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This was a book or short story I must have read in the 60s or 70s. I remember a couple of friends coming across some postage stamps that had beautiful life-like images of fantastic creatures in a magical landscape. I recall the author talking about deep blue water with warm sunlight sparkling and magical, colorful creatures swimming and jumping in the sea. The images might have been animated, but in any case the two friends were fascinated by the beauty and clarity of the images. I believe the stamps were from a place called El Dorado - although I could be wrong about that detail.

They put one of the stamps on a package and the package rose up in the air and then flew out the window and disappeared in the distance. (I don't remember what was in the package - but it might have been significant.)

Next one of the friends put the remaining stamps on another carton and then climbed into it himself. The package lifted up and flew out the window, leaving the remaining person to always wonder if his friend had been able to go to the magical land illustrated on the stamps.

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This was a book or short story I must have read in the 60s or 70s.

"Postpaid to Paradise" aka "Postmarked for Paradise" aka "The Marvelous Stamps from El Dorado", a short story by Robert Arthur, first story in his Murchison Morks series; also the answer to the old question Stamps that can almost instantly deliver letters or packages to any destination. First published in Argosy, June 15, 1940, it was reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Winter-Spring, 1950, which is available at the Internet Archive. Any of these covers look familiar?

I believe the stamps were from a place called El Dorado

Across the top of them was a line in bold print: FEDERATED STATES OF EL DORADO. Then, on either side, about the center, the denomination. And at the bottom, another line, Rapid Post.

I remember a couple of friends coming across some postage stamps

I found them again one night, almost by accident, when I was rummaging around in the back of a drawer, looking for an envelope in which to post a letter I had just written to my best friend, Harry Norris. Harry was at the time living in Boston.

It so happened that the only envelope I could find was the one in which I had been keeping those stamps of my father's. I emptied them out, addressed the envelope, and then, after I had sealed the letter inside, found my attention attracted to those five strange stamps.

that had beautiful life-like images of fantastic creatures in a magical landscape. I recall the author talking about deep blue water with warm sunlight sparkling and magical, colorful creatures swimming and jumping in the sea.

Now, staring at them, I began to wonder whether that dealer had known his business. They were done so well, the engraving executed with such superb verve, the colors so bold and attractive, that it hardly seemed likely any forger could have gotten them up.

It is true the subjects they depicted were far from usual. The ten-cent value, for instance, pictured a unicorn standing erect, head up, spiral horn pointing skyward, mane flowing, the very breathing image of life.

It was almost impossible to look at it without knowing that the artist had worked with a real unicorn for a model. Except, of course, that there weren't any unicorns any more.

The fifty-center showed Neptune, trident held aloft, riding a pair of harnessed dolphins through a foaming surf. It was just as real as the first.

The one-dollar value depicted Pan playing on his pipes, with a Greek temple in the background, and three fauns dancing on the grass. Looking at it, I could almost hear the music he was making.

They put one of the stamps on a package and the package rose up in the air and then flew out the window and disappeared in the distance. (I don't remember what was in the package - but it might have been significant.)

It was a cat named Thomas à Becket. (The cat came back.)

For a moment, nothing whatever happened.

And then, just as disappointment was gathering on Harry Norris' countenance, the box holding Thomas à Becket rose slowly into the air, turned like a compass needle, and began to drift with increasing speed toward the open window.

By the time it reached the window, it was moving with racehorse velocity. It shot through and into the open. We rushed to the window and saw it moving upward in a westerly direction, above the Manhattan skyline.

And then, as we stared, it began to be vague in outline, misty; and an instant later had vanished entirely.

Next one of the friends put the remaining stamps on another carton and then climbed into it himself.

"[. . .] We've got three stamps left—nine dollars' worth altogether. That should be enough. I'm a bit lighter; you've been taking on weight lately, I see. Four dollars should carry me—the one and the three. That leaves the five-dollar for you.

"As for the address, we'll write than on tags and tie them to our wrists. You have tags, haven't you? Yes, here's a couple in this drawer. Now give me that pen and ink. Something like this ought to do very well . . ."

He wrote, then held the tags out to me. They were just alike. Office of the Postmaster General, they said. Nirvana, Federated States of El Dorado. Perishable. Handle With Care.

"Now," he said, "we'll each tie one to our wrist—"

But I drew back. Somehow I couldn't quite nerve myself to it. Delightful as the prospects he had painted of the place, the idea of posting myself into the unknown, the way I had sent off Thomas à Becket, did something queer to me.

The package lifted up and flew out the window,

Thomas à Becket was sitting up and staring toward the window. The curtains were still fluttering. I hurried over. But Norris was not in sight.

leaving the remaining person to always wonder if his friend had been able to go to the magical land illustrated on the stamps.

"So that's what became of your set of rarities!" he said, with a scarcely veiled sneer. "Very interesting and entertaining. But there's one point I want to clear up. The stamps were issued by the Federated States of El Dorado, you say. Well, I've just been looking through this atlas, and there's no such place on earth."

Morks looked at him, his melancholy countenance calm.

"I know it," he said. "That's why, after glancing through my own atlas that day, I didn't keep my promise to Harry Norris and use that last stamp to join him. I'm sorry now. When I think of how Harry must be enjoying himself there—

"But it's no good regretting what I did or didn't do. I couldn't help it. The truth is that my nerve failed me, just for a moment then, when I discovered there was no such place as the Federated States of El Dorado—on earth, I mean."

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  • @Señor Ken Is this the story you were looking for?
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 19:42

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