World Stamps

Many reasons to collect the postal stationery of Canada

Apr 29, 2021, 3 AM


How can you keep the hobby affordable and enjoyable? Canadian collectors need look no further than the wealth of stamped envelopes, postal cards, lettercards, wrappers and aerograms issued since 1860, much of it available at a beginner’s budget.

To demonstrate it, three eBay sellers — franjean.

2012, postcardduster  and mayfair99 — have generously allowed me to share a few of their recent online offerings, all of them attractive and quite affordable.   

Cost is but the first of many advantages. Of the first 100 stamped envelopes in Canada’s 2014 Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps (Unitrade U1-U39a, from 1860 to 1931), 59 have a catalog value of $10 or less in unused condition. Postal cards and reply cards (UX1-UY31d, from 1871 to 1929) are even better at 70 percent.

If the next stamp your album needs has a three-digit price tag, postal stationery can deliver more bang for your buck.

But modest expense is just an advantage, not a reason to collect. For that, look at the lovely little yellow green 2¢ Victoria Universal Postal Union postal card nearby (UX4). It’s 136 years old, and it’s gorgeous. It was available for under $5, United States shipping included, on eBay in mid-March.

You’ll find similar or better prices on stationery at stamp shows, stamp shops, and especially in larger lots at some auctions and mail sales.

But forget the $5 and look at the card. When was the last time you added anything this attractive to your album? If you like to specialize, this same card is available in blue green (UX4a), pale olive green (UX4b) and printed on smooth, thin card (UX4c).

Full catalog value for all four cards, unused, totals $14.25 Canadian. The day I checked, that was U.S. $11.15.

Inexpensive collectible varieties abound, such as this 1903 1¢ green King Edward VII card. Although most were printed on a standard card stock (Unitrade UX22), some were printed on a yellowish straw card (UX22a) like this example, preaddressed to send orders to a grocery wholesaler in London, Ontario. If you’ve got $5, it might still be online — and this is the scarcer of the two.

Another compelling reason to collect is that postal stationery expands the collecting interests you already have. Take Canada’s King George VI Admirals definitives of 1911-26 (Scott 104/140), so called because the king’s profile appears in full naval uniform.

Many collectors have most or all the issued stamps, but do you have the ½¢ denomination? You’ll only find a ½¢ Admiral paying the business reply card rate on postal cards like the one shown here, printed for an investment firm in Halifax in the mid-1920s. It’s another sub-$5 special, too.

Postal stationery also is a great way to showcase the postal history of a philatelic period, as the pair of ½¢ black Small Queens enhances the 2¢ green Victoria stamped envelope canceled in 1897 on an Ontario railway post office.

 Postal cards sometimes offer advantages that conventional covers do not. A mailed envelope with a stamp and postmark but no contents sometimes takes only a poor impression of the handstamped markings that canceled or dated it. Where were they applied? What does that unreadably smeared datestamp say? And of course you’ll rarely know why the letter was sent.

Many postal cards offer you a lot more information, including this 1¢ black postal card with a nearly impeccable strike of a common “TORONTO / AP 5 / CANADA” squared circle postmark. It lacks a year date, however, and were this a cover that might be the end of the story.

But the sender thoughtfully supplied a date on the message side, “4/4 1896.” And especially as winter ends, his request will strike a chord in the heart of many 2015 gardeners:

“Dear Sir: —

“What about the B[lack]. Eyed Marrowfat Peas can you let us have some of them: — please mail sample as early as possible … ”

There’s a lot to like about Canadian postal stationery, and not having an album to fill is part of that. The lack of an album forces us to quite literally think outside the usual box — to create our own showcase for dramatically expanding what collecting Canada can mean.

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