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News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Blog > Poll results: Licked or self-adhesive stamps?

Many of you might not remember we used to have polls on the site, a looooong time ago. The last time we ran a poll on Postcrossing was back in 2011… and we seem to have forgotten all about them. Paulo stumbled on the code for polls recently and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it still works! So we decided to run a poll about something that has been intriguing us for a while: people’s preferences on the stamp types and how they adhere to postcards. Are self-adhesive stamps (that you peel off a sheet) better than stamps on gummed paper (that you lick)? Does it even matter?

But first, a bit of postal history: can you name the first stamp ever made? And who was its creator?

If your answer was Penny Black and Sir Rowland Hill, you’d be correct on all counts! In its 1837 pamphlet, Sir Rowland Hill called for “low and uniform rates” according to weight (rather than distance) and proposed the concept of stamps: a piece of paper “covered at the back with a glutinous wash”. The first gums were called cement and consisted of a mixture of potato starch, wheat starch and acacia gum. The idea “stuck”, and quickly spread from the UK to the rest of the world.

In 1964, 124 years after the release of the Penny Black, the first self-adhesive stamp was created by an unlikely country… Sierra Leone! That’s right — this African nation was the first one to give it a try, followed by a Christmas stamp from the USA ten years later… and many other countries after that.

If you’re curious to learn more about these themes, check out the Wikipedia page for Postage Stamp gum.

So back to our poll — 8495 postcrossers responded to it over the past week, and these were the results: Lick or stick?

Looks like things are more or less evenly divided! Though a large number of postcrossers doesn’t seem to have a preference, from those that do prefer a type of stamps, the choice of the majority seems to be self-adhesive stamps. That surprised me, as I expected postal lovers to prefer the traditional ones… but I can definitely understand that licking might not be for everyone and adhesive stamps can be more practical.

What about you? Which camp are you on, and why?

And last but not least, running a poll was fun! If you have ideas of other interesting polls that we could make, please share them in the comments. We’ll try not to let another 6 years go by until we run the next poll! 😅

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76 comments so far

kristinperry_, United States of America
I really liked seeing the poll! I was in the percentage who voted "Don't Care." I regularly use both the self adhesive AND the traditional stamps on my cards (although I use glue on the traditional stamps because the ones I use are a bit aged and need a little extra help sticking). I like the combo of old and new! Not sure of another question, but I'll think about it and comment again if I think of something!
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dali_llama, United States of America
I was a bit surprised by the results! I thought for sure everyone would pick self-adhesive stamps rather than licking often. But that's just me!

Please do have more polls though. :) Maybe something on our handwriting?
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Icemom, United States of America
I was a *Don't Care* person because I, too, use both self-adhesive and lick-'em-stick-'ems. The ones I lick are often old, but I'm surprised that the adhesive is still pretty good. I've used a glue stick once, but for the most part, they still work!

Possible poll questions:
>> Best source for postcard purchases (might be difficult): online, tourism venue, tourism-area shops, quick-stop shops (small items, gas maybe, limited groceries), discount stores (Walmart, etc.), grocery stores, book stores, second-hand shops, um...you get the idea. I'm interested if these trends across geographical areas.

>> Username inspiration: How did you choose your username? Sports, interests/hobbies, game identity, school-related, occupation-related, entertainment (books, movies, T.V.), pets, family, friends, nickname, online identity, etc. The comments might be fun!

>> The professional/amateur debate: Which do you prefer? (Maybe a Likert scale?) Store-bought cards, self-printed cards, ad cards, freebie cards, food-box cards, hand-made (craft) cards. Comments, again, might be fun...or not!

>>Envelopes? Y/N

>>Forum vs. official Postcrossing exchange: Forum, official exchange or both? Why?

