By Michael Baadke
Self-service kiosks in some United States post offices are now dispensing nondenominated (50¢) computer-vended forever stamps with a new U.S. Flag design.
Collectors can look for two major varieties: one issued from older kiosks and showing a serial number that begins with a letter, and another vended from new kiosks and showing a numbers-only serial number. The new kiosks are being installed to replace the old kiosks.
The image on the new issues pictures only a detail of a fluttering 50-star flag, with 13 stars showing entirely or partially, along with segments of eight red or white stripes.
The design is derived from the same Tom Grill photograph that serves as the vignette for the nondenominated (49¢) forever stamp issued in coils and various pane (booklet) formats on Jan. 27, 2017 (Scott 5158-5162). The illustration on the computer-vended stamps is cropped a little tighter than it is on the 2017 postage stamp.
Philatelic researcher Peter C. Elias provided the images of the new computer-vended stamps pictured here and shared details of his findings with Linn’s Stamp News.
The new Flag design appears likely to replace the previous Flag computer-vended stamp originally issued April 1, 2014 (Scott CVP91). That 2014 issue was minimally revised earlier this year as the USPS program to replace older kiosks began, and was assigned a new Scott catalog number.
The 2018 version (Scott CVP102) of the 2014 computer-vended Flag stamp uses the same illustration, but its vertical serial number also consists of numbers only with no single-letter prefix.
The illustration on the 2014 computer-vended stamp and its 2018 variety is the Flag at Dusk painting by Laura Stutzman first used on 42¢ postage stamps issued April 18, 2008 (Scott 4228, 4232, 4236, 4240 and 4244).
The 2019 Scott Specialized Catalog of United States Stamps and Covers reports that the earliest known vending date for the 2018 variety showing the 2014 Flag design is April 27, 2018.
Elias reports that his earliest find of the newest Flag design was Aug. 23, in an old-style kiosk in Plano, Texas, so that stamp’s serial number begins with a letter.
His first find of the new design vended from a new machine was on Sept. 3 from Castleton, Ind. Elias notes that there could be earlier examples.
The serial number on each stamp includes the date.
The first four characters in the number string identify the dispensing kiosk, and the next five show the date, with a single digit (8) for the year (2018), followed by four digits representing the month and date. The final six digits tell the time of day, with two digits each for hour, minute and seconds.
Elias notes that he encountered kiosks vending stamps with the USPS logo printed in black upon the new Flag design. This variation occurs when the machine is not properly programmed to vend labels with the preprinted color image.
The labels loaded into the kiosks are preprinted with only the Flag design. The black imprints, including the bar code and serial number, are printed on the label when a customer completes an order using the kiosk.
Elias has prepared a four-page exhibit about the new kiosks and the Flag stamps they are dispensing. His exhibit will be shown at the 2018 Mid-Cities Stamp Expo, Nov. 9-10, at Grapevine Convention Center, 1209 S. Main St., in Grapevine, Texas, near the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
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He has also published a 10-page article in the Autumn 2018 issue of the Meter Stamp Society Quarterly Bulletin about computer-vended postage stamps and changes in the USPS self-service kiosks.
It is likely that another new computer-vended postage stamp will be offered through the kiosks before the end of the year. Since 2012, the Postal Service has created holiday-theme vended stamps each year, issued sometime between mid-October and early November.
Not all post offices have the self-service kiosk that dispenses vended postage, and those that do might not have the new Flag design available.
Collectors interested in obtaining the new vended postage stamps can look online for a post office location that has the self-service kiosk installed.
Visit tools.usps.com and look for the Quick Tools link at upper left. Hover on the link and select Find USPS Locations from the choices that appear.
On the next screen, under Location Types, click the down arrow and select Self-Service Kiosks from the drop-down menu, enter a city and state (or ZIP code), select a distance radius for your search and click on the search button.
Computer-vended postage stamps are listed in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog.