Penalty Fees for Underpayment

 
    
Censuses


Stampsjoann (click here)

 
Beginning July 1, 1928, if a letter was short paid more than one rate, the United States Post Office Department charged a 1¢ penalty fee per each short paid rate; this fee was added to the short paid amount. The short paid plus the penalty was due on delivery and did not apply to airmail. This penalty was in effect through June 30, 1958, a thirty year span.

Following are two examples illustrating the assessment of this payment. Each of these covers was franked with two 3¢ Presidential stamps (Prexies). The proper mailing rate for each cover, weighing more than 3 ounces, but not over 4 ounces, was 12¢: 3¢ per ounce effective 07/06/32 to 07/31/58. Since only 6¢ was affixed, each of these covers was short paid two full rates, and each was assessed 8¢ due: 6¢ for unpaid postage (2 x 3¢) plus 1¢ penalty for each short paid rate (2 x 1¢).  The first cover is from Jeff Shapiro's collection, the second from Joann Lenz's.


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Two postage due stamps were used to assess the panalty on this 04/13/39 cover:
          5¢ postage due - Scott J83, Krause-Minkus (K-M) PD83
          3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82


The postage due on this later 1954 cover was assessed with three stamps:
          3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82
          2¢ postage due - Scott J81, K-M PD81

(Click image for 300 dpi scan)

  


This May 28, 1956 cover from Joann's collection is franked with a single 3¢ Liberty sheet stamp (Scott 1035). The cover weighed more than two ounces, but not over three ounces, so it was shortpaid 6¢. A one-cent penalty was added for each rate shortage for a total due of 8¢. Because there was only a four year span between the issuance of the first Liberty stamp in 1954 and the next penalty rate, beginning on July 1, 1958, covers showing the 1¢ penalty with Liberty stamps affixed are quite rare.

The postage due was assessed with four stamps:
             5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
             1¢ postage due - Scott J80, K-M PD80

(Click image for a 300dpi scan)



This October 22, 1957 cover from Tony Wawrukiewicz's collection illustrates a late example of the 1¢ penalty with postage due on a cover franked with three Liberty series 2¢ sheet stamps. This cover is rated the same as the two Prexie covers: 6¢ short paid (2 rates x 3¢) plus 1¢ penalty for each short paid rate (2 x 1¢). An 8¢ meter tape was added to show the amount due on delivery.





For a one month period in July of 1958, the United States Post Office Department charged a penalty fee of 5¢ for all underpaid mail. As explained on page 273 of U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1999 by Henry W. Beecher and Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz,

"...effective July 1, 1958, any insufficiently prepaid mail (any class), became due the deficient postage plus a 5¢ fee. This highly controversial fee was in effect only until July 31, 1958."



This cover, clearly dated July 1, 1958, is a scan from an APS photocopy of Steve Suffet's award winning Prexie Exhibit. The "First Day Postal Penalty Law" inscription suggests philatelic origin. Steve described this cover as...

3¢ rate underpaid.  Use of air mail envelope indicates this was an attempt to intentionally underpay the 6¢ air mail rate. However, as this was a local usage, the post office marked the cover INSUFFICIENT POSTAGE FOR AIR MAIL and treated it as surface mail.
5¢ penalty + 2¢ underpayment = 7¢ postage due.

Two postage dues were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
              5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
              2¢ postage due - Scott J81, K-M PD81

(Click image for 300 dpi scan)




Roland Austin shows a another post card that illustrates the 5¢ penalty fee. The card was postmarked on July 1, 1958, the first day of the 5¢ penalty. However, it had no postage added. On July 3rd  the card was assessed 7¢ postage due: the 2¢ for the surface  post card rate plus 5¢ penalty.

Two postage dues were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
              5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
              2¢ postage due - Scott J81, K-M PD81








This certified cover was initially mailed on June 27, 1958 from Salem, Oregon, with a request for address where delivered. During its postal handling, many other dates were applied: June 28th, perhaps a receiving date; July 9th on the Return Receipt on the back; and July 10th, perhaps the day it was Returned to Sender.

As sent, the postage charges were: 3¢ first ounce postage, 20¢ Certified fee; 35¢ Return Receipt with address where delivered for a total of 58¢ required. Only 55¢ was applied.

Since the cover was returned in July, 1958, it was assessed the 5¢ penalty plus the 3¢ postage due originally.

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However, no stamp or meter strip assessing the 8¢ due is evident on the front or the back, below.

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The postcard from John Allen's collection (ex Pusecker) was mailed from Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 30, 1958. The card  originally had a small bag of salt attached which disqualified it for the 2¢ postcard rate. It was upgraded to the 3¢ first class letter rate, and the dues assessed were: 1¢ for the shortpaid and 5¢ for the penalty fee. Although the postage due stamps are not cancelled, the fees must have been assessed during the first few days of July making this a very early use of the penalty fee. The card was sent to Marysville, Ohio.

