What are Postal Service Stamp Policies?


What is a Postal Cancellation or Special Cancellation?

A Cancellation is a Postal marking applied to a postage stamp or Postal stationery indicating that the unit of postage has been used. Modern cancellations are often applied simultaneously with a postmark, for efficiency, and commonly the terms "cancellation" and "postmark" are used interchangeably, if incorrectly.

A cancellation intended solely to prevent reuse of a stamp is sometimes called obliteration.

A Special Cancellation is a Postage Cancellation executed by a specific Post Office as directed by a customer. For instance, a customer can mail his or her holiday cards to Bethlehem, CT, to request a Special Cancellation.

What is a Pictorial Cancellation?

A Pictorial Cancellation is a souvenir cancellation that is applied with a hand stamp and is authorized in conjunction with establishment of a temporary postal station. As a community service, the Postal Service offers pictorial cancellations to commemorate local events celebrated in communities throughout the nation. People attending these local events may obtain the cancellation in person at the temporary Post Office station established there. As an alternative to those stamp subjects that cannot be approved, application can be made with local postal managers for a philatelic cancellation to coincide with any planned celebration.

Applications for pictorial and special cancellations may be submitted to local postal managers. They will be pleased to submit the application and in providing any additional information needed concerning the use of a pictorial or special cancellation.

Note: A current list of events for which pictorial postmarks are authorized can be found in the Postal Bulletin (http://about.usps.com/postal-bulletin/welcome.htm) under Stamp Services.


What is the difference between Reissue and Reprint?

When a stamp is Reprinted, the date on the stamp will not alter.  For example, the Red Fox stamp was reprinted on several instances but all have the same date.  Generally, when a stamp is Reissued in a different format the date will be modified.  For example, the NY Public Library Lion PSA (#791830) and the Sea Coast PSA (#781430) were reissued (not reprinted) in a water-activated format.  They were originally issued in a self-adhesive format.

  • Reprint - printing additional quantities because of depleted supplies
  • Reissue - Three (3) items constitute a reissue:
    1. Format 
    2. Denomination
    3. Design 

Note:  Even on reissued stamps, the copyright date that is found in the "Marginal Markings" will remain the same. This is because it identifies the official date the stamp design was copyrighted.


Can I use U.S. Postage in another country?

U.S. postage cannot be used in another country. You must use the proper postage based on the country where the item is being mailed from:

  • When mailing an item from inside the United States, you must use U.S. postage (even if it is going to a location outside of the United States).
  • When mailing an item from outside of the United States, you must use postage stamps from the country of origin (you cannot use U.S. postage, even if it is coming to the United States). 





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