Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Canada- Alaska Cruise Picture Postage 2003

On July 19, 2003, Canada Post Corporation (CPC) issued a sheet of Picture Postage stamps for use by passengers on Holland America Line Canada-Alaska cruises.

The panes consisted of 10 undenominated stamps with a face value of $1.25, paying the international letter rate. Two designs were printed on each sheet:

The test issue was described by CPC in Canada's Stamp Details, Vol. 12, No. 4, 2003, p. 9 :
Based on the success of Picture Postage, Canada Post is currently testing new stamps with Canada-Alaska Cruise Picture Postage. Of the 50,000 Canada-Alaska Cruise Picture Postage sheets available, only 10,000 will be sold through our National Philatelic centre, with the remaining quantity being offered to cruise guests whose pictures will be printed directly on the stamps. The stamps are available blank and in sheet format and can be used as postage from Canada to anywhere in the world.
 (Not in author's collection)


Mail from a cruise passenger would be great to have. Unfortunately I must settle for an uprated 2004 cover to Romania:

Ottawa to Cluj-Napoca Romania, July 27, 2004
$1.40 cents paying the international letter rate

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Inside a Modern Mail Processing Plant

The Winnipeg Mail Processing Plant  (WMPP) located near the James Armstrong Richardson Airport opened in June, 2010. The plant handles local mail from Winnipeg and from all over Manitoba. This post describes the path taken by letters as they travel through the WMPP machines. 

My thanks to Mr. Eugene Knapik of Canada Post Corporation for information provided.

Edger Facer Machine

Mail from street letter boxes  is brought to a work centre that combines emptying the container or bag of mail, culling out any packets or other items that are not standard letters, and feeding the mail into a machine known as an Edger Facer Machine   that faces all the mail in the same orientation and direction. The facer module of the machine has an Indicia Detection System which scans both sides of the envelope to determine the orientation of the mail.

Multiple Line Optical Scanner

The mail is then  processed through a Mutiple Line Optical Scanner (MLOCRs).


There is a feeding station at the front of the machine which enables the operator to stack the mail so it feeds evenly and at an appropriate speed into the unit.


 Mail being fed into the MLORC

The MLORCs combine several functions:
  • Perform another cull of mail that cannot be processed through the machines
  • Read the handwritten or printed address and sort the mail to a destination carrier
  • Cancel any stamps
  • Take a picture of any letter that cannot be read, spray an identifier on the envelope and transport the letter to a special stacker. This is mail for video encoding
Each of the six MLORC units at the WMPP can handle up to 36,000 items of mail an hour.


  Letters travelling through the MLOCR

 The MLOCR scanner captures an image on the face of each envelope. 


The image is sent to the plant's Central Computer System (CCS).

The CCS finds the correct address block and verifies that the postal code matches the rest of the address information ( All the valid addresses in Canada exist on a database).  The postal code of the address is sprayed on the front of the envelope.

 If it is incorrect, the CCS corrects information wherever possible. If the address information cannot be confirmed or read, an  image of the letter is sent electronically to staff in the Video Endoding System (VES) to provide a sortation decision.

Video Encoding System (VES)

Canada Post Corporation introduced the VES in 1993 at other processing plants to handle mail which could not be read by the machine. About a dozen employees work in a quiet room separate from the rest of the work floor at the WMPP.  An image of the front of the letter which cannot be read by the machine is projected on a screen. The operator examines the item and enters the correct code in the computer. The information is transmitted to the MLOCR and the code determined by the VES operator is sprayed on the front of the envelope. It is possible to locate the letter in the MLOCR because a unique VES identifier code has been sprayed on the back of each letter.

VES identification code

 Older model VES consoles Toronto

The VES operation can be conducted off-site. Canada Post has announced that it will be consolidating its western VES coding operations into the new Pacific Processing Centre (PPC) in Vancouver. This will be implemented on a staggered basis beginning in February 2014. The PPC will have 55 VES desks that will be used to code for Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg.

Letter Sorting Machine

Letters coded by the MLOCR are then sorted in stacks by the Letter Sorting Machine. Sorted mail is removed manually and transferred to plastic bins.

 Toshiba Letter Sorting Machine


 Packets and Parcels

Optical Character Reader technology is also used to sort  packets, small parcels and large parcels at the WMPP.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Domestic Second Class Matter Regulations 1957

The Summer 1957 issue of Quebec Diocesan Gazette ("Gazette") shown below brings to life Canada Post Office's postal regulations dealing with domestic Second Class Matter.

The Gazette was mailed in July, 1957 at Quebec City to subscriber Mrs. V.F. Bartlett also of Quebec City. The 44 page publication was franked with a 2 cent Wilding definitive stamp. This post shows how the publisher of the Gazette complied with all the applicable Second Class Matter regulations found in the Canada Official Postal Guide 1957.