O.K. Back to work for me! :)
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hulottati, Germany
I was surprised by the results too! But in the opposite way ... I prefer traditional stamps because it's easier to detach them. Then they can be used for collections or collages.
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jayvee2206, Australia
For stamp collectors, self-adhesive stamps are more difficult to remove from envelopes, as they have two layers of adhesive.
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marica_t, United States of America
I said "don't care" since I'm not really a stamp collector (I sometimes save stamps that are in great condition, but I don't know if I'll ever use them in crafting or give them away). For now I only use the adhesive stamps because that's readily available at our post offices; I'm hoping to find older, lick-and-stick stamps online to add to my stamp stash. But I honestly thought that there would be a higher percentage of "lick-and-stick" results.

Some poll question ideas:
- Which matters more to you - front (image) or back (words)?
- Written/unwritten?

I love polls - keep 'em coming!

Greetings from Ohio USA, Marica
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blossom61, United States of America
I'd like to see a poll on what type of stamps people prefer? Stamps that are colorful/art or stamps that depict geography or flags or famous people?

As a life long stamp collector there are people in my hobby that collect ONLY stamps of a certain topic so I would be curious what topics people like to see on stamps.
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quirkylady79, United States of America
I was a "don't care" voter as well--I use a combination of both types as I buy the modern USPS (United States Postal Service) self-adhesive ones and I order the older ones that you lick from sellers on EBay and...I love all of them! I'm not a collector that removes stamps from paper though and I understand that those people seem to prefer the ones that you lick as they are easier to remove.
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Awabidi, France
I've never seen this poll, when was it launched ?? As far as I'm concerned I would prefer licked stamps because they are prettier.
I have another poll subject for you : With or without an envelope ?
Some people want or "demand" an envelope and others don't care about that.
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purplepiccolo, United States of America
I could understand why collectors would enjoy lickable stamps, and I would too, but I live in the southern region of the US... the humidity makes the stamps stick together! So I prefer self-adhesive stamps.
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carpediemkath, Germany
I like the ones you lick because they're easier to remove and collect. They almost seem like the only "real" stamps.
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mikel101, United States of America
Self-adhesive!!!

Yes, there is nostalgia on the lickable stamps BUT has anyone heard about the story of the person who licked the envelope (not stamp) and a few days later.......well, i'll leave that to your imagination. This might be an urban legend but think about it, the handling of those stamps i find sometimes unsanitary. Just saying...
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Knerq, United States of America
Fun! I hope you come up with another poll soon. Maybe something about postal workers?
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Tho84, Australia
I chose self adhesive for the simple fact that I don't particularly like putting my tongue onto a stamp.
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DixieDeer, United States of America
I'm a "Don't care" because I buy a lot of older "lick 'em" stamps and I use them either alone or mix them with self-adhesive stamps to make up the postage. Many Postcrossers collect stamps and, even if they don't collect them, they like to see the "other than usual" stamps.
If the stamp is a "lick 'em" and you don't want to lick the stamp, just lightly wet a sponge or paper towel and use that to wet the stamp.
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Bowyum, Australia
For Postcrossing I don't care which ones I use. However, I send used stamps, off paper, to an overseas charity, and self adhesive stamps are very difficult or impossible to remove. In fact Australia Post has just introduced technology that incorporates "micro-cuts" into their self adhesives, ensuring that they cannot be collected off paper, as they fall apart when you try and remove them.

Tonga began using self adhesives in 1969, and I have a card that I sent from there in 1972. The stamps issued at that time were all shapes and sizes, and I used two coconuts and a banana on the card!
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sumares, Puerto Rico
Although I use both types of stamps, I prefer gummed postage stamps. I am always struggling with achieving perfect stamp placement: I like that gummed stamps can be "pushed" into position before the water-activated gum completely adheres to the paper.

