens of times now, I feel it’s just all part of the times. It has been incredibly satisfying using up some of my stationery stash, and seeing small, dense piles of envelopes stack up to head to the mailbox. Wax seals, and washi tape. Putting on stickers with abandon. What’s another cat sticker if not more joy! Ah, how the unhinged have redirected their energies.

The other day I ordered some more stamps from Canada Post, which is always fun and exciting. I enjoy going into the local post office also: I think they’re individually franchised and it’s nice to support your local branches and also to get to know people in your community, but we often order large amounts for our Lettermail operation. Our Lettermail operation isn’t massive, but we do go through stamps quickly.

What a delight to find these Group of Seven stamps! In a package of seven as well, that clever Canada Post philately department. I picked up a few because you always need extras of the good ones. Plus there are only seven in a booklet! I tucked the extras into my storage box of stamps—I shudder to think of how Marie Kondo would shudder—and thought what a good time it is to shuffle through some of my vintage stamps, and perhaps pull out a few to use. I have a bin on my desk that I fill with stationery, envelopes, stamps, wax seal supplies, stickers. All the letters that have newly made their way to our mailbox or perhaps have been retrieved from the back of a drawer. Things that I’m ready to use, half-opened packages. Fun things to include in mail that’s going out, like flat tea bags or stickers.

The booklet on top is an illustrated set from some time ago. On the bottom is the Group of Seven stamps that are currently available.

Often times vintage stamps are so low in value that it can be challenging to add up enough value to mail a letter, even domestically. It’s $0.92 now to mail a letter within Canada, and a lot of my vintage stamps are worth 34 cents or 17 cents or 8 cents, so sometimes I just put on a permanent stamp worth $1.07 and tack on an extra vintage one for fun.

Ah, the glorious glassine envelopes Canada Post sometimes give me. Recently they’ve moved towards completely blank ones, not sure if that’s a permanent budget cut thing or a more-on-order-from-the-printer thing.

I’m learning to let go and put some of these on snail mail. Most of the time I’m no longer trying to fuss so much about perfect envelopes, but just getting things done and sending things out. But sometimes adding a vintage stamp or using a few can be a nice touch. They’re meant to be used! Why should I leave them to wither in a box only for Caleb or Naomi to stick them all to a cardboard fort?

Here are some of my favourites.

The golden question: where do you get vintage stamps? There’s no easy answer. There are some vintage stamp “fairs” or shows, sort of like pen shows, if you’re super committed. This is probably the cheapest way to get them, but of course the cost of making it out to a stamp show, depending on where you live, might tip the scales either way. I think the main purpose of these stamp shows is for collectors looking for or selling rare and valuable stamps, but there are sometimes? Usually? vintage stamps available for sale that are low value, that you can purchase at or near face value, and that you can use on your snail mail. (Please don’t be disappointed if you go and find nothing!) I once visited a pen show and got a big box of used/cancelled international stamps for $20. They’re fun to sift through, and the box comes out during Traveler’s Notebook meet-ups and for journaling.

Otherwise, you can look on eBay, and sometimes lots come up, or maybe also on Etsy. It’s a hunt through a rabbit hole, and my only advice is to pursue it if you truly enjoy the search.

Because really, vintage stamps or the regular kind, wax seals or just the glue of the envelope, the whole point is for a letter to make it across the country or across the street and to connect with someone. Cheer someone up, catch up, remember a birthday, share some news, enjoy a break from the fast pace of emails.

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August 19, 2020 — wonderpens



Sabeena said:

☺️ I always see your stacks of snail mail on instagram and it motivated me to start sending letters to my best friend. I’ve learned a lot! This is a very new system to me, it’s just so easy to send a text. Now I’ve started looking for more pen pals.


wonderpens said:

That’s amazing! I’m always inspired by seeing other people’s envelopes and their piles of letters and hearing about how much their pen pals mean to them. Hope you are enjoying the slower way of connecting!


wonderpens said:

Yes, I try to think of it as you do, that having new ones is fun, and that Canada Post will always be releasing new ones.

I don’t have any real favourite ones, although of course I have ones that I like more than others. I’m trying to let go a bit more, and celebrate that it was fun to have them while I did. It’s always a bit sad to send the very last one off, but there are always new ones to come. Sometimes I think if I like them too much that I can’t even use them, then what’s the point! Just to sit on a box on my shelf? And then I look at the box on my shelf…


Nat said:

This is exactly why I love stamps so much. And for me it’s certainly worth the rabbit hole of ebay to find the best value vintage stamps….now I have so many, and just need to find ways to use, instead of hoard them…..so I can have a reason to buy more? ;)


wonderpens said:

Haha! I know the feeling (and the cycle) all too well. It is nice to have the abundance while you have it!


Bob said:

That Mary Kondo line cracked me up :)

Pat D

Pat D said:

I also have had a revitalization of use for my collection (read: hoard) of stamps. I also bought the group of seven ones recently (and wished that I’d the foresight to have bought more of the Apollo spacecraft ones a while back, but having new ones always give one pals some variety).

I do like using vintage/small value stamps to supplement international and US stamps that are now a bit short (due to postage increases over the years).

Do you have any favourite stamps of the moment? Of all time? Ones you can only bear to look at and not to use? Ones that are so lovely you have to share with others (so they can experience some of that delight)?

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