You’ve Got Mail: Grilled, Scrambled, And Other Delicious Stamps

Well, we’re just zipping right through this series, no? So far we’ve looked at various postal machines and how they work to flip mail around, cancel the postage, and sort it, all in a matter of seconds. We explored the first automated post office and found out why it was a failure, and we learned why it all depends on ZIP code. Now, it’s finally time for some really fun stuff: the stamp trivia.

Now I’m no philatelist by any standard, though I do have a few hundred stamps strewn about the house. The danger in philately is that you learn all sorts of cool things about stamps and their history, and you just want to buy more and more of them. So let’s go!

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You’ve Got Mail: It All Depends On ZIP Code

Previously on You’ve Got Mail, we looked at a few services that were designed to speed up the mail at various points along the way. But these improvements were all taking place on the USPS’ side of the the fence. Was there anything the customer could be doing to help out?

A post card from my collection.

As it turns out, yes. And it was almost too late. Whereas you could once address a letter or postcard simply to “Fred Minke, Somerset, Wis.” and it would reach him, the volume of mail was getting completely out of hand with the rise of computers, automated billing, and advertising. Something was needed to improve routing and speed up delivery.

We all know enough about ZIP codes to use them, but where did they come from? How many types are out there? What do they even mean? Let’s find out.

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