Kevin Blackston
PO Box 217
Floresville TX 78114-0217
United States of America

Philosateleian Blog

Going plateless

Last week, I had the opportunity to fill in in the mail room at work. While “playing mailman,” I got to exchange pleasantries with the various mail carriers and other shipping service drivers who deliver to the office.

One day, Joe the mail carrier was a bit behind schedule because his mail truck had broken down. He mentioned that the truck, which was built in 1987, has around 450,000 miles on its original engine (which has not surprisingly been rebuilt).

I joked that Joe could probably get license plates identifying his truck as an antique, but he caught me off guard when he replied that USPS trucks don’t need plates.

Once I thought about it, I realized he was right; I’ve never seen a license plate on one of the little white trucks that carriers to deliver mail in the city. On the personal vehicles rural carriers use, sure—but never on the USPS-owned vehicles.

This little revelation left me wanting answers, so I did a bit of research. It turns out that USPS-owned mail trucks are not required to have license plates per federal regulations instituted in 1973. Who knew?

Have any other odd tidbits about the mail? Leave the details in a comment.

Make your own pages

No, I’m not giving up on The Philosateleian—but if you need album pages for something other than United States stamps, you can create your own using the beta.

Shameless plug: this major update to Philosateleia’s sister site makes it easy to create stamp album pages. Simply enter a caption for each of your stamps, plus each stamp’s width and height, and will take care of laying out the pages for you. This is easier than manually arranging each page; trust me, I speak from experience.

If you have a moment, check out the upgraded site. Comments, questions, and suggestions are very welcome.

Fall 2012 update for The Philosateleian

The Fall 2012 Supplement (274 KB, 4 files, 15 pages) for The Philosateleian U.S. Stamp Album is now available for download!

This supplement adds spaces for regular U.S. stamps issued since early June, including the final stamps in the 2008–12 Flags of Our Nation series and a new addition to the 2010–12 Scouting series. Spaces are also added for this year’s duck stamps, and additional details are provided for varieties of the 2012 Aloha Shirts and Four Flags stamps.

Naturally, these new pages are completely free. (If you want to show your support, that’s welcome, but not required.) Get the supplement now!

Online collectibles site Delcampe adds new seller fee

Say goodbye to 5- and 10-cent lots on Delcampe.

In an e-mail sent to members today, Sebastien Delcampe announced that an 18-cent sale fee will apply to each lot listed and sold after September 1. (There will still be no fees on lots that do not sell.) This fee is in addition to the existing commissions Delcampe takes off sold lots, and brings the popular auction site’s fee schedule closer to that of eBay.

In his e-mail, Delcampe states that the “objective is to limit the sale of items of too little value or for which there is too little interest.” The 18-cent sale fee will essentially make listing lots for less than 25 cents a money-losing proposition.

I can understand the move from a business perspective; Delcampe will eliminate low-value lots that, even if sold, result in miniscule commissions, and in the process make more valuable lots (from which they get a higher commission) more visible.

At the same time, I have to admit that I’m a bit disappointed in the move. I’ve sold a number of stamps on Delcampe that had very low catalogue values, and that I didn’t make any money from, but that I was happy to pass on to someone who could use them. I would be surprised if I’m the only one who did that, but now it will be more difficult to find those elusive but not particularly valuable stamps from around the world.

What’s your take on the Delcampe announcement? Love it or hate it? Share your thoughts below.

How to identify the 2012 Four Flags stamps

If you live in the United States, you’ve no doubt seen quite a few of the Four Flags stamps issued earlier this year. The set features four stamps, each with an identical American flag, but different wording: Freedom, Liberty, Equality, and Justice.

Complicating matters is the fact that each of the three different printers contracted to supply these stamps to the USPS has issued the stamps in two different formats, coil and booklet. 4 designs × 3 printers × 2 varieties per printer = 24 different stamps!

Those who collect only face different stamps don’t have to worry about such things, but for the rest of us, how do we identify which stamp is which? We’ll break down the set here and explain which stamp is which.

Coil stamps

We’ll begin with the coil stamps, as they’re the easiest to identify. Coils of 100 produced by each of the three printers all went on sale on February 22.

First up are the Avery Dennison coils (Scott 4629–4632), which are die cut 8.4 vertically. The big round die cuts make these the easiest to identify.

Avery Dennison Liberty coil stamp
Avery Dennison coil stamp (die cut 8.4 vert.)

Next are the Ashton-Potter coils (Scott 4633–4636), which are die cut 9.4 vertically. The die cutting ends 2–3 millimeters from the top and bottom edges of the stamp, which makes this variety appear to have square corners.

Ashton-Potter Freedom coil stamp
Ashton-Potter coil stamp (die cut 9.4 vert.)

Finally, we have the coil stamps printed by Sennett Security Products (Scott 4637–4640), which are die cut 11 vertically.

Sennett Security Products Liberty coil stamp
Sennett Security Products coil stamp (die cut 11 vert.)

And that’s it for the coil stamps! As mentioned before, there are four different designs repeated in each coil.

Booklet stamps

The booklet stamps are, unfortunately, a tougher nut to crack. While you should be able to identify each of the coil stamp varieties simply by eyeballing them, each of the booklets has the same gauge of die cutting, which looks like this.

Equality booklet stamp
Equality booklet stamp (die cut 11¼×10¾)

Positive identification therefore requires a millimeter gauge and a magnifying glass—unless you have excellent eyesight, of course.

The first two booklet varieties, printed by Ashton-Potter and Sennett Security Products, were also issued on February 22 in booklets of 20. There are apparently numerous minor differences, but the sure way to distinguish these is size. The Ashton-Potter stamps (Scott 4641–4644) are slightly narrower than the Sennett stamps (Scott 4645–4648). The Ashton-Potter booklet singles measure 18½ mm from the lower left corner to the lower right corner of the flag, while the Sennett stamps measure 19 mm from corner to corner. In this case, size does matter.

Portion of Four Flags booklet single with small USPS microprinting
Booklet single with small microprinting (measure from lower left corner to lower right corner)

Notice the microprinted “USPS” pointed out by the blue arrow in the above illustration? Both the Ashton-Potter and Sennett booklet stamps have this microprinting, but it will help us identify the third booklet variety, those printed by Avery Dennison.

The booklet stamps printed by Avery Dennison (Scott 4673–4676) were not issued until June 1, and were produced as booklets of 10. As pointed out by the blue arrow in the illustration below, the Avery Dennison stamps use a much larger but less bold microprinting than the other two booklet stamps.

Portion of Four Flags booklet single with large USPS microprinting
Booklet single with large microprinting

And that’s it! For now, that is. According to the Virtual Stamp Club, the USPS has already announced that booklets of 18 printed by Ashton-Potter will be made available starting on September 14. If stamps from that booklet differ from the earlier Ashton-Potter booklet stamps, we’ll be up to 28 different varieties from just four basic designs! As it currently stands, however, we’re at just two dozen.

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