US Stamps

Postal cards and postcards remailed as receipts make for good hunting

Aug 27, 2015, 8 AM

By Tony Wawrukiewicz

The period from April 15, 1925, to July 1, 1928, is an interesting one for postal cards and postcards because the domestic rate for postal cards was 1¢ during this period, while the postcard rate was 2¢.

The difference between these two items is this: postal cards bear an imprinted stamp and are sold by the post office, while postcards are usually sold without postage by a retail outlet, and the sender has to apply a stamp.

The disparity of these two different rates resulted in a number of anomalies in uses during this period.

It’s always interesting to me to find postal cards and postcards handled differently during this interval. For example, from 1924 until 1941, only undeliverable domestic local postal and postcards could be returned to the writer for postage free of charge.

Therefore, it’s great to find a local postcard returned to the writer between April 15, 1925, and July 1, 1928, and thus paid at the 2¢ postcard rate, because this situation occurred during such a limited period of time.

I have seen interesting instances of remailing of postal cards over the years (from the 1880s until 1937) where the remailed cards are used as a receipt. The postal card would be mailed as some type of dues or dunning notice, the card would then be returned by the recipient in a letter with payment, and finally the original card would be remailed as a receipt to the payer.

From 1873 (when postal cards were introduced in the United States) until the 1902 Postal Laws and Regulations, we find the following, from the 1893 PL&R, Sec. 278: “A postal card once delivered can not be remailed as such.”

That is, the postal card could be remailed only at the letter rate, not at the lower postcard rate. Therefore, probably until 1902, when postal cards were used as domestic receipts, cards were remailed at the 2¢ domestic letter rate.

With this column I show two interesting uses of postal cards as receipts, in 1926 and 1937, demonstrating how the remailing henceforth was at the postcard rate of the time.

The first, a postal card mailed March 6, 1926, was used to send a request for an assessment of $4.40 for the Fort Worth Mutual Benevolent Association. The 1¢ postal card was correctly used.

This card was returned with the $4.40 payment, and the card was remailed on Mar. 9 at the correct 2¢ postcard rate because the card had lost its identity as a postal card and was now a postcard. The payer dutifully placed a 2¢ stamp over the postal card indicium as ordered on the reverse of the card: “If you desire a receipt PUT A 2 CENT STAMP ON CARD.”

The second remailed postal card was a 1¢ card mailed on Sept. 18, 1937, requesting a $2 assessment payment for the Immediate Relief Association.

The card was returned with the payment with a 1¢ stamp affixed, because the postcard rate was again 1¢. The postal card, now with the character of a postcard and correctly paid at the current 1¢ postcard rate, was returned as a receipt on Oct. 7, 1937.


Tony Wawrukiewicz and Henry Beecher are the co-authors of two useful books on U.S. domestic and international postage rates since 1872. The third edition of the domestic book and the international book are available from the American Philatelic Society.