How To Use Precanceled and Service Inscribed Stamps

The purpose of this page is to introduce you to the method involved in getting a Precancel Use Permit
to use  your duplicate Precancel and Service Inscribed Stamps to mail letters, flats and packages

Many of the links inside these pages are part of the Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual (DMM).  You will need to have Acrobat Reader installed to read these pages. You can obtain it FREE by going to the Acrobat site. Help using Acrobat Reader can be found here.
Click here to see Section 604-3.0 of the Domestic Mail Manual pertaining to Precancel Stamps. 
Go to the bottom of this page to read Background Information by PNC3 Historian Dan Kauffman.

What you need to do:
Read the Overview on Using Precanceled Stamps.
USPS Quick Service Guide 604b for Precanceled Stamps.
Apply for Permit Using PS Form 3615.
This can be done at your local post office or at a postal business center.
Note that there is NO FEE for using precanceled stamps.
View and/or Print a copy of PS Form 3615.

Remember that Form 3615 is a multi-purpose form and you need only to fill out Part A, and Check box 2 in Part B.    There is NO fee for this permit.

After the Postmaster or his designee completes the form and assigns a Permit number, you will receive a receipt showing the permit number, and the date it was issued. The receipt comprises the right hand side of the Application. Ask for it if it is not given to you.
DMM 604-3.1.2

Indicate type of service desired.
Indicate on the mailing the type of service desired; i.e.: First Class, Standard, Priority, etc.
In addition, many people have a rubber stamp made with the wording "Precancel Permit Use", the Permit Number and the Office where the permit was issued.  Rubber stamps are available at most office supply stores.
It is permissible to hand letter this information.
DMM 604-3.1.9
Put a full return address on the envelope.
Have a complete domestic return address on the mailing. DMM 604-3.1.8
Apply stamps to your mailing.
Apply any combination of precanceled or service inscribed stamps plus additional denominated stamps to reach the exact amount of postage required. DMM 604-3.1.7
Take to Post Office and present to Postmaster or window clerk.

You must present the mailing for acceptance and verification at the office where the permit is held.
You may not deposit the mailing in a mail collection box.
DMM 604-3.1.6
Final Word from DMM, 604, Section 3.5, Stamp Collectors.

Subject to USPS policy in 608.4.0, precanceled postage may be bought for philatelic purposes as well as postage payment. A stamp collector may mail matter bearing precanceled postage if the collector has a permit to use precanceled postage at the post office where the mail is presented.  DMM 604-3.5


By Dan Kauffman

     In the early days of the 1980's, the Bureau of Engraving & Printing (BEP) was directed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to produce individual stamps to accommodate the various rates of mail classes - some of which were in fractional amounts - to answer the needs of the Nations' regular and bulk mailer's frankings.  The BEP produced both a Flag Series and later a Transportation Series for these purposes.

     Initially, Transportation Series stamps were produced in both tagged and untagged varieties.  The tagged stamps were for collectors.  The untagged stamps were precanceled by the printer with two horizontal black lines or the class of mail for the use of mass mailers.  The latter were first unavailable for purchase unless a permit was obtained for bulk mailings.

     Collectors, being what they are, sought out all varieties of these issues for their collections to be complete.  Collecting hardships ensued with many difficulties encountered finding and/or obtaining the precanceled stamps.  It was necessary to purchase large amounts or seek out bulk mailers to obtain stocks, resulting in stockpiling accumulations of unusable stamps.  This generated many complaints to the USPS.  Ultimately the USPS recanted and authorized collector purchase and usage of precanceled and service inscribed stamps by obtaining a free permit.

     The problem of using precancel stamps continues to plague collectors today, with resistance from untutored clerks and managers.  Some attempt to charge fees, refuse to provide applications or sell certain stock, refuse to accept or forward mail so franked, or inject other difficulties associated with the use of precancels.


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Updated 20 September 2006