 One of several pages dealing with Second Class Matter in the Postal Guide

Definition of Second Class Matter

The Gazette was a periodical ( published 5 times yearly) published in the City of Quebec.

Statutory Conditions

Content and Publishing Intervals


The Gazette index demonstrates that it consists in great part of "political or other news, or of articles relating thereto, or to other current topics.

The Gazette was "published regularly at intervals of not more than three month."

Title, Place and Date of Publication, and Number of Issue

The Quebec Diocesan Gazette (full name printed) was published in the City of Quebec. 

The issue was Vol. LXIX-No.3, published "Summer, 1957"

Examination by Postmaster General and Endorsement

The Gazette's endorsement on page 7 was printed on the  fifth page of the publication if the front and back of a sheet equals one  page. (I don't know if the Gazette did this correctly.)

Size Limit

 The Gazette's approximate 1 foot 8 inches combined length and girth is well within the 6 foot limit.


 The Gazette was mailed by its publisher to a bona fide subscriber, within the place of its office, Quebec City.

 Quebec City, July 1957

 Having taken the reader through all the above regulations I now reach a problem area- the basis for the 2 cent rate. This is what the regulation says:

Is it 2 cents per lb. or 1 cent for the first 2 oz., etc.? Either way the rate would have been 2 cents. But in my opinion the regulation is ambiguous. I could make a case for either one. I simply don't know. So after a detailed review of the regulations we end on a fuzzy note. The journey was interesting though.

Picture Postage Stamps

Canada Post Corporation's temporary withdrawal of "Permanent" stamps reminded me of the 2001 "Picture Postage" booklet I had in my collection.

 The stamps are non-denominated (47 cents when issued) but printed Domestic Lettermail

This is how Canada Post Corporation described the stamps in its press release:

Designer Steven Spazuk has given Greeting Stamps a fresh new look. The mahogany frame has been replaced with a new "Baby" frame, and the "Thank You/Merci" sticker has been replaced with a picture of white baby shoes. The four frames retained from the previous set are: silver, gold leaf, "Love," and Christmas; the remaining four stickers are: maple leaf, pen, heart, and holly. As before, the frames can be positioned either horizontally or vertically, but the new design shows no denomination. Each booklet of five frames and five stickers includes a Picture Postage™ order form so customers can order their own personalized photo stickers to combine with these frames and create their own unique stamps.

When I first thought of writing this post, my intention was to provide information about these "Permanent" stamp precursors but I discovered a well-researched and illustrated website that covers the topic better than I could ever dream of accomplishing. I invite you to visit  BRC Stamp's "Picture Postage Stamps of Canada" site. Great work. Can we expect an update?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

1995 Undenominated Stamp Issues

In 1995, Canada Post Corporation (CPC) did a most unusual thing. It issued stamps without denominations. In this era of "P" (permanent) stamps this may not appear to be a significant action but it was quite bizarre in 1995.  The first non-denominated stamp was issued on May 1, 1995 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Canadian flag.

This was followed on May 5, 1995, by a set of 5 non-denominated stamps issued in se-tenant format featuring the Fortress and town of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.  The issue marked the 275th anniversary of the official founding of the fortress; the 250th anniversary of the siege by the New Englanders; the 100th anniversary of the commemoration by the Society of Colonial Wars; and the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Sydney and Louisbourg (S & L) Railway.

 Se-tenant set of 5 stamps

The domestic letter rate at that time was 43 cents. The rate increased to 45 cents on August 1, 1995. These were the only stamps that were issued without denominations in 1995. Subsequent issues to July 14, 1995 were printed with 43 cent denominations.Although there has been speculation that CPC issued the undenominated stamps because regulatory authority for an anticipated rate increase had been delayed. I have not been able to find a CPC news release explaining the omission of the denominations. Since I was not particularly active in my collecting pursuits in 1995, I may have missed the CPC announcement. If you know the story please email me at philcovex@gmail.com


a) To July 31, 1995

Unlike today's undenominated "P" stamp which is always accepted at the current domestic postage price regardless of rate increases,the non-denominated 43 cent 1995 stamps have retained their 43 cent value.

 Toronto LPP to Stephenville Crossing, July 6, 1995
43 cents domestic letter rate

Stoney Creek LPP to Toronto, June 19, 1995

b) From August 1, 1995

On August 1, 1995, the domestic letter rate increased from 43 cents to 45 cents. The cover shown below was franked with a Louisbourg non-denominated (43c) stamp,in April 1996, nine months after the rate had increased to 45 cents. The cover was not taxed.

 Stoney Creek LPP to Niagara Falls, April 4, 1996
45 cents domestic letter rate
Shortpaid 2 cents but not taxe

My guess is that CPC did not wish to engage in  disputes regarding the non-denominated stamps and ignored post-July 31, 1995 franking shortfalls.