By Janet Klug
Imagine the frustration in bygone days when someone arrived late at the post office, wanting to mail an important letter that needed to be dispatched that day.
The post office clerk replies that the outgoing mail for the day has been processed and is closed, and then gets out a handstamp and marks the envelope "TOO LATE."
That is what happened to the cover shown in Figure 1.
A huge variety of "TOO LATE" markings exist, even though not every country used them. It was a simple method for post offices to explain that the person mailing the letter didn't come to the post office early enough, and consequently, the recipient received the letter a day or two later than the postmark would indicate it might have arrived.
In other words, the post office was explaining, "It is not our fault that your mail is late."
But there was a way that chronically late mailers could forego the embarrassment of their letters being marked as "TOO LATE" by paying the late fee. This would assure that the post office would cram the late letters into the outgoing mail sacks just as they were being loaded onto whatever conveyance was being used to transport the mail.
The 1938 British Post Office Guide explains the process quite succinctly.
"At many post offices letters for dispatch by the night mails may, on payment of a special late fee of ½-penny, be posted after the ordinary hours of collection. In some cases similar facilities are afforded in connection with day mails. In addition, letter boxes for the receipt of late letters bearing an extra ½-penny stamp are provided on all mail trains to which sorting carriages are attached."
Ordinary stamps were used and can be found with Late Fee postmarks.
Figure 2 shows a pair of 4-penny stamps from Australia with a Late Fee postmark dated May 13, 1937.
Examples of these postmarks can be fun and interesting to collect. They are often found in dealers' nickel and dime boxes, if you are patient enough to go fishing for them.
An excellent article about Australian Late Fee postal markings is archived on the Philatelic Database website at www.philatelicdatabase.com/australia-and-dependencies/late-fee-cancels-of-australia-1963.
The website is a valuable resource of all sorts of information of use to stamp collectors.
Some countries issued special stamps to be used when a postal customer was paying the late fee. Colombia began using Late Fee stamps in 1886. The ScottStandard Postage Stamp Catalogue uses the letter "I" prefix for Late Fee stamps.
Figure 3 shows Colombia's first Late Fee stamp, Scott I1. The late fee was 2½ centavos.
Some of the states and departments within Colombia also used Late Fee stamps. Colombia's Department of Antioquia issued Late Fee stamps beginning in 1899. Figure 4 illustrates Colombia Antioquia Scott I2, a 2c Late Fee stamp issued in 1901.
For letters that quite literally nearly "missed the boat," Uruguay used the image of a steamship on its Late Fee stamps issued in 1936. The 3c stamp is pictured in Figure 5.
In 1923 Denmark repurposed an adhesive that indicated a tax had been paid on certain post office forms, and used them as stamps to pay the late fee. The stamps had a double overprint of the word "GEBYR," which translates to "Fee." Figure 6 shows Denmark's 10-ore first Late Fee stamp, Scott I1.
Panama issued several Late Fee stamps, beginning in 1903 with stamps created specifically for the late fee purpose (Scott I1, Figure 7). In 1910, Panama used a handstamp to mark regular postage stamps "RETARDO" ("Delay") for use as Late Fee stamps (Figure 8).
Collecting late fee stamps and late fee postmarks is not a terribly taxing pursuit, apart from a couple of difficult items. Finding the stamps and postmarks on cover is a great deal more challenging, but it is definitely worth the effort to have a collection that few other collectors attempt.
blogIn this column in the Aug. 24 issue of Linn’s, I referred to the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., as a “gift to stamp collectors.” The BNAPS library and the APRL are two of many libraries available to stamp collectors, and some philatelic libraries are available online. Read More ›
blogIt’s often been said that one of the salutary benefits of collecting stamps is the friendships made along one’s philatelic journey. If I were asked to place a value on the bonds thus forged with collectors in locales near and far, I would be rich beyond measure. A few of these hobby friends I have never met in person. Read More ›
blogToday, Nov. 11, 2015, is Veterans Day. Over the years, a number of United States stamps honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces have been issued. Read More ›
blogMy previous blog post focused on a mystery: the apparent indentations of paper clips on United States Purple Heart forever stamps that were used to mail payments to the circulation department of my employer, Amos Media in Sidney, Ohio. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses Great Britain’s final stamp issue for 2015, a Star Wars prestige booklet, and reveals what is included in its stamp program for 2016.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses a registered 1967 cover from Qatar that recently sold for almost $1,200 and the latest discovery of an Upright Jenny Invert pane.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman announces that Linn’s has been named official daily publisher of World Stamp Show-NY 2016 and provides an update on the reorganization of the Scott catalogs.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Marty Frankevicz reports on the suspension of Canada Post’s cluster box conversion plan after the election of a new prime minister.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.