I think I’ve introduced myself to the postcard world in the worst possible fashion. I started thinking about this issue a few days ago when I bought a new pack of 30 permanent stamps and also downloaded the Canada Post iPhone app. My problem: do these stamps work for international postcards and have I been sending out mail that will never reach its destination???
What is a Permanent Postage Stamp? Canada Post, in an effort to encourage people to continue using regular mail services, introduced a permanent stamp. These stamps would be at a fixed postage, bought at the current domestic rate (51¢ at the time), but valid if the price went up in the future. People flocked to the post office to buy these stamps that could be used a year later when a regular stamp would be worth one or two cents more (and thus also eliminating the need for one cent stamps). Instead of a number indicating postage, there would be a “P” in the corner.
I first saw these stamps when they were released on 16 November 2006. I liked the idea, a stamp that I could buy and then not worry about for years if I felt like it. I was a bit sceptical, not sure how it worked fully, but have since embraced them, and so have Canadians. In the first three months after the release of the first permanent stamp it “achieved all-time record sales. Things evened out throughout the year, but sales still surpassed the previous year’s ‘total’ by more than 85 million stamps.” (Canada Post, 2007) Canada Post was able to cut back on printing one cent stamps by 20% the next year. While we weren’t the first nation to introduce a permanent stamp, the USA followed a year later with their own version of the permanent stamp and it seems to have caught on.
10 cents later (the domestic rate is now 61¢) and permanent stamps are still going strong. There are no domestic rate stamps created with fixed postage anymore, the only ones being printed specifically for US and International rating, or for parcels. In those roles the penny stamp and other denominations live on, but in significantly smaller numbers.
This is where my problem lies. I am sending international mail while using domestic stamps. Even though it is a permanent postage rate, I did not think about how they are still only worth 61¢. Permanent does not mean “any price, any place.” Rates for the US are $1.05 and International is $1.80.
I’ve recently mailed a few postcards through Postcrossing with just one permanent stamp. I sent them to Taiwan, China, France, Germany, and Russia, as well as one independently to the US. Two have been received (somehow) but the other four are still in transit. What I should have done is put two P stamps on the card to the US (even with the 3 cent difference) and three on the international cards.
I called Canada Post today to confirm all my suspicions. When I asked what happens if postcards are sent without the right postage I was told either they get sent back or the receiver gets charged for the difference on the other end. I’m not sure who would take that charge, if the Russian postal service would ask for it or Canada Post takes it from the Russian system itself, but I’m sorry to whoever had to pay. I should have known about this, I’ve had family charged for postcards sent by me from Japan, but it totally didn’t cross my mind. Now that I’ve purchased my most recent book of 30 Permanent stamps (I should have gotten the rolls) I realize they will only cover 1/3 of the postcards I thought they would.
Maybe the Permanent stamps don’t hold the same interest as the old 3¢ British stamps, or for another nation looking at the high/low numbers and different currency symbols like I did as a kid with my mom’s stamp collection, and yes the self-adhesive back isn’t as much fun, but I think permanent stamps are important and are here to stay. However, without looking closely, you can cost other people to receive mail and once you understand the system you realize the hobby just got a lot more expensive…