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United States/Covers & Postmarks : A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

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saleem
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01 Feb 2013
10:49:25pm
This one just fell off from another larger cover I bought last month - interesting!!
Better scans this time:

Image Not Found

Here's the back of the cover

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Rhinelander
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01 Feb 2013
11:12:37pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Why?


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Terry
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02 Feb 2013
09:47:27am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Wow, Saleem.....

That is an interesting cover!

I do not see a year in the postmark, but APO 5 New York is the Army Post Office in Eischen, Luxembourg, which was opened on February 16, 1945.

Cheers,
Terry

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
02 Feb 2013
12:56:12pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Terry, you are right that APO 5 was in Luxembourg then, but it was in existence long before then. It was created 10.16.39 for the 5th Infantry Division, in Ft McClellan Alabama.

The censor mark starting seeing extensive use in late 41, then throughout the war. The APO was deactivated in late 46, and reactivated in late 50, but with a SF, rather than NY, address, essentially for Japan.

One of the three main regiments associated with the 5th ID is the 2nd Infantry regiment, which the writer claims as his, which helps to corroborate that the user was actually assigned to APO 5.

I'm guessing the writer is in an anti-tank unit (either field gun or tank destroyers) based on A. T. Co. in the address.

I don't know much about the 2 IR or 5 ID, but that's a good place to look to get more information on the writer and his whereabouts.

David Teisler

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Rhinelander
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02 Feb 2013
03:18:10pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Hi Saleem,

It appears to be a faint 1943 in the cancel. APO 5 is the 5th U.S. Infantry Division. The APO was established Apr. 30, 1942 when the 5th Division shipped overseas, and discontinued July 16, 1945. This is a slight correction to David who correctly states that the 5th Division was established in October 1939 (but not APO 5). Location was essentially in British or Northern Irish locales until the Normandy Invasion. Then, of course, the location changed constantly following the push towards Germany. And yes, from Feb. 16 to Mar. 6, 1945 APO 5 is registered in Eischen, Luxembourg (I go by the books by Russ Carter and Richard Helbock, but there are other references).

It is possible that I am missing something. Therefore I was asking why the cover was particularly interesting. There can be stuff below the surface such as: an unusual censor marking; the sender is associated with a particularly interesting, historically significant unit; the person censoring the cover later made a career as a U.S. Senator; the date of the cancellation has particular significance etc. all this requires a good amount of research to figure out, but can add an enormous amount of interest to a cover.

If none of these "odd" value-adding characteristics are present the value of a typical WWII cover goes by the scarcity of the APO, by the scarcity and desirability of the location, and, as with anything collectible, by the condition. By and large, military mail from infantry divisions is plentiful. A typical WWII U.S. "triangular" division (= three infantry regiments with three battalions each) had about 14,000 - 15,000 men, which produced an astounding volume of mail, largely due to the free franking privilege. Quoting Helbock: "WWII Infantry Division APO covers are plentiful. A fair price for a clean, small size cover with a clear postmark and return address from a typical infantry division on today's market is in the $1 - $3 range" (1991).

What about the location? Assuming the September 1943 date is correct, the unit was in England, which is the least desirable of all locations. Millions of GIs were garrisoned in England and, thanks to training and garrison duty only, produced a yet more staggering amount of mail (tell mom, dad, sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles, plus five girl friends that everything is ok, everyday.) Value for the 5th Division in England, going by Forte & Helbock (1996): Rarity 3 out of 5, Desirability 1 out of 5 (lowest) and value is "MV" (minimal value).

As for the condition, which appears to be some concern to you, becasue you describe it as an dirty old cover, I am actually OK with it. Yes, there is some staining/soiling, but it is about average. What kills it (almost) is the very faint year date in the cancellation. The ability to confidently date the cover is crucial, because it enables pinpointing the location which is about half in collecting military mail. The other half is having a legible APO cancel. Locating a cover based on the return address is inferior to using the APO number in the postmark. Obviously, a travelling serviceman may post a letter about anywhere. For lack of an alternative the return address is used only when an APO number is not present in the cancel. If the cancel has the APO number included this is what is used, because APO collectors usually want to pinpoint where the cover was mailed from, and not the home unit of the sender.

