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.


102 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..

      • A ink seen only under infrared light is used. So no, you can’t reuse it. They do it as a courtesy so you may save the stamp if collecting. They do much to promote themselves as purveyors of collectibles.

        • I call BS. You can reuse already postmarked stamps because the has no safeguards to prevent it. I dropped a letter with RETURN TO SENDER, DOES NOT LIVE HERE in the mailbox and I’ve done this 4 times now and it keeps coming back with the SAME STAMP that’s been postmarked MULTIPLE TIMES

          • It comes back to you because the machine reads the barcoding on the envelope. If you use a sharpie and black-out the barcoding, the machine will spit it out and an actual human being will have to pick up the letter, read it, and will return to sender (by using a sticker with the sender’s barcoded information and placing it on the envelope). Remember to black-out the envelope on both sides.


  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?

      • Sorry, but that’s not true – I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of mail is coming to my work with stamps that appear to be not postmarked. I tested it and cut one off the envelope, glue-sticked it onto a new envelope and mailed it to myself to see if it’d go through the system and it did! So no invisible ink on it. I’m seeing other comments say that it’s illegal to re-use unpostmarked stamps, so I wouldn’t do it since you’re breaking a federal law, but the reality is, for some reason, these stamps are not getting postmarked lately and technically could be re-used.

        • Yeah I was worried about an invisible dye but I have reused ones that had no visible markings, maybe I’m getting lucky so it would be nice to get a confirmation from an honest postal clerk. I feel like when I receive a stack of letter that were all sent from the same company at the same time one or 2 will not be marked but the rest are making me believe the machines or people are missing one rather then random ones being canceled differently.

      • why would the post office go to all that trouble using expensive invisible ink to cancel a stamp, then have to use expensive equipment to detect it, and make note of it, when a traditional cancellation is all that’s necessary. but on the other hand maybe that is why stamps cost so much.

        • “why would the post office go to all that trouble using expensive invisible ink to cancel a stamp, then have to use expensive equipment to detect it,”

          Logic says they wouldn’t!!

  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

      • The proper way to do it is, lick the stamps four corners and stick it on the package and then use a wax like a BD candle and coat the stamp. this makes the stamp impervious to any attempts of marking it and can be removed from the package and reused several times. I use lots of stamps and I’m unaware of any lick and stick stamps and the self sticking ones are even easier to remove by heating the bottom with a lighter SO I”M TOLD.. BUT this practice is NOT recommended. the job of the PO is mind-boggling ad employs thousands of people and no doubt has just a few morons and thieves in it’s employ the question is the percentage ?
        But I feel if the stamp evaded being inked it’s fair game for reuse, it’s like finding money on the ground AND all of the packages the PO lost of mine just in the last year has totaled around $200 and that was eBay printed postage AND dropped off at the PO ! and at 2 different PO offices in different cities.
        AND to mark the items with invisible ink is BS and if was true is a waist as it should have a for for a region, zip, county .state .. this would also help the local delivery MAN with his simple tack of finding the right box to throw the mail in.

  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!

    • How can the post office prove an unused stamp is being reused? If the stamps are not canceled, definitely reusable. It’s the post office’s responsibility to cancel the stamps but many fall through the cracks. Ever noticed the stamps are crossed with a ball point pen or Sharpie by the post office or postman? I was told you can use an eraser to rub off the pen marks.

  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!,

    • You should rethink the use of the word, “scheme”.

      “To make plans, especially in a devious way or with intent to do something illegal or wrong.”

  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.

    • No way. If I were a postal worker and saw that and my name was norm I’d think funny how ‘they used a sticker for the address’. But my name’s not norm. No offense to any norms out there. Just don’t name your kid norm, or crystal, or ashley, or Becky, or destiny, or Seth, or “jezanderpuss”

  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.)

    • there is no word “invisable”, also please learn to use punctuation, like commas, and also please read you postings before you submit, as the above makes no sense, we dont know whom you are responding, we dont know whats invisible stamping has to do with anything, its out context, out of grammar, out of meaning.

      • And you, you grammar Nazi, have puh-lenty of misspellings in YOUR post as well. Also, you misused the word ‘whom’ but I suspect that (like most people) you used it to try to sound condenscending. Additionally, you should review the use of the apostrophe: you misused THAT as well…your use indicated pluralism when I believe you wanted to simply abbreviate the 2 words ‘it is.’ Oh wow, check it out: guess you’re not the only grammarphobe trolling the web!

