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US Postal Regulations For Postmark Ink Colors

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Posted 11/28/2022   07:52 am  Show Profile Bookmark this topic Add blcjr to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Can someone point me to where I might read up on US postal regulations for postmark ink colors, both currently and historically? I generally understand that black is to be used for ordinary mail, and that red and green have other designated uses, but I am not well versed on what those uses are. Are there other colors that have specific approved postal use?

The question arises because I frequently see colored postmarks on philatelic mail such as FDCs and WWII patriotic covers. My surmise is that the use of colored inks on such covers is not actually kosher, but because the use is philatelic that postal authorities generally looked the other way. Would I be right about this?

Any insight that anyone might have to share here will be much appreciated.

Basil
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Posted 11/28/2022   09:07 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rod222 to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Interesting. Not heard of that prior.

In 2002 I watched a discussion on UPU convention postage stamp colours, representing the typical union rates, or their equivalent in the money of each country.
(RCSD)

I saved the discussion, all 24 pages
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Posted 11/28/2022   10:59 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Green has no designated use that I am aware of. May I ask where you got that idea?

The most readily available source of information is the "Postal Laws and Regulations" volumes published about every 10 years. They are quite clear and consistent from the 1887 volume onward that stamps are be cancelled with BACK ink supplied by the department.

To over-simplify, black ink is for cancels, magenta/red ink is for uses such as receipt daters, dating the back of registered mail, instructional and other auxiliary markings. The use of any color other than black to obliterate a stamp, the use of non-postal-supplied ink, and the use of non-postal-supplied devices are all contrary to regulations. Postmasters had to be reminded of this in the late 1920s and early 1930s when fancy registered killers became all the rage.

Here is a snippet from the 1940 PL&R volume:

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Edited by John Becker - 11/28/2022 11:00 am
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Posted 11/28/2022   4:42 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add hoosierboy to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
John is correct except some shade of red ink is standard use on registered daters beginning about 1911 and in some cases earlier. It is not common but not unusual to find the clerk, especially in smaller third or fourth class post offices just grab a device or ink color at hand prior to 1911.

Can John or others add to this discussion?
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Edited by hoosierboy - 11/28/2022 4:43 pm
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Posted 11/28/2022   5:02 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
That's exactly why I stated "to over-simplify". It is easy to find deviations, but I chose to start with the printed regulations and build from that. WWII-era FDCs and patriotics should be cancelled in black.
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Posted 11/28/2022   5:08 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
The question arises because I frequently see colored postmarks on philatelic mail such as FDCs


USPS Postal Bulletin 22308:


Quote:
How to Order the First Day of Issue Digital Color or Traditional Postmarks
Customers have 60 days to obtain the first day of issue postmarks by mail. They may purchase new stamps at their local Post Office™, by telephone at 800-STAMP-24, or at The Postal Store® website at www.usps.com/shop.

Traditional Postmarks
Customers should affix the stamps to envelopes of their choice, address them to themselves or others, or provide a self-addressed return envelope with sufficient postage large enough to accommodate the canceled item. Mail the request to the corresponding city of issuance. There is no charge for the first 50 postmarks. There is a 5-cent charge for each additional postmark over 50. Customers should submit a check, money order, or credit card for payment. After applying the first day of issue postmark, the Postal Service™ will return the envelopes to the customer by U.S. Mail.

All postmark requests should go to the first day of issue city. The first day of issue city Post Office will then forward in bulk all postmark requests to Cancellation Services, Stamp Fulfillment Services, PO Box 449992, Kansas City, MO 64144-9992 by respective Post Offices.

Digital Color Postmarks
Only select stamp issues offer a digital color postmark. Customers may submit #6 or #10 envelopes constructed of paper rated as "laser safe." The Postal Service recom­mends envelopes of 80-pound Accent Opaque, acid-free, 9/16" side seams with no glue on the flap. The maximum size of all digital color postmarks is 2" high x 4" long. Allow sufficient space on the envelope to accommodate the postmark. Do not use self-adhesive labels for addresses on the envelope. Two test envelopes must be included. There is a minimum of 10 envelopes at 50 cents per postmark required at the time of servicing. Customers should submit a check, money order, or credit card for payment.

The Postal Service reserves the right to not accept hand-painted and other cachet envelopes that are not compatible with our digital color postmark equipment. The Postal Service also reserves the right to substitute tradi­tional black rubber postmarks if use of nonspecified enve­lopes results in poor image quality or damage to equipment.

Customers should affix the stamps to the envelopes and address them to themselves or others for return through the mail. Or, they may include an additional self-addressed return envelope, large enough to accommodate their can­celed items, with sufficient postage affixed for return of their postmarked items. Mail the request for a first day of issue digital color postmark to the corresponding city of issuance. Post Offices will then forward all customer requests for digital color postmarks to Cancellation Services, Stamp Fulfillment Services, PO Box 449992, Kansas City, MO 64144-9992.