In this style of machine cancel the APO number follows the A.P.O. curved at the bottom of the postmark -- and it is smudged up. Now, based on the spacing we can say that the smudged number likely is not three digits, such as "845," in fact I compared Billings (2006) and Engels (1945) and there is no other single digit APO that used an International HD2 machine during WWII (that is what the cancel is), so it is very likely that indeed it is a "5" that is buried. However, the difficulty to establish with certainty the year-date as well as the APO number in the cancel, make it a less desirable cover. Collectors will strive to replace it with a better specimen, if possible.

In essence, we have a quite "normal" WWII military cover. Forte & Helbock state "assume you can find a random sampling of 1000 A.P.O. covers. ... Of that 1000 covers, 500 will be from a group of about 100 A.P.O. numbers which are the most common; 400 will be from a group of 400 A.P.O. numbers which are less commonly found; and the remaining 100 covers will be from the 500 or so A.P.O. numbers which are scarce to rare."

This is one of those "one in two covers" -- in my opinion. Again, let me be very clear, I have not written this lenghty contribution to demean an item that another collector is proud of. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to acquire any US WWII military mail at all in India. I would also put the cover in my collection, because I actually do not have a postmark from APO 5 (I have 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, ...). Instead of "... interesting!!" and "Wow!," the conversation perhaps should have gone "... interesting? and "yes, but ..." Yes, it is "interesting" but like the majority of stamps in a stamp collection have minimum value, so do the majority of WWII covers. If you have never seen an APO cover, it is easy being mislead into believing that you have a valuable piece of history, while in fact everybody kept all the mail received from "their boy" and hundreds of thousands of APO covers easily survive today.

So, congratulations, Saleem, you have a nice piece. I am just trying to warn novices by pointing out the important aspects when buying APO covers so that nobody is taken advantage off. In my opinion, if you follow the guideline that the cover must have a legible date, the APO number, if present in the cancel, is legible (and ideally matches the APO number in the return address), and there are no tears and other obvious damage, you cannot go wrong for $1-2. By buying covers that fulfill all requirements with respect to condition at that price, you are buying a cover that at a minimum was worth the money. Plus you got yourself a lottery ticket that the cover could be more valuable (a rare APO etc.). You will need some standard literature -- which is readily available and not expensive -- to know if you struck gold. But if the cancel is not legible etc. you will likely not have a "good" cover, even if it was a rarer APO.

Best,

Arno

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saleem
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03 Feb 2013
12:10:43am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Bubble busted.......I was thinking that I have a winner there .
I learned a lot from your post - things which I couldn't have found in any book or from any dealer/seller. My mistake was not explaining what was interesting - what I meant was when this cover fell off from another one recently purchased, I thought it was a letter and put it back there but while scanning I want to scan the letter too and found this one

I do not collect US WWII or WWI postal history or APO covers, these covers like many others just keep accumulating coming in with lots that I buy. Scanned below are two more examples that I have. I'm thinking of putting these at auction soon (eBay first then here).
Collecting APO covers is another specialized area I am not going to delve in - Steve Davis has already cajoled me into collecting US airmails proper commercial uses which is heartache enough for a few years! As an aside I'm looking for all those U.S. above letter rate stamp solo usage since the Airmail started - as also postcard rate stamps solo uses, Airmail Postal Stationary.
You were right when you said "I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to acquire any US WWII military mail at all in India." Not only this but all type of US covers are difficult to find here and I believe that I'm the lone buyer of such stuff on dealer tables at shows .


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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
03 Feb 2013
06:52:36am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Arno, i often use Forte and Helbock's WWII reference, but for my response, i used Cosentini and Grueuzner's US Numbered Military Post Offices 1941-1994 for my history of APO 5. I often find the information doesnt match perfectly.

I applaud the huge context you offered on this and by extension other APO covers.

David

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cdj1122
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04 Feb 2013
11:56:11am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Yes, Arno, your explanation is excellent.
I especially like your analysis of what enhances or detracts from the average value of such Postal History.