Already there are some interesting poll suggestions in the comments above. A theme that was already mentioned that I'd like to see results for is: block letters vs cursive handwriting vs typed message.
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shc, Indonesia
I voted licked stamps. But I don't lick, I use water instead :)
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NaruMinamino, Peru
Actually I chose stamps that you lick because those are the only ones available in my country, and I feel they are always related to traditional mail. I feel like self-adhesive ones would be like using a sticker instead of a real stamp, but I'd have to use them in order to really choose.
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haathi, India
I voted ''Don't care'' because I have never used adhesive stamps. They are not available here. I use glue and when my mail takes a long time to reach people, I worry about whether I have used enough glue or not :)
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DoTea, Germany
That's a good idea to do polls more often!

My idea for a poll is the following:

When you read the profile of a postcrosser who has been selected for you, and you can't fulfill his/her wish, what do you do?

1. Buy a postcard he/she will like
2. Send another card and write an excuse
3. Send another card without excusing
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stepan_krut, Russia
I missed the poll but I'm in the 'don't care' camp (though I care for sure about the stamps of all kinds!). I'm not deep into the stamps history but it seems that in Russia adhesive stamps are relatively a new thing. They are easier but I like to leak too because of the taste! ahahaha
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geminiscp, Portugal
Self-adhesive "stamps" are stickers, not stamps for traditional Philatelists! :D My vote was of course for the good old gummed stamps. I even stoped collecting countries that now only sell/issue mostly "stickers", it just isn't fun at all... Please use stamps with gum!! :D
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Bikinina, Thailand
I don't care when they are on postcards because I won't take them off anyway. I kind-of noticed that postcards from countries that use mostly adhesive stamps, won't have their stamps cancelled, unlike the old-fashioned ones which still bear postmarks. Adhesive stamps are of course are not likely to be reused. In Thailand, there are not many self-adhesive stamps. By the way, I won't lick my stamps. I have my thick sponge cut to fit in a plastic box with a bottle of tap water stationed at my desk.
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AGayViking, Norway
Correct me if I'm wrong, but the world's first self-adhesive stamps were issued by Tonga in 1963 and not by Sierra Leone. Google "self-adhesive stamps Tonga". I have some of them, like the banana stamps, shaped as a banana :-) As for myself I love licking the stamps I use for postage, leaving behind my DNA for future scientist to have fun with :-)
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meiadeleite, Portugal
@mikel101 i think that was just a seinfeld episode... 😉
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ColorfulCourtney, Germany
I was a "don't care" because I do not collect off paper. So whatever has the nicest image is what I appreciate! For sending we have a broader range of gummed stamps available here, so I use them most often. I also like them because sometimes the frames are interesting. I use self-adhesive mostly when a postcard has slick paper and I am afraid a gummed stamp might slide off if it got wet.

And I like DoTea's poll suggestion!
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butterflycard, Malaysia
In the Asian region where I am based there are tiny receptacles where sponges hold water.Then each person can place a stamp to get wet by the sponge and this stamp is then stuck on a card or letter.I would never think of licking my stamps.I use self adhesive stamps of there are available.
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mounten, Italy
I like the poll result. I must admit I "don't care" I'm not a collector of stamps and I do not even remove them from the postcards. I only cut the staps off from the envelopes and give them away for charity.
More polls please it's fun!!!
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meiadeleite, Portugal
@AGayViking That is weird, because I checked in several pages and they all mentioned Sierra Leone... but now that you mentioned Tonga, I see that too being referenced in other places. 🤔

Mmm... I shall investigate this and perhaps correct the Wikipedia page as well.
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NataliaBelka, Belarus
I was the one of those who have clicked on ''self-adhesive'', although of course I use both types of stamps))))

