Gum vs. Self-adhesive: Lick or stick?

It has recently come to my attention that I have been wrong for decades about–well, many things, but specifically, about how people put stamps on their mail.

Born in the late 1980s, I can only faintly recall licking stamps as a child, when I eagerly asked my father if I could seal the envelopes and put the postage on his outgoing mail for the day. (Come to think of it, it’s even strange to remember a time when he had physical mail to send out.) Beyond my earliest memories of loitering around my dad’s desk, all of the stamps I’ve used have been of the peel-and-stick variety.

Sure enough, I learned, by 1993, the US was eagerly transitioning to self-adhesive stamps. Eventually, lick-and-stick stamps were phased out entirely.

Unbeknownst to me until recently, this is not the case elsewhere in the world! Apparently, some of you Postcrossers can choose today between paper stamps backed with a moisture-activated adhesive gum, or peel-and-stick postage!

I want to know what types are available in your country, which kind you prefer, and why!

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In New Zealand we have both. I think the adhesive ones are more for national posting but anything for overseas is moisture activated paper ones.

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Side note: @PinkNoodle you can get gummed USPS stamps on Ebay (and elsewhere) that haven’t been used, and you can use them just like current stamps! :slight_smile:

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@PinkNoodle failed to mention that they have to equal to the current stamp rates: 35 cents for a domestic card, 55 cents for a domestic letter, and $1.20 for international mail.

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Ohohohhh, @MeaganMS–don’t think for a second that I don’t have an Etsy wishlist full of them! :rofl:

I’m not a collector (…yet), but I am very tempted to pick up a few. :heart:

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Oh, awesome! I like to buy grab bags on Ebay because they are discounted from face value (usually) if you buy them like that. You just can’t pick exactly what you get. :slight_smile: I have a little notebook with “envelope” pages that I store mine in.

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[Gasp] I didn’t think of grab-bags–that’s a great idea! I love the inherent mystery involved! (I promise not to bid against you! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:)

@Spread-the-Joy, I am curious: are the lick-and-sticks more suitable to overseas travel because they adhere better?

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We only have traditional stamps. We don’t have self-adhesive stamps.
I always use glue. I never lick stamps. I think it’s gross :sweat_smile:

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In Finland we have no longer lick and stick stamps, they are all self-adhesive nowadays. I am a bit nostalgic about those old-fashioned ones. As an active letterwriter I even made my own stamp sponge in my teens. I didn’t enjoy licking them… I have kind of started liking the sticker stamps, with one exception. We have some special edition stamps that are printed on demand (one can order them with one’s own photos, but sometimes the mail services publishes their own: either to celebrate some current event or making local stamps). The idea is great, but they seem to be of lower quality. I have some older sets and it is quite hard of getting the stamps off without harming the stamps. (That is not a problem with normal stamps). What comes to stamp collecting, I am not even trying soaking them off envelopes. I either cut around them or keep them on. ( Of course I am not cutting the lovely cards I receive! And I have quite a few FDC’s).

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You must have a stamp moistener, then! If you’re really curious, there is a 1965 British study that addresses whether or not bacteria can survive in the gum arabic stamp adhesive! :laughing:

(Related: an episode of Seinfeld in which George Costanza’s fiancée dies from licking envelope adhesive. Fictional, of course. :wink:)

Both types are available here in Australia. I prefer the stick ones personally.

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We still have a lot of stamps to lick in France and it appears that they are the nicests (often) compared to those we can stick.
Licking them does not work all the time (they fall) so I use glue and yes, stamps take me a long time in the postcrossing process (especially as we have little additional stamps which I’m obliged to add if I want to use domestic rate stamps to have a wider choice).

It’s not so much about licking or not licking stamps but the most artistic stamps (for collectors at least,which I’m not, but you can see they have interesting details) are done with a technique that is called here “taille-douce” and it does exist only with stamps that you lick I think.
Taille-douce is maybe translated: intaglio (?). When you touch the stamp, you can feel the details, it’s not smooth. They are engraved.
I’m not a specialist but there are several techniques to create stamps.

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We have some of those in self-adhesive form in the US, and they do feel wonderful to touch! The site I linked mentions intaglio in the printing process, so I believe your translation is correct. I would also describe the stamps as embossed. :blush:

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Most of ours are self-adhesive, but there are some very low value ones (like the 50 öre stamps) that you gotta lick and the “special stamps” (aka. Europa, mini-sheets…) are lick and stick type.

For sending I like the self-adhesive, but for collecting the licked are better as self-adhesivet do not come off sometimes. Especially I have deep disappointment toward USA forever stamps as those do not come off the paper no matter to who you pray for or in which position the stars are on the sky. UK, Portugal and Spain stamps are also hard to get off sometimes. German stamps are the most trustworthy as they just slide off from the first touch of hot water.

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In Russia we have both types.

Standard stamps (which are available at all postal offices) are self-adhesive. New standard stamps are with the emblem of the Russian Post (they have special cuttings to prevent re-sticking), on previous stamps were depicted different kremlins (castles).

Artistic stamps are rarely available at postal offices, usually we order them online or at the official stamp issuer’s offices. Artistic stamps are both types, lick-and-stick ones are more common. I like triange-shaped ones, but it’s difficult to make a composition with added rectangular stamps.

By type, I like self-adhesive a bit more. I often drink green tea before licking stamps for unknown reason :slight_smile: The glue sticks good if I press down hard on the stamp immediately after gluing. If I apply many stamps or they’re quite large, the postcard (even thick one) starts bending and I put it under a pile of books for some time to avoid deformation.

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Israel’s stamps issues available on both types
Most normal issues gummed but definitive and ATMs always only self-adhesive.

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@Kompis-Ninna, I apologize on behalf of our Forever stamps and their unwillingness to release themselves from the paper. :rofl: Our stubbornness has imbued even our postage; where will it end?

Do you think putting washi tape underneath them might help them release better? I should experiment and report back!

@yarrow, triangular stamps! Wow! I will have to look back through my postcards from Russia; maybe I received some triangles in the past. Maybe they are balalaika-shaped! :blush:

I don’t know how green tea affects the stickiness of stamps, but it sounds like you have an excellent system and I trust it! :tea: Cheers!

@Tangorn, have you seen the USPS-Israel Post joint-issue stamps for Hanukkah? They’re beautiful. :heart_eyes:

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After catching the end of that Seinfeld episode, I always feel just a tinyyy bit scared and nervous whenever I lick an envelope that tastes a little weird or too strong. :sweat_smile: :sweat_smile:

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In Germany all stamps are issued gummed. Some however are also issued as self-adhesive either from a coil or a booklet or even both. I msinly use gummed stamps, as the selection is bigger, but on normal mail the self-adhesive stamps are more common.

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In Russia we have both, as yarrow said before. There are only “usual” stamps at my post office (with castles) so I buy unusual, beautiful ones in the Collector (Kollektsioner) shop. It’s the cheapest way to buy it, but the Collector has its shops only at big cities.
I refused to lick stamps some years ago because once I came to the post office and my stamps just peeled off the envelope! I thought — how many letters and postcards I have lost because of that?! I’m always using the glue stick now, the stamp’s glue is unreliable. I have a kind of phobia. :joy:

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