Not so many years ago, when postal regulations weren’t quite so demanding, stamps were used to mail all manner of items, not just letters.
I’d wager that many of us have at least one unusual item that made its way through the mailstream with stamps affixed.
Such items have philatelic interest, of course, but they also can serve as a fascinating conversation starter with friends who are not collectors.
A few months back, Linn’s senior editor Denise McCarty was clearing away some items on her desk when I stopped by.
During the course of a brief discussion, I noticed a large movie-reel case that had been sent to her from the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
She informed me that, despite all appearances, the case was used to mail an assortment of stamps — not a movie.
After clearing out the remaining contents, she let me have the case.
Deadlines and other commitments intervened, which meant that the case was set aside. A more careful examination would have to wait.
A brief lull arrived one morning, and I retrieved the case from a shelf.
What caught my eye initially was the rather tattered stamp affixed just above the mailing address: a 24-penny stamp (Scott 577) depicting actor Peter Sellers as the bumbling but lovable Inspector Clouseau.
An indistinct circular date-stamp ties the stamp to the case. Using a magnifying glass, I discerned that the case was mailed in 1997.
The Clouseau stamp is one of six issued in late 1996 to celebrate the centennial of motion pictures.
As a kid, I absolutely loved the Pink Panther movies starring Sellers as the inept detective.
A Guernsey Post Office postage-paid card is affixed to the case with packing tape that reads in three lines “Guernsey Philatelic Bureau Postal Headquarters Guernsey, Channel Islands.”
Also affixed to the case is a green customs label stating that “philatelic material” with a value of £7 was inside.
Given this information, it seemed odd that just 24p was required to mail the case and its cargo.
There is no other evidence of additional stamps having been affixed to the case.
Then I noticed the “Postage Paid” imprint in the top-right corner of the card, just below the Guernsey coat of arms that depicts three stylized lions and a branch of leaves.
It’s likely that the Guernsey Post Office card paid all of the required postage.
So what was the purpose of the Inspector Clouseau stamp?
Perhaps it was used to satisfy a customs fee of some sort.
While I can’t prove the intentions of the Guernsey Post Office, it might be that the stamp was selected to enhance the movie theme of the mailing container.
Regardless of how they came together, the stamp and case make for a nifty collectible.