US Stamps

Are U.S. special delivery stamps valid for postage?

Jul 6, 2023, 8 AM
Special Delivery stamps, such as these later examples from 1954-71, are not valid for use as postage according to the United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual.

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

An often-asked question from readers is whether the special-purpose stamps issued by the United States are still valid for postage, despite the fact that the special service is no longer offered by the U.S. Postal Service.

Special delivery stamps seem to be the most pressing concern, because that service was replaced by Express Mail in 1997 and is no longer offered. Shown nearby are the last four special delivery stamps, issued in 1954 (Scott E20), 1957 (E21), 1969 (E22) and 1971 (E23).

The answer is found in Section 604, “Postage Payment Methods,” of the Domestic Mail Manual. Part 1.3 of this section, “Postage Stamps Invalid for Use”, says, “The following are not valid to pay postage for U.S. domestic or U.S.-originated international mail: Postage due, special delivery, special handling, and Certified Mail stamps.”

Curiously, this seems to leave the old registry, parcel post and domestic airmail stamps on the approved list. The first two have current equivalents as services, but domestic airmail was eliminated as a guaranteed service effective Oct. 11, 1975.

So, the bottom line is that special delivery stamps are invalid, even for Express Mail.

The fact that some special delivery stamps have been used in violation of the rules and passed without postage due being charged is likely the result of postal personnel not knowing the rules, or simple inadvertence in the face of the quantities of mail processed.

Indeed, it would probably cost more to collect postage due than the lost revenue represented by the face value of the stamp used.

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