the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Stamp on the Envelope

My friend, Veronica, is trying to single-handedly save the United States Postal Service by participating in Etsy’s 52 Weeks of Mail.

Each week she sends a handwritten note to a friend of family member.

Do you remember the last time you received a letter? Do you remember how exciting it was when personal mail arrived in the pre-e-mail days, before the arrival of the mailman just meant gas bills and fliers for Bed, Bath, and Beyond?

Veronica is the ideal person to be part of this project because she also designs beautiful handmade cards, such as this one —

Her interest in the postal service helped us discover a common childhood passion — stamp collecting! Although it now sounds like a dorky hobby, I was very passionate about my stamps.

I collected first day covers, new issues, and Christmas stamps. I was fascinated by international stamps. I learned much of my geography by connecting my foreign stamps to the home of origin on a world map. Every winter, I would go with my socialist-leaning, horse-race betting, stamp collecting-loving Aunt Ruthie to the big New York Stamp Expo at a hotel near Madison Square Garden.

I stopped stamp collecting when I reached puberty. I was surprised to hear that Veronica still kept up with the old-fashioned hobby.

“Sure, I go to the post office every week to see all the new stamps that are issued.”

I have been out of the stamp-collecting scene for so long that I didn’t realize they still issued new stamps. I figured everyone bought the boring “Forever” stamps that you can pick up at the supermarket — stamps so forgettable that I cannot recall the picture on the stamp, and I have used this one for years!

Despite the new stamps, Veronica told me that much of the old spirit had left the stamp-collecting world. And it wasn’t just the fault of technology. Much like blogging, the Post Office has gone corporate. Rather than issuing stamps that honor America’s great leaders, the Post Office has sold out to the highest bidder.

“Now they make stamps honoring crap, from cartoon characters to ketchup brands” said Veronica. “No one wants a stamp of Benjamin Franklin anymore.”

After hearing this, I am glad that I left stamp-collecting at it’s peak, like Jerry Seinfeld leaving his sitcom before it got stale.

But nothing prepared me for what happened a week later, when my mother called me on the phone. I had received a letter from Veronica in the mail. That I expected. I was anxious to see her handmade card, and the personal note.

“Is it a nice envelope?” I asked.

“Oh, very nice.” said my mother. “Very pretty blue. But just one thing. Unless I’m wrong… I think she put a Hitler stamp on the envelope.”

“A Hitler stamp? You must be wrong.”

“It looks just like Hitler. The mustache and everything.”

Had our Postal Service fallen so desperate that they were now producing new stamps honoring Hitler?!


  1. Tracy

    Well… he did play Josef Mengele once.

  2. Dana

    Gregory Peck will always be Atticus Finch to me. And Atticus is pretty much the anti-Hitler.

  3. Amie aka MammaLoves

    That’s funny. I was just thinking about the fact that I’m beginning to greet my inbox with about the same enthusiasm I can muster for the mailbox. Seems like it’s all ads and requests for me to do something or give money. Can’t even find a letter in my inbox anymore.

  4. Alison (Deer Baby)

    That’s funny – I was just watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm last night where Larry draws a Hitler moustache on a magazine cover.

    I used to collect stamps. My glamorous New York aunt was an air hostess and used to send me letters from all over the globe. I sometimes ripped off the stamps before I’d even read the airmail.

    Love Veronica’s handmade cards.

  5. Hannah

    Every time I check the mail I allow myself a couple of seconds to hope there will be an honest-to-god letter in there. I love December because I usually get some Christmas cards… I send out lots in the hopes I’ll get some back.

  6. Amy

    I love your blog!!!! You are an inspiration to me. I look forward to reading your posts every morning. I am rather new to the world of blogging and look up to you. Thank you for sharing your amazing stories and great writting. Best Wishes. Happy Thanksgiving

  7. magpie


    I love getting mail. And just the other day, I got a note and a package from two different bloggers. That made my month!

  8. Kim

    I send a lot of snail mail. I buy stationery,though. I have no artistic skills and am still trying to live down “Needs Improvement” nursery school evaluations in Scissors and Coloring. The people at my Canada Post counter roll their eyes whenever I ask them for anything other than the same old flower stamps. And I was too embarrassed to ask for Royal Wedding ones.

  9. Ca

    Oh you make me laugh. I don’t know you or your mother (except from your blog), but were you thinking “only my mother…!”?

  10. The Honourable Husband

    A propos of nothing. I have just invested in a new pair of glasses, which Oliver Peoples marketed as the “Gregory Peck” series. They are modelled on the very glasses that Peck wore as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. No, they do not make me look like Hitler. Since I live in Germany, that’s a very good thing.

  11. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    I did carefully select that stamp just for you. Gregory Peck is such a Man.

    But if I’m honest, I’ll admit I chose Gregory in part because I couldn’t bear to part with my true favorite stamp: Owney the Postal Dog. Owney FOREVER!!

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