B.C. stamp collectors reap benefits of unique Canada Post stamp machine

A 24/7 kiosk in Vancouver, which dispenses stamps with images of Group of Seven paintings, was meant to make it more convenient to buy stamps at any hour. But collectors have flocked to the machine, recognizing that the stamps it prints are rare.

Group of Seven-themed stamps from 24/7 machine in Vancouver meant for convenience

Stamps printed from a self-serve Canada Post kiosk in Vancouver are popular among collectors due to their rarity. As well, the stamps sometimes contain errors, increasing their value even more. (Frank von Hausen)

A 24/7 kiosk in Vancouver, which dispenses stamps with images of Group of Seven paintings, was set up to make it more convenient to buy stamps at any hour.

The Canada Post 24/7 kiosk allows customers to print stamps in four denominations. (Chad Pawson)

But collectors have flocked to the machine, recognizing that the stamps it prints are rare and only available from that machine. Added to that, the technology sometimes malfunctions and prints a stamp with an error on it, increasing its value even more.

"As soon as you hear about something through the grapevine or just hear about some unannounced new Canada Post undertaking, it's usually worth your while to go over and take a flyer on buying up a batch of them as soon as they come out," said Andrew Blanchard, who operates Weeda Stamps in Victoria, B.C., and has printed $15,000 worth of the stamps. 

"I mean if they don't go up in value I can always use them on parcel post."

But they have gone up in value, especially the ones with errors on them. 

Frank von Hausen, a Vancouver dealer with a shop a block away from the Georgia Street kiosk, sells the collection of stamps for $59 each. If the stamps are purchased at the machine, the cost is far lower; five stamps of each of the denominations costs a total of $32.

Von Hausen has seen the stamps offered online for up to $120.

Group of Seven-themed stamps, available only in Vancouver, Edmonton and Richmond Hill, proving popular among collectors. 1:26

The machines were installed in November 2016 as part of a concept store to appeal to online shoppers and those wanting to buy stamps around the clock.

Collectors like Blanchard in Victoria and von Hausen heard about the machines and their propensity — at least in the first month — to print stamps with errors on them, such as an 18-digit serial number, which ran over the artwork.

Stamp collector and dealer Frank von Hausen has purchased up to 180 sets of the four-denomination stamps and sold all of them for roughly double the price. (Chad Pawson)

"As far as the collecting community goes, it's something that's a little bit different, it may or may not be a permanent thing. Canada Post has tried this before," said von Hausen, referring to computer-generated stamps offered in 2012, which were discontinued after about a year.

A sign on the stamp machine at the Vancouver Canada Post kiosk on Georgia Street warns users from ordering too many stamps at once. Victoria collector and dealer Andrew Blanchard says he's printed out $15,000 worth of stamps from the machines, which needed constant rebooting. (Chad Pawson)

Canada Post is not saying much at all about the interest in the stamps, or how collectors have flocked to the machines, often jamming them.

This run of five domestic rate stamps printed off from the Vancouver Canada Post kiosk machine have an anomaly. The word 'permanent' on the bottom stamp is smaller than the others. (Chad Pawson)

It has, however, added two more locations for the machines, one in Edmonton and one in Richmond Hill, Ont. You can also now order the domestic rate stamp — or permanent ones — from the Canada Post online store.

"The kiosk stamps are a trial for this type of postal service and usage will be assessed prior to rolling out to other locations," said a Canada Post spokesperson in an email.

Although that means more stamps are available, collectors like von Hausen will be watching to see if the machines stay, or are ultimately pulled by Canada Post.

"I understand they're having a lot of problems with the machines and one of the options is just to discontinue it altogether," said von Hausen.

"If that were to happen, then it's a limited run of stamps in relatively small quantities that was only available for two and half months, let's say. So, in that sort of scenario they would go up in value over the years."