After applying the first day of issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes to the customer by U.S. Mail.
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Posted 11/28/2022   5:13 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
As a caveat: Postal Bulletin 22308 is dated April 7, 2011, which is fully different from the FDC procedures of the WWII era.
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Posted 11/28/2022   5:19 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
The OP asked about FDC's AND WWII patriotic covers, not WWII FDC's specifically.
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Posted 11/28/2022   6:15 pm  Show Profile Check revenuecollector's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add revenuecollector to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I wonder where blue Sharpie falls in the pantheon of allowed or restricted postmark colors. #ickypoo
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Edited by revenuecollector - 11/28/2022 6:15 pm
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Posted 11/28/2022   6:24 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add rogdcam to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Postal Bulletin OU812 covers non-conforming, non-binary, marker markings.
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Posted 11/28/2022   6:30 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add hy-brasil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Colored ink for cancels goes back to 1847 and earlier with probably any of the colors known used for first class mail. Were postmasters buying their own ink then? I suppose that whatever is provided by USPO/USPS is what would normally be used nowadays. I would expect that whoever decided to use colors other than black (local postmaster, show organizer) in relatively modern times would have to be the one to pay for the colored ink. Its use would probably depend on approval by the local postmaster.

Still, here's an exception from 1928:

A green USPO machine slogan cancel, not a first day use here. Black is usual. Green is not rare at all for this (not quite as common if you do a Google search and get a bunch of covers from the same site). Green may indicate that this was cancelled at the event.

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Posted 11/28/2022   7:06 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add Linus to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Despite what the postal regulations say over the years, mail has been cancelled with various colors of ink. I remember when purple ink was used a lot back when first class postage was 18 cents. Red hand cancels were quite common when asking a postal clerk to cancel your letter. Also remember that mail could be cancelled at CPUs by store workers who did not directly work for the post office.

Linus

(CPU stands for Contract Postal Unit, a store that offers some post office services)








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Posted 11/28/2022   8:28 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Rogdcam,
You posted back to me:

Quote:
The OP asked about FDC's AND WWII patriotic covers, not WWII FDC's specifically

My point is that a citation to a Postal Bulletin number without providing the date of publications greatly reduces its value and applicability to the thread. I supplied the date.
The same is also true of your subsequent post:

Quote:
Postal Bulletin OU812 covers non-conforming, non-binary, marker markings.

No date. No link. Reduced value.
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Edited by John Becker - 11/28/2022 8:38 pm
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Posted 11/28/2022   8:34 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add blcjr to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Lots of great replies. John, I do not recall how I came to think green ink had some official USPS sanction, like red ink.

Besides the link posted by rodgcam, there is this about how to get modern digitical pictoral postmarks, and a couple of postmarks in colored ink are shown:

https://about.usps.com/publications/pub186.pdf

John responded to rodgcam:

Quote:
As a caveat: Postal Bulletin 22308 is dated April 7, 2011, which is fully different from the FDC procedures of the WWII era.


But were there procedures in the WWII era that would have governed something like this:


And this predates by more than 3 decades Bulletin 22308:


I think with philatelic mail, basic regulations were not strictly followed, and it often depended on what the local postmaster chose to do.
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Posted 11/28/2022   8:46 pm  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add John Becker to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
I suspect the Greenhurst ink was supplied by the collector requesting the cancel. Do you have more than one? It would be interesting to see if the flag is in the same relative position (truly duplexed), or whether the 4-bars were masked-off and the flag applied with a second strike which would "wander" from cover to cover in regard to the positioning with the town mark.

Pictorial show and event cancels come in all sorts of odd colors. Again, I suspect the odd colors may have been privately supplied by the event organizers. Philatelic mail frequently stretches any printed regulations, especially when the devices are used by non postal workers. Results can get squirrelly.

Linus mentions the purple machine cancels of the 1980-1990s. They were a legitimate ink experiment and the subject of Rob Washburn & Carl Ditsch's "The Purple Machine Cancel Handbook" published in 1994 by the Machine Cancel Society.

Beyond the study just mentioned, non-black machine cancels (before the inkjet era) are decidedly uncommon. (Canceling machine ink and handstamp ink being different formulations.) The Aeronautics Conference slogan shown by hy-brasil is perhaps the most commonly encountered. Also serving in a dedicated machine as an auxiliary mark not intended to cancel stamps, the "return to ..." or "General Delivery" slogans are occasionally printed in red/magenta:





Perhaps a bottom line to all this: There were the official regulations over the years, then there was what actually happened at individual locations - some sanctioned, some not.

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Edited by John Becker - 11/28/2022 9:10 pm
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Posted 11/29/2022   03:24 am  Show Profile Bookmark this reply Add hy-brasil to your friends list  Get a Link to this Reply
Here's my Greenhurst cover, with a different date:

I would say it's an integral duplex device.There are those where a 4-bar cancel has the bars blanked (legit to me) and those with a design struck over the bars cancelling the stamp (overcautious clerk perhaps but not a legit fancy cancel to me. Also, fakes exist like this).

The Lindbergh goggles cancel is a unfortunate choice and demonstrate one of the thankfully uncommon pitfalls of collecting modern US pictorials. I was at that show so many years ago, where it was announced that because the post office was not attending, the cancel was not official but could still be obtained as a souvenir. That said, I've seen an addressed cover so cancelled with back markings of the time (letter/number codes that I was once told were letter sorting machine (LSM) markings) implying it went through the mails.

Don't assume that rules are being bent for pictorial cancels.You can submit covers for servicing after a USPS announces that a particular unannounced cancel could be had up to 30 days after the real use date. But if the date slugs are removable, you will get an undated cancel probably because the cover was not cancelled during the authorized period of use. And there are cancels that were never announced in the Bulletin that you won't be able to get from the PO after the fact.

Dragging this further back on topic, John Becker's summary is the correct view to take. Stuff happens.

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Edited by hy-brasil - 11/29/2022 03:58 am
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