US Stamps

A tale of a water-logged Priority Mail cover with a happy ending

May 3, 2021, 7 AM

Dollar-Sign Stamps — By Charles Snee

It almost goes without saying that water and mail bearing stamps don’t mix well.

More often than not, both the cover and the contents suffer. Such was the case for a partially water-logged Priority Mail flat I received in mid-October.

As it turned out, the sender, Bill Tiffany of Sarasota, Fla., was replying to my feature about modern United States military mail that was published in the Aug. 14 issue of Linn’s.

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Tiffany’s reply to my feature article was published in Letters to Linn’s in the Dec. 4 issue.

As can be seen, most of the damage affected the bottom half of the cover, which was franked with three dollar-denominated stamps: an imperforate $1 Circus Posters (Scott 4905e), a $1.05 Scenic American Landscapes (C150), and a nondenominated ($1.15) Echeveria global forever stamp (5198).

On the plus side, the imperforate Circus Posters souvenir sheet (Scott 4905c) escaped unscathed.

These and the other stamps affixed to the right side of the parcel combined to pay the required $6.65 postage for a Priority Mail large flat-rate envelope.

Included in the contents was a handsome cacheted Army Post Office cover (from Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo; not shown) that also fared poorly during the unforeseen water soak.

I set out the envelope and contents to dry, silently mourning the loss of these collectible examples of military and dollar-sign postal history.

Once my mood had rebounded, I contacted Tiffany to alert him about the damage to the cover and its contents.

He graciously offered to send a replacement APO cover, which duly arrived — in pristine condition — in late October in a Priority Mail window envelope festooned with an eye-catching array of 10 different stamps.

Although smaller, it also is a flat-rate envelope that required $6.65 postage.

Four dollar-denominated stamps satisfied most of the postage: a $2 Jenny Invert (Scott 4806a), a $2 Bobcat (2482), a nondenominated ($1.15) Echeveria, and a $1.05 Scenic American Landscapes.

A $0.00 postal validation imprint at top left confirms the payment of all postage, and a U.S. Postal Service barcoded label at bottom left shows the letter was expected to be delivered Oct. 19, two days after it was mailed from Sarasota.

During almost 20 years of pursuing U.S. dollar-sign postal history, I’ve encountered relatively few Priority Mail window envelopes.

I suspect many of them were sacrificed for the stamps because they typically are mailed with a smaller No. 10-size envelope placed inside; it is this envelope that bears the mailing and return addresses.

Most recipients simply remove the inner envelope with its contents and discard the Priority Mail envelope with its affixed postage.

Absent the mailing and return addresses, a used Priority Mail window envelope is a diminished piece of postal history.

Fortunately, that is not the case for the illustrated example because Tiffany affixed a USPS mailing label before mailing it to me.

One way to avoid the need for a mailing label is to prepare the inner envelope so that the mailing and return addresses and the necessary postage will be clearly visible through the window.

Then have a postal clerk postmark the stamps before placing the inner envelope inside the Priority Mail envelope.

Of course, to then have a collectible piece of postal history, the two envelopes need to remain together after both have been opened.

As you might surmise, that does not happen in many cases.

I welcome your stories about U.S. dollar-denominated stamps and postal history. Write to Dollar-Sign Stamps, Box 4129, Sidney, OH 45365-4129. You may also reach me via email