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removing stamps


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20 replies to this topic

#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 23 2006 - 05:35 AM

In the course of my business, I am sometimes left with uncancelled US postage stamps. (I supply "pre-stamped" envelopes; sometimes they come back to me UNcancelled because the client drops the pre-stamped envelope in my mailbox without going thru the post office, etc.)

These are the pre-adhesive type of US postage stamp, not the lick-'em type.

I'd like to be able to REUSE these unused stamps, but I can not reuse the envelopes (as they also include printed address info that is difficult to cover over). Any advice on how to remove the unused stamps without damaging them so that I can reuse them?

MC
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#2 of 21 OFFLINE   Steve_Pannell

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Posted August 23 2006 - 05:42 AM

When I run into a situation like that I just cut around the stamp with scissors, envelope and all, and then use a little glue to stick it to a new envelope.

#3 of 21 OFFLINE   MandyHan

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Posted August 23 2006 - 06:47 AM

could you use the same trick of loosening the adhesive that people use to open letters that arent there....the microwave?

#4 of 21 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 23 2006 - 08:26 AM

Well, if you cut the stamps out, including the envelope paper, doesn't the post office balk at noting the thickness of the glue-sticked envelope/stamp on the new envelope? And, how do you use the microwave to open letters or remove stamps? MC
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#5 of 21 OFFLINE   DougR

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Posted August 23 2006 - 08:32 AM

STEAM

#6 of 21 OFFLINE   cafink

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Posted August 23 2006 - 08:32 AM

Not actually having done this myself, I don't see why it would be a problem. The stamp is unused and still valid. Having an extra scrap of paper glued between it and the envelope doesn't change that.
 

 


#7 of 21 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted August 23 2006 - 08:36 AM

Just so you are aware, it is illegal to reuse those stamps. I'm sure people do it all the time, but it is a federal crime according to US Code Title 18, Sections 471 and 1720. You can find a sign at any post office that reads: WARNING! Once a postage stamp has been used, it is a federal crime to: 1. Remove, attempt to remove, or assist to remove cancellation marks from postage. 2. Reuse a stamp whether cancelled or not.

#8 of 21 OFFLINE   Henry Gale

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Posted August 23 2006 - 08:51 AM

Greg is correct.... Yes, they're uncancelled, but they've been used. It's OK for someone to put mail in your mailbox, as long as it has the correct postage. Now, as to getting really unused postage onto another envelope, DON'T put tape over it, that voids the postage. The USPS will send it back to you.
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#9 of 21 OFFLINE   ChristopherDAC

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Posted August 23 2006 - 08:54 AM

Title 18 SS. 471 and 1720 do NOT apply to postage stamps which have been affixed to an envelope but never mailed. "Used" in the context of US Postage refers to its proper use, that is, as postage to pay for transit through the mail. Hence the reference to "cancellation marks" — one occasionally recieves an envelope in the mail with a stamp which has escaped being defaced by the cancellation apparatus, and that is what these sections forbid using to send another letter. Paying once for two uses is clearly fraud.

If you've just attached a stamp to an envelope, and you make a mistake addressing it, or it never goes out, or something, there's nothing illegal in taking it off and putting it on another envelope.
In any case, the philatelist will tell you that, if you need to get a stamp off again, you should use the steam from the spout of a boiling teakettle (careful not to burn your hands) or similar. This only really works with the gummed stamps you have to moisten yourself, which use dextrin adhesive similar to envelope flap glue, and NOT with the newer self-adhesive stamps.

#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Ken Chui

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Posted August 23 2006 - 09:38 AM

Depending on the surface, the self-adhesive ones can be removed by carefully peeling them off (I have done so successfully on envelopes and postcards that I never mailed); unfortunately, they don't stay flat once removed (I have to use something flat and heavy to prevent them from curling). I use a glue stick* to replace the adhesive on the previously removed self-stick stamp (*washable school glue is too messy).

#11 of 21 OFFLINE   Steve_Pannell

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Posted August 23 2006 - 09:41 AM

I've never had a problem with the extra thickness of a cut out stamp. Never really thought about it. Just be sure to let the glue dry before you mail it, though or it might slide off the edge of the envelope. As far as "reusing" stamps is concerned, I'm thinking more of stamps that have never been through the postal system such as stamping an envelope and changing your mind or receiving a stamped envelope inside some junk mail. I wouldn't hesitate to use those since they have technically never been used.

#12 of 21 OFFLINE   JeremyErwin

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Posted August 23 2006 - 10:26 AM

When I collected stamps, I used to cut out the portion of the envelope that bore that stamps, and drop it into a sink (or dish) of warm water. Sometimes dish detergent was used. Mind you, I didn't reuse the stamps, or reapply adhesive, but simply mounted them in my album.

They curled up a bit, so drying them was a pain. Can't remember what I did to solve that problem.

ah, here's a website to aid my failing memory

#13 of 21 OFFLINE   Paul D G

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Posted August 23 2006 - 08:19 PM

I used to do what Jeremy says: fill a plate with water then lay the stamps face down for a while. They seperate from the envelope easily. Then lay them on a towel to dry. Don't know about self adhesives tho. -paul

#14 of 21 OFFLINE   MichaelBA

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Posted August 23 2006 - 10:54 PM

Micah, two thoughts that don't involve removing the stamp...

You could more clearly instruct your recipients always to mail their envelopes properly unless you otherwise request it.

