Customer Support Ruling
Torn Postage Stamps
This CSR discusses the operational impact of torn postage stamps, and replacement procedures.
The use of valid and intact postage stamps is important to efficient mail processing. The cancellation of stamps, like many other postal operations, is automated. Most stamps are coated with a substance that may be detected by cancellation machines which verify that postage is affixed. These machines reject letters on which a stamp cannot be detected. If the stamp affixed is torn, the cancellation machine may not be able to detect its presence. Rejected letters must be processed manually, which is relatively inefficient.
For this and other reasons, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) 604.1.3 states, in part, that stamps which are mutilated or defaced are not valid for U.S. domestic or U.S.-originated international mail. However, a minor tear at the corner of a stamp does not render a stamp invalid. This standard needs to be applied in a common sense fashion allowing for the possibility of minor tears in stamps when they are removed from their host sheet or booklet.
However, if more than a minor portion of a stamp has been torn and is missing, the stamp should be exchanged in accordance with DMM 604.9.1.6 for another stamp of equal value provided the remaining portion of the stamp is in substantially whole condition and its denomination is evident.
When a large portion of an individual stamp is missing, the stamp should not be used for postage. Such a stamp can be exchanged, as noted above, on an individual basis, if more than 50% of the stamp is intact. (DMM 604.9.1.2 establishes limits on exchanging quantities of such stamps and DMM 604.9.1.8 cites a prohibition.)
If less than 50% of a stamp is presented for exchange, postal officials may use their discretion in considering any circumstances which may obviate revenue protection concerns.
Anita J. Bizzotto
Headquarters, US Postal Service
Washington DC 20260-3436