This Customer Support Ruling 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
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
Washington DC 20260-3436