        • The grammar checker above made serious mistakes in her own post. Her sentence is a (blatant) run on sentence! Adding commas, when periods or semicolons are required, make her look like a dunce. Stop looking down on others and watch your own grammatical mistakes.

      • Perhaps you MEANT to correct him like this:

        There is no word “invisable.” Also please learn to use punctuation like commas, and please read your postings before you submit them. The above makes no sense. We don’t know to whom you are responding. We don’t know what invisible stamping has to do with anything. It’s out of context, uses improper grammar, and doesn’t have meaning.

        In correcting this person, you used incorrect quotation marks, employed run-on sentences, left out apostrophes. left off the preposition, and generally fractured the English language.

    • And they’re not listening to your phone calls or reading your emails/texts. Nor were humans created by the DNA of aliens and monkeys to mine earth of its gold for otherworldly master species. Hehe…

  11. reuse stamps that have not been cancelled and new ones on charity solicitation return envelopes. WD40 pen works great – rub on back of paper where stamp is attached & the stamp peels of cleanly and is still sticky for reuse. NEVER have gotten anything returned by the post ofice. Haven’t purchased stamps for over 2 years.

  12. Why doesn’t the post office cancel the stamps like they used to so people don’t re-use them? I get many CDs sent to me with over $2.50 attached and I’ve never seen a postmark. I have never re-used them but am getting thriftier in my later years and have considered it. So I was wondering if they were magnetically cancelling them and then I started thinking about UV inks. How would they prove that a postal employee didn’t sell me a cancelled stamp? I find it hard to believe it is cheaper to spray a UV ink on them. If they are going to spray UV ink then why not spray visible ink? I also enjoyed the markings showing the date and post office of cancellation and I would think postal employees had a certain pride about that as well. It’s no wonder they go “postal”. And what about amateur stamp collectors who think they are buying uncancelled stamps? I believe it’s just further “opaque” governmental nonsense to make/keep the public afraid of “Big Brother” so we will all obey… all puns intended.

  13. I used tape on mine as I had it on a different envelope that was NOT going to be sent. So, I took it off and put it on the new one but the corners would not stick all the way, so stupidly I used some tape. It was returned back to me, but I’m not in jail. Glue is the key. That works very well to keep stamp flat on envelope. Like they don’t get enough in taxes from us? Postage stamp reusing crime? Are you F”ing kidding me?

  14. Totally!!!
    Slowly remove it so it doesn’t tear and put some glue on that thing!
    Restick and Mail! Why the heck not!!!

  15. OK, so a different question: if your piece of mail gets returned to you by the post office, because the address was wrong (missing apartment number), can you reuse the same envelope and stamp or do you need to add new postage?

    • I tried to do this today! A holiday greeting card went out to the wrong address and got sent back UTF (Unable To Forward). I crossed out the wrong address and wrote in the new one, then put a new stamp over the postmarked stamp. The USPS was all like, “NO WAY”, and I was like, “dammit”. They were all like, “You need a new envelope altogether”, and I was all like, “Good luck to me finding the right-sized envelope”. Think I might try that WD40 pen trick mentioned above to at least salvage the unused new stamp.

  16. A razor blade is the most efficient way to remove a stamp. Lift up on the edges of the stamp and gently pull it off. Continue to use the razor blade if necessary to run behind the stamp and in front of the paper. Dab on a little stick glue and pop it on your letter. A high quality eraser will remove some markings from some stamps, not always.

  17. I have many times used stamps that were not cancelled on a letter. I don’t even bother to scrape them off. I just cut him off the envelope doesn’t matter the papers behind him or not. The whole trick when you take them mine is you don’t cover the center of the stamp with the tape. they want the scanner to be able to cancel the stamp and it can’t do that if it’s covered by tape. So just very carefully put a small amount of tape around the four sides and not in the center. I’ve done this a bunch of times over many years and never had a problem Postman just told me how to put it on correctly in order to use them

  18. Hi there,I log on to your blogs named “Can you reuse a stamp from a mailed letter that did not get postmarked? | The View From LL2” regularly.Your humoristic style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing! And you can look our website about powerful love spells.

  19. It’s very funny (odd) to me that so many people on here are concerned with how to cheat the Post Office out of 49 cents? WTF?

