How the Post Office thwarts counterfeit stamps

They look for the special inks

Mail Matt: Can the post office tell what kind of stamps I use? I contend that their scanners can track the use of specific types of stamps to help cut down on forgeries. My girlfriend says they can only track the overall use of all stamps as a whole. How much do they really know? — [email protected]

The PO tallies stamps by price/design when they’re sold, not one-by-one as they’re used. Stamp-canceling machines thwart counterfeits by looking for the special inks used to print all stamps but can’t tell a Marilyn from an Elvis. (Though M.A. once mailed a letter with a colorful National Wildlife Federation fundraising stamp, and it was faithfully delivered. Don’t try this at home. It’s a federal offense.) The Postmaster General’s ultimate fantasy? You buy 100 stamps and never use them. When you buy a stamp, you’re pre-paying for a service. If you never use them and thus never demand the service, the seller can sit back and count his profits. Anyway, your girlfriend is more correct than you are, but thanks for asking.

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