Friday, March 8, 2013

stamp placement

annie asked about the non-conforming positioning of stamps on mail art.
she asked if i take them in for a hand cancel or just drop them in the mail box and hope for the best.
i prefer to drop them in the mail box.
a few postal workers can be very unfriendly when they see non-conforming decorated envelopes.
the friendlier postal workers who understand mail art are not bothered by non-conforming stamp placement.
if you want to send a one-ounce envelope that conforms to the standards of size and thickness,
and you do not want to pay extra
it is my understanding that the address needs to be horizontal on the envelope
in landscape orientation.
the essential information is the street address and the zip code
i like to make that information very clear, towards the bottom, of the envelope.
i like to keep the bottom 1/2 inch of the envelope clear.
i saw a video of mail traveling through the postal system and when the mail is sorted, it is sent along a little track, which obscures the bottom 1/2 inch.
if the machine can't read the address
then it sends the envelope along the track where it is read by a human being
who types in the address which is converted to that bar code
which imprints on the envelope or on a sticker on the envelope
and that bar code helps the envelope reach its destination.
i actually know someone who had the job of sitting in front of the track and deciphering the addresses that were not machine-legible, usually because of poor penmanship.
she was always happy to see some lovely mail art.
but...the bottom line is that if you pay that first class rate
and have the address clearly written, in landscape orientation
the position of the stamp is not critical.
i don't know if they will ever attempt to enforce the upper-right corner as the only acceptable position.
i understand that canada has tried to impose some strict rules about addressing envelopes.
maybe some of the canadian readers will comment.
if our PO starts to enforce stamp placement, i will comply.
but i hope they don't.
i think they have more important issues at this time.
so, we can be zany with our stamps,
legible with our addresses
the only consequence to non-compliant position
will be that it takes the envelope a little longer to arrive at its destination
because it has to take time to travel along the track to the human being.

this is a bonus post today. check the post below this one to see the envelope for today.

a big nib at a rest stop near iowa city. i need to post all the photos and tell the story.


  1. This is interesting, especially to a non-American. I noticed(long ago)that you place your return address in the top left corner. We, in UK and most former colonies, put ours on the back.
    My understanding is that this is tradition, not law.But I was told by someone (with absolutely no connection to the PO ) that stamps MUST be on the top right because scanners "read" them from there.

    New to this blog, I'm also very pleased you have not "been cancelled."

  2. yes...the scanners would prefer to *see* the stamp in the upper left
    but, if they can't see the stamp and *read* the address...then the envelope goes to the human readers.
    here in the US
    return addresses frequently appear in the upper left
    but for wedding invitations, and more formal mail
    we put the return address on the flap
    business envelopes tend to have the return address on the front, but not always

  3. Jean, thanks so much for this most informative post in answer to my quesion. I am now encouraged to put on my brave girl panties and move my postage around a bit. Thank you! Now I'm looking forward to your giant nib post.

  4. Thanks for all the postage stamp info.

    The photo looks very interesting .... I'm curious about 'the rest of the story...'!!