US Stamps

Taking a peek inside Priority Mail window envelopes

Dec 9, 2015, 6 AM
This small Priority Mail flat-rate window envelope was mailed in late October from Knox, Ind., to the Amos Media circulation department in Sidney, Ohio. The $5.75 Glade Creek Grist Mill stamp paid the required postage. Note that the stamp is affixed to th

By Charles Snee

As a courtesy to its customers, the United States Postal Service provides Express Mail and Priority Mail envelopes free of charge at many of its post offices.

For a number of years now, I’ve collected postally used examples of these envelopes franked, of course, with dollar-denominated stamps.

Most easily found are the large 9½-inch-by-12½-inch flat-rate envelopes. Far more difficult to find are the window envelopes, which currently come in two sizes, large and small (5 inches by 10 inches).

I’ve yet to encounter a postally used large window envelope, and I’ve seen only a handful of the small version that pulled postal duty.

So I was quite pleased to find the cover illustrated here when I was sorting through incoming mail here at our office in Sidney, Ohio.

A single $5.75 Glade Creek Grist Mill stamp, affixed to the outside of the Priority Mail envelope, was used to pay the Priority Mail flat rate to send the enclosed contents from Knox, Ind., to the Amos Media circulation department in Sidney, Ohio.

The sender had placed inside the Amos Media envelope, visible through the window, a renewal notice and a check for a one-year subscription to Linn’s.

Apparently the sender did not want to miss a single issue, and opted to use Priority Mail to get the payment to Linn’s more quickly.

A USPS Tracking Number barcode label affixed to the bottom of the Priority Mail envelope states: “Expected Delivery Day: 10/30/2015.”

At upper right, we can see from the zeroed-out U.S. Postage Paid label that the contents were mailed Oct. 28.

While I can’t be certain when Amos Media (parent company of Linn’s) received this mailing, it’s likely that it would have arrived at about the same time if sent via ordinary first-class mail for 49¢.

Nonetheless, the sender’s sense of urgency formed the genesis of a splendid piece of Dollar-Sign postal history.

Perhaps at this point you’re wondering why postally used examples of these Priority Mail window envelopes are tough to find.

Invoking Occam’s Razor, let’s assume that the simplest explanation is the most likely: Few of them are actually used to send mail.

Another possibility is that, once the contents (typically another sealed envelope, as in this case) are removed, the window envelope is discarded.

Note that the inner envelope bears a return address label. So the Amos Media circulation department would not need the Priority Mail envelope for any records-keeping purpose.

What else accounts for the desirability of this item? Answer: The stamp is affixed to the Priority Mail envelope, not to the Amos Media envelope.

Postal regulations allow postage to be affixed to the inner envelope and postmarked before inserting it into a Priority Mail window envelope for mailing. I have examples of this method in my collection.

Trouble is, once the inner and outer envelopes are separated, their synergy as a postal-history combination is lost.

Even in the case of the cover discussed here, if the Amos Media envelope were removed and discarded, one could not determine the recipient’s address.

A key point to remember is this: Original contents always make a cover more interesting because they provide context and, more often than not, a good story.

I welcome your stories about U.S. dollar-denominated stamps and their postal history. Write to Dollar-Sign Stamps, Box 4129, Sidney, OH 45365-4129; or send an email (along with high-resolution scans of your stamps or covers) to