US Stamps

If you want stamps on your mail, ask

Feb 14, 2014, 11 AM

The seven colorful United States stamps on this cut-down package front would not be there if the author had not asked the sender to use stamps when he mailed the parcel.

When was the last time you went to your local post office and asked the clerk behind the counter to use stamps on a parcel you had to mail?

Perhaps you wished to avoid holding up the line behind you, so you just let the clerk affix a postage validation imprint (PVI) label. And then you silently lamented the attractive piece of postal history that might have been.

Well, I’ve been there too.

But I then reminded myself that the post office is there to provide services to all its customers, including stamp collectors.

So I began cultivating friendships with the clerks who had no problems with helping a collector decorate his mailings with attractive stamps.

I educated them (politely, of course) on the finer points of affixing stamps so the stamps would stand a better chance of surviving their trip without damage.

The clerks learned that the placement of a postmark matters to the collector who will receive the parcel and then remove the stamps from it for his collection. Better still, the clerks came to trust me, which meant they would let me arrange the stamps and postmark them myself.

Fostering these connections takes time. Be patient. And if you just can’t make a favorable connection, move on to another clerk. Odds are, you will find at least one who is sympathetic to a collector’s needs.

Of course, obtaining stamps via mail from other collectors is not difficult. Even in the Internet age, most stamp collectors (including yours truly) still use stamps on their mail.

The same cannot be said of sellers of items other than stamps. But why should that stop you from obtaining a collectible cover to add to your collection?

In addition to stamps, I collect books. Had I not found my vocation in stamp collecting, I likely would have been a bookseller.

These days, I buy most of my books online, primarily through auctions and from bookseller websites, such as

A few weeks back, I purchased a large book from a fellow in Connecticut.

During the course of our communication, I asked him to have the clerk at his post office use stamps to mail the parcel.

The top from that parcel, which I carefully cut down to make it easier to display and store, is shown on page 4.

Postage and insurance for $400 (indicated by the docketing at top right) came to $14.06. Of that total, $7.81 was paid with a nice array of stamps: a $5 Waves of Color (Scott 4719), a $2 Waves of Color (4718), four 20¢ George Washington (4504), and a single 1¢ Tiffany Lamp (3749A). A $6.25 PVI took care of the balance.

Had I not asked the seller to use stamps, I would have received a parcel bearing nothing more than a single PVI paying all the postage. It would have looked just like the thousands of other packages that crisscross the mailstream each day: dull and colorless.

The take-home lesson is simple: if you want to use or receive stamps on your mail, you have to ask. And don’t forget to do so with a smile and good cheer.

New dealer column

We are pleased to announce a new column in this issue: Stamp Dealer Vignettes.

This column is written by stamp dealers and will run occasionally, perhaps every other month or so.

The first installment, which may be found on page 24, is by Jim Dempsey of A&D Stamps and Coins in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Dempsey, who is 82, has been a very visible face at stamp shows across the country for decades.

He and his wife Sue ply the nation’s highways to bring their massive stock of worldwide stamps to appreciative collectors.

As he vividly explains in this inaugural column, a new, larger van was recently purchased to accommodate his wares. n