For the month of September, most First Class mail in the U.S. will feature a special postmark. It's a lovely script that says "Thinking of You." "Thinking of You Week" at the end of September is an initiative of the Greeting Card Association which does sort of make me roll my eyes a bit. Just giving those "holidays were only invented to sell greeting cards" yahoos more fuel for their conspiracy theory fires; but, hey, it seems like a happy, fun thing and I do like postmarks. Well, I like nicely stamped, legible postmarks like the design they show here.
Except that's not what we get. What we get is a sprayed-on ink jet cancellation mark which is fuzzy at best and a blurry smear at worst. The ink is never dry quick enough on the slickness of the stamps which inevitably leads to a blobby mess as the mail piece zips along through the rollers of the automatic postal machines. Thanks, I hate it!
According to Arago, the U.S.P.S. started using spray cancellations in 2006. I see examples from all over the world. Check out these from CanadaPost from way back in the mid 1990s. I'm aware that spraying on the cancellation is the most efficient way to encode the information needed in a postmark with the constantly updating and continually moving system that is the mail. The technology behind it is really fascinating in fact. Take a moment to marvel at these hand-held ink jet spray printers for example.
Linn's Stamp News seems to agree with me: "The sprayed-on cancel does a fairly good job of canceling the stamp. But the blurry and messy cancellation is not very aesthetically pleasing, and the postmark part and slogan, if there is one, are often nearly illegible." Spray cancels are so gross looking on mail and it makes me so sad. That postmark shown above is really sweetly designed and its delicate curves are done no favors by the method of marking. It makes you wonder why they bother with pictorial spray cancels at all.