Rules for Collector Cancellations

Not all window clerks know the rules for collector cancellations. When visiting a post office seeking special postmarks, it might be a good idea to bring with you this excerpt from the Postal Operations Manual (POM). The clerk can verify these sections in the office copy of the POM:

Rules for Collector Cancellations

231.3 Cooperation With Collectors

231.31 Postmarks
Employees should strive to furnish clear and legible postmarks to stamp collectors by ensuring that cancellation machines and hand-stamp devices are properly inked. Postal employees must give special attention to mail bearing an endorsement that it is of philatelic value or to requests for light cancellations, and they should avoid canceling stamps by pen or illegible smudging. However, stamps must be cancelled sufficiently to protect postal revenue.

231.32 Special Attention
The Postal Service cannot provide special attention to a philatelic cover that has been routinely entered into the mailstream by the sender.

231.33 Postmarking Devices
Postmarking devices may only be used under the supervision of authorized postal personnel.

231.34 Hand-Stamped Postmarks
All hand-stamped postmarks are made with black ink unless the customer specifically indicates a preference for another color.

231.35 Philatelic Covers
Employees should exercise care in handling all philatelic covers to ensure that they are not damaged in mail handling. These covers are generally identifiable by a design (cachet) on the left side of the envelope.

231.36 Defacing Philatelic Covers
Postal employees should ensure that philatelic covers are not over-cancelled, backstamped, marked "received this date", or otherwise defaced on front or back; used as a top piece in a bundle for destination-package labeling purposes; or bent, folded, mutilated, or damaged by rubber bands.

231.4 Hand-Back and Mail-Back Service
Postmarks rather than other obliterations should be used to provide the following services whenever they are available:
a. Hand-Back Service
(1) When a customer personally presents an addressed or unaddressed envelope, postal card, or other item described in 231.63 to a postal clerk for cancellation with the current day's postmark, the post office must postmark the item and return it, or hand it back, to the customer.
(2) The envelope, card, or other item does not enter the mailstream. All such materials must bear uncanceled postage at the applicable First-Class rate.
(3) This service may be provided for special die hub or regular machine cancellations only when the particular cancellation machine is readily accessible to the postal clerk, and only when providing such service does not interfere with other sales or mail processing operations and does not inconvenience other customers.
(4) The Last Day of Sale cancellation will be applied to customers' covers or other items with one of more of the stamps being removed from sale affixed on a hand-back basis only.

b. Mail-Back Service
Mail-back service refers to service for stamp dealers and cover servicers that is authorized by the PFSC and that permits envelopes, cards, or other items submitted for cancellation to be returned in bulk through the mail. Conditions of service are further described in 242. This form of mail-back service must be approved in writing and in advance by the PFSC. Mail-back service is not to be provided for special die hub or regular machine cancellations. Last Day of Sale covers submitted for servicing and return through the mailstream will not be entered into the mails until the date appearing on the cancellation.