By Donna Houseman
In a recent letter to Linn’s, James Paton asks, “Do we have to wait for the recalcitrant U.S. Congress to act before I can sell my interesting Cuban covers that were sent through the mails over 70 years ago?” Paton wants to sell on the eBay Internet auction site a 1943 censored cover from Havana to the United States.
The short answer is “Yes.” The embargo is still in effect, and eBay, like any other business, must abide by the embargo.
That said, rather than determine which collectible items are embargoed and which are allowed, eBay implemented a blanket policy in 2013 that prohibits “all such Cuban-origin items from being sold.” In other words, they took the easy way out.
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The Embargo Act and the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control guidelines ban importing into the United States Cuban stamps, coins, and other collectibles issued from 1962 onward; items issued prior to 1962 may be freely traded.
U.S. sanctions against Cuba were first imposed in 1960. More legislation was passed in July 1963, and today six different statutes are in place to regulate trade with Cuba.
Volume 2 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue includes an editor’s note preceding Scott 703-705, the first stamp issue of 1962, that states: “Cuban goods have been embargoed by the United States since a Feb. 7, 1962 proclamation by President Kennedy, but according to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, used Cuban stamps can be imported and sold without limitation, and unused stamps may be imported for personal use, but not resold.”
Where mail between the United States and Cuba is concerned, as Michael Baadke reported in the April 4 Linn’s, the United States Postal Service began transporting mail to Cuba on March 17 for the first time since mail service was suspended in 1963.
According to the USPS, mail service to Cuba “is limited to First-Class Mail International items, First-Class Package International Service items, and Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelopes and Small Flat Rate Priced Boxes. Priority Mail International parcel service is not available.”
Since the embargo was imposed in the 1960s, mail from the United States has been sent through a third-party country. Many Cuban natives living in the United States can attest that mail sent this route was slow at best and sometimes never arrived at its destination.
Transporting mail to Cuba is one of several steps taken by the Obama administration “to further engage and empower the Cuban people.”
Until Congress acts to lift the embargo, sanctions remain in effect, preventing U.S. citizens from legally importing or exporting any Cuban philatelic material issued after the 1962 embargo date.