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I have written a while ago on how I welcome innovation initiatives by post offices. At the very least, they render me a smile when I see them in a letter waiting for me in my letter box. Or I actually would, were they used in common mail. Although entertaining, they are unfortunately rarely noticed by common individuals, usually not made available for sale in most post offices, especially in the country side - and when available, their usage is not commonly recommended by post office clerks even when their postal rate makes them absolutely a fine alternative to whatever common issue they have at great numbers. In the end, they are seldom used in mail and are only purchased by collectors who know what the clerk is hiding in the deepest part of his/her stamp drawer. The result is a staggering increase in the price of these stamps a couple of years later, when one searches for them at a dealer's shop.
Although this results in very happy collectors and dealers who used their knowledge to fetch these pieces right at issue day, the promotion of the hobby suffers enormously from it.
I showed a couple of such Swiss issues to non-collectors to see their reaction. The 2004 commemorative “Swiss wood” made of actual wood and the 2000 NABA St. Gallen featuring an embroidery typical from that region received an “oh, that’s pretty cool” from my friends, followed by their fingers passing on the surface trying to understand their material. Their face value was 5chf, meaning only useful for postage of big letters (35,3x25cm), or standard envelopes weighing more than 51 grams sent by priority mail abroad. The result is that the first almost quadrupled in value 9 years later, and the second costed 12 chf in 2013.
Still, the one that makes me smile the most is the 2004 set on the Titeuf Comics, where silly and funny strips are presented. My scan, for some reason make the colours appear rather dull in the picture, but they are actually quite bright and rather shiny. The blue background stamp with the boy and the snowman drew some laughs from my Swiss 'test subjects' who were also somewhat proud to have their culture’s sense of humour represented on mail. Now the face value of this particular set most definitely posed no barrier for it to find its way on letters. 85 cents is the base price for B inland mail in the country. Maybe companies found it too childish to use it when sending bills, and perhaps households believed it just did not send the ‘happy birthday’ message their in-laws wanted to receive. Whatever the case, its price tripled since issue day.
Even with an inclination towards the classical stamp collecting period, I can and do appreciate such joyful pieces.
I cannot only hope they continue to come about from time to time, but also that they not only reach collectors, but a broader audience in the future.
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