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amsd
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04 Feb 2013
01:33:14pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

let me echo Charlie's appreciation of Arno's explanation, as it goes far beyond the pale, giving all of us a better perspective on military covers in general, and APOs specifically. Wonderful.

I went back to Forte and Helbock, the book Arno cites, and I think the reason Arno cites 42 as the starting point for that APO is that is when the listings start, whereas Cosentini and Grueuzner extend earlier.

Arno may, in fact, be right, but I think not on this one specific point. Who knows, I may be able to contribute a single point to Arno's other 59.

I have a couple of interesting (to me) APO covers I ought to illustrate and write up. The fun is generally in following the units, and usually conjecture as to the writer's specifics.

David




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Rhinelander
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05 Feb 2013
01:17:08am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Hello all,

Looks like we are not done yet

I really enjoy researching these kinds of questions. So, first thing, I like to cross check the two books that David and I have been using. Cosentini and Gruenzner were the editors of the 6th edition of the "United States Numbered Military Post Offices Assignments and Locations 1941 to 1994" published through the Military Postal History Society. I have the listing by Russ Carter, which is the 7th and current edition available through the MPHS. There appear to be some differences in coverage in between the 6th and 7th ed., for instance, the 7th edition only goes to 1965. Also, it has now been split in three volumes. However, it appears that it really is the same book, and just the name(s) of the editor changed.

Now let's talk about the installation date for APO 5 for a minute. This question really intrigued me. I have really never given much thought to the operation of APOs domestically. Domestically, mail was handled by the Post Office Department. Only when the unit shipped overseas, was the APO established (in the traditional sense). That is, there was a facility with clerks where you could buy stamps, post letters, and conduct (very importantly!) money order business. In the Forte and Helbock value guide there is no value given for postmarks from APO 5 located in the United States. In fact, not a single APO postmark is listed as used domestically. (This excludes Alaska and Hawaii, both territories at the time.)

So the difference between the Forte (earliest date for APO 5 is May 1942) and Cosentini/Carter (earliest date for APO 5 is October 1939) is readily explained by that Forte lists postmarks, while Cosentini/Carter lists locations. So, now you may wonder, how can there be an army post office, but not have postmarks. The answer is that “APO” really has two meanings. It is the actual physical facility, a post office – these did not exist on U.S. soil and were established to serve military personnel in foreign lands. However, the “APO” is also the means of routing mail, the mailing address. On occasion units may have used their APO numbers as mailing addresses, for instance during training and maneuvers while still in the US. I don’t think this was common practice, but I never really paid much attention. As far as I recall, mail was addressed to the physical address where the soldier was at, i.e., “Camp XXX”, and not the APO. So if someone can show a cover that uses the APO number in the mailing address domestically; this would be a nice addition to this thread. I unsuccessfully flipped a lot of covers tonight and came up with zilch. However, I found two covers mailed from soldiers domestically with an APO number in the return address.

So, I guess David and I are both right. APO 5 as a mailing address likely existed since October 1939 – albeit it was probably only used during maneuvers and such – but the APO as a postal installation (with postmarks etc.) did not exist until May 1942. At least that would be my interpretation and reconciliation of the listings.

Now, I completely ignored Saleem, but will try to say something about the two WWI covers later.

Arno

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amsd
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Editor, Seal News; contributor, JuicyHeads
05 Feb 2013
04:51:06am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Fabulous, Arno. I had never considred that. If true, and i dont have evidence at hand to contradict, i gladly give you this round, decline your offer of being right, and consider myself much improved. Argue long enough with open ears and we learn something. Thanks for taking all that time to explain Arno.

David

Pps. But i will look, cause its what i do.


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alyn
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05 Feb 2013
08:02:18am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

This is an excellent discussion, and this generalist collector is learning a lot.

Alyn

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saleem
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05 Feb 2013
09:27:15am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Quote:

"I completely ignored Saleem, but will try to say something about the two WWI covers later. "


To get your attention here are a few more I have found
It really is very very interesting discussion - all this knowledge is new to me and that's some lerning! Sadly I'm only interested in PH as far as proper use of airmail issues is concerned and of late I have started digging a bit in coils on covers - just accumulating at present, will explore when I have time and literature.

