British stamps used to have “class”. In fact, they still do. Trust the aristocratic system to filter down even to the philately!
The way it worked was like this: sending mail could be paid one of two ways – ‘first class’ mail was handled with priority and generally arrived the very next day, sometimes before 8am in the first delivery by the mailman. ‘Second class’ mail would be out-sorted and travel by slower means and could take up to 3 days to arrive somewhere else in the UK – perhaps even in the second, less urgent delivery by the mailman before 11am. People used to use this second class mail because they could send letters and cards more cheaply knowing that it would still arrive, but not as urgently as the solicitor’s letters or utility bills.
So all this worked wonders up until the arrival of the Internet, email and the general malaise in physical letter writing. Even Christmas cards are falling in sales and people use social media to share tidings of good will to all mankind, even if they don’t know half of them. The only things still being sent by postal mail seem to be invitations to invest in dubious foreign housing schemes or speeding bills from the local constabulary, while social media has become the vehicle of choice to speak to distant friends or relatives.
I saved money by purchasing these stamps in large quantities – as they had no face denomination you were able to use them indefinitely while the system still existed. Over the years the colour changed, but generally the design remained the same with the image of the queen and the indicia of 1st/2nd to indicate first and second class postage paid. I have noticed recently that my stock of stamps isn’t shrinking at any rate, certainly not an alarming one and the sole usage now seems to be sending off work receipts for scanning. Requests from the rest of the family have dropped almost to zero and I am beginning to wonder if there is any point as between printing online postage for parcels, along with the fall in personal postage means that my store of stamps may just outlast me now…