(My theme for April's A to Z blogging challenge is postcards. If you want, read my intro post).
There is one additional benefit from getting postcards sent by users from all over the world as opposed to buying them for yourself from online market places: Stamps. Yes, stamps and postcards go hand in hand. It is interesting to see what kind of stamps different countries have. Some users go the extra mile and choose colorful stamps of different sizes and denominations when mailing postcards.
For example: In the U.S.A., it currently costs $1.15 to mail a card outside the U.S. (this includes Canada, but there are exceptions for U.S. territories). The post office sells a global forever stamp that you can use to make it easy. Or, you can buy stamps in the following combinations:
... and so on. Also since the current rate for U.S. global stamps is 50 cents, you can use two of those to make a dollar, and then add your extras that combine to make 15 cents for total of $1.15.
Yes, it takes extra effort, but people love to receive cards with different stamps and show their appreciation in thank-you messages. The thing is, there is no 15-cent stamp, which would make it a bit easier and take up less space. Some postcard designs don't allow for use of multiple stamps, that's another problem too.
I do find that the U.S. has pretty boring stamps when compared to many other countries. Plus, they tend to range in the same size and I've not seen really big stamps in a long time. Although, the USPS issued a solar eclipse stamp last year that was pretty nifty. They also had planets, but I can't find them anymore.
The USPS does have a postal website where you can buy stamps, but they don't include everything that's been issued recently (and of course you have to pay for shipping). I have no idea who decides these things, but the selection on the site stays pretty much the same, except for the occasional new releases. However, not all of them stick around. It's anyone's guess how that works.
What makes a stamp interesting? To me, the following criteria apply:
1. Size (bigger is better)
2. Shape (the most unusual, so far, has been a hexagon)
3. Subject matter (to me, cats rule)
4. Variety of colors (bright, vivid = better)
5. Country of origin
So far, my most interesting country stamps come from Serbia, Slovenia and Israel. If you're wondering who has the most "boring" stamps (in addition to the USA), I would say United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Germany's stamps don't impress me that much either. Who has the best? Russia and China, although a lot of their cards tend to be on the meh side. The awesome stamps make it better!
Of course my view points are skewed because I've only received cards from 43 countries. Plus, I have lots of cards from some countries and only one or two from others. For example, I only have one card from countries such as Romania, Israel, Croatia, Algeria and Peru, and those stamps are interesting to me because of where they came from. However, I don't know what variety those countries have. So, I am sure there are plenty of cool stamps from other countries that I have not received yet.
Also, within Postcrossing circles, there is one coveted stamp design: The Postrcossing stamp, of course. Yes, that is correct. The site that I use the most for postcard exchange has its own postage stamp in numerous countries.
So far, I have received five international postcards that had the Postcrossing postage stamp of the respective country affixed. Two from Belarus (different designs issued in different years), one from Malaysia, one from Ukraine and one from Czechia. The card from Malaysia was sent from a user of Postcard United though, not Postcrossing. Go figure! If you want to see what those four stamps look like, you can see them about my review post about www.Postcrossing.com.
Anyway, not that the USA will ever have a Postcrossing-themed postage stamp. I did check the USPS website to see what the guidelines are for stamp designs, and, as usual, the post office governing body is strict and boring about these things. While anyone can suggest stamp designs (you can Google on how to do it, but you might not stay awake reading that).
Anyway, I have taken pictures of some of my favorite international stamps. Take a look below. I didn't crop them neatly as to give you an idea of the size of them.