The Best Stationery Supplies for Sending Thoughtful, Handwritten Letters

Shop high-quality Japanese pens, premium letter-writing paper and vintage U.S. postage stamps for sending mail to friends and loved ones.

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January 26, 2021

Sourdough starters are so 2020. Need a new stay-at-home activity? Try sending old-fashioned text messages to your friends and family. And by that, we mean snail mail.

Handwritten letters are the antithesis of Zoom cocktail hour. Part crafting, part conversation, they can be soothing to write and a delightful surprise to receive. Instead of shooting off a quick message on your smartphone, you can sit down and tell a friend the full story of the joy you felt when you got to meet your new granddaughter for the first time or how gardening has brought you comfort this year. You can share whole passages of books that moved you, include cutouts of newspaper clippings with fun local happenings, and send printed photos that convey far more meaning when you can hold them in your hands and stare at them than when people are swiping through them quickly on a handheld screen trying to get through to the end of the album.

For avid snail mailers, few things are more satisfying than sitting down with a cup of tea, a fountain pen and a box of stationery supplies and watching decorative envelopes pile up on the table. Not sure who to write to? Try sending a note to a parent, sibling, grandparent or friend you haven't caught up with in ages. If you'd rather write to a stranger, try Postcrossing, where you can send and receive postcards to and from random people all over the world. The site also has forums where you can seek regular penpals. Here are some of our favorite snail-mail supplies to brighten your — and your friends’ — days.

Vintage Postage Stamps

As long as you pull together the required value (35 cents for domestic postcards, 55 cents for domestic letters and $1.20 for international postcards and letters), you can use any combination of unused vintage postage stamps on your letters. Etsy and eBay are full of sellers offering a wide variety of them. Some sellers curate collections of stamps that look nice together, and sell sets of stamps that equal the value of a Forever stamp. Others will offer sets by face value, which are generally cheaper but more random.

If this is your first time buying vintage stamps for use as postage, look around before going too wild. Prices vary wildly by quality, seller and how they’re being sold. Whole sheets of stamps are typically more expensive than buying a collection of singles.

The USPS website sells current Forever stamps at face value for a minimal shipping cost, and its website also sometimes has stamps from recent years while they remain in stock. Don't wait if you find a design you love! They can disappear from the site whenever they sell out. You can also buy whole sheets of Forever stamps from recent years on Etsy, like the wildly popular "Love Flourishes" stamps designed by Rifle Paper Co. founder Anna Bond, below. Just make sure that whenever you're buying stamps online, it’s clear that you’re buying unused stamps. Many shops on Etsy and eBay sell collections of used stamps to be used as decoration, but you’re almost guaranteed to get your letters returned to you if you stick them in the mail with a heap of canceled stamps.

Fountain Pens and Rollerball Pens for Good Handwriting

Sure, you can write a letter with any old pen or pencil, but once you feel what it’s like to pair high-quality pens with writing paper intended to make words fly across it, you might look at writing in a whole new way. Rollerball and fountain pens both beat Bic ballpoints any day for their style and writing feel, but the real joy comes with being able to customize those pens with ink that really speaks to you. The Pilot Metropolitan, a Japanese pen, is a great starter for its ease of use and approachable price point — plus, they’re just cute pens. The Lamy Safari and the Faber-Castell Hexo, both from German companies, are also smooth writers. All three come in a wide variety of colors and are available both as rollerball pens and fountain pens in varying nib widths.

If you decide to go with a fountain pen, the real fun starts when you graduate from ink cartridges. Fountain pen ink exists in basically infinite colors (if you ever make it to Tokyo, you can mix your own), and the shading of the ink varies beautifully on the page depending on how you write and what kind of paper you use.

High-Quality Paper for Writing Long Letters

Whether you’re most in love with postcards, short and sweet messages conveyed by expert greeting card artisans or long, heartfelt letters scrawled over a thick stack of loose-leaf pages, one thing is certain: Whoever’s on the receiving end will smile to see it in the mailbox.

You can find scores of handmade and letterpress greeting cards on Etsy, and Paper Source and Rifle Paper Co. both offer gorgeous sets of letter paper and notecards to suit your own personality. Rifle even has a new customizable notecard selection that you can personalize with your own graphic “portrait.”

Return Address Labels

If you send a lot of mail, sprucing up your letters with customized return address labels can add a pretty, consistent touch as well as save you a bit of time and space on the envelope. These wraparound labels from Minted add decoration that goes far beyond the upper left corner and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Etsy and Paper Source also offer quite a few fun options for labels, so you might find yourself splurging on a couple of varieties. Plan to live in the same house for a while, or want to spare the paper labels? Get a custom stamp made and buy a few different ink pads to change up the colors.

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