US Stamps

Unauthorized overprints on stamps

Jun 5, 2023, 7 AM

U.S. Stamp Notes by John M. Hotchner

As longtime readers of Linn’s might know, I am always happy to find United States stamps overprinted with odd and unofficial messages.

First-class postage rates have tripled since the 1980s, so we don’t see as much of this anymore. But from the days of 1¢ to 4¢ rates, examples are always popping up that I’ve not seen. I have a few new ones to share in this column.

The first overprint is “Rocket Flight” on all four stamps from a 1923 2¢ George Washington perf 11 booklet (Scott 554c), shown in Figure 1.

I have no idea what rocket flight is the basis for this overprint or if it ever flew. What I do know is that there is no cancellation on the stamps, and the overprint itself would have invalidated the stamps for use.

The U.S. Postal Service and its predecessor, the U.S. Post Office Department, have long considered any stamp with unauthorized markings to be canceled.

Shown in Figure 2, the second overprint is in red on a Denver Stamp Club cover. The overprint reads, “7th Annual Exhibition/D.S.C./May 8-13, 1939.”

The cover, which is canceled May 8, 1939, makes a nice souvenir. It is evident that the Denver Stamp Club knew the rules, because it paid the postage with one 4½¢ White House stamp (Scott 809) from the 1938 Presidential issue and overprinted the other stamp for its annual show in 1939.

Why the White House stamp was used on this cover is not known. But for those of us who collect varieties and usages of that stamp, this cover is a prize find. My thanks to U.S. stamp dealer Denny Peoples for pointing it out in his stock.

To read about two more stamps with unauthorized overprints, subscribe to Linn’s Stamp News.

Connect with Linn’s Stamp News: 

    Sign up for our newsletter
    Like us on Facebook
    Follow us on Twitter