Where to Find the Prettiest Postage for Your Snail Mail
You've invested in beautiful stationery and taken up the lost art of letter writing. After crafting your note, you perfectly calligraph your envelope and reach for a stamp—only to notice that the one you've grabbed is lacking in the aesthetics department. That's not to say that today's USPS postage offerings are entirely lackluster, but the ones you have on hand (or the ones currently in print) might not speak to your paper notes, message, or style. If that's the case, it's time to look into the past for postage, says Patrick Dea, a stamp collector and the owner of Edelweiss Post. "The beauty of opting for vintage postage and discontinued Forever stamps over the current USPS selections is that your options increase exponentially," explains Dea.
And when it comes to pretty postage, Dea has seen it all: "I began curating stamps for my own wedding invitations in 2011 as a special homage to my stamp-collecting grandfather. He had tried (and failed!) to get me to start as a child, so it's somewhat ironic that I'm now carrying on his legacy," he shares. Here, Dea shares his best tips for sourcing, collecting, and arranging stamps to add yet another layer of meaning to your thoughtful hand-written notes.
Look to Etsy
"The best place to look for vintage stamps—hands down—is Etsy," says Dea. "It's so easy to search our Etsy shops for postage by color, subject, or theme. We also have the best photography, so you really know what you're getting." Sellers on Etsy tend to be better stocked with rarer finds in large quantities, he adds, which makes these shops the best places to search for invitation postage. As for how to determine which shops are top-notch? Look to their ratings. "The best Etsy stamp shops are obviously ones with the best review ratings, but also have accurate photography and detailed product descriptions."
Why Postage Matters
According to Dea, pretty postage can elevate the entire letter-writing experience. "Stamps are the very first thing you notice when receiving a piece of mail, whether it be a letter from a friend or a wedding invitation," he says. "There is just something captivating about these tiny pieces of art and history. By selecting just the right stamps, you are adding both beauty and meaning to your mail." In the age of social distancing, this is something that has never been more important, he notes.
The Art of Stamp Collection
Dea has curated his personal collection by forging relationships with stamp dealers and collectors all over the country throughout the past decade—so if you're interested in beginning your own, you should know that it can be a time-intensive hobby. "I found many of the stamps you see in my shop at the World Stamp Show in New York City, but that only happens once every ten years!" says Dea. "The process of locating, sorting, separating, and packaging stamps into units that my customers are looking for is very time consuming and labor intensive. I think that's a big reason why my snail mailers love Edelweiss Post—I've done the 'boring part' for them! But for me, it's quite literally a labor of love."
Not exactly sure where to start when selecting your stamps? Look to Dea's favorites (although, he notes, being asked to choose a favorite piece of postage is like "choosing a favorite child!") as a guide. "I live in Minneapolis and my favorite bird is the loon, so I adore the beautiful 20-cent Minnesota State Bird & Flower (1982)," he shares. "Some other favorites are the recent Andrew Wyeth Forever Stamps for their ultra-moodiness and the Oscar de la Renta fashion stamps for their bold designs and vivid colors. I think the all-time prettiest stamp might be the "Beautification of America" issue (1969) which feature tree blossoms and spring landscapes in and around Washington, D.C., where I grew up."
Mix and Match
When you buy vintage postage—and they aren't Forever stamps—you'll likely need a few to hit the going 55-cent rate. But a mixed tableau of stamps only adds to the aesthetics of your note. Dea puts together many of these mixed-and-match creations—and, luckily, posts them on Instagram to inspire others—and says the secret to a cohesive result is simple: "A lot of my curations on Instagram are inspired by the color or mood of one stamp. I'll choose a stamp that catches my eye and then other stamps which have similar (or contrasting!) color palettes and piece them together on the envelope. I often tell people it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, but that you get to choose the pieces you want to use."
Travel is another jumping-off point, he says. "Why send a postcard with a fish stamp if I'm visiting the desert? There are cactus stamps for that!" he notes. "The same goes for seasons and holidays, which also inspire my mail art. The only time I'd ever reach for a regular United States flag stamp would be for the Fourth of July—and even then, I'd probably use a red stamp, a white stamp, and a blue stamp."