US Stamps

By Charles Snee

Of paper clips, stamps, and donation solicitations: another exercise in close observation

October 27, 2015 11:30 AM

  • What caused the vertical lines on the Purple Heart forever stamps affixed to these two envelopes mailed to Amos Media (parent company of Linn's) in mid-October? One possible explanation involves stamps used for postage on return envelopes included with donation solicitations.

Not so long ago, I blogged about the heightened powers of observation common to stamp collectors.

I want to hit that point home once again, this time using the two covers shown photographically cropped nearby.

Both covers were mailed in mid-October to the Amos Media circulation department using a single United States 2014 Purple Heart regular-issue forever stamp (Scott 4704b).

Amos Media is the parent company of Linn’s Stamp News and the Scott catalogs, as well as to publications in the automotive and craft arenas.

Look carefully at the white space just below the bottom of the Purple Heart medal on each stamp.

There are two parallel lines running vertically from the bottom of each stamp into the image of the medal.

When I first noticed these lines, I thought they were pencil marks. It was only when I held the envelopes at a slight angle to the fluorescent lights over my cubicle that I saw the telltale indentations left by a small paper clip.

Which got me thinking: I had seen similar markings/indentations on a significant number of Amos Media envelopes during the past couple of months. In almost every case, the stamp used on the envelope was a Purple Heart forever stamp.

This seemed more than coincidental to me.

Which got me thinking again: Could the Purple Heart stamps have been included in a donation solicitation mailing that went to a subscriber of an Amos Media publication, who then used the stamp to send in their subscription renewal to our office in Sidney, Ohio?

In my experience, I have seen donation mailings that have included a return envelope with a stamp or stamps paper-clipped to it.

Given the subject honored on the ostensibly paper-clipped stamps illustrated here, a medal awarded to service members wounded during combat, I suspected that the original source was mailings from the Disabled American Veterans.

For many years now, the DAV has used stamps in creative ways on their mailings, as an inducement to get the recipient to open the mailing, via the stamps on the letter, and to send in a donation, through pre-applied stamps on the return envelope.

So I sent a query to the DAV, and received the following response from Brittany Ballo, who handles donor relations for the DAV:

“Some of our return mailings do include postage on the return envelope. Donors have the option to have their return envelopes sent without return postage so they then may pay for the postage.

“At this time DAV uses several different stamps on those return envelopes and it is not always the same. The majority of DAV mailings which include a stamp on the outside include the nonprofit stamp with a bird on it.”

Ballo is referring to the nondenominated (5¢) Art Deco Bird coil stamp of 2011 (Scott 4495), which is inscribed “Nonprofit Org.”

Ballo’s response does not confirm the chain of events that produced the markings on the stamps shown here. But they do lend some plausibility to my explanation.

What do you think was the cause? Tell me in the comments section below, or shoot an email to

Until next time, happy collecting. Cheers!