One Persons Philatelic Meat Is Anothers Poison
My initial feelings when seeing the title "Defaced Mail" was probably the same as most readers would be. But, never say never, I soon found browsing through the twenty or so album pages to be quite interesting. Some deduction enabled the collector to explain why some items had missed normal postmarking resulting in the "defacement" and, in a few cases, the actual hand cancellation of the stamps was quite artistic!
While I appreciate it's sad for most collectors when they see a scruffy biro scrawl over the stamps on a letter that arrives on their doorstep but there is another side to the argument. Postal mechanisation by and large works extremely well and we're talking about a very small percentage of mail that escapes normal postmarking. The stamps that are not cancelled when they pass through the mail system all too often end up in kiloware and recycled just to end up on new mail items again. Understandably the revenue protection people at Royal Mail want to limit this kind of thing from happening more than it already does.
So while we may view a hand cancelled item of mail as a "defacement" I can understand why the Royal Mail would probably applaud the postal worker that took the time to ensure those stamps, having served their purpose once, couldn't be reused again. I doubt they would refer to him as "lazy" and I doubt they consider the action a "defacement". Remember too that the original intention of stamp cancellation by the Post Office was to "obliterate" the stamp! Yes, of course it would be nice for these items to be collected together in sorting offices and neatly struck with a proper handstamp but, in this time sensitive day and age, how realistic is this to expect?
So, wherever we stand on the subject of mail defacement by postal workers - I personally have to salute the collector who saw the potential to write up an interesting collection of what I would call "Hand Cancelled Mail" rather than "Defaced Mail". It's certainly not an idea I would have ever conceived of but it does illustrate how some people can find enjoyment and be productive using items that others might hate - even when it comes to postal history and philately.
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