For some, it is outdated. For others, it is an everyday object. And for still others, it is a real treasure: the postage stamp. Changing face after each presidential election, Marianne, the basic stamp, revealed its new design, amid a certain indifference from the public. “I remember that under Chirac, in 2005, we had the right to a presentation with great fanfare of the new Marianne to the prefecture of Saint-Étienne. It was a national instruction, but times have changed,” laments Charles Chrétien, president of the Philatelic Association of Saint-Étienne.
Usual or collectible object
While the flow of letters transported by post has increased from 18 billion to 8 billion in around ten years, who still buys stamps?
The vast majority are professionals and businesses who need to send administrative letters. Postcards or letters from individuals are becoming rarer, explain the Post Office services. “Stamp sales fluctuate a lot. Sometimes, no one asks us for one for weeks, and suddenly, we are asked for 3, 4 or even 8 notebooks,” comments an agent from the Bellevue Post Office in Saint-Étienne.
In Saint-Priest-en-Jarrez, on the other hand, we have not sold a booklet for months: “People order on the internet and receive their stamps directly at home,” we explain on site.
As for tobacco bar owners, we see a constant decrease in the number of stamps sold. For Betty Peromet, owner of Cadore in Roanne, the end of the red stamp (reserved for priority letters) has accelerated the decline in sales. “Today I sell around 200 stamps per month, but it was a lot more before the end of the priority stamp. It is mainly traders and elderly people who come for this. They prefer to come to us rather than queue at the post office.”
“We struggle to transmit the passion for stamps to young people”
Philatelists are also struggling. In Saint-Étienne, the Philatelic Association has brought together enthusiasts and collectors from across the Loire since 1908, but is struggling to renew its members. “In my youth, there were around 30,000 young philatelists in the Rhône-Alpes region, there will be no more than around thirty in 2023. Philately is becoming, unfortunately, a passion for gray hairs,” laments Charles Chrétien.
And yet, collecting stamps is also an opportunity to discover history through this everyday object. “For example, Giscard had requested a retouch of his Marianne from 1977, because she had her left arm raised, which made him think a little too much of a certain François Mitterrand.”
Philately: the boom in commemorative stamps
In reality, among the 1.2 billion stamps printed each year, only 400 million are from the Marianas. Apart from thematic stamps, La Poste via its Philaposte service produces dozens of commemorative stamps each year, generally at the request of an association which can then use them as a memory tool.
This is what happened at the beginning of September in Roche-la-Molière. Thanks to a partnership with the Polish Stamp Committee association, the municipality was chosen to be the first place to sell a stamp commemorating the centenary of Polish immigration.
“We worked for two years with the Post Office and other Polish associations at the national level. This commemorative stamp was an opportunity for us to talk about the history of our ancestors who arrived en masse in 1923 to work in the mines,” confides Helene Favard, member of the committee.
A stamp which attracted collectors wishing to obtain it on its first day of issue, making it a collector’s item.