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Slightly OT: How does the USPS recognize and handle old stamps some members put on packages?

Just curious. It's a slow, rainy day here.......

These days, I mail out most of my packages from the USPS counter, where I pay whatever the charge is & they slap a bar-coded sticker with the postage indicated on it & send it on its way.

But I just got a package from another Forum member with a lot of older (1990's and beyond) lick-em stamps on it. And in the past, I've received some with older, smaller-denomination stamps practically plastered all over the front (and sometimes the back) of the bubble mailer.

I've heard some members discuss previously getting older stamps at a discount off face, and using them this way for a break on their postage costs. And that's a real smart idea for someone who sends out a lot of packages.

But what I'm curious about is how these are handled on the back-end by the USPS. WHO is responsible for determining whether there is the correct amount of postage on the packages, and how do they do it? I would assume that, in most cases, we're not dealing with 1-oz mail which zips thru a reader at the speed of light, since they are usually fatter/heavier mailers. So are there machines that still handle them differently & more slowly, so they are not ripped open or jam the machines, yet still scan them for postage? Or are they hand-processed, with a human responsible for weighing & determining if they have adequate postage?

Or is it something completely different? Anyone here with Post Office experience or contacts who know the answer?

Thanks!

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    jclovescoinsjclovescoins Posts: 1,853 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Good question, I have wondered the same thing when I received a package of buffalo nickels with an ungodly amount of stamps on it.

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    TommyTypeTommyType Posts: 4,586 ✭✭✭✭✭

    With the post office, I think it's a matter of, "Eh, looks good to me. Whatever."

    They figure, we're going to every address in the country anyway, what difference does one letter/package make?

    Easily distracted Type Collector
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    thebeavthebeav Posts: 3,752 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm generally in the PO everyday. After a lifetime of using only 3 or 4 different offices, I know an awful lot of clerks. If I tell them that there is 16.47 on that package, they believe me. I would have to think that people are not apt to lie about stuff like that.

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    tommy44tommy44 Posts: 2,192 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have sheets of stamps going all the way back to the 1970s, ten cents per stamp,

    For first class and priority mail labels I use eBay labels or USPS Click-N-Ship to print my labels taking advantage of the on-line discount. For Media Mail I'm one of those guys that plasters stamps all over the front of the package since the price is the same either way.

    The folks at the post office are use to me, ask me how much postage is attached, stick a bar code label with the tracking number on the package and send it on its way.

    Some of the stamps I use are older than the postal clerk!

    it's crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide

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    goldengolden Posts: 9,052 ✭✭✭✭✭

    They are not really standing there and counting the postage.

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    Insider2Insider2 Posts: 14,452 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Most go through with no trouble as they get hand cancelled. Some of the time, a lazy moron at the PO with nothing better to do will deface all the stamps with a black marker. I've got mailed boxes with all sides covered with stamps. When I get a trash bag full, I sell them at a stamp show. The black marker stuff goes into the trash except for the high values.

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    ajaanajaan Posts: 17,109 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 13, 2017 2:27PM

    I was the sender of the package received in the OP. Only once have I had the PO desk person count the stamps. He was not a regular clerk at my PO. The usual clerks just trust me. BTW, I get the stamps for 60c on the dollar. I haven't used newer stamps in years.


    DPOTD-3
    'Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery'

    CU #3245 B.N.A. #428


    Don
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    mustangmanbobmustangmanbob Posts: 1,890 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I used to send a lot of packages with old stamps, some from the 1940's that even at that age, were less than face value.

    What was fun was PLASTERING a package going overseas. I sent a cast iron intake manifold, that cost, IIRC, about $150 in postage, going to either Poland or Slovakia. The guy was overjoyed with the stamps, as NOTHING like that had come there before or after the fall of the Iron Curtain. I believe he made money on the deal selling the stamps.

    I still have a $1000+ in stamps to use up from my dad's extras of his stamp collection, but the ease of using the ebay label, built in tracking, the discount, etc. means I do not use them.

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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    For letters and maybe small packages (?) there is an automated process that looks for the phosphor tag on all stamps 10 cents and above (not sure how far back they started that). The goal is not to count the postage but to orient the letter so the address can be read by the machine. If there are no stamps or none that are tagged, there is some human intervention, although even that is apparently done remotely.

