Postage Stamps

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 9, 2006 | Go to article overview

Postage Stamps


The humble stamp is under threat from the unstoppable march of technological progress and the proliferation of postage companies.

If we are to lose the stamp as we currently know it, I for one will mourn its loss.

I'm no philatelist - although I did once own a child's stamp book and dreamed of making my fortune by finding a Penny Black - but there is something solidly reassuring about the humble postage stamp.

Every time we place a stamp onto an envelope, we are recreating a process that has been in use for more than 160 years.

We, just like our Victorian ancestors, entrust our valuable letters and packages to the postal service in return for a small payment.

In effect we turn our hard earned cash into a small rectangle of gummed paper - now sticky-back in many cases - in order to get a thank you note to Manchester or a birthday card to our aunts in Australia.

It seems a small price to pay for an item of mail to travel many hundreds of miles, from my local postbox to the recipient's letterbox or in-tray, in such a short space of time - the usual gripes about the mail notwithstanding.

But how much longer will we, the general public, be buying our book of first class stamps, or sheets of special edition Christmas stamps?

The Royal Mail has recently launched its online postage system, allowing the internet literate to print off a special label which acts like a stamp.

Resembling more the marks on the pre-paid business envelopes, with their black lines and bold numbers, these labels are the dull and uninspired younger brother of the colourful postage stamp we have all come to know and love.

It lacks the pizzazz that even the gold and blue, first and second class stamps have - it is a run-of-the-mill postage mark that has more in common with a franking machine than the decades of artwork invested in the stamp.

It is doubtful that we will ever see these new postage labels make the heart rate of a keen young philatelist race with anticipation - it is possible someone will fill plastic-coated albums with collections of these labels - in the same way it does when the eye falls on a coveted rarity or first edition cover. …

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