US Stamps

Is this 1999 registered cover commercial or philatelic?

Apr 27, 2021, 9 AM

An attractive philatelic franking — 1992 $4 and $5 Columbians and a 1998 50¢ Trans-Mississippi — was used to send the commercial contents of this registered, restricted delivery letter in 1999.

Steve Datz, author of the Scott Catalogue of Errors on U.S. Postage Stamps, posed an interesting question when he sent me a picture of the cover shown here.

“Is it commercial or philatelic?”

Before answering the question, I’d like to point out that it is franked with some of my favorite dollar-sign stamps: the $4 and $5 Columbians of 1992, along with a 1998 50¢ Trans-Mississippi.

The $9.50 trio exactly paid the 55¢ postage, $2.75 restricted delivery fee and $6.20 registration fee for contents valued at $100 or less.

“It started out as a commercial cover, a registered cover used to send sensitive financial documents to my brother, who is not a stamp collector,” Datz told me.

“He asked that it not be sent to his home because no one would be there during weekdays to sign for it, and he did not want to have to go to the post office to retrieve it on the weekend.

“I suggested sending it to him at work by registered mail marked ‘restricted delivery,’ which meant that only he could sign for it.

“I prepared the envelope and contents. At that point I could have had it metered at the post office and it would have been a truly ‘commercial’ cover.

“However, I thought it would be more interesting to use some high value 1992 Columbians and a 1998 Trans-Mississippi for postage. I also asked that he open the envelope carefully and save it for me, which he did.

“So there it is — a cover used for a nonphilatelic purpose, but dressed up with a philatelic franking.

“Bottom line, it’s a nice cover that I enjoy owning regardless of whether or not it is perceived as philatelic.”

As for me, Datz’s cover is more commercial than philatelic.

While the stamps were used well out of period — a strike against it in the eyes of some postal historians — they were used for a commercial purpose.

On the positive side of the ledger, the three stamps exactly paid the required postage and fees. That makes this nifty cover a keeper in my eyes.

Do you agree or disagree? I would welcome your thoughts.

Linn’s welcomes information and items about U.S. dollar-denominated commemorative and definitive stamps.

Write to Dollar-Sign Stamps, Box 29, Sidney, OH 45365.

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