    Basically it is up to the person receiving the letter/package or the person at the other end to determine if the correct postage was paid.

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    DBSTrader2DBSTrader2 Posts: 3,456 ✭✭✭✭

    Thx for the explanations! Personally, I enjoy getting old stamps!

    I have some old mint-condition stamps from some calendar year from the USPS from back in the 70's, when I collected them a bit (mostly FDC's). Maybe I'll use them up on future packages, making sure to place them upside-down in the wrong corner of the letter or package, so it can't be oriented correctly....... and maybe have it 1 cent "light" and see if they pick it up! :D;) What can I say.... maybe it's just payback for all the certified mail they fail to confirm delivery for me....... ;)

    Seriously, though, you learn something new every day!

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    jedmjedm Posts: 2,940 ✭✭✭✭✭

    You're kind of a rebel aren't you?

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    davewesendavewesen Posts: 5,849 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ajaan said:
    I was the sender of the package received in the OP. Only once have I had the PO desk person count the stamps. He was not a regular clerk at my PO. The usual clerks just trust me. BTW, I get the stamps for 60c on the dollar. I haven't used newer stamps in years.

    where do you get stamps at 60% face? are they counterfeit?

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    AUandAGAUandAG Posts: 24,536 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I just got a package with stamps front and back, plastered full.
    The front stamps got hand canceled and a white sticker with a barcode and 0.00 stuck to the front. The stamps on the back have nothing done to them and could be reused if you wanted to do that.
    bob

    d

    Registry: CC lowballs (boblindstrom), bobinvegas1989@yahoo.com
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    DBSTrader2DBSTrader2 Posts: 3,456 ✭✭✭✭

    Mine had a similar white bar-coded sticker for $0.00 on it as well....... just not as many stamps. And they were all cancelled. I think it's fun to get those old ones!

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    ajaanajaan Posts: 17,109 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @davewesen said:

    @ajaan said:
    I was the sender of the package received in the OP. Only once have I had the PO desk person count the stamps. He was not a regular clerk at my PO. The usual clerks just trust me. BTW, I get the stamps for 60c on the dollar. I haven't used newer stamps in years.

    where do you get stamps at 60% face? are they counterfeit?

    Not counterfeit. Real US stamps. 1c to $5 face value. I get them at the local monthly coin show.


    DPOTD-3
    'Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery'

    CU #3245 B.N.A. #428


    Don
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    thebeavthebeav Posts: 3,752 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I always felt that the smaller the value, the less the stamps were worth. I used to pay the public 75% of face, but the smallest denomination would have to be 13 cents. Jeepers, a 1 cent or 2 cent sheet would have no value to me at all.

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    ajaanajaan Posts: 17,109 ✭✭✭✭✭

    1c and 2c stamps are OK when used in conjunction with other stamps. For example 29c +18c + 2c is first class postage.


    DPOTD-3
    'Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery'

    CU #3245 B.N.A. #428


    Don
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    DBSTrader2DBSTrader2 Posts: 3,456 ✭✭✭✭

    Are there regulations on where stamps must and cannot be? Would be fun to plaster the entire back of a mailer or all sides of a box with small-denomination stamps....... ;)

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    ajaanajaan Posts: 17,109 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have put stamps on 5 sides of a box before. I was told at the PO you can't put them on the opposite side of where the address is but I'm not sure this is true. It seems I get a lot of 8c stamps in the lots I buy.


    DPOTD-3
    'Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery'

    CU #3245 B.N.A. #428


    Don
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    LakesammmanLakesammman Posts: 17,290 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I'm in the process of using up my childhood collection of plate blocks.

    It's taking a long time to get rid of them, especially since most bills get paid electronically!

    Good lesson in inflation - the 5c stamps used to mail what 49c mails today.

    "My friends who see my collection sometimes ask what something costs. I tell them and they are in awe at my stupidity." (Baccaruda, 12/03).I find it hard to believe that he (Trump) rushed to some hotel to meet girls of loose morals, although ours are undoubtedly the best in the world. (Putin 1/17) Gone but not forgotten. IGWT, Speedy, Bear, BigE, HokieFore, John Burns, Russ, TahoeDale, Dahlonega, Astrorat, Stewart Blay, Oldhoopster, Broadstruck, Ricko.
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    MsMorrisineMsMorrisine Posts: 32,200 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ajaan said:
    I was the sender of the package received in the OP. Only once have I had the PO desk person count the stamps. He was not a regular clerk at my PO. The usual clerks just trust me. BTW, I get the stamps for 60c on the dollar. I haven't used newer stamps in years.

    they trust you

    mine trust me but count anyway because that's their job to make sure I don't screw up or go rogue ( :p )

    anyway for those with masses of them on there the procedures "require" the package to be taken inside and have them hand cancelled to prevent terrorists from mailing a bomb with lots of stamps then putting it in a USPS drop box.

    Current maintainer of Stone's Master List of Favorite Websites // My BST transactions
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    topstuftopstuf Posts: 14,803 ✭✭✭✭✭

    One time I sent my wife a birthday card plastered with stamps just for the helluvit.

    PO guessed it was special delivery and rang the bell to hand it to her.

    Kinda scared her as she thought it must be bad news.
    :D

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    air4mdcair4mdc Posts: 797 ✭✭✭✭

    There is a local Coin and Stamp store in my town. They buy stamp collections ( stamps not cancelled) at half of their stamped value. They then turn around and use them on their postage at full value. Cuts postage in half.

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    mannie graymannie gray Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 13, 2017 11:37PM

    Slightly OT to original slightly OT.
    I used to use a lot of old stamps to mail cheap stuff out, because I thought I was saving money buying the postage at 65-70% of face. These would be packages that would be 1.5-3 oz. and that would be sent without tracking anyway.
    But a much higher than normal rate of "lost" packages with the older stamps on them made me discontinue using the older stamps.
    I am guessing someone down the line pilfered the packages thinking that the stamps were valuable (?)
    So there went that money saving idea.
    Cost me more than I saved....lol

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    oih82w8oih82w8 Posts: 11,894 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I thought that postage was postage until it was cancelled and that it does not expire. I have received quite a few packages that had stamps, cancelled and some uncancelled, that I have put away just in case.

    oih82w8 = Oh I Hate To Wait _defectus patientia_aka...Dr. Defecto - Curator of RMO's

    BST transactions: dbldie55, jayPem, 78saen, UltraHighRelief, nibanny, liefgold, FallGuy, lkeigwin, mbogoman, Sandman70gt, keets, joeykoins, ianrussell (@GC), EagleEye, ThePennyLady, GRANDAM, Ilikecolor, Gluggo, okiedude, Voyageur, LJenkins11, fastfreddie, ms70, pursuitofliberty, ZoidMeister,Coin Finder, GotTheBug, edwardjulio, Coinnmore...
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    WillieBoyd2WillieBoyd2 Posts: 5,036 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 15, 2017 7:52AM

    I received a postcard advertising an upcoming coin show which had some old stamps on it.

    :)

    https://www.brianrxm.com
    The Mysterious Egyptian Magic Coin
    Coins in Movies
    Coins on Television

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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Once a stamp had been used for postage, cancelled or not it, it can noy be reused. If it was stuck down or put on an envelope thast was never sent it can be soaked off and glued to a new envelope.

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    rickoricko Posts: 98,724 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have received some packages with old stamps on... all cancelled.... I also received a package from Russia with stamps all over it.... a friend who collects stamps got that one... Did not know about buying the old stamps at discount rates though.... good idea. Cheers, RickO

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    SoldiSoldi Posts: 2,022 ✭✭✭✭✭

    NEWMAN !!

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    My latest coin supply order.

    Successful BST deals with mustangt and jesbroken. Now EVERYTHING is for sale.

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    1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 13,772 ✭✭✭✭✭

    For people that live near BJ s Wholsale Clubs................Stamps are cheaper than at the Post Office...not a lot...but that's where I get them :smile:

    Successful transactions with : MICHAELDIXON, Manorcourtman, Bochiman, bolivarshagnasty, AUandAG, onlyroosies, chumley, Weiss, jdimmick, BAJJERFAN, gene1978, TJM965, Smittys, GRANDAM, JTHawaii, mainejoe, softparade, derryb

    Bad transactions with : nobody to date

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    mannie graymannie gray Posts: 7,259 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Icollecteverything said:
    My latest coin supply order.

    I receive quite a few boxes/packages that look similar.
    It sure is more interesting than looking at a black and white prepaid barcoded label.
    Just be sure to not use any old (1940s or earlier stamps) ones or your packages may go AWOL like several of mine did. :'(:'(

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    messydeskmessydesk Posts: 19,684 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I haven't done this in a while, but when I did, some clerks were actually good about counting them, while others took my word for it how much postage was on the box. About 2 years ago, I used them to send care packages to some college students. They all thought it was really cool to get a box decorated with stamps like that.

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    OverdateOverdate Posts: 6,936 ✭✭✭✭✭

    When I was growing up in the 1950's, I would sometimes mail letters using six 1/2 cent stamps to make the 3 cents postage. It would be fun to mail a letter today using a full sheet of 1/2 cent stamps. Unfortunately, they won't fit.

    My Adolph A. Weinman signature :)

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    shorecollshorecoll Posts: 5,445 ✭✭✭✭✭

    One of the many UN mini-scams (I think) is that UN offices (all 200 or whatever) get postage either free or greatly reduced, the office staff would sell the stamps to NYC dealers at whatever they could get for them and the NYC dealers would move them down the line. The dealers used to have ads on their flyers that they would sell bulk lots of stamps at significant discounts. And I do not believe stamps ever expire, kind of like all US currency is still good, if you feel inclined to spend Black Eagles at the convenience store.

    ANA-LM, NBS, EAC
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    shorecollshorecoll Posts: 5,445 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If you did try to spend a large size note at a c-store, they would likely have you arrested for counterfeiting, but the notes are still valid.

    ANA-LM, NBS, EAC
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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    NYC coin dealer Jules J Karp used to mail from the UN headquarters with UN stamps. Obviously he got them at a discount from collectors or wherever.

    When I lived in Germany and intl postage was the equivalent of more than $2 US, I would buy domestic UN stamps online from the New York UN post office, put them on letters, and mail the letters in a larger envelope to the UN in NYC to be mailed out via their postal service, which meant they postmarked it and tuned it over to the USPS in NYC.

    Mailing or remailing via the UN must have become an issue as they now limit a person to 100 letters at a time to be mailed out from their post office.

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    DBSTrader2DBSTrader2 Posts: 3,456 ✭✭✭✭

    That's still 100 letters a day too many........

    On a side note, it's funny, for all the time I've been a Forum member & all the posts I've made on the various U.S. & Darkside categories, I'm pretty sure this one post I've made regarding STAMPS generated the greatest response! :o;)

    If only I could get this same level of readership/response for my post looking for a few last JFK's & Prez Ford $1 coins over in the BST forum.... :(

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    cladkingcladking Posts: 28,331 ✭✭✭✭✭

    And this is why stamps will be back with a vengeance someday.

    It's the clerk's responsibility to get the correct total but most of them will take your word for it. I try to make them easy to count just in case there's a clerk who wants to count them.

    If you send out tens of thousands of dollars worth of packages a year this really adds up fast.

    Tempus fugit.
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    MaineJimMaineJim Posts: 740 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Where I work I get a lot of media mail packages with $1 & $2 stamps attached. At least half of them are not cancelled. I probably get 75 packages a week like this...

    Jim

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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Even cancelled high value stamps are probably worth saving.

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    jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,876 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JBK said:
    Even cancelled high value stamps are probably worth saving.

    Not moderns, typically

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    jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,876 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JBK said:
    NYC coin dealer Jules J Karp used to mail from the UN headquarters with UN stamps. Obviously he got them at a discount from collectors or wherever.

    When I lived in Germany and intl postage was the equivalent of more than $2 US, I would buy domestic UN stamps online from the New York UN post office, put them on letters, and mail the letters in a larger envelope to the UN in NYC to be mailed out via their postal service, which meant they postmarked it and tuned it over to the USPS in NYC.

    Mailing or remailing via the UN must have become an issue as they now limit a person to 100 letters at a time to be mailed out from their post office.

    used to be a box outside. Due to security, I believe, they removed it. Killed the market for UN mint stamps. Used to be NYC buyers at 35% of face value. Now, there are NONE! Hard to even give UN stamps away.

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    jmlanzafjmlanzaf Posts: 31,876 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @air4mdc said:
    There is a local Coin and Stamp store in my town. They buy stamp collections ( stamps not cancelled) at half of their stamped value. They then turn around and use them on their postage at full value. Cuts postage in half.

    you can buy retail lots of postage at 65% of Face Value. Check eBay. I sell $5,000 worth every year from collections I buy.

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    BuffaloIronTailBuffaloIronTail Posts: 7,408 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 16, 2017 7:58AM

    Postage is postage. If you can get a 10 Cent stamp for 8 Cents, good deal.

    As far as using stamps to mail a package, nothing wrong with that. The package HAS to go across a counter to enter the mail stream, though. Clerks are responsible for accepting it and making sure the package has the correct postage applied,

    The busy nature of being a postal clerk with a line of customers waiting to conduct business will make even the most hardened clerk "accept" a statement that the postage is correct.

    Important to note.............ALL stamps are supposed to be cancelled. Usually a clerk will set the package aside and "round date" the stamps when there is a lull in business.

    Doesn't always happen...................................

    Another thing to note is that ANY package with stamps that is dropped into a collection box is considered "suspicious". Dispatch Clerks are supposed to separate and tag the package before it leaves a facility. It is then evaluated by the processing center before entering the mail stream. This is post 9/11.

    Pete (retired postal employee)

    "I tell them there's no problems.....only solutions" - John Lennon
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    TomthemailcarrierTomthemailcarrier Posts: 635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Insider2 said:

    Most go through with no trouble as they get hand cancelled. Some of the time, a lazy moron at the PO with nothing better to do will deface all the stamps with a black marker.

    I was a mail carrier for 34 years and I understood that my salary was paid by stamp purchases. It was my job to ensure that high value uncancelled stamps didn't slip through. So, I used a black marker to line through them. I knew that some would try to reuse them which would mean lost revenue to the USPS and a threat to my job.
    Reuse is also theft. I'm old fashioned I guess since I think that you should pay for what you get.

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    BuffaloIronTailBuffaloIronTail Posts: 7,408 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Tomthemailcarrier said:

    @Insider2 said:

    Most go through with no trouble as they get hand cancelled. Some of the time, a lazy moron at the PO with nothing better to do will deface all the stamps with a black marker.

    I was a mail carrier for 34 years and I understood that my salary was paid by stamp purchases. It was my job to ensure that high value uncancelled stamps didn't slip through. So, I used a black marker to line through them. I knew that some would try to reuse them which would mean lost revenue to the USPS and a threat to my job.
    Reuse is also theft. I'm old fashioned I guess since I think that you should pay for what you get.

    Yep......................I did the same thing.

    Pete

    "I tell them there's no problems.....only solutions" - John Lennon
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    JBKJBK Posts: 14,745 ✭✭✭✭✭

    So you guys are the ones who ruin high value stamps I would have kept had they not been attacked with a Sharpie. I don't mind an honest postmark, but pen scribbles ruin the stamp.

    Newer stamps can't be soaked off paper without destroying the stamp, incidentally. The printed layer and adhesive layer separate. Thay may help protect revenue, but it also helped kill collecting used stamps.

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    BuffaloIronTailBuffaloIronTail Posts: 7,408 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JBK said:
    So you guys are the ones who ruin high value stamps I would have kept had they not been attacked with a Sharpie. I don't mind an honest postmark, but pen scribbles ruin the stamp.

    Newer stamps can't be soaked off paper without destroying the stamp, incidentally. The printed layer and adhesive layer separate. Thay may help protect revenue, but it also helped kill collecting used stamps.

    If that is what you call it...................so be it. Incidentally, once a stamps used, it's USED. I did it when I received a package for delivery on my route, and the stamps were not cancelled. I didn't have access to a round dater, so I did what I 'rightfully" could to protect revenue.

    Pete

    "I tell them there's no problems.....only solutions" - John Lennon
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    TomthemailcarrierTomthemailcarrier Posts: 635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JBK said:
    So you guys are the ones who ruin high value stamps I would have kept had they not been attacked with a Sharpie. I don't mind an honest postmark, but pen scribbles ruin the stamp.
    .......... Thay may help protect revenue, but it also helped kill collecting used stamps.

    Occasionally an Express mail stamp was uncancelled. If you let it slip by without blacking it out that's leaving about $20 on the table for someone to steal.

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