The more polls the better I think. As for topics... Well, maybe ''for/against envelopes'' or ''preferences on what a sender`s written to you - something special or just usual phrases''.
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Bowyum, Australia
If you google "self adhesive stamps" you find mention of Tonga issuing them in April 1969, but if you google "self adhesive stamps - Tonga", it gives 1963 as the issue date. Hmm!
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Bowyum, Australia
Looking further on line, an image found of heart shaped Tongan self adhesive, depicting gold coin, issued in 1963.
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Gan_Gan, Malaysia
@shc "I voted licked stamps. But I don't lick, I use water instead :) " I have the same answer as yours, maybe some people think "that you lick" is not hygienic so they didn't vote for it, perhaps "gummed type" will bring more votes. Just my humble opinion. I always use water too. :)
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Gertarud, Germany
Gertarud, Germany
For environmental reasons (saving paper) I use stamps which you lick instead of self-adhesive ones. With the self-adhesive stamps, you always have the paper carrier left to dispose of.
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Aga95, Poland
Actually I've never seen self-adhesive stamps :c so I only lick them. And I'm waiting for the next poll!
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nasw, United States of America
I've grown to like the self-adhesive ones for their convenience, but I still have a slight preference for the gummed kind as they seem more elegant, due, I think, to the fact that they're on slightly thinner paper. Some self-adhesive stamps (at least in the U.S.) seem a bit too 'heavy' at times.

If you REALLY want to know what bothers me, postage-wise, it's the use of the word 'Forever' on most of our first class stamps now. It comes across as a lowest-common-denominator word selected by a committee and two focus groups. It's just silly and cheapens the postal experience. I really miss stamps with numbers on them, as they marked the time of their introduction, and they could be incorporated into a graphic element.

And don't get me started on our standard spray-on postmark now! Often illegible and it makes the postage look like it got run over by a tiny car! o_O
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MisterioJuvenil, Portugal
I like a traditional stamp.
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ctr, Germany
I use stamps to lick.

Themes for a poll:
Do you like to receive ad cards? or Do you like to receive selfmade cards?
yes, of course / yes but only images of my wishlist / no
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Sfander, Canada
I enjoyed the poll and voted for self-adhesive because they are easier for me to handle. I have trouble tearing apart the gummed stamps and hate throwing away money when I tear right through them.

Bye the way, I use a moistened sponge too, to moisten the gummed stamps. Years ago, there was a small mechanism called an 'oyster' which was a ceramic roller seated in a dish of water. You just rolled the gummed stamp over it and the job was done.

I would love to see more polls and would really like to have one on postcard size. Which would you prefer, standard, continental or maxi sized postcards.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!
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Edmonds, United States of America
We didn't vote but husband says he doesn't care and I would have voted for self-adhesive. Husband doesn't like polls but I DO!

Themes for future polls:

All and any of the above!

PS Love this site. Thank you all for keeping it looking spiffy!
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Roadrunner73, Germany
Interesting result. Well, actually I don't care - the design of the stamp is most important.
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Cassiopheia, Germany
I don't care for myself.. as I won't remove them. But I only buy the traditional ones as there are many collectors around Postcrossing :) Fortunately a lot of stamps are issued as stickers and traditional in Germany, so we really have a choice!
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Tranchile, Guernsey
Most of our stamps are not self adhesive as stamp collectors prefer them that way. I myself prefer traditional but we do have 'Post and Go' ones here which are stickers so when the cruise ships come in the passengers can have the name of their ship on their stamps for their postcards. The names do look smart on those. I bought some for my own collection.
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Meriweather, United Kingdom
I voted for stamps you lick, though I try to choose stamps that have an interesting design, rather than the boring definitives.
Actually, I have to buy whatever the Royal Mail issues and they usually don't have the value for world wide postcards. I have to use inland rates and make up the difference with definitives.
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Sun_rabbit, Belarus
I used both, but prefer self-adhesive. Mu tongue isn't happy when I should send from 10 cards)
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msteblovnik88, Slovenia
There are lots of really nice self adhesive stamps and a lot of ugly traditional ones as well. And vice versa. Although I am a stamp collector, I don't remove stamps from postcards as thiS destroys the postcards and make them boring at the back. Great survey☺
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gussewing, United States of America
Licked stamps are easier to remove. I craft with stamps but i keep my postcards just the way they were sent to me. My crafting stamps come from friends who save them for me or I buy in bulk. Adhesive stamps are a disappointment.
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Mrbill, United States of America
I'm of the old-fashioned "lick 'em" camp. I grew up in the stamp collecting world before self adhesives were even a dream (1950's) so it doesn't gross me out to lick a stamp....usually. Now, if I buy older stamps from a dealer to get a cut rate (lower than face value) deal, then, not knowing where they might have been, I'll use a damp sponge! Common sense rules, right?
However, definitely lick-'ems to get the stamp removed from an envelope. Self adhesives (at least USA ones) are difficult to remove. And, even with a good solvent, some of the adhesive remains on the stamp.
And, no I do NOT remove stamps from my post crossing cards. Each one is a special memory from somewhere special in the world sent by someone special.
For my cards, I use a special commemorative postmark to gently cancel the stamps. I dislike intensely the US Postal "Service's" spray on cancels. At least other countries that use this technology (France and Netherlands come to mind) have nice clear cancels.
Want one of my special cancels?? Message me. Or write to me at Bill Luckett, P O Box 38, Stephenson, VA 22656-0038 USA
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Castel-Chan, China
Linked stamps. For there is no self-adhesive one in China. XD
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spiderboxx, Australia
I don't mind which ones I receive, as I don't collect them. But I prefer to send stick on stamps, as the licky ones taste disgusting, especially when you have a whole bunch of cards to send!
You'd think after all these years, they would have made them taste better by now! lol.
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mec380, Canada
I prefer licked stamps. They seem more authentic and a big part of postcrossing is all about the experience! I dont mind self adhesive stamps but they just seem like stickers... not stamps. I wish Canada Post had more lickable stamps, almost all of ours are self adhesive!
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Flippie, Canada
SELF-ADHESIVE for sure, I love those!
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cunegonde, United States of America
I use both, but there is something satisfying and nostalgic about licking stamps :)

I fondly remember going to the post office with my dad as a kid and being thrilled that I would get to both pick out what stamps we'd buy and lick (or use the moistened sponge) the stamps and affix them to outgoing mail.

I also agree with mec380 that self-adhesive stamps feel like stickers to me, especially because they have the deckle-edge already cut, and they aren't scored/perforated like gummed stamps. But I love stamps, period, and prefer them over automated postage labels any day!
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Regndroppar, Finland
For me, the choice was quite obvious because the Finnish stamps are all self-adhersive nowadays. But in Åland I had a chance to try out licking stamps and it was fun! :)
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Facella, Austria
I don't care much either way. In Austria, we have both. The regular ones are all self-adhesive these days. You can get those in every post office. The special ones still require licking. Most self-adhesive stamps we have here are boring or ugly.
I use them both, though. And I don't lick the stamps. I use my finger to rub a bit of water on it. They taste gross. XD
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paradonym, Germany
Licked stamps, only licked stamps - Simply because at least in Germany they're still in a wider variety... You get much more different stamps when only using the licked ones. Also the ends of the stamps you normally throw away is a great way to seal envelopes...
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jm1122, United States of America
How did I miss the poll?

I definitely prefer the designs on the us stamps before they become self-adhesive and so much more like stickers!
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Arabel-Inez, Netherlands
I like polls as well. Thanks for this poll. But please go on to the next one. New polls about:
With or without an envelop.
What and how much do you write on a postcard.
Yes or no stickers/tape.
A lot of stamps or more writing.
What or what not to write on your profilepage.
Ideas enough, maybe not all doable, but you can think about them for a while.
Have fun, blessings, Astrid.
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MissiveMaven, United States of America
Love the polls! I will echo the request for the envelopes y/n question.

