I’m a stamp collector and part of how I like to capture the essence of a place is from the pretty stamps that they have. That includes the cancellation stamp that defines the place and the date of the cancellation.
Looking for travel journal ideas? You can read my travel journal entry here. – 11 Geeky Things to Include in Your Travel Journals.
Unfortunately, with the broad use of Internet and online sources, post offices and snail mail, are starting to become a thing in the past. But some collectors, including myself, still send out postcards and buy stamps.
How to buy foreign stamps and have them canceled?
It’s easy to buy a stamp, of course. Just go to any post office in the world and ask! Sometimes, the clerk will even show you all the stamps that they sell and allow you to pick the ones that you like.
Glue the new stamp on your journal page, and ask them to cancel it! Here are a few of my own experiences:
The Italian postal service tends to be a bit unreasonably strict about canceling any stamps that are not being sent out as regular mail. Although I have many other successful examples of Italian stamps, this particular Milan post office flatly refused to cancel my stamps, so I ended up canceling my own stamp and venting on my journal about it.
That’s one of the great parts about travel journaling – you can vent your frustrations and no one has to hear it but you!
I just so happened to arrive at the main post office on the day when they issued a new series of stamps. The helpful clerk was really excited to sell these new stamps.
As a result, I purchased the whole set and have them all fixed in my journal. Even better, they were canceled on the issue date!
The Vaduz main post office, which is the philatelic center, shares the space with the Liechtenstein visitors’ center. At the visitors’ center, you can purchase a novelty stamp for your passport, which many people do.
After purchasing a stamp and affixing it into my journal, the postal clerk regretfully informed me that they didn’t have the cancel stamp in that office, but they offered to cancel it with the ‘passport stamp’. So that’s what I did.
Typically you will have to pay in order to get this cancelation for your passport.
Sandwiched between France and Spain, the tiny Andorra Post service is also, interestingly, split between the two countries. They issue separate stamp systems, meaning you may choose whether you want to send your mail with the French Andorra post office or the Spanish Andorra post office.
Both the stamps and cancellation both have Andorra on them; however, they have different designs, depending on whether or not they are French or Spanish cancellations.
Andorra post office is definitely one of the most unique post offices in the world.
Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island is one of the most remote islands on earth, and there is only one post office on the island that is served by the Chilean Post Service. The post office mainly caters to tourists. Visitors buy stamps to send out postcards bearing the rare Easter Island cancellation.
You can also get a novelty stamp in your passport. I purchased the souvenir sheet of stamps that are only sold here. I had them cancelled using the two stamps available at this unique post office.
Robben Island, South Africa
Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site off of Cape Town. It’s where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for more than 30 years. You have to join the assigned tour groups in order to visit this historic island, and you can send out your postcards with a special cancellation from here.
I was lucky to have an awesome tour guide here. After explaining what I wanted, he went above and beyond to help me! We had to chase the post office lady around to get the cancellation, but we got it!
Canada and Japan
These two countries are philatelist-friendly, and in many major post offices, they have an additional cancellation you can ask for. These cancellations often have prettier images, including images of nearby landmarks where the post offices are located.
Oftentimes, you will have to ask these cancelations specifically, since they are only for philatelic purpose. Any clerks will be happy to retrieve them to cancel your stamps.
This is probably one of the most pleasant stamping experience that I’ve done. I’ve had several helpful clerks for several different days, and they all are helpful. Plus, who doesn’t like the very unique and rare Svalbard stamps? I love this signature Svalbard polar bear stamp – they are pretty.
Next time you’re on the road, try adding some of these stamps to your travel journal. It’s a neat souvenir of your journey and you’ll create a memorable story!