US Stamps

Record number of coil stamps for 1-ounce fund-raising letter

Aug 17, 2015, 5 AM

By Ronald Blanks

A recent political fund-raising campaign featured what must be a record number of United States postage stamps used to pay postage on a 1-ounce mass-mailed letter.

In addition to the nine coil stamps machine-affixed for the 49¢ postage, the address window in the envelope reveals a paper-clipped strip of at least six 5¢ Toleware stamps (Scott 3612).

The metal-die machine cancel has a March 23, 2015, postmark and seven wavy lines that neatly cancel the strip of four 10¢ American Clock stamps (Scott 3763a).

The remaining 9¢ of the first-class rate is paid with four self-adhesive 1¢ Bobcat coil stamps (Scott 4672) and a 5¢ Toleware coil stamp. The five coil singles are uncanceled, spread across the top to the left of the 10¢ American Clock stamps.

At first glance, the total number of coils involved appears to be 15.

You might think the dramatic appearance of all these stamps was sufficient to get the recipient to open the mailing (or at least so hoped the creative marketing director behind it). Alas, the cover was tossed into the trash unopened.

If opened, the long 5¢ Toleware coil strip is revealed to be 10 stamps long, clipped to the back of the reply envelope.

Of the 19 total coils from at least four rolls, only the ninth stamp in the mint 5¢ strip bears a plate number, S1111111.

In another possible first, we learn that some outside of the stamp hobby call a long strip of stamps a “string.” The front of the reply cover bears the instruction “Affix string of stamps here.” The 50¢ postage strip overpaid the 49¢ first-class rate by 1¢.

It seems a bit strange that after 30 years of self-adhesive stamps the prospective donor is given a strip of 10 water-activated lick-and-stick gummed coils for use on the courtesy reply envelope.

It’s hard to imagine most folks, besides stamp collectors, would be comfortable with the potentially unsanitary step required here.

It would be interesting to learn how many recipients, upon deciding to respond, will simply reach for one of their own self-stick stamps to affix instead.

Ironically, the U.S. Postal Service has plans to eliminate the remaining lick-and-stick stamps in favor of offering self-sticks exclusively (Linn’s, March 23, 2015).

Just one self-adhesive low-value coil has been offered so far, the 1¢ Bobcat stamp. The USPS issued rolls of 3,000 in 2012, bearing a 2012 year date, and rolls of 10,000 this past February with a 2015 year date.

As this mailpiece shows, the creativity of direct-mail marketers appears to be boundless.

Once only self-stick stamps are available, we can wonder what kinds of courtesy strings of liner paper with mint coils might appear in future mailing appeals.


Ronald Blanks is a member of the Plate Number Coil Collectors Club, which studies U.S. coils issued since 1981.