Monday, March 4, 2013

Avian philately - just make your mail pretty!

I was just playing around tonight with the newest Philatelic Catalog from the US Postal Service. (If you cruise the catalog you will find details for the stamps I show below).

As a reforming (I used to do it a lot, but not so much any more ...) philatelist (shhh! ... look it up, it is not as dirty as it sounds ...), I always love this catalog. And, yes, I admit I do look at the pictures!

I found a wonderful new set of stamps I want to share. SO cool! They are for the 3 ounce domestic rate, and now they need an extra 1 cent stamp with them for that rate, but they are gorgeous! You could just buy them and frame them!   
Birds of Prey stamps
Yes, I wish these were regular letter rate and I could use them on all my letters, but I offer that you  can do as I do, and use a combination of stamps to make up the cost of any package you might mail by USPS. It sure makes a decorative package for the recipient! If they are stamp collectors, often the stamps mean as much as the contents! Oh, the artsy packages I have sent! Geez, at $5 or more to send a priority mail package, you can put lots of cool stamps on the package! Buy them in advance because your local PO may not have them, but take them with you to the PO when you mail a package and stick them on after they tell you how much! Fun! Meaningful!

Here is another lovely more recent one for the 3 oz rate (no additional postage necessary at the moment ...).
This FDC has a great digital postmark! Cute! I love the fish hanging off the mouth!

 I found a couple of birdy new envelopes as well. They come in popular letter sizes. They are pre-stamped, so all you have to do is write a note, insert, and mail. These are good because they are "forever" rate - no matter the future increases, they will still work. The pics here are of "First Day Covers" (FDC). When a stamp is first released, there is one post office designated as the official spot, and usually there is a ceremony there commemorating the event. It is fun to see why they chose that particular city for the issue! Only they can only use this special cancel, and only on that first day. The envelopes you can buy/use are blank except for the stamp.
Bank Swallow
Purple Martin
 I also discovered a great new series of state flags. I have a couple of sets of previous ones (much cheaper in those days ...) that I just love. It is interesting to see that many states treasure their birds (depicted on the current stamps) as part of their heritage and "draw" to their state!. Here are examples (do not look too hard, that is the best resolution I could get - yet interesting ...):

 There are other current USPS stamps that you can buy, but cannot use. For example the non-profit Art Deco one I am sure most of you know:
Art Deco Bird
And a new pre-sorted one I hope the bulk mailers will start using soon:
Spectrum Eagle
It would be fun to try to collect this set!

Yes, that word - collect - really tells a lot about why I am a birder - I think. I was a stamp collector since childhood. I learned almost all my world geography thru deciphering wierd writing and looking up the weird-named countries I learned about from the stamp packages that I bought with "kid money" (allowance) at the stamp stores that used to exist then. I think the same fascination with learning by collecting manifested itself through my life - stamps, coins, seaweeds (my first real occupation - phycologist), books - always books. For awhile it was launch and landing postmarks for Space Shuttle flights (second occupation). After I came to Michigan, it was "collect" and release bass (tournament) fishing (collecting trophies along the way ...); then a fossil collecting phase (Geez! Michigan was a coral reef so long ago!); photos of the "lakers"and "salties" of water-borne commerce that made Michigan the industrial hub of the USA and which still ply our waters; and now birds! This recent phase all started with "collecting" photos of birds and wondering their names.  Fortunately I found a great home and support group with birders!!! Will learning ever end? Not for me...! But I suspect "collecting" birds (now thru binocs and camera and recording in eBird) will persist forever. Fun!

Once you start collecting bird stamps, you might go further and collect more birdie things on stamps. Here are some current stamps of weather vanes:

And this far I only spoke about US stamps. There are many countries around the world that exist financially by issuing stamps for almost everything, and there are great birds on stamps. Beautiful - but what of lasting value? I do not know. But I offer that at least by collecting US stamps, you can always use them for postage. Sadly it might take larger envelopes just to hold the affixed lower-value stamps to make the rate in effect in the future, but they will still work ... another story I will not write now.

And, you even can now make your own official stamps at different sites by using your own photos. So far,  I have only used these twice to make pics of Judy and myself (yes, they work!), but certainly you could make a birdie stamp from your own pic! (Hey! If you do, I want one!!! This might be a fun group to set up! Like a birdie "penpal thing"!)

If you want "real collectibles", I suggest state and national Duck Hunting stamps (early ones are worth thousands!) and current state wildlife stamps and Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation stamps ("Federal Duck Stamps"). See Conservation Initiatives for the Biggest Week in American Birding for details. Note that I can add this as an official blogger for the biggest week. You are going to be there anyway, so order when you register on the web or during the Biggest Week (May 3-12, 2013)

Read the full story there, but basically for every dollar you spend on Federal Duck Stamps, ninety-eight cents goes directly to purchase vital habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Maybe like me, you sometimes think about duck hunting as a negative, but I assure you that at present, it is primarily the hunters and fishermen who really support bird habitat thru their license fees and political clout! I do think birders are becoming more recognized as a huge economic engine in some economies (like in Ohio thru the efforts of Magee Marsh, BSBO, and Ottawa NWR), but in most places birders have little political impact on regional and state policies. This MUST change. Energize. Make our presence known!

Oh, I really miss "mail"!!! And I bet y'all do too. Yes, we daily still walk out to the mailbox hoping for something from friends, but we find bills and the circulars (that BTW pay most of the USPS costs now ...). Can you imagine getting a letter or package with birdie stamps on it? Wow! Memorable.

Now most of the time all we get are emails or Facebook posts (often from people we barely know). If we are really lucky it might be from someone like "Dr. Bob" (winking and smiling here ...) Well, I know a rewarding trip to the mailbox with letter in hand sure beats two (most) emails...
OK. Just "rambling" again. I suspect if I had the money, I would still be buying stamps and making a great collection of birdie stamps to enjoy. Yet, now I tend to buy stamps to mail and give a thrill to the recipient. Hey, I gotta send mail anyway, why not make it beautifully birdie?!
I include the following as proof that I had permission to use USPS images (Thanks USPS!).


Kim Smith said...

Aha, this is why you've been quiet lately, Dr. Bob -- you were working on a great new post! Very interesting, and those are some gorgeous stamps.

I miss real mail too. Coincidentally, I received a piece of real mail today: a thank you note from a friend. You'll chide me when you find out I tossed the envelope without even noticing the stamp. (Although the card was lovely.)

Your comments on being a lifelong collector got me curious about the psychology of collecting (I've always done it too). Here's an article you might find interesting:

Really nice post, Bob.

"Dr. Bob" said...

Thanks, Kim ! Cool ref!

OK that you trashed the stamp. I often wonder why I save all the non-profit and pre-sorted mail stamps (the main ones I receive), but I have hope that someday I can give them to some organization that can inspire kids to learn about the world by collecting stamps. Yeah, right, what kid would give up electronic media to play with stamps? Yet, I learned so much by doing that ...