The Users of Precancelled Stamps of Canada
Precancelled stamps were felt to be an important labour and time saving technique. Mass mailings were accommodated without additional canceling. The material sent out was classed as "Third Class," and was subject to regulations for such classification.
Prior arrangements were required between the Post Office and the customer. Only certain post offices were authorized to use precancels, lest there be misuse.
What could possibly constitute misuse? Quite simply, reuse! In this age of built in obsolescence it is hard to believe that individuals, indeed some businesses, carefully checked in-coming letters to see if the stamps used to mail the letter or package, had been cancelled. If not, they were fair game. Often the stamps were steamed off or soaked off and dried and pressed. With a bit of glue, it was entirely proper to use the stamp again.
Since it had not been cancelled, it was still technically a "mint" stamp, although it had no original glue. Precancelled stamps were therefore even simpler to "reuse." The canceling had been done in advance.
To save time and to simplify the use, stamps on mass mailing and on
items of irregular shape, such as catalogues and pamphlets, Canada
introduced the practice of precancelling stamps around 1888. Precancelled
stamps were a hit among companies doing large mailings, and no doubt with
To control the use of precancels, rather high thresholds of minimum
usage were put in place. The earliest reported accounts noted that
a minimum of 15,000 separate but identical items were required. This
was far beyond the reach of medium and smaller businesses. The requirement
was later reduced to
Who were these users?
The Canada Precancel Handbook, (pp. 48-50) makes an important start by listing examples of firms who received permission to use precancels.
Listing a company is a marvelous start and should be continued. Collectors with anecdotal information, covers or mailing wrappers, or documented evidence of any type are invited to contribute to a database of users from small and large towns and cities. We have this project underway and will continue to build it as information becomes available.
Of greater interest are the stories which must underlie the usage.
For example, the Spencer Corset Company in Lennoxville, QC was a user
of precancels. The company is said to have mailed out a special magazine
in 1936. It would be great fun to see a copy of the material. Better
still, are there minutes of a Board Meeting at which this new strategy
might have been
In Rock Island, QC, permission was obtained for the Jubilee Stamps of 1935 to be used. No other place in Canada was so favoured. We suspect that political arm-twisting was involved, since it is reported that permission had been denied in the first instance. What was the nature of the political pressure? How was the decision reached?
The Concordia Club in Kitchener, now best known for its Oktoberfest extravaganza also received permission. What did they send out to members?
In Carberry, MB, a printer produced the seed catalogue for the
A.E. MacKenzie Seed Company, and did the mailing from that town.
Apparently this happened only once, hence the stamps are extremely scarce.
Did the Brandon post office squelch the deal since that was the home base
for the Mackenzie
We need living stories of these early exploits to capture the imagination of the next generation of potential collectors of precancels.
Can you help by contributing further information on any user of precancels?
E-mail me - Norman Wagner