Did you ever wonder what would happen to stamp collections once electronic mail took over? Surprisingly, e-mail has not stamped out stamps, and the philatelic department of San José’s main post office keeps busy displaying and selling new issues, first-day covers and pre-stamped postcards.
People still send out mail through the post office, and some prefer commemorative stamps to show off a little bit of Costa Rica.
Some collectors buy just one of each issue, while others buy a numbered sheet, or pliego, containing a series of stamps. Still others use commemorative stamps just because they are pretty. For some issues, you must buy the whole sheet – but remember, you can always use the stamps as regular postage.
Tourists buy stamps as souvenirs and to send postcards on their way. Some collectors specialize, such as the man who collects soccer stamps from different countries, and the woman who buys a few stamps from every country she visits. Others buy only stamps showing nature, plants and animals.
The philatelic office, on the first floor, right-hand side, of San José’s main post office as you enter, has glass cases displaying newer stamps and first-day issues with canceled stamps. Commemorative stamps come in different values, but most are ¢115 ($0.22) for domestic mail and ¢155 ($0.30) for North America.
Each year about seven new stamps are issued to commemorate an anniversary or an event. Themes are chosen by the Philatelic Technical Commission from ideas submitted by organizations or the public.
This year’s stamps commemorate the Special Olympics, picturing three of Costa Rica’s top special athletes; the 150th anniversary of the Campaign of 1856 and national monument; national parks; education in the Cabécar language; pre-Columbian art; and indigenous wild fruit. With the holidays ahead, there are also postcards with Christmas designs pre-stamped and ready to go anywhere in the world.
Each year during the month of December, a special holiday stamp is required for all mail. These cost about ¢35 ($0.07) each and are for the benefit of the Ciudad de los Niños in Cartago, east of the capital, which provides a home and services for 300 atrisk teenagers.
The philatelic office is open the same hours as the main post office, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.