Can un-stamped stamps be reused?
July 11, 2008 6:47 PM   Subscribe

Can you reuse postage stamps if the Post Office doesn't stamp them?

I have gotten many items in the mail, especially large boxes with several stamps on them, that seem to have not been stamped with the Post Office mark. I know that the stamp from the Post Office invalidates a stamp for further usage but if they are not stamped at all, can they be used again? Do they have any mysterious way of marking the stamps that I cannot see but they will find if I were to try to reuse the stamps?
posted by nursegracer to Grab Bag (8 answers total)
Yes, if they're not marked, you can use them again.
posted by kindall at 6:52 PM on July 11, 2008

This has actually been asked before, in slightly different form.
posted by jessamyn at 7:00 PM on July 11, 2008

It could be that they don't stamp some of the stamps on large packages because there is excessive postage. If kindall knows what he's talking about, that would be my guess based on his matter of fact answer. Otherwise my answer was just going to be "maybe, but it'd be wrong".
posted by gauchodaspampas at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2008

According to my friend at the IRS, they frequently get a lot of thick envelopes - especially the ones arriving later in the tax season - with several dollars of postage stamps on them. For whatever reason, these are rarely cancelled. At least one IRS employee was terminated for adding to his "stamp collection." In other words, it was clearly believed he was planning to resell or reuse them. I don't think they could fire him for this without proof; he was let go for some violation of IRS policy regarding tampering with the envelopes, which late in the season are stapled to the back of returns and used (sometimes) to determine whether the return was filed "timely" or not. But they did screw up his work record pretty completely, and he had to plead guilty to some sort of transgression that ended up being fairly draconian, if that's the correct word.

In any case, it's illegal to reuse them. I know that the post office has sometimes done testing on delivery times (perhaps, maybe it was something else) by postmarking the stamps with the usual stamp, plus some sort of fluorescent ink like the ones clubs use - invisible to the naked eye. So the technology's there for a "mysterious way." I doubt they use it much, but I can't say.

Normally I'd say to go ahead, if you feel like being dishonest. The odds aren't really huge that you'll get caught. But penalties for screwing with the post office if they do catch you are pretty severe in relation to the value of the crime. So personally, I'd stay honest. Others may disagree.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:17 PM on July 11, 2008

An important disclaimer: I don't intend to do this, I was just wondering. Thanks for the answers so far.

But isn't it their fault if they don't stamp them all? Just sayin'.
posted by nursegracer at 7:27 PM on July 11, 2008

fluorescent ink

USPS is doing testing with these. I'd lean towards it not being common, but they are looking at them.

But penalties for screwing with the post office if they do catch you are pretty severe in relation to the value of the crime.

If you're just sending a few letters, most likely worst case they'll show up "Postage Due" (or return to you, with that same message). If you're a business, absolutely no way I'd do this. (I wouldn't do it either way, but as a business, it'd be especially bad, I think.)
posted by inigo2 at 7:32 PM on July 11, 2008

I was at my local post office a few months ago and one of my stamps was partially peeling off. I mentioned it to the clerk and stated that it was a new stamp, I hadn't reused it. She snorted and said, "Girl, I reuse half the stamps I get. You're crazy if you don't, or just plain stupid! WE DON'T CARE."

Take that as you will.
posted by arnicae at 10:59 PM on July 11, 2008

Arnicae, that clerk was speaking only for herself. A lot of the people in the Postal Service care enough to return your mail. The USPS considers reusing stamps as fraud. I don't think I've ever heard of them prosecuting anybody, but they return what they find.
posted by faceonmars at 10:08 AM on July 13, 2008

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