US Stamps

Computer-vended postage varieties fun to collect

Jul 9, 2020, 9 AM
These six examples provide an overview of some of the varieties that can be found on computer-vended postage labels. The author has a couple of hundred of the United States Postal Service eagle emblem imprint combined with the flag design and will give one away to Linn’s readers, first come, first served. See the accompanying article for details.

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

Computer-vended postage (CVP) labels dispensed at nearly 2,900 post office self-service kiosks nationwide are often ignored by stamp collectors because we tend to appreciate stamps produced in sheets of the sort that have dominated philately since 1840. But we may be missing a good bet by rejecting these modern stamps produced by computer closer to the point of sale.

I will admit that they were not inspiring in terms of design when first introduced, but that problem has been addressed and more recent labels are much more attractive.

But for me as a collector of printing varieties, CVP labels are a gold mine because of all the glitches computers are heir to, including the problems of programming and operating the kiosks.

Six examples are shown nearby. Note that there can be missing elements, extra elements and even inverts of CVP labels.

The Scott Specialized Catalogue of United Stamps and Covers has a thorough section of CVP labels, which shows their development and the different types produced. The catalog also includes a section on personal computer postage, another worthy category.

The CVP section does discuss varieties in many of the notes that follow listings but does not present an exhaustive listing of errors. This is likely because CVP label varieties don’t generally track back to the printing process, instead they occur during the vending process.

Probably the variety that is most frequently encountered is the United States Postal Service eagle emblem seemingly superimposed on another design, as seen in the example in the lower left.

It is not entirely clear to me how this happened, as some descriptions I’ve heard say that the wrong stock was fed into a machine set to print the USPS eagle emblem design onto blank stock. Others suggest that the non-eagle design is being printed over the eagle.

Whatever the cause, everyone seems to agree that it tracks back to operator error in feeding or programming the machine or in selecting the stock to be fed into it.

I’ve been fortunate to have purchased for a pittance a couple of hundred examples of the American Flag CVP labels issued in 2014 with the USPS eagle emblem printed on or under the flag design. I’m happy to offer one gratis to Linn’s readers until I run out.

If you would like one of these labels, please send a letter-size, stamped and addressed envelope to me, John Hotchner, Box 1125, Falls Church, VA 22041-0125.

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