Tutorial: Vintage Stamps

I'd like to think those vintage stamps are one of the reasons you guys likes my photo, other than the gold calligraphy of course!

I'd like to think those vintage stamps are one of the reasons you guys likes my photo, other than the gold calligraphy of course!

Because this is one of my favorite "props" and I've lost counts on how many times people asked questions about them! I figure I might as well turned them into a blog post and especially because this will give me some excuse to post my favorite images with vintage stamps (there's plenty) ;) So get ready as I'll answer the questions people always asked me and go over some tips on how to choose and arrange vintage stamps for your snail-mails, styling, or even invitation!

1. Can you use them? For real mail or package?

This is real suite with the actual postage you guys! You can actually mail them!!

This is real suite with the actual postage you guys! You can actually mail them!!

The answer is YES! With a caveat tho, you can only use the ones without postmarks in them. You want to make sure to use the "affordable" vintage stamps, NOT a collectible stamps. And this goes without saying, you can't really mix and match postage from different countries to send a real mail. Oh, and you have to do some serious math to make sure you have enough postage too! Which I'll go over below.

2. How much postage do I need to put?

So this type of stuffing will cost me a bit extra to mail. Always double check with your local post office when in doubt.

So this type of stuffing will cost me a bit extra to mail. Always double check with your local post office when in doubt.

On the plus side, USPS don't charge extra using all these old stamps (despite the extra works I put them through, bless their souls)! That being said, you're responsible to make sure you have enough postage so your beautiful mail don't bounce back. The safest way is to bring a sample to your local post office, have them weight your mail, and tell you the amount of postage needed. But ain't nobody got time for that! So here's some rule of thumb if you need to send bunch of pretty mails!

Forever stamps (2016) is 47 cents. It's good for most flat envelopes. Square cards and thick mail cost a bit more.

1 ounce (2016) is 68 cents. It's good enough for a flat 3-piece invitations suite or single card with wax seal. Don't forget to add your return stamps for the RSVP when needed! If your suite is not flat (belly band, twine, ribbon, wax seal, beads, you name it!), you'll need additional postage.

1 ounce+wax seals or twine will be 83 cents.

Standard international mail is $1.20.

International mail with extra wax seal is $1.36.

And if you're using wax seals and vintage stamps, make sure to ask your local post office for hand-cancelling option. This way your mail won't be scan through a machine which reduce the chance of destroyed mail. Please keep in mind that hand-cancelling means it might take longer for your mail to arrive and make sure to be really nice and sweet when you ask ;)

 3. Where can I buy them?

Let's talk about where to get those vintage stamps beauties!-Photo by Jennifer Kulakowski Photography

Let's talk about where to get those vintage stamps beauties!-Photo by Jennifer Kulakowski Photography

The three main sources are Etsy, eBay, and locally. Each of those have their own benefits and drawbacks so I'll try to explain them below. 

Of course, I have to confess that Etsy was the main reason I got hook with all the vintage stuffs. The marketplace is perfect for beginner who's very new with vintage stamps. They let you search based on themes or colors which makes it sooooo easy! Most of the seller sold their stamps in small quantity and many will actually group them in specific theme that fit standard postage too! All the photos are usually extra adorable and shipping are usually relatively fast. But all the extra curated works and excellent customer service means you will have to pay premium for them. And this might not be very ideal for large orders. I've purchased from GubbaGumma and My Vintage Post Office before so make sure to check them out. If you're looking for a curated selections, checked out Verde Studio and Edelweiss Post.

Next up is eBay. I love how affordable the pricing for vintage stamps in eBay so that's the best selling point. But you have to buy in big quantity, you need to purchase per sheet or in block of 10. Sometimes, this is exactly what you need when you have to find vintage stamps for real order. Instead of listing based on themes, eBay vintage stamps is listed with Scott number. It's like serial number for stamps, which makes it very easy for you to find them. If you really want to, you can invest in Scott Catalog for reference. If not, find the ones you like and look up their Scott Number to purchase from eBay.

