Can you reuse a stamp from a mailed letter that did not get postmarked?

Sadly, no.

I was guessing that would be the answer, but I figured it was worth checking. For some reason, the stamps on the DadMail I receive seem to go unmarked by the post office an unusually high percentage of the time. I received a letter from him today with four forever stamps on it, all unmarked, which seemed like a waste. So I wondered… I don’t suppose I could scrape those off and slap them on another letter?

According to 18 U.S.C. § 1720, paragraph 3,

Whoever knowingly uses in payment of postage, any postage stamp, postal card, or stamped envelope, issued in pursuance of law, which has already been used for a like purpose—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both[.]

So it looks like the Post Office is way ahead of me on that one.

But now here’s another question. I am reasonably certain the letter my dad sent me was not nearly heavy enough to warrant four stamps. I’m pretty sure it could have gotten by on two. If I were to go to the trouble of weighing it and checking the requirements, and found two of them were in fact not needed, would it be a violation to use just those two? Tragically, I think even the unnecessary stamps are now forfeit, as “which has already been used for a like purpose” suggests yes, their use for the purpose of mailing — even if the use was not required — now makes them tainted.

And anyone else remember hearing about that old trick where you write the receiver’s address in the sender space, and the sender’s address in the receiver space, so that when you don’t attach any postage it gets “returned” to the intended recipient? I wouldn’t exactly recommend trying it, but it looks like that’s only punishable by a fine under 18 U.S.C. § 1725. Although I am sure there is a fraud statute lurking out there you could tag that under as well.


27 thoughts on “Can you reuse a stamp from a mailed letter that did not get postmarked?

  1. Hello I Was Just Wondering Can I Reuse A Stamp That Was Giving To Me On A Letter? It Wasn’t Marked Or Anything..Thanks Plase Email Me Back..


  3. no is it not ok to reuse a stamp that has been used as postage. it doesn’t matter whether it’s been cancelled or not. it is illegal.

  4. all stamps are cancelled by the usps with marking not visible to the naked eye.
    ie: flourecent dyes. so even if it looks like it has not been cancelled, it has been.
    you can not cheat the computer, which ALL mail is run through.

    • James is correct here, all small mail items (letters, packages that are not thicker than 3/4″) are run through a postal machine that sprays used stamps and tracking labels with a luminescent dye of a different color than the stamps original coating to mark them as used.

      All stamps have a luminescent UV coating (zinc-orthosilicate, only visible under a shortwave UV light source) put on them when they are made, different colors, shapes and positions of the UV coating on the stamp tell the machine what kind of stamp it is (for weight purpose.) After it detects the proper stamps it postmarks them by spraying over the original coating with a different color.

      To answer the original question, yes, stamps can be reused (most of the time the machine won’t detect it in time to toss your letter aside.) But, sometimes it does catch on and your letter will be returned to you and your return name and address will be marked down by the postal inspectors for future reference. If you get caught doing this a lot you will be facing federal mail fraud charges (a felony.) Is the trouble of removing and reusing a stamp with the possibility of having letters returned or being charged with a felony worth the cost savings of a 49 cent stamp?

  5. I have had the letter just stuck back in the mailbox by the carrier. The stamp looked unmarked by the post office, the carrier refused it.

  6. if you get mail and stamp is not or some stamps are not stamped my post office you cant use them over but if all the stamps are not stamped over by the post office or you make a mistake by putting them on the wrong envelope you can take the whole envelope to the post office and get 90 %back. but I heard not that I do it if you soak the envelope in water it will peal off and just a little dab of elmers glue will do let it dry overnight this is what I heard not that I do this

  7. Okay, here is another question: Suppose you place postage on an envelope, and then don’t use it because, say you incorrectly addressed it and you are going to tear up the envelope: Can you reuse this stamp (take it off that envelope and put it on another? It has not gone through the post office!

  8. I can just see “The Used Stamp Police” showing up at my door with guns drawn arresting me because I used an unmarked stamp to mail a letter!,

  9. I have reused uncancelled stamps a number of times and never had a problem. They get to their destination and have never been returned to sender. The Postal Service doesn’t have time to deal with people over a .49 stamp they are in enough financial trouble as it is. Illegal or not, I wouldn’t worry about it.

    I have also reused an envelope with stamped postage without issue. For example, you are sent a letter with a return envelope which has stamped postage via a postal meter (not Business Reply Mail). I simply cover the address on the return envelope with a plain white label and write a new address in. Works fine.

    • Mark, your methods would work most of the time, but I should warn you that covering the address on a metered envelope (either with tape, or by photoshop) is very illegal (it is considered felony mail fraud.)

      It is much more dangerous for you legally to do that then to reuse a stamp. Reusing a stamp gives you plausible deniability, but taping over the address does not.

      They often go after people that tape over an address like that when they catch them because many (national and international) money scams and eBay mail fraud scams use that method to steal money from people.

      I would highly recommend that you not do that, but obviously it’s your choice. I’m also posting this to warn others.

  10. Another thing I wonder is, what about those charities that send pre-stamped donation envelopes in fundraising letters they send me (in the hopes that I’ll send a donation so as not to waste their stamp). Wouldn’t it be OK to soak off those stamps and use them on another letter, since they haven’t been used as postage yet?

    • Yes, you can “reuse” a stamp that hasn’t been used yet. It is not illegal and you won’t be detected by the mail sorting machine since the stamp hasn’t been postmarked with its luminescent UV dye indicating the stamp has been used.

      Most mail that comes with a reply envelope is “business reply mail” though which is only good when sent to its intended destination (this way they don’t pay for the postage unless you actually send the reply envelope back to them.)

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