Chapter 21
Mailing Stamps

This is a reference chapter. If you ever need to mail stamps, albums, album pages etc., this chapter will give you hints about how to do this safely.

As a point of reference, the first-class letter rate in effect as this book is being written is 44 cents for the first ounce. The Priority Mail rate for a one pound package is $4.95. All rates, of course, are subject to change in the future.


21.1 General Information

I typically mail stamps using the USPS. There are a couple of reasons for this:

1. It gives me a chance to use up extra MNH stamps.

2. It provides stamps on the package for the recipient. Stamp collectors like stamps on the package.

3. USPS insurance covers postage stamps. Some other carrier’s insurance does not. You’ll need to check with the individual carrier.

In mailing packages at the post office, you have several options:

1. Regular first-class mail. This gets your letter or package delivered 99.7% of the time. There is no insurance or record of delivery, so if your package gets lost, there is nothing you can do about it.

2. Priority Mail. This is simply first-class mail that weighs over 11 ounces. The same rules about losing a package apply here (nothing is insured). Priority Mail is generally the same speed as first-class mail. When at the post office, ask about free flat-rate envelopes and boxes.  Also ask about the Tyvek envelopes and non-flat-rate boxes if you can’t fit your material into a flat-rate envelope. The Tyvek envelopes also protect against water damage especially if you add a piece of shipping tape across the opening.

3. First-class or Priority Mail with postal insurance. You can add insurance to your letter or package. When you start to add it up, however, it costs a lot of money. You’ll need to weigh the cost of the insurance against how much you can stand to lose if the package gets lost.

4. First-class or Priority Mail sent certified. If you want a record that your material was received, add on a certified mail sticker. By using certified mail, the delivering post office will get a signature on the delivery. For another fee you can get a post card mailed back to you. The recipient has to sign the receipt for the post office, and then he/she signs the post card. I tend not to use return receipts because the post office doesn’t lose that many packages, because there is seldom a dispute that the person never received the package when in fact he/she did, and also because, for another fee, you can later ask the post office for proof of delivery.

5. Registered mail is the most secure mail handled by the USPS. When mailing your Zepps, always use registered mail! If you take a box or envelope to the post office, be aware that every seam must be covered with paper shipping tape. You cannot use plastic tape because the post office’s cancellation stamp must be affixed to the tape, and plastic won’t hold the ink. The post office will cancel each seam to ensure the package has not been tampered with in transit.

CAUTION: When shipping registered mail, you will be given a small, two-part form to fill out. There are two boxes on it, “With Postal Insurance” and, “Without Postal Insurance.” Make sure you check the box, “With Postal Insurance.” If you check the other box, you pay almost the same fee, but if your package is lost, you get nothing. I have yet to figure out why anyone would ever use that feature.


6. Parcel post. You can ship items that are not “of a first-class nature” via parcel post. The phrase, “of a first-class nature,” means personal correspondence that is handwritten or type written. You can, however, enclose a first-class letter inside a parcel post shipment if you add 44c to the total postage. Write “first-class letter enclosed” or “+44c” on the outside of the box. Parcel post shipments may also be insured. Parcel post works well if you are shipping relatively short distances.

The problem that you may run into with parcel post is that frequently there is almost no difference in rates between Priority Mail and parcel post if you are shipping longer distances. The post office can quickly tell you if Priority Mail or parcel post will be cheaper on your particular package. Be sure to ask.


Important: No matter what was said in previous paragraphs, when you ship material to a mail-order dealer, ship it in some way that you get a signature on receipt. This can be insured, certified or registered. This is also a case where I normally use a return receipt. The problem isn’t so much that the USPS will lose the package, but that the mail-order company may lose your package under a mountain of incoming mail. When you call to ask about your money, you will get a much better response if you have a receipt which says, “Sally Jones signed for it on March 20.”



21.2 Other Considerations

1. If you have APS insurance (see chapter 20), you can insure a shipment for less than the full amount. The insurance company will pay the difference between the insured loss and the actual value of what you shipped should the shipment become lost. Check your policy for details.

2. Some mail-order dealers and auction firms have a similar plan. Their own insurance will cover part of a loss. Check with them individually for details.

3. UPS is usually much less expensive for heavy shipments. However:
a. They will not insure philatelic material.
b. They must have a street address and will not deliver to a post office box.

4. For especially valuable shipments, the APS Insurance Plan recommends Express Mail with insurance. Not only is delivery rapid, but Express Mail is traceable and a receipt signature is mandatory unless you specifically sign a waiver. Usually, you do not want to sign this waiver.