Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Post Office Seals

Todd A. Hirn writes on his website, Officially Sealed Mails of the World, " office seals, or official seals, are labels used by postal authorities to repair or reclose mail items that are; 

- Damaged in transit,

- Received unsealed at the post office,

- Opened by mistake or by the Dead Letter Office."

He goes on to say, "The earliest recorded on-cover use of an official seal was in Italy in 1864. Many other countries produced their own during the following decade. The United States issued its first post office seal, for use by the Dead Letter Office, in 1877.

 "Official seals have been recorded from more than 185 countries. Seal dimensions range from barely an inch in width on a few Danish examples, to some of New Zealand that are more than five inches wide. Designs vary greatly and include elaborate, beautifully engraved Queen Victoria and King Edward VII portrait seals of Canada and Newfoundland to relatively simple typeset seals from Mexico or Egypt.

"Few countries continue to use post office seals today. Most postal authorities now use tapes rather than labels for repair, or they enclose badly damaged items in plastic bags. The era of government issued seals appears to be ending."

Jim Kotanchik, who recently passed away, wrote one of the definitive books on the subject. It's titled Post Office Seals of the United States and Possessions. The 350-page, hard bound book has 630 color images and covers all of the Scott-listed seals in great depth with new information on printing data and dates of use.

Shown above, 1877 Plate proof of first regular issue seal. Originally prepared for use by the Dead Letter Office, but small quanitites were issued to regular post offices where the seals were used in the same manner as the later ones. According to the write-up on the website, "The regularly issued perf 12 "Post Obitum" seal, Scott #OX1, is very scarce on cover."

To learn more about Post Office seals, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM