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United States/Covers & Postmarks : Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

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Unmaven
10 Dec 2009
11:15:40am
About 5 or 6 years ago, I began collecting U.S. pictorial cancellations based on columns depicting them in both Linn's Stamp News and Mekeel's/Stamps Magazine. I then found out that the Postal Service's Bi-weekly "Postal Bulletin" available over the 'net included mostly complete listings of available cancellations and began using that as a source. I would usually get my covers back within 30 days after I sent them..no problem. When the postage rate increased to 42c last year, I noticed I was not receiving my covers back and started writing follow up letters to the various post offices where they were offered. I got about a 50% response to my letters in the form of a reply, the requested covers or both. I am now at the point where I am receiving about 50% of my covers back and almost no response from the follow up letters I have been sending out. I have even tried to call some of these post offices over the phone to no avail. These phones ring 10, 20, 50 times and no one answers them. Other than give up this aspect of collecting, do any members have any suggestions? Has anyone else in the club have the same experience with the USPS like I have?
Steve Scheibner
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Harley
10 Dec 2009
11:44:50am
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

Had same erxperience with newly issued coil stamps,even told there was no such issue ,,by local postmaster, laughed at by a couple post office associates.

I documented each incident and emailed to post master general.
1st there was no reply,but after the third email in one week,I got a reply that the matter would be resolved.
It was,and I dont know what happened or transpired,but now when I ask for a new issued coil,they are quite freindly in trying their best to comply with my requests. If they dont have them,,they get out their order book and enter my request.

You may, at your request,have your local PO order the First Day Of Issue cancelor . It's budgeted into their expenses.
I dont know about the special pictoral cancels. Have yet to start a collection of them, other than saveing used entire envelopes with both pictorals and coil stamps.Tried for all,but got too bulky.

Other than finding collectors of same, in enough locations to gather all the various pictorals around the country,, you'll have to mail those requests and hope for the best.
Post marks are like stamps, you will always have some holes in your album that need filled. And this pursuit of pictoral cancelations becomes the challenge you inherit with this part of philately.
TOM

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John_macco
10 Dec 2009
07:15:01pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

As a collector of space related pictorial cancels, I usually send a SASE with the covers to be serviced and the covers come back in great shape. The servicing post offices usually suggest sending a SASE for return of the covers. The clerks at the space related post offices go above the call of duty in servicing collectors covers for various events.

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Joelgrebin
10 Dec 2009
10:20:52pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

Steve,
I started collecting pictorial cancellations about 15 years ago, and I did find the postal services more responsive than today. I have found that local post offices, by and large, are more responsive, then say large post offices, those in big cities. Also, I have found that if there is sponsoring organization, those pictorials are almost always serviced.
Joel

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Unmaven
11 Dec 2009
12:28:42pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

John and Joel-
I agree with you both. I usually do send 2 covers plus an SASE with every cancellation I request. Usually they do come back in good shape, but sometimes the cancellations leave a bit to be desired by being either too light, too dark or smudged. Too, it seems I did get better service when I started my collection several years back. Is it possible that the post office budget cuts have something to do with it?
In addition, when there are multiple cancellations emanating from the same source and the same city- The Simpsons cancellations seems like a good example- I usually send two covers in a glassine envelope for each cancellation with a copy of the cancellation pasted on the face of the glassine, plus a cover letter and enough return postage to cover them all. Until this year, I had no problem. Now, I have a situation where two sets of covers I sent were not returned to me nor was my follow up letter answered. What to do? Should I send the requests separately? (It seems like a waste of time and money if they are going for the same event at the same destination.) Your opinions would be appreciated. Thank you.
Steve

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John_macco
11 Dec 2009
04:11:44pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

Steve- In all the years I have been collecting pictorial cancellations, when I have sent back an unclear cancellation, I was sent a replacement at no cost to me. You send a letter requesting replacement to the same address you sent the initial request and it is usually honored and reply will sometimes come back in a penalty envelope. I would keep bugging an office which returns nothing, due to budget cuts, it takes longer to return stuff.

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John_macco
11 Dec 2009
04:13:31pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

When different cancellations are used from a single office, I find it easier to send separate requests and SASE's to the addresses provided. Be very specific in your letter of request what you want.

(Message edited by john_macco on December 11, 2009)

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John_macco
11 Dec 2009
04:17:12pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

Another reason for non-return of covers can be SASE was not enclosed or covers were not addressed to be returned in the mail.

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Joelgrebin
11 Dec 2009
06:46:45pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

Steve,
It seems that you are spending a good deal of coin to get a pictorial cancellation, when it is clearly stated in the postal regulations regarding how the USPS should be treating these requests. In the past, when there has been diffculty with these requests and other postal matters and I have gotten the run around from the local post office, I have made written and phone complaints to the regional supervisors of the post offices concerned. Also I have written to the Postmaster General and that brings a response right down through channels so everyone in that chain of command is aware of problem. Also, at one time in the 90's, when delivery problems were sever in my area, I wrote the my US congressman. There is such a thing as postal oversight subcommittee and a complaint went there and the congressman's office tracked the problem for over a year. There wwas an improvement for a period of time.
I don't know if any of this information helps, but their it is.
Joel

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Joelgrebin
11 Dec 2009
06:49:31pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

Postal Regs.
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.
Joel

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Unmaven
14 Dec 2009
01:12:53pm
re: Collecting U.S. Pictorial Cancellations

John and Joel-
Thank you both for your time and input. I do in fact send both an SASE as well as a note when I request these cancellations. I do not know the address to either the Postal Oversight Committee or the Postmaster General so I am unable to follow up on those sugestions. I guess I will have to continue writing follow up letters to the office I sent them to as well as. I will also send separate requests for all similar cancellations rather then lumping them altogether in one big envelope to see if that makes a difference. Thank you once again.
Steve

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