2020 Christmas Coloring Cards

USPS 2020 Contemporary Christmas stamps – Holiday Delights

The USPS’s contemporary Christmas stamps this year are titled “Holiday Delights” – the illustrations by Kirsten Ulve are inspired by vintage ornaments and Scandinavian folk art. To me, the thing that stood out most were the BRIGHT red and green colors of the stamps.

I tried to mimic the stamps’ style when I designed my first day cover cachet, drawing a poinsettia and filling the leaves with geometric patterns. When I had finished, I saved the illustration in two different forms (one red & green, one black & white) to use as coloring pages.

Please feel free to download, print, and color! A hand colored card, mailed with a matching stamp, is a perfect way to send a little holiday cheer!

[ click here to download coloring cards .pdf ]

red & green poinsettia coloring page
Red and Green Poinsettia
black & white poinsettia coloring page
Black and White Poinsettia

Mysteries of the Dead Letter Office

The Dead Letter Office is a fascinating area of postal history. Its job is to handle the mail that, for whatever reason, cannot be delivered. Origins of the office date back to the beginning of the Postal Service, when the US’s first Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin, appointed an “Inspector of Dead Letters” to determine where undeliverable mail should be sent. In 1825, the Dead Letter Office was established, designating a place for these letters to be sent, sorted and, if possible, redirected to their destination.

In its early days, the office was quite busy. The standard address system we use today (street, city, state, ZIP) had not yet been developed, so addresses were often missing key information. Poor handwriting, insufficient postage, and damage during delivery are a few of the other reasons that letters could be declared “dead.” The skilled clerks at the office would attempt to find the intended recipient and forward the mail appropriately. Only if the mail could not be delivered were the clerks permitted to open the mail. If the mail contained money or valuables, the enclosed letter could be scanned for information that would identify a sender they could return it to. Otherwise, the messages would be destroyed to protect the privacy of the writer.

The front of a Dead Letter Office cover – this letter traveled from England to New York in 1890. Despite the multiple attempts to find its recipient, it was never delivered.

Surviving mail from the Dead Letter Office are great subjects of study for philatelists with a fondness for mystery. The cover shown here is an interesting example, featuring a variety of philatelic material including stamp, postage due, official seals, label, and a wealth of postal markings, both handstamp and manuscript notations.

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Let’s Make a Local Post

Local posts and independent mails have been a special interest of mine ever since I started working in philately, but not everyone is so familiar with this subcategory of stamp collecting. In the US, local posts are private companies that carry mail outside of the official government post office. These companies were first organized in the 1840s, to compete with or supplement the Post Office’s service. Although the classic era of local posts ended in the 1860s when new laws suppressed their ability to legally carry the mail, short lived local posts still occasionally pop up – usually through the will of creative philatelists who want to leave their mark in the world of stamp collecting.

I gave a presentation on the history and evolution of local posts for the American Philatelic Society. You can watch a recording of the talk here: https://youtu.be/8I2HvB7hOlA

Creating my own local post is something I’ve wanted to do for years, but never knew exactly when or how to pull it off. Well, it’s 2020, and due to the corona virus pandemic, I haven’t been able to visit stamp shows or first day ceremonies, and I’m aching for a stamp adventure. So it seems like the perfect time to put my local post research to work and create an exciting new local post that I can share with all philatelic friends!

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An Open Letter to Congress

If you are reading this blog, you are probably aware of the United States Postal Service’s current financial struggle. This is something I’ve been concerned about for a while, and I’m pleased that more people are taking notice. While I respect differing opinions, I truly believe that the Post Office is an essential part of America’s infrastructure and I won’t shy away from defending it.

As I finished writing a letter to my representatives in the US House and Senate, I realized that I wanted to be a little louder in expressing my opinion than just mailing letters to my two Senators and House Representative. So I’m publishing my letter here for anyone to read, to help understand why I feel that the Post Office is worth saving.

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Advances in Recycling – Delivered by the Post Office

                It sure is a great week for nature!  This week started with Earth Day on Monday, and the workweek ends with Arbor Day on Friday.  Plus, the brilliant spring weather where I live is calling me to go outside and enjoy the flowering trees and green grass.  It’s a good time to consider the wonders of our planet!

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Recycle More stamp from the 2011 Go Green issue

                It’s also a great time to learn about and consider ways to protect and preserve nature.  One of the most well known and easily practiced ways to reduce waste and slow the depletion of resources is to recycle.  So today I want to write about recycling stamps.

                No, not stamps about recycling (like the 2011 Go Green stamp) – about recycling the stamps themselves.  I’m going to write about Test Stamps and the Environmentally Benign Pressure Sensitive Adhesive Program of 1994.

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Blog Update

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My First Day Cover cachet for the Shark stamps issued at the Newport Aquarium on July 26, 2017.

                Hello!  It’s been almost two years since my last official blog post, so I wanted to give an update on my philatelic activities since then. Continue reading

A Brief History of US Tax Stamps

                It’s tax season in the US, with returns needing to be filed by April 18th this year.  Sounds like a good time to talk about tax stamps!

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A postage stamp commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act’s repeal will be issued by the USPS in May, 2016.

Tax stamps are applied to items as proof of tax payment.  They were first used in America during the colonial period.  In 1765, the British Parliament passed the Duties in American Colonies Act which required colonists to use stamps or stamped papers to pay taxes on certain items or documents.  This caused quite an uproar at the time.  The reason behind the taxes was to pay for British military service protecting the colonies, but the colonists didn’t think that was necessary.  This lead to boycotts of British goods and protests (under the rallying cry “No taxation without representation”) which eventually lead to the repeal of the Stamp Act in 1766.

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Easter Treats and Postcard Tweets

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My personal collection of Easter picture postcards.

Happy Easter!  At the last stamp show I visited, I thumbed through some dealers’ bargain boxes and found four cute Easter post cards I just couldn’t resist.  This gave me an opportunity to learn a little more about post card collecting.  Vintage post cards are collectable items outside of philately, as unmailed cards are often bought for their pretty designs and historical value.  They make wonderful display pieces that can be easily kept in albums or displayed in frames.

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Cats with Cards

03202016_3                I’m well aware of mail and messages sent by carrier pigeon.  You can even collect pigeon post stamps, which are the first air mail stamps ever produced!

                But this week my husband introduced me to this children’s book, which is based on a true story, about a city in Belgium that attempted to us cats to deliver mail.  So of course, as a philatelist and a cat person, I had to dig in and do some research on this fun little bit of postal history.

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Fabric Philately

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My new postal-themed purse.

                The past two weekends I’ve been getting a little crafty. One thing I really wanted to make for myself was a new purse, so I went looking for some philatelic-inspired fabric to make it with. I looked through four different fabric/crafting stores and found a variety of material to choose from.

                One thing I noticed while looking for stamp themed fabric was that most of it was less focused on stamps and more focused on France. Vintage Paris, with its romantic imagery, is a popular theme right now for craft products. While I did buy a few yards of pretty pastel fabric covered in images of French stamps, I generally shied away from these types of material. I mostly work with US postal history and don’t know much about French stamps. Since I was planning on carrying this purse regularly, I wanted to be sure if anyone asked about it, I’d have a story to tell. Continue reading