By Bill McAllister, Washington Correspondent
Your mail is going to a little less colorful. The United States Postal Service has announced that at many of its post offices, it no longer will provide colorful labels for some of the extra services that customers purchase.
Instead it is planning to incorporate notice of these services into an intelligent package barcode that must be attached to letters and parcels.
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That means, effective Jan. 21, many post offices will no longer offer the following mailing labels:
• The black PS Form 3813 Insured Mail Receipt for $500 and under domestic mail
• The blue PS Form 3813-P Insured Mail Receipt for domestic for more than $500
• The magenta PS Form 153 Signature Confirmation Receipt
• The brown PS Form 3804 Return Receipt for Merchandise
Some post offices have already implemented the changes, and others still have some of the forms readily available in some lobbies, but the aim is to move toward greater use of the package barcodes and end use of the labels.
These color-coded labels have been helpful to postal historians as guides to what’s happening in the mailstream.
But the Postal Service has decided it will “leverage its existing technological capabilities at all retail systems software offices” to incorporate the extra services into the relatively new intelligent barcodes.
That’s the official explanation for the change printed in the Postal Bulletin.
What do postal historians think of the change?
“As a postal historian and a user of these services, I am not troubled by this move,” said John Hotchner, Linn’s U.S. Stamp Notes columnist.
“It is elimination of hard copy at its best.”
Gary W. Loew, another postal historian, also was not troubled by the change.
“I’ve consulted with a few of my fellow postal historians regarding these labels, and we’ve all come to a similar conclusion,” said the Atlanta collector.
“None of us view the conversion to retail software-generated barcode labels as an impediment to track mail trends.”
After all, Loew said the USPS should be most interested in spotting trends.
“And the enhanced data captured from the label-generation process is equal — or probably superior — to what was previously captured from the manual labels.”
With the new barcodes, he said the Postal Service “can now capture all the data it needs for any trend analysis.”
Stamp collectors, Loew said, have shown little interest in the labels.
“There have been numerous discussions of these four forms in the Postal Label Bulletin [publication of the Postal Label Study Group] as varieties have been issued … since they were first introduced,” Loew said.
All of the articles in the bulletin focused on the new variety, he said.
None discuss “any aspect of mail trends,” he added.
Loew said he does not collect these labels, but does see them “from time to time in dealers’ dollar boxes” at stamp shows.
“They make for colorful covers, but they don’t seem to command any premium unless there is some other aspect of greater merit.”
Two forms are not being eliminated, he noted.
The lime-colored Delivery Confirmation Form 152 remains as does Form 3800, the green certified mail receipt.
“The question becomes whether these are slated for eventual replacement as the post office software continues to be enhanced,” he said.
The new varieties — “especially those that reflect the evolution of the Post Office and postal services — are always of interest to collectors,” he continued.
“As long as there will be a post office, there will be postal forms and these will increasingly be computer generated.”
The labels “certainly tell a part of the story for any postal artifact,” he said.
“It is difficult to envision much of this material showing up on eBay,” he concluded. “It is far more likely to be in dealer boxes.”