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by Scott Virtes Stamps
San Marcos, CA 92026
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Why Collect Postmarks?
That's not an easy question. I'm sure that many spouses of stamp collectors will wonder, "Why
collect things at all?" But over the years, as I've seen more than a million stamps go through my
hands, I just found postmarks more and more enticing. Any "country" can print things and call them
stamps, but either they do their duty getting mail delivered, or they don't.
I was always
fascinated by the geographical context of stamps -- seeing things from all over the world -- but
postmarks actually tie the stamps to the exact towns they were used in. Sorting through hoards of
stamps, I might find 1,000 common stamps from Denmark, with maybe 50 nice cancels out of the batch:
lots of Copenhagen, but in each batch there are a few small towns represented that I have an urge to
locate on a map. Post offices open and close all the time. New types of delivery are invented, and
new slogans appear every few weeks. It's hard not to find it all interesting.
How do you collect postmarks, anyway?
Well, the easy answer is ... however you want to! Some people try to get one of every date, and some
people are happy with one postmark from each town. Serious researchers try to identify every
TYPE of marking, when it was used, and how rare it is.
It can be frustrating, though. It's at least a 3-dimensional problem: you've got the date, the place of
origin, and the postmark type to deal with. So, it doesn't fit on album pages neatly. But collectors
Why make a website about it?
While I still collect postmarks, and keep experimenting with ways to organize them, I have to admit
that I've hoarded more of them than I can really handle. Boxes and boxes of them. Tens of thousands.
While I'm trying to get more of a focus for my own collection, I can sell the rest to help fund more
purchases (of course!). And I often run across nice postmarks on expensive stamps, little showcase
items that I can't really afford to keep. So, those are the things you will find here. Also, I have
thousands of covers, and while I agree that the natural habitat for a postmark is on a complete cover,
I don't want to get into collecting covers. So, covers with good postal markings will also be found
on this site.
I have tried all kinds of homemade album pages to try and sort out my hoard, and it looks like it
really needs a database to organize them the way I want to. So I also have plans for an online
"virtual" collection of postmarks. As an experiment, check out this map of
postmarks from Belgium.
How do you price them all?
I wish there was one simple place to go and look up the "value" of a particular postmark. But there
isn't. Estimates can vary widely, though some basic trends can be glimpsed.
- Common postmarks (on common stamps) probably inhabit the same 5-cent or 10-cent each range
that bulk stamps do. No real premium here. I will list these in mixtures.
- Uncommon postmarks (on common stamps) or really nice strikes of cancellations are not
unreasonable at around $1 each -- I know I gladly pay that much for a nice item I don't have.
- General covers with nice clear markings are also fall into the $1 range, though from odd places
(like Belgian Congo) with multiple stamps and multiple strikes, they might be in the ballpark
of $5 each.
- Nice postmarks on more expensive stamps are, to my mind, a premium over the same stamp without a
nice cancel, so I don't feel out of touch offering these (when I can get them)
at 75% of the catalog value.
As far as what's common and what isn't, that's a sticky area. I can usually just trust my brain when
it comes to how many postmarks of a certain type I've seen, from various places. I like small towns
from distant corners of the globe. I have a reference books for a few areas, but those often just add
complications. Too much information.
Some people collect First Day Covers. That's fine. As far as I'm concerned, those are
cancelled-to-order, not primarily concerned with delivering mail. I will only list FDCs if they've
clearly been through the mail and have other postal markings on them.