Vintage postage is a lovely way to add character to your envelopes and visually connect them to the history of the 241-year-old United States Postal Service. I get a fair number of questions about how to use vintage postage, and now that I'm including it in my seasonal stationery boxes, it seems like a great time to share some tips.
Vintage postage and standard postage come in lots of different colors, and I usually start here when curating a set of vintage postage. I search for stamps that work with the color scheme of the stationery I'm working with. My favorite sources for vintage postage are Verde Studio, Gubba Gumma, and Magnolia Postage.
Postage Requirements by Weight
The most practical and arguably the most important aspect of using postage (vintage postage, included) is making sure you are using the correct amounts. In order for your envelope to arrive at its destination, you have to meet up-to-date postage requirements. The amount of postage you will need will depend on the weight of the letter. Here is a breakdown of the 2017 postage rates per weight:
Postcard | $0.34
Letters 0 - 1 ounces | $0.49
Letters 1 - 2 ounces | $0.70
Letters 2 - 3 ounces | $0.91
Letters 3 - 3.5 ounces | $1.12
Non-Machinable Surcharge | $0.21
With vintage postage, since the amounts vary per stamp, you will need to compile a set of stamps that add up to at least the amount of postage your parcel requires.
Here's an example of a 70 cent compilation:
In case you don't have a postal scale to measure exact ounces, I'll offer a few guidelines. Most all standard greeting cards and RSVP cards are less than 1 ounce, and will only require 49 cents of postage. I typically recommend moving up to 70 cents for wedding invitation suites that include multiple cards. Square envelopes and anything that can't be sent through postal machines (like wax seals or bulky additions inside the envelope) may require a non-machineable surcharge of an additional 21 cents. And don't forget, if you're mailing a postcard, you get a discount! Only 34 cents for these.
Affixing Vintage Postage
I use this to glue them on, though I think any reputable glue stick would probably work. I wouldn't suggest licking them, though maybe that's obvious.
Having envelopes hand canceled is the sometimes elusive unicorn of this process. For some people, it is preferable to have envelopes hand canceled, especially if you are doing a large batch of fancy envelopes (for instance, your wedding invitations). The point of this is to avoid sending the envelopes through postal machines that print the ugly bar code along the bottom of the piece. Hand canceled envelopes also have a hand stamped cancel over the stamps, which also gives a pretty vintage feel. Here's an example of an envelope which my client, Caroline, had beautiful success hand canceling.
There are a couple strategies to try to make the hand canceling miracle happen. First, call ahead and call a few (post offices, that is). Usually, the less busy the the post office, the more open they will be to providing this service (ie try the suburbs). If you call ahead, and ask specifically if they will accommodate hand canceling, you can avoid wasting your time visiting the PO's that won't. If they seem open to it, your best bet is bringing the envelopes in and asking "Would you be able to help me get these hand canceled?". If they say yes, great! They may offer to do it for you, they may offer to let you do it yourself, and they may tell you you'll need to pay the non-machinable surcharge. It is always a gamble, but if you don't care about these details, I'd suggest, don't worry about hand canceling! It's not a necessity by any means.
Setting Them Free
If you're not worried about hand canceling, and are feeling confident you have enough postage affixed, you can drop them in any Post Office box, and they will be on their way. If you aren't confident about the amount, you can always take them into a Post Office to be weighed and have postage confirmed.
I offer color-curated vintage postage sets to my invitation clients, as well as vintage postage styling kits, in the case that you'd like a single set of vintage postage for your wedding photographer to use when styling stationery. However, if you have some extra time and patience, it's certainly possible to curate and affix your own vintage postage! Especially if you're only doing a few.
Please let me know if you have any questions, I am always happy to help.