Can an Automated Postal Center Stamp Help You Beat a Deadline?

Automated postal centers print stamps on demand, and the stamps are imprinted with the date of purchase.  Now, suppose you need to mail something that is time-sensitive requiring a postmark by a certain date - an application, a monthly payment, a proof-of-purchase - or your taxes.  Could you use a preprinted APC stamp after the designated date and fool the recipient regarding when the letter was posted?  David Malki conducted a "postmark experiment" to address that question.
I figured that to really put these stamps to the test, I should send the letters to an address relatively far away — to make sure it went through a lot of depots, verification centers, biometric drug-sniffers, or whatever. I don’t know how this stuff works; I assumed the barcode encoded a lot of crucial information about where the letter came from, where it was going, and how long the stamp should be honored. So I arranged with friends a thousand miles away (in Seattle) to receive the letters, and as a control subject, sent one letter that night of April 15.  The next letter was sent the next day.  And so on, at increasing intervals of time, through April 29, a full two weeks after the date of the stamp. I expected that letters sent in the first week or so would arrive, and then they’d start coming back.  I was wrong. They all made it.

The interesting part was that, as predicted, not all of the stamps arrived with cancellations. Of the ten sent to Seattle, only six arrived there canceled — meaning that four envelopes (40%) arrived indicating only the April 15 date and no other postmark.

In the course of his experiment he discovered that the letters that arrived uncancelled could be remailed, and were accepted a second time by post office processing equipment.  Doing that is strictly against postal regulations; you are not allowed to reuse "skips" (stamps not cancelled in transit).  But his observation that an item can be posted after the date printed on the stamp is potentially useful in a variety of situations.

LinkImage credit [yes, we know it's an old one...]

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might be used for paying your taxes after the deadline, which requires the envelope be postmarked by midnight on the day they are due. So, is the stamp considered a postmark?

guess we'll have to pay taxes late and see what the gov't people say.

my guess: they are still late.
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"where it matters is when you have to mail something with a specific post date "

What, then, are the other "variety" of uses? All that I can think of is postal fraud.
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Yeah, all the stuff about the stamps possibly having a "use by" date is silly. The APC stamps simply indicate when the stamp was printed, that's all. The line above the date itself even says "date of sale." Stamps don't expire.

And as far as relying on the date to fool someone regarding the postmark, it only has a chance of doing so if the stamp doesn't happen to get a cancellation mark stamped on it, which according to the blogger, still happens 50-60% of the time.

So all of this is really useless information.

As an aside, the post office will often reject a stamp if it appears as though it may have been previously used, even if it isn't canceled. I recently addressed and stamped a letter to someone, then realized I forgot to put something in the envelope. So, I tore it open, corrected the problem, addressed a new envelope, then cut the stamped corner off the old envelope and taped it to the new one. The post office sent it back, claiming the postage was "reused."
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vonskippy: where it matters is when you have to mail something with a specific post date (as Minnesotan said, such as your taxes--the IRS requires your tax return to be postmarked no later than April 15)--then it matters quite a bit.

With this knowledge, I could get the stamps tomorrow and mail my return on Friday and stay out of trouble with the IRS.
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