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Please note: This page is for the beginner!

  What are old letters?

Why are they interesting?

Why do I collect Postmarks?

NOTE: Never tear old stamps from letters or postcards. They are sometimes more valuable if left intact. A letter or card can tell you so much more than just a stamp alone.

Well I am not a Historian or a good writer, but here goes.

Postal History is the study of methods used to convey the mail around your Country & the rest of the world. Like myself, most are happy searching for just postmarks of their home town...But there is more, much more. What are all those  marks on my envelopes and cards?

Do people really collect postmarks? Someone had to spend he's entire day at the first South Pole base postmarking letters for collectors wanting the "South pole" postmarks. Carrying the mail was the main revenue for the Zeppelin fights and by collectors wanting mail stamped as having been carried by the great airships. So it seems postal history has always been popular. It is a huge subject covering such things as Pony Express riders, Indian thumb prints, Pigeon or rocket mail just to name a few.

Some collectors have spent their whole lives researching just one type of postmark or mail route. Visit Vera Trinder's website and see all the many diverse titles in the Postal History book section.  An accumulation of a someone's lifetime hobby and research added to someone else's previous work!

What to collect? Well, why do I collect postmarks etc of my home town in England? Here is the inside of a letter written by a child in 1833 in England.  She lived in my old town over 170 years ago! Who was she?  Is the house still there? Is the family still there? How was the letter carried from one place to another?

The postmarks and address answer a lot of these questions. Where it was posted. How much it cost to send.  Where it was going to. What route it took on it's journey. If I looked in my local library and church records, I might be able to find out about the people mentioned in the letter,  How they are connected and about their family. Are there any more letters or cards from the family to be found? You will find that in these times very few people could read and write, let alone afford to send letters. So it stands to reason that if you find one letter from a particular family, you will undoubtedly find some more items. Normally at one place or In an Estate sale. 

Some of the letters of this period, would only give brief details for the post/mailman. BELOW. A letter addressed to just "Mr Candy, Pimlico, London". No Zip or postcode to help. Not even a street! Do you think the postman had to know where everybody lived?  This letter shows that the letter was posted in my home town of Bracknell in Berkshire England. Postmarked. (A straight black town mark, top right). It has a number underneath to tell how many miles from London the town was. "31" in this case. All letters went via London at first, so the postage was charged with regard to how many miles from London the letter was posted The post free mark in red tells me it was posted on Jan 5th 1828. A "post free" mark was a much abused free post  privilege given to members of Parliament and other government agents (see my article about Bracknell postal history for more details)


Well, you might ask, why does the letter below show a similar postmark with the mileage as  "32"? Don't they know how far London is away? If you were to study the postal history of the town of Bracknell, you will find that at one time the mail came via Windsor where the famous castle is. The mail coach dropped the mail at Windsor and the Bracknell postman had to walk through the forest to pick it up each day.  The route changed at some time and the post to & from Bracknell came via Virgina Water near Runnyemeade (where the Magna Carta was signed), This route was only 31 miles from London. Mystery solved!

You can view more about my own collection at "Bracknell an ongoing project"

You can find old letters and postcards almost anywhere. "garage sale", "car boot sale" etc. Some dealers only sell and buy Postal history, but it is more exciting finding it for yourself, also cheaper. One of the best sources is to visit a local antique or collectors fair and rummage through the boxes of old letters and cards. Allow yourself a good day at the larger fairs!!

I have a letter that has been sent all around the isle of Trindad, being postmarked at every little village on the way! I also have a postmark from a post office that was only open for 1 day!! The 2 world wars and occupations brought many interesting postal arrangements, this alone is a huge subject all of its own. So you see there is plenty interesting things to find and study.

Maybe in some years to come you will be among those collectors that publish their life time studies for the benefit of others to follow. Plus we all love sharing our finds and knowledge.


How about collecting postmarks!
You can just collect a particular type of postmark if you wish, How many different  postmarks can you collect from your town? Or like many do, just collect one type of postmark This makes it much more manageable lifetime quest. Good example,  Squared circles like the one above where used in many Countries for a short period. I bet there where many different types of postmarks used in your home town over the years, Just collect your home town. Some of mine are illustrated below. You could collect railway station postmarks, Airplane or ship postmarks, special events etc.

TIP: A good cheap source to find postmarks are on the humble Postcard. Visit a postcard fair

Here are just a few of the my postmarks I have found for Bracknell town. this does not include the outlying little villages either. How many could you find of your home town?

Remember. There are books available that will tell you all about postmarks and the postal system. visit VERA TRINDER to visit the book section on line



Copyright F.MARDLE 1999. updated 2005. All rights reserved. 

Get searching. And most of all, enjoy yourself.




Who am I and  a brief history of this site
The owner of this site has no direct connection with any of the Charities or Companies that have links or articles published or listed on this site. The views of contributors are their own.  Copyright F.MARDLE 1999 - 2005  All rights reserved. Published by STAMPHELP. COM  Reproduction in whole or in part of any part of this site is strictly prohibited.