Monday, June 02, 2008

The Language of Stamps

William Cochrane writes on the Philatelic Database website, "Many letters posted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century had stamps affixed to envelopes and picture postcards in all sorts of odd positions and angles."

According to Cochrane this was due to the development in England of a ‘language of stamps,’ which soon spread around the world.

He goes on to say, "The position of the stamp on the envelope was supposed to relay a message to the receiver. I imagine that people who lived on the edge of Society found this a convenient way of expressing their feelings. I wonder, too, if spies or criminals had stamp languages of their own…"

The problem of postmarking the stamps placed on various parts of the envelope finally became so great, that postal administrations of the world introduced regulations requiring the sender of mail to affix stamps in the upright corner of the envelope.

To read the entire post, click here.

Shown above is a postcard showing the different positions and what they mean.

This and other examples can be seen along with an 2005 New York Times article that cites some modern day examples by clicking here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM