Re-using a stamp?

I was wondering… I’m looking at a stamp on a letter I received that doesn’t appear to have any cancellation marks on it whatsoever. Can I reuse it? Or is the USPS machinery sensitive enough to know this stamp has been used? (I am making the assumption that the machine can tell that a stamp has been cancelled, but if that’s a bad assumption, please set me straight.)


You can pretty much re-use it. Just make sure that it doesn’t have any trace of cancel. Not that a machine will spot it. I am pretty sure that I am right.

It is unlawful to remove and reuse a stamp once that stamp has been affixed to the parcel to be mailed, without regard as to whether the stamp was actually used to mail anything, or whether it has cancellation marks actually on it.

The post office does use “invisible” (fluorescent) inks that you might not be able to see.

What’s the penalty? I would figure they’d just view it as a letter that didn’t have postage and send it back to the sender.

(boy, that’d suck getting sent to the pokey for a stamp violation).

A few weeks ago my parents had a letter returned with a stamp that said something along the lines of “Returned for Using Cancelled Postage” (I don’t remember the exact wording), so the USPS does have a special message to stamp it with. But all they will do is send it back to you.

BEWARE!!! manhattan could respond to your thread thusly:

You could be banned for your thoughts.

CAN you do it? Certainly.
SHOULD you do it? Nope.
It is unlawful, as the service that was paid for was already rendered.
Will you go to stamp cheat prison? No.
The item will be returned to sender, or sent postage due, if there is no return address.

For goodness sakes, it’s THIRTY FOUR CENTS!

Man bare, you do hold a grudge. That was almost 4 months ago. :slight_smile:

[q]For goodness sakes, it’s THIRTY FOUR CENTS![/q]

I just had 4 letters returned to me this afternoon because postage has gone up one cent each today. My rural carrier brought all four letters back 14 miles one way to return them, rather than attach stamps and charge me the four cents.

And SmackFu, yes, I do hold a grudge. That was my first reply to a thread and I thought it was a bit over-bareing on manhattan’s part.

'S ok though, every dog has it’s day!

Some obscure newspaper columnist on this topic.

I had a friend who used to send letters by writing a fictitious mailing address, putting the address he wanted the letter sent to as the return address, and leaving off the stamp. He never sent anything important this way, but all of the dozen or so letters he sent were delivered to the intended recipient (with no postage due).

As I recall, he just did it to see if it would work, and has now become a fine upstanding citizen (as far as I know…)

I should probably mention that I am not recommending or condoning this practice (!)

I would think this would be a good way to get your letters sent straight to the dead letter office…

I recently bought a pack of 20 Christmas stamps, with Vivarini’s Madonna painting depicted. On the label area of the book was a copy of one of the stamps. The label area was also printed on the same self-adhesive material as the real stamps. I had the evil thought of cutting out this 21 stamp and trying to use it.

I also noticed on one of my bills that my creditor’s mailing address was pre-printed in the return address area of the envelope they provided. I asked one of the postal workers that was directing holiday traffic in the post office why they did that. “That’s in case the sender forgets to stamp it, it’ll still get to where it was supposed to go.” I asked, “Isn’t that illegal?” He just shrugged.

I love the Internet.

Um, they do send people to Stamp Cheat Prison for only 34 cents. It doesn’t happen often–it’s usually someone who does it all the time, or who does it in a really big way, but it does happen.

List of things the Postal Inspection Service concerns itself with. That’s the official Post Office law enforcement division, in case you didn’t know. They carry guns and everything. :eek: Really.

Under “Counterfeiting and Related Crimes”:

So not only would your letter get sent to the Dead Letter Office, you would also get a year in jail.

AWB, that picture of the stamp would have been printed on heavier paper, right? You’d have to use Elmer’s glue to get it to stick to an envelope, which would be a dead giveaway. Better not try it. :wink:


–is illegal if Joe Blow does it to get out of paying postage on a letter. However, it is not illegal if the company that’s doing it has filled out the proper Post Office paperwork ahead of time for permission. They basically promise to pay the postage due on it. Not that many companies care that deeply whether their clueless customers can remember to put a stamp on the envelope.


–needless to say, is also fraudulent. It works as long as you don’t do it all the time. If you do it frequently, sooner or later some letter carrier or mail clerk is going to catch on (they’re not stupid, just busy), and you’ll have the Postal Inspectors hot on your trail. Don’t laugh, it’s serious. They don’t do plea bargains.

Bare, your rural carrier brought those letters back because that’s what the rules say she has to do. I suppose if she had really liked you a lot, she could have paid for the postage herself and then just mentioned it to you the next time she saw you. However, she could get in trouble with the Postal Inspectors if she got caught fooling around with a customer’s mail. For her, the safe and sensible thing to do was trudge all the way back and hand them over.

Also–and this is a constant annoyance to me, too–letter carriers don’t usually carry stamps, and they don’t have any better access to “the place where you can mail a letter” than anybody else does. When I pay our bills, you’d think I could give them to the Better Half and he could take them to work and mail them. But noooo, he can’t, mainly because the letter-mailing place is in the front of the Post Office and doesn’t open up until 9 a.m., and he goes in the back by the loading dock at 7. And I say to him, “Can’t you just drop them in the bin in the back?” and he says, “No, because those are all in various stages of being sorted and the clerks scream bloody murder if anybody messes with them.” So he’d have to find a mailbox, just like everybody else, and so would your rural letter carrier.

Technically, I mailed the letters on Saturday by putting them in my rural mail box. That was before the increase went into effect.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love our rural contract carriers, I can’t believe what some of them will go through to make certain you get your mail. Really though, I have to thank all you city folks that subsidize our rural carriers, because we get a heck of a deal for 34 cents! A rural box is essentially the same as a post office, I can purchase stamps, leave letters, purchase a money order, mail a package, or any other transaction normaly done in the main office.

I ran this past the Better Half when he came home for lunch just now. He says yes, there are tracer chemicals in the cancellation ink, but he says they aren’t there specifically to catch postage cheaters, it’s just a side effect of the way the machine works or something. I get an impression of the cancellation machine needing to be able to tell itself, “Hey, you already cancelled that one!”

He says that Bare’s rural carrier may have just worked out of a station that didn’t allow carriers to put postage on envelopes. And sometimes, he says, it can change almost from day to day. You come back with mail that needs postage and the supervisor tells you crossly, “Geez, why dincha just put a stamp on it? Now somebody has to drive all the way out there and take it back, for a one cent stamp.” And then the next time, you put a stamp on it for the customer and the same supervisor hears about it and says, “Gonna write you up for that–interfering with mail.”

He says one of his Fives (he’s a T-6, which means he substitutes for five other carriers on their days off) routinely carries what he calls a “whole raft” of one and two-cent stamps, maybe 200-300 stamps, and puts postage on letters for people. But then, he says, she’s just a really nice person anyway.

Imagine that someone I really dislike has sent me a wedding invitation, including a stamped envelope for the RSVP. Being the cad I am, I’m not going to bother to RSVP that I’m not coming. Also, being stingy, I’m going to remove the stamp from the envelope and glue it to another envelope to mail my phone bill.

Is that legal?

It’s not legal to affix a stamp to an envelope by any artificial means, such as glue or tape. Also, it is not legal to remove a stamp from an envelope and affix it to another envelope whether or not the initial envelope was ever mailed.

Great, of all things now we have to worry about the Gestampo kicking down our doors.

<waits for groans>

Really? I remember hearing (no idea where, of course) that it was ok to re-glue or tape a stamp as long as the tape was under the stamp.