Another poll idea:
Which do you prefer, sending or receiving?
-sending
-receiving
-don't care
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stellaerrans, Netherlands
For me licked stamps! They are easy to remove and I collect them.
I would like to see a poll about cards with or without envelope : )
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loving6thgrade, United States of America
As the one that puts on the stamp, I prefer self-adhesive for its ease. As the receiver I enjoy any kind of stamp that shows beautiful design or an aspect of the sender's culture. It completes the portrait of the back side of the card, especially when matched with a nice message!
And I agree with having a poll about envelopes. For us in the US you can not buy bulk envelopes the size to fit our postcards, so you end up sacrificing a greeting card to use it's envelope. I know my vote on that one.
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Norway_girl, Norway
I like both, as that gives the largest possible variation of stamps. By excluding one type, I would miss some great stamps! Same goes for postcard sizes! There are so many lovely postcards that are larger than 10x15 cm.

My suggestion for the poll would be about preference for postcard sizes on received postcards.
-Only 10x15 cm
-approximately between 8x13 cm and 12x17 cm
-large cards
-any size
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srnky, Slovakia
Hello, for my is Self-Adhsive stamp not a stamp. Have a nice day.
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Paipa, United States of America
I voted I don't care because I like the picture in the front of the postcard. I do realize the value and tradition of the licked stamps because my sister used to collect stamps many years ago and I liked her album. Nowadays here in USA there are only self adhesive stamps. I like the polls, someone mentioned earlier to do a poll of why they selected their username.
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Iside82, Italy
Since few years most Italian stamps are self-adhesive ones. At first I preferred the old to-lick ones, but once you start using them you see that self-adhesive are faaar more practical!
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creoledreamer, United States of America
I missed the initial poll, but I would have voted self adhesive stamp. It is so much neater and cleaner. I am not a stamp collector, I am more interested in the quality of the postcard and the message written so it nice to see the answers from a stamp collector's point of view.
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ironseafish, Germany
I don't like licking stamps - and thus don't do it but always use water. Self-adhesive stamps are more covenient. However, I generell prefer the look of the 'traditional' stamps, that's why I chose 'don't care'.
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AliceCooperOzzy, United States of America
unless you can find very old unused stamps, here in USA the only stamps offered are the self adhesive stamps. which i do prefer as then i don't have to worry about the stamp falling off during travel (which has happened to me as a sender and receiver both).
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EHW, Germany
I'm in the "don't care" camp. I go for the picture on the stamp. So sometimes I have a self-adhesive and a lick stamps on the same card. In the last month we had here self-adhesive stamps with funny comic elephants (for the Germans "Ottifanten) on them, but only 70cents. So I put a 20cent stamp (one to lick) to it to get 90cent. When people have in their profile, they are collectors, if I have then, I send them used stamps, from Letters I get in an envelope. Same with bus tickets. PoCro is for connecting people.
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melilot, France
I prefer stamps that I lick but I don't like licking the stamps!! I use glue because they don't stick enough.
In my opinion they are more beautiful, more precise and artistic than simple stickers. Especially the "taille-douce" stamps. I really don't know the word in english but I can remember there are 3 main different sorts of stamps to lick : taille-douce, héliogravure and offset. When you touch the taille-douce, you feel easily it's not smooth, you feel the details. I find this fantastic on such a little piece of paper.
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melilot, France
Seems "taille-douce" is "intaglio" in errr... english!
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Kewl, Philippines
Are there different flavored gums on the back of the stamps? The Philippines do not have self-adhesive ones so we really don't have any choices.
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Lovelylittlebreeze, United States of America
I prefer self-adhesive stamps. But, I use both because I have plenty of older lick and stick stamps. The image on the stamp is more important than the adhesive.

Self-adhesive stamps can be used over washi tape lick and stick stamps do not adhere well to washi tape.
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fabianeric, Germany
As a stamps collector, I collected the traditional stamps, although the self-adhesive stamps are also beautiful and valuable.
I always use the traditional stamps to the cards and letters, if the receiver is a stamps collector too, i definitely will use the traditional stamps. And only traditional stamps in the F.D.C.(first day cover).
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Broe, Germany
Are you still collecting themes for a new poll?
I'd be interested to know how people prefer to get new ID's. Draw many new addresses at once and get (maybe) consecutive ID's or draw one address, write the card, draw the next address and write this card, etc.
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