    • Well, it is 55 cents now. What irks me is all the when they don’t deliver stuff I bought on eBay, even though they have tracking that shows they did. I have met the postman each day while I waited for packages. Then the tracking appeared saying I had received it when I didn’t. I’ve lost a Coach purse, a dress, and three die cutters—to the tune of about $300. The post office won’t even refund the shipping for a package they never delivered me. If I found a stamp a week without cancellation, I’d have to live to be 137 to get my money back. And all that hogwash about invisible ink? Not true.

  20. I’m trying to send my husband his letters but the stamp says 2017 can I use that stamp to mail the letter or will they send it back cuz it doesn’t say 2018 ?

  21. Just because you don’t see a cancellation on the stamp doesn’t mean there isn’t one there they do not use ink anymore that you can see. I believe it has a UV ink that can be seen under lights that they have at the post office and the machine pulls out the letter with the used stamps. And then they trace it back to you and you’re in trouble. Stamps are cheap. But evidently so are you. Don’t do it it’s not worth it

  22. Of course the invisible UV ink is done to entrap people into thinking that the stamp wasn’t postmarked when it was so the federal government can spend more money prosecuting people over same entrapment. So nonsensical. When did this marvel of the federal government begin?

    • There is no invisible ink. I have reused stamps to make up for all the times they have failed to deliver stuff I paid postage for. I don’t know who started that rumor, but it isn’t true.

  23. Agreed, Sally. It is not real, but as long as people buy into it, there’s no reuse of uncancelled stamps. Brilliant effort on the part of the PO employees. Actually, if real, the PO should be publicizing this effort wholeheartedly. THAT will put an end to even more use of the PO by customers.

  24. Years ago I received Christmas cards that had Green Stamps from a grocery store used as postage stamps LOL. The good old days

  25. 04-24-2019 from USPS website:

    •Is it possible to reuse stamps?
    “A used stamp cannot ever be reused. If the stamp was already used to send mail through the USPS®, it cannot be used to mail a different mailpiece even if the stamp was not canceled.

    ******Stamps that have not yet been used, but have been attached to an envelope may still be used. However, you may not cut an unused stamp from an envelope and use tape to apply to a new envelope. The tape will prevent the stamp from being canceled.******

    A returned domestic or international shortpaid mailpiece can have the necessary additional postage affixed to the original piece and does not have to be placed in a new envelope or wrapper.

    A returned undeliverable as addressed or refused by the addressee mailpiece may not be remailed unless it is placed in a new envelope or wrapper with the correct address and new postage.”

  26. I receive envelopes from charities, or just business reply envelopes, that already have a few 1 cent stamps (with 2 apples on them) for you to send donations, etc. back to them. They aren’t cancelled. Can I use them on anything that I want to mail then?

  27. I have received SO many uncancelled stamps lately. My kids have been ordering game cards online and they are usually sent in letter-sized envelopes with one stamp attached. Almost every single one has no cancellation mark whatsoever. Also, they are sent from all areas of the country. One letter took awhile to arrive and I had to ask for a refund. Three days AFTER I received the refund, the missing letter arrived. I corresponded again with the seller so that I could pay him his $3, and he said he had had 30 packages go missing. He asked about the date that my envelope went through a certain city. Well, there was no mark! So, I’m wondering why the F not? It helps identify problems, it looks cool, and, without it, it seems very unprofessional. I looked at the stamps with a UV flashlight…no markings whatsoever. I’m inclined on the side of “why not use it, they messed up.” If it were my business and I made that mistake, well, I’d have to take the hit if someone were to call me on it.

    • The question is can you use a stamp that has NEVER gone through the postal service. Ex: You receive a letter with an envelope inside that has a stamp on it to return the envelope to the sender. But you don’t use it for the purpose. Can you remove it and use it on something else?

  28. Pingback: 3 Ways to Return to Sender - wikiHow

  29. Yeah whatever
    I do it all the time

    I have to think of myself, it’s not the small fish they want anyway
    It’s the million dollar fish
    Like Teump who floss every year (but doesn’t) and claims bankruptsy

  30. Be careful of buying stamps on Ebay……if the back of the stamp looks very white, with no glue, the stamps have been “washed”…….soaked off envelopes. Ebay is, however, the best place I have found to purchase stamps at discount. I can buy a roll for $39, which would be $55 at the p.o..

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