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.
July 30, 2015 08:04 PMIn the Editor’s Insights columns in the July 20 Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Aug. 10 weekly Linn’s, I mentioned Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board without giving too much detail. Linn’s goal is to engage its audience both in print and online and to grow this audience. The role of the newly formed Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board is to assist us achieving these goals by keeping us focused on the needs of our audience and helping us adapt to today’s market. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 09:01 AMAs in previous years, Rarities Week, the series of sales conducted June 22-26 by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, included several name sales as well as an assortment of notable items from around the world. The week kicked off with something of a do-over: a sizable assortment of better United States stamps and covers that had appeared in four previous sales, but whose winning bidder then failed to pay for them. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 04:35 PMThe Tieton, Wash., post office is a simple 1935 cement block building with a slat wood facade. Townsfolk in the agricultural community of 1,200 in central Washington believe the post office could become a landmark, if only the United States Postal Service would allow them to cover the front with a stamp-like mosaic. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 03:11 PMThe American Philatelic Society will host the nation’s largest annual stamp exhibition Aug. 20-23. The show will take place at the DeVos Place Convention Center, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, Mich. Read More ›
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the largest souvenir card produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The card is one of three issued to honor the centenary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke discusses Canada’s recently recalled $1.20 Dinosaur Provincial Park stamps featuring inaccurately described Hoodoo rock formations.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the discovery of another pane of the intentionally created upright variety of the $2 Jenny Invert stamp.
Chad Snee discusses the recent sale of the glass locket containing the famed 1918 Jenny Invert airmail error stamp.
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.