You could also use a sticker for the address of your recipients and thus when you get back an unmailed envelope, you can put a new address sticker over the original. Get a sticker that is thick enough so that the writing on the original won't show through on the second one.

Similarly, you could simply write the original address on the envelope and sticker over it later if the envelope comes back unmailed -- but if you do this try to write the address within the same frame as the sticker you might have to use.

In re stamp removal, the USPS recommends -- but only regarding stamp collecting, and not reusing uncancelled stamps -- the following:

How do I remove stamps from envelopes?

If you wish, you can save whole envelopes with stamps on them and store them anywhere -- from shoe boxes to special albums. But if you want to remove stamps from envelopes, it pays to be careful. The best way to remove stamps from envelopes is to soak them. Here's how:
    [*]Tear or cut off the upper right-hand corner of the envelope.[*]Place it, stamp side down, in a small pan of warm water. After a few minutes, the stamp will sink to the bottom.[*]Wait a few more minutes for any remaining gum to dislodge from the stamp.[*]Lift the stamp out with tongs (a metal tool, like tweezers) if you have a pair. It's better to handle stamps with tongs because oil from your skin can damage stamps.[*]Place the stamp between two paper towels and put a heavy object, such as a book, on top. This will keep the stamp from curling as it dries. Leave the stamp there overnight.[*]If the stamp is a newer one with "invisible" gum, dry it face down with nothing touching the back and flatten it later if necessary. Otherwise, it may stick to the paper towel when drying.
In re the legality of reusing an uncancelled stamp, 18 USC § 1720 states: "Whoever unlawfully and willfully removes from any mail matter any stamp attached thereto in payment of postage... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; but if he is a person employed in the Postal Service, he shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

I inquired of the USPS itself and confirmed the illegality of reusing even uncancelled stamps:

Is it legal to remove an uncancelled stamp from an envelope and reuse
that stamp as postage for another letter? For example, if I affix a
stamp on an envelope by mistake and do not ever try to mail that envelope,
may I remove the stamp and affix it on another envelope as proper
postage? Or does that violate 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1720?

Dear MICHAEL,

Thank you for visiting our website. I understand you need information
regarding postage.

Postage cannot be removed from a mailpiece once affixed and placed on
another mailpiece.

If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please don’t hesitate
to contact me. Thank you for choosing the United States Postal Service.

Regards,
Daryl P
He's got the bit between his teeth... all right!

#15 of 21 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 24 2006 - 12:30 AM

Huh. Those bastards! You mean, because "they" say so, I can't remove a stamp placed mistakenly and re-use it correctly? In other words, I have to buy another stamp? Clearly, this is a scam. Clearly, this is the postal service (a service I love and admire) scamming me, forcing me to buy more of something even when I don't actually need it. ("Lather, rinse, repeat," REPEAT? Why? Just to use up more product and have to buy more, sooner? No thank you.) Self-adhesive stamps appear to be the culprit here. Back when I was a stamp collecting geek I also had no problem steaming or soaking a few 3-centers off old envelopes, but these new self-adhesive stamps are locked down when they are placed on the envelope; they are not coming up without a fight. I wonder if you can still get lick-'em stamps at first-class rate? I hate these "built-in buy more" scams. MC
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#16 of 21 OFFLINE   ChristopherDAC

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Posted August 24 2006 - 02:34 AM

If you never present it for mailing, how can it be a "mailpiece"? The answer as given is not very useful.

#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Greg_S_H

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Posted August 24 2006 - 05:29 AM

I've never collected stamps, but would you do this even if you got one of those Brewster's Millions million dollar stamps in the mail? I can't imagine dropping that much money in a pan of water, but I guess if it doesn't hurt the stamps. . . .

#18 of 21 OFFLINE   Henry Gale

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Posted August 24 2006 - 10:40 AM

You and I think alike Christopher. If it hasn't been in the mail it's just paper.
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#19 of 21 OFFLINE   MichaelBA

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Posted August 25 2006 - 03:13 AM

I had to inquire further from the USPS because it also didn't make sense to me. Here's their much more thorough clarification:

Dear MICHAEL,

Thank you for contacting us about reusing stamps.

I apologize for the inaccurate information you have received.

A used stamp cannot ever be reused. If the stamp was already used to
send mail through the USPS®, it cannot be used to mail a different
mailpiece even if the stamp was not canceled.

Stamps that have not yet been used, but have been attached to an envelope may still be used. [My emphasis]

However, you may not cut an unused stamp from an envelope and use tape to apply to a new envelope. The tape will prevent the stamp from being canceled.

If you remove an unused stamp very carefully (steaming) and use glue to reapply to new envelope, it may then be used for postage.

Note:A returned domestic or international shortpaid mailpiece can have
the necessary additional postage affixed to the original piece and does
not have to be placed in a new envelope or wrapper.

Note: A returned undeliverable as addressed or refused by the
addressee mailpiece may not be remailed unless it is placed in a new envelope or wrapper with the correct address and new postage.

If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please don't hesitate
to contact me. Thank you for choosing the United States Postal Service®.

Regards,

Jan D
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#20 of 21 OFFLINE   ThomasC

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Posted August 25 2006 - 03:55 AM

I get lick-'em stamps if I buy stamps through a USPS vending machine, but that's if I'm buying 40 or 80 cents worth of stamps (a 39 cent stamp and a 1 cent stamp, or double that). I don't know if they sell the lick-'em kind in packs anymore.




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