Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The Secret Meanings of Old Stamps

If you're participating in Paper Garbage/Write Your Friends month, here's an additional way to pass them information:

[H]ere we publish the secrets of the language of stamps. If the stamp stands upright in the upper right corner of the card or envelope, it means: I wish your friendship. Top right, across: Do you love me? Top right, upside down: Don’t write me any more.

And so forth. (Including "You're right about my lady-friend" — right-hand top corner.) There doesn't yet seem to be code for "Inside this package you will find a piece of beautiful coded jewelry, from me to you, for no reason," but we could probably come up with something. [Via]

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Oh, god. Now I'm going to be totally OCD about how I put stamps on envelopes to make sure I'm not telling the electric company I want to make out it or asking my dear grandmother to eff off.


@tortietabbie I'm already super-OCD about lining them up so there's an even amount of envelope on the two outer sides, and this is only going to make me worse.


@tortietabbie I think I accidentally propositioned my aunt with my thank-you card stamp


@tortietabbie Yeah, me too... And I may have to start writing more letters, jsut to use the secret language of stamps. Hairpin penpals, anyone, since nobody else will have a clue??


I was just about to go post this link in the Paper Garbage post! Great minds, eh?


I just use W.A.S.T.E.



"What about that stamp of Cohen's? We Await Silent Tristero's Empire."

"They were more open in their youth. Later, as the Feds cracked down, they went over to stamps that were almost kosher-looking, but not quite."

Oedipa knew them by heart. In the .15 dark green from the 1893 Columbian Exposition Issue ("Columbus Announcing His Discovery"), the faces of three courtiers, receiving the news at the right-hand side of the stamp, had been subtly altered to express uncontrollable fright. In the .03 Mothers of America Issue, put out on Mother's Day, 1934, the flowers to the lower left of Whistler's Mother had been replaced by Venus's-flytrap, belladonna, poison sumac and a few others Oedipa had never seen. In the 1947 Postage Stamp Centenary Issue, commemorating the great postal reform that had meant the beginning of the end for private carriers, the head of a Pony Express rider at the lower left was set at a disturbing angle unknown among the living. The deep violet .03 regular issue of 1954 had a faint, menacing smile on the face of the Statue of Liberty. The Brussels Exhibition Issue of 1958 included in its aerial view of the U. S. pavilion at Brussels, and set slightly off from the other tiny fair-goers, the unmistakable silhouette of a horse and rider. There were also the Pony Express stamp Cohen had showed her on her first visit, the Lincoln .04 with "U. S. Potsage," the sinister .08 airmail she'd seen on the tattooed sailor's letter in San Francisco.

"Well, it's interesting," she said, "if the article's legitimate."

"That ought to be easy enough to check out." Bortz gazing straight into her eyes. "Why don't you?"


If I put my stamps upside down when I pay bills, do you think they'll just leave me alone from then on? Because that would be great.



If you're passive-aggressive and rich, use this one.


@atipofthehat "most famous error in American philately." = smartest of all the Kardashians?


@NeenerNeener I used to think they wouldn't deliver an envelope if the stamp wasn't right-side-up. This has all been very illuminating.



Fellately, heh heh.


@atipofthehat It would have to be a pretty big bill for me to shell out that kind of cash in the name of passive aggression. Because, yes, I am rich, I just don't like to pay bills (because I want to stay that way).
Okay, that was mostly bull, I pay my bills online like a normal person.


@boyofdestiny Me too! I swear someone told me that as a child.


@Ophelia Maybe they just didn't want anyone's feelings getting hurt.


This is wonderful! I always make sure to line up stamps just right (I honestly don't think I've mailed anything in about 7 years? But in theory. I mean, I write people letters, but I hand deliver them.) because I had an 'aunt' (older person you're not related to but is basically family) who would explain to me as a kid all this stuff stamps meant, but I could never remember what, and I was always worried everyone knew but me, so I was always afraid to send the wrong message.


I am apparently always asking people if they love me then


@Megan Patterson@facebook I send the neediest envelopes.

one cow.

In my fam, we were told that an upside-down stamp (on the right side...can you even do the left side?) meant "I love you." We've always received & sent cards with stamps that way within the fam. It's the best!


@one cow. Same with my fam. Thought this was a universal thing? Guess not. Also, I've always thought it would be a good idea for them to make a F-you stamp (like of a middle finger, or someone's butt) to put on letters/bills/parking tickets that warranted it. But yeah, now I pay that stuff online. However, I would go back to paper for the right kind of F-you stamp.


oooh, I have been rereading the Betsy-Tacy series (best books ever!) and according to Betsy's narrative, when Tacy put the stamps on the letters upside down, that meant love. I'm holding on to that secret language forever!


@editrickster YES! I do that whenever I write my bestie a letter, and she does the same. We're also fans of "HHAS" after our names.

Also, we're totally roadtripping to the Betsy-Tacy convention this summer, because our BT love knows no bounds!


@DandelionTacy So this is like a year late. How was the convention?! I'm rereading the books on my kindle now! I <3 Betsy-Tacy until the end of time.

ida claire

wouldn't the stamp in the picture above signify "do you love me?" rather than "do not write to me..."?

It looks like it's across, rather than upside down.

aah confusing!

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