Last is my favorite place to purchase my stamps, from my local vintage stamps store. It's convenience, he helped me find stamps with my most vague description (i.e. I want the owl thingy), and the price is somewhat in the middle. To find your own local gem, look for collectible coins/stamps store. I was lucky to find one pretty close by and you'll be pleasantly surprise what the local main street have in store for you! And if you only want to find what I usually use, check out my shop for that

Let's talk about some tips to pull a cohesive look with your vintage stamps. For this shoot, I use a combination of animal and landscape theme with some basic single color vintage stamps that complement the copper from the ink and the some of the deep blue from the invitation suite.

Let's talk about some tips to pull a cohesive look with your vintage stamps. For this shoot, I use a combination of animal and landscape theme with some basic single color vintage stamps that complement the copper from the ink and the some of the deep blue from the invitation suite.

Now that I've answered all the common questions, we can start working on the fun stuffs! I'll go over the different tips on how to create the cohesive "look", a few things to keep in minds, and some of my favorite layouts to arrange my vintage stamps!

1. Pick a common rule with theme, color, or combination of both.

First tips, I love to have a cohesive designs and I use my vintage stamps to add that additional details. I will either pull different stamps based on a common theme, a common color, or combination of both theme and color. Example of themes can be floral, stars, animals, etc. Color will be all red and black, blues, greens, etc. And of course, sometimes you can always combine both theme stamps with a few neutral stamps in color that match your theme stamps.

This one is an example of my favorite theme stamps. I was working on a styled shoot in Door County and want to embrace the natural landscape. So I choose these animal themes stamps from two different blocks.

This one is an example of my favorite theme stamps. I was working on a styled shoot in Door County and want to embrace the natural landscape. So I choose these animal themes stamps from two different blocks.

2. Keep an eye for the different sizes and face values of the stamps.

This are the most common mistakes when purchasing the stamps online since some can look deceivingly small and vice versa or very similar design but completely different face value. When in doubt for the sizes, try to purchase the stamps in person or do a small order for a test first. Other than size, you also want to keep in mind the face value of the stamps itself (especially when used as real postage). Since most of the gorgeous vintage stamps usually have smaller values, make sure to include some big value stamps in 20 cents or more. For my Christmas cards, I mix a current forever stamps with some vintage stamps to keep the cost and amount of stamps down. 

Here's an example on slightly deceiving vintage stamps. There are many square champion of liberty in small square, but there are ONE that come in huge square! Same goes with how much bigger the rectangular architectural stamps compare to the regular rectangle stamps. 

Here's an example on slightly deceiving vintage stamps. There are many square champion of liberty in small square, but there are ONE that come in huge square! Same goes with how much bigger the rectangular architectural stamps compare to the regular rectangle stamps. 

3. Keep a few basic go to arrangements!

Now let's get to the fun stuff and start licking (or glue stick, they work perfectly too)! Layout wise, I like to start with the biggest or tallest from the right hand-side and slowly get smaller toward the other end. I like to keep the ones in the same theme or sizes close or next to each other. I usually don't like to use the same exact stamps three in a row. And this goes without saying, try your very best to keep these stamps straight with even gaps between each stamps. The simplest arrangement I tend to use is the simple one row of horizontal stamps like you've seen above. It works best for my addressing style where everything tend to be very centered. That being said, there are some rare occasion when I actually have more negative space on top. For this, some of the first few stamps will have two or three row of stamps. For big orders such as Christmas cards or Invitation Suite, I'll pre-arrange one or two different layouts and just use the same one instead of trying to get creative for all.

The very rare occasion when I actually have three rows of stamps.

The very rare occasion when I actually have three rows of stamps.

Lastly, always keep in mind about the composition too! Treat vintage stamps layout just like styling the location for stationery and designing the invitation. Everything should be balanced, just like any good composition. Make sure that the contrast are not too heavy in one end. There transition between different design and color should not be too harsh. And as always, stamps are the finishing touches of your suite. They should complements your overall shoot, enhance the overall mood, and pull from the addressing you have; not the other way around. I tend to try them out and play with the arrangement multiple times before I finally happy with the result. Oh, and as always, have fun! And if you have any other questions, you know where to find me ;)

Much love,

Ruth

Told ya, I'm basically just putting all my favorite images here, like these outer space theme vintage stamps! They goes perfectly with the navy envelopes, gold addressing, and gold Silk and Willow ribbon ;)

Told ya, I'm basically just putting all my favorite images here, like these outer space theme vintage stamps! They goes perfectly with the navy envelopes, gold addressing, and gold Silk and Willow ribbon ;)