"Removed the scans of WWI covers as I'm going to start another WWI PH discussion"
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saleem
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05 Feb 2013
09:40:32am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Quote:

"So if someone can show a cover that uses the APO number in the mailing address domestically; this would be a nice addition to this thread. "



I am posting an image below which I think comes nearer to your statement above. The lucky owner of this cover is here at SOR but I still have the scan on my PC therefore taking the liberty of posting this here.

Image Not Found



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Rhinelander
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05 Feb 2013
09:50:44am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Thanks David and Alyn,

it was getting late yesterday night, so I am delivering a missing illustration now. A picture says more than a hundred words.

So here we have a postcard mailed from a Private Willie Reid with the 406th Infantry regiment, part of the 102nd Infantry Division. The Division was activated at Camp Maxey, Texas, September 15, 1942. Further domestic locations include Camp Swift, Texas, and Ft. Dix, NJ, and the division embarked for Europe September 12, 1944. Carter shows the APO 102 established effective August 16, 1944. This appears consistent with a number of listing I checked where the "established" date always is on (APO 5) or around the embarkation date. In the forword to Carter, it is mentioned that the "established effective" date was collected from its announcement in the Postal Bulletin. If you think about it, at that time the "post office" was a bunch of equipment packed in boxes. However, the APO was also the mailing address and needed to be "put in effect" so that family could start sending mail. The 102nd Division arrived in France September 23, 1944 and it appears to have been set-up and operational in Cherbourg October 13, 1944. So no earlier than that date should we see APO postmarks from APO 102.

So, this is how I (kind of, without ever articulating it that clearly) thought that things would operate. Until David made me re-think my assumptions and stating, as it turns out correctly, that the APOs existed before arriving overseas. So, is this the smoking gun (?):

Image Not Found

The card is postmarked Feb 28, 1944 and clearly shows the APO 102 in the return address. So, the APO as a mailing address number must have existed before that "established effective" date given in Carter. The cancellation, of course, is the standard civilian Camp Swift, Texas. I don't know (and don't believe) that giving the APO number in the return address was necessary. I would assume that units might have used their APO numbers for receiving mail domestically during manoveurs etc., when temporarily not at their base locations. Some soldiers, like in this case (?), might have always included the APO in the return address, even though it was not necessary. In any event, I don't know enough about the domestic functions of APOs. Part of it is that I collect the APO cancels, and they cannot appear on letters mailed domestically. Of course, never say never, but if someone could produce an APO cancel from a domestic location I would really be puzzled.

Arno

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Rhinelander
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05 Feb 2013
10:10:20am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Hi Saleem,

looks like our two messages crossed. Just briefly: No. APO 168 was another English location ("one in two ..."), Plymouth. APO 413 in the return address is London (see above about using the return address of the sender vs. the info in the postmark for locating where a letter was sent). It is a very nice APO to APO usage, however. APO 887 being in Paris at the time.

Let's perhaps keep the WWI covers out of this discussion, which probably some find is dragging on for too long already, and put them in a different topic. There are pronounced differences in the military mail operations beween WWI and WWII and it might be confusing to talk about both under one topic.

Best,

Arno

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saleem
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12 Feb 2013
09:08:09am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Hi Arno,
I have removed the WWI cover scans from this thread and have placed a back scan of the APO cover which started all this. The date on the back is 15th September 1942.

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amsd
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12 Feb 2013
10:57:52am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

I particularly like what had been Saleem's APO 168 cover because it show Red Cross as sender and receiver and I don't recall having seen that combination before; plus to/fr APOs are much rarer than an APO in return or address only.

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tomiseksj
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12 Feb 2013
08:30:59pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

If you all don't mind taking a step back, I'd like to revisit the discussion on the cover in Saleem's initial posting.

