“The messages we mail will touch the lives of people now; and they might be an inspiration for a collector in the far, far future.”
A crowd gathered bright and early at the St. Louis Stamp Expo on March 29, ready to kick off the stamp show with a first day of issue ceremony for the brand new US Postal Service post card stamp issue: the Coral Reefs stamps. The Coral Reefs (read more about the issue here) are available in sheets of 20 stamps or a coil of 100 stamps, feature images of sea creatures swimming by corals, and are valued at the post card rate of 35 cents.
The APS was lucky enough to correspond with Casey Jo White, who gave a featured speech on postcards during the ceremony, and is the face behind the popular philatelic twitter handle @philatelythings. Casey Jo shared her thoughts about the ceremony, noting first the ceremony programs and postcards of St. Louis that were handed out to attendees. The programs were designed by APS member and first day of issue ceremony aficionado Chris Lazaroff, and the postcards were made by Jay Bigalke, Editor-in-Chief of Linn’s Stamp News and Scott Catalogs.
APS Executive Director Scott English and Jay Bigalke both offered remarks to open the ceremony. St. Louis postmaster Russell Thouvenot dedicated the stamps, mentioning the new aquarium that is under construction in St. Louis and some details about the types of coral reefs pictured on the stamps: elkhorn, brain, staghorn, and pillar coral.
Casey Jo’s keynote speech during the ceremony highlighted the history of postcards and post card rates, the shift in public opinion towards postcards, and the positive value of the type of communication that postcards allow. In her own words:
Prior to the establishment of the postal card rate in 1872, post cards were a bit controversial. Fans of post cards liked that they encouraged more informal communication. Those who argued against them claimed that they were a violation of privacy because there was no cover to conceal the message. The argument against handing a small “public” message on a post card to your mail carrier seems wild now, at a time when we can--and will--post messages freely on the internet.
The Post Office issued their first postal cards in 1873. At first only these government-issued cards qualified for the reduced rate. But in 1898, a reduced post card rate was approved for privately manufactured post cards, which could be paid with postage stamps affixed. Soon, printers were making hundreds of new post cards for any occasion. This (not to mention the expansion of rural and door-to-door delivery) made the early 1900s the “Golden Age of Post Cards.”
Post cards made it easier than ever to share short messages and quick life updates. If people didn’t have much to say, they could buy cards with beautiful art or fun jokes. And of course, postcards allowed people to celebrate holidays or share vacation photos. I consider post cards to be something of a proto-social media – almost everything we post online today could be literally posted on a card.
And it’s that social media-esque, public nature of post cards that makes them interesting to me. Because I can go to a stamp show like this, sit down at a box of post cards and . . . read someone’s mail. An envelope might be empty, but on a post card, the message is always there. Post cards tell us so much about history of everyday people and their relationships. That feeling of communication is what I find beautiful about postal history.
But don’t forget that we are making postal history ourselves! When I go to the mail box and find a post card waiting for me – it makes my day a little brighter. I save the cards sent to me, keep them to look back on and enjoy. The messages we mail will touch the lives of people now; and they might be an inspiration for a collector in the far, far future.
Casey Jo wrapped up the ceremony by offering some advice. She told the St. Louis crowd, “I believe post cards are still a great way to communicate, to tell someone you’re thinking of them. So, as you’re getting the Coral Reefs stamps for your collection, I want to encourage you to USE one of those stamps and SEND a post card. To your neighbor, your nephew, your best friend . . . Reach out, open up, and share a post card with someone.” Hear, hear! Thank you, Casey, for reminding us to celebrate the relationships and bonds that come from sharing the post.
Many thanks to Casey Jo White for sharing her photos and experiences with us. For more information about post cards from Casey Jo, visit her blog to read the post that inspired her talk at St. Louis. You can also find her on Twitter, where she tweeted from the St. Louis Stamp Expo.
This blog is the first in our new series, “Stamp-Show and Tell,” where we feature your experiences and photos from the stamp expositions and shows that you attend. If you have a story or pictures that you’d like to share from your local stamp show, contact email@example.com with the subject line “Stamp-Show and Tell” and details about the show you attended. Send in your submissions today!