An enhancement of the receiving stamp on the reverse of the cover (using the capabilities of http://retroReveal.org) shows the cover wa received in Lindsay, Nebraska in September 1942. Per the unit history at http://www.unithistories.com/units_index/default.asp?file=../units/5th%20Inf.Div.asp, the 5th ID was in Iceland at that time.

The point I'd like to make, for those who may not be familiar with this free online resource, is that retroReveal can prove invaluable in bringing out postmarks such as these that are difficult to discern using traditional means.

Steve

Image Not Found

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saleem
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12 Feb 2013
10:20:09pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Hi Steve,
That retro reveal is an excellent site to find out the not so clear postmarks, etc. I am using a free image browser/editor which has proved wonderful everytime when scanning, resizing, renaming, applying effects etc of images. You can check it out at the url below:
http://www.irfanview.com/

Here's what I did through this program by just a few clicks (selecting the area, cropping and applying negative effect)-

Image Not Found

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Rhinelander
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12 Feb 2013
11:35:08pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Great link, Steve. I see myself using this once in a while. And, yes, as it is established that it is not a faint 1943, but 1942, in the postmarark, the location was Iceland, not England. I think it is a lot more interesting location.

The real treasure now of course is the misused Lindsay, Nebraska, MOB (Money Order Business) cancel. You are not supposed to find these on mail. Clerical error, happenstance -- I am pretty sure, you could not find another one if you tried the next ten years. It is of course once again one of these things where scarcity and price have no relation. These are very much unique items, but nobody collects them, and therefore there is no market.

Arno

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Apocovers
08 Jul 2013
03:54:42am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Since this is an older discussion, I'm going to reply to it directly and also start a new discussion.
This is about the use of APO postmarks used on letters mailed domestically. They are quite rare but they do exist. I've checked over 1000 WWII APO covers recently and I found two.
The first one is from APO 26 while it was still in Ft Jackson, SC. That APO did not go overseas (in France) 7 Sept 1944. This cover is dated 7 Jun 44.
Image Not Found

Image Not Found
The second one is from APO 189 in Banning, California. This APO was not overseas during WWII.
Both have “ US Army Postal Service – A.P.O. “ without number cancels.

Terry

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jamesw
20 Sep 2013
11:11:55pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

This is a terrific thread, and relates to some research I've been doing lately for a small exhibit for my clubs upcoming bourse. I have a collection of letters from a US soldier to his parents sent between April 1944 in Miami and March 1 1946 in (I believe) Yokohama.
His early letters are free franked, as was his privilege. By May of 1945 he is using SC C25 airmail stamps and then, by August 1945 until the last letter, UC5 stamped envelopes. His parents sent him the postage, which he paid for with his military earnings (according to the letters).
My question is, what were a soldiers franking privileges, and were they on a time limit? Why would my Lieutenant start using stamps when he had free franking privileges. I've been searching the interweb, but haven't found a definitive answer. I hope one of you experts can provide one.

Here's an example of a couple of the covers.

Image Not Found


Image Not Found


Also interesting that the second cover shown would need 12¢ (the 903 APO is Okinawa).
Hope you can help. Thanks.


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Stallzer
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21 Sep 2013
05:02:58am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

James, I was under the impression that the Soldiers did not always have the franking privilege and that it was during Wartime that Congress would allow "Temporary franking privilege" for Soldiers.

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roy
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21 Sep 2013
09:44:45am
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Regular mail was free, but airmail cost the soldier an extra 6c. The postage due cover was probably overweight. It looks like it still has the impression of a fat letter.

Roy

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amsd
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21 Sep 2013
07:04:26pm
re: A primer on valuing WWII APO covers

Roy's answer is the one that's most germane, but Robert's reply is also correct, almost.

Servicemembers at war generally have free franking privileges IF they chose first class mail; any other class or any additional services were extra. So, first class, the 3c rate is free. Choose airmail, and the domestic airmail rate of 6c applies, although I think there was a short period when the domestic and military airmail rates diverged, towards the end of the war.

But it's not only war-time; servicemembers in occupation duty had such privileges too. So it's not uncommon to see post war covers free-franked in both first and second wars.

I don't believe free franking existed in Spanish American War; can anyone confirm.

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