Two postage due stamps were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
             3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82

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From John Hotchner's collection comes this July 2, 1958 cover postmarked from Brooklyn.  Mailed without postage this envelope is noted as 8¢ due: 3¢ for the missing postage and 5¢ due for the penalty.

Four postage due stamps show the amount due on delivery:
            3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82
            1¢ postage due - Scott J80, K-M PD80

(Click image for 300 dpi scan)




It seems that other collectors soon became aware of the new underpayment penalty as shown on this July 3rd cover from Joann's collection. No postage was affixed to this POSTAGE DUE RATE CHANGE cover when it was mailed in Corinth, New York, on July 3, 1958. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an 8¢ postage due meter was applied: 3¢ for the amount of postage needed, 5¢ for the penalty.

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Monday, July 7th, seems to have been a busy day for the assessment of the new 5¢ penalty. Perhaps clerks finally had a chance to read and understand the new regulations.


This cover from Roland Austin's collection was mailed from Macon, Georgia, on July 7, 1958. There was no postage affixed so the letter was assessed 8¢ due:  3¢ for postage + 5¢ for the penalty fee.

Two postage due stamps were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
             5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
             3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82

(Click image for 300dpi scan)



A similar July 7th cover from Tim Pusecker's collection was mailed from Richmond, Indiana. The amount due was 8¢: 3¢ for postage + 5¢ for the penalty fee.

Two postage due stamps were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
             5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
             3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82

(Click image for a 300 dpi scan)




Another July 7th cover is from Rob Haeseler's collection. This cover, mailed in Fort Worth, Texas, had two Liberty 3¢ coils affixed to pay the first ounce airmail rate (Jan. 1, 1949 to July 31, 1958). However, the letter weighed over one ounce but was less than or equal to two ounces and required 12¢ postage. The 11¢ amount due on delivery (6¢ additional postage + 5¢ penalty fee) was assessed using two postage due stamps:
            10¢ postage due - Scott J84, K-M PD84
              1¢ postage due - Scott J80, K-M PD80         

(Click image  for larger scan)



Yet another July 7th cover from Joann's collection, was sent unfranked and was therefore due 3¢ in postage. With the 5¢ penalty, this cover correctly shows a total of 8¢ due. Since the stamps are not cancelled, it is a guess whether the cover was delivered in Iowa or returned to the sender whose address is on the back of the envelope.

Two postage due stamps were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
             5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
             3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82

(Click inage for 300 dpi scan)


A fifth July 7th example, also from Tony Wawrukiewicz's collection, is illustrated in his book, U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1999 on page 273. This letter mailed from Grandville, Michigan, a suburb of Grand Rapids, was less than or equal to one ounce, needing 3¢ postage; it was short paid 1¢. The 1¢ amount, plus the 5¢ penalty, was assessed for a total of 6¢ due.


And yet another July 7th cover, this one is from Joann's collection.  The envelope, reduced on the left, was not franked when mailed in Tahoe City, California. Three cent postage was due plus the five cent penalty, so 8¢ postage due was assessed.

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Two postage due stamps were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
          5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
          3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82



A July 8th example is also from Rob Haeseler's collection.  The postcard was mailed without postage from Chicago, Illinois, and was properly assessed 7¢ due (2¢ for the postage and 5¢ for the penalty). The postcard rate was 2¢ from July 1, 1952 to July 31, 1958.

(Click image to see back of card)
Two postage due stamps were added to show the amount due:
          5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
          2¢ postage due - Scott J81, K-M PD81



Another example from Tony's collection is this July 9th cover mailed from Rock Island, Illinois. This letter was less than or equal to 2 ounces and required 6¢ postage. Since only 3¢ was paid, the total due was 8¢: 3¢ postage + the 5¢ penalty. To assess this amount an 8¢ Liberty stamp (the first stamp issued in the Liberty series) was affixed:
          8¢ Liberty - Scott 1041, K-M 578





This cover also from Joann's collection is franked with 30¢ (10 x 3¢ = 30¢) and was  short paid 6¢. The clerk originally determined that 3¢ was due in postage for the surface rate, but later the amount for airmail was assessed making the total due 11¢ (6¢ airmail + the 5¢ penalty).

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The proper rate for this cover, dated July 9 1958, would have been 36¢: first ounce Airmail at 6¢ plus Special Delivery at 30¢.

The sender's concern seems to have been to have the canceled stamps returned and may have overlooked the fact that postage was underpaid. (In addition, this collector-made cover was already full of stamps.)

The back of the cover has 11¢ in postage due stamps documenting the 6¢ postage shortage plus the 5¢ penalty fee for short paid mail:
          3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82
          1¢ postage due - Scott J80, K-M PD80         





 
Roland Austin's collection also includes this July 10th example which is illustrated on the web site he maintains for the Liberty Series Study Group of the United States Stamp Society (USSS).  The site may be visited by clicking <here>

This letter was short paid 3¢, the amount due for the 2nd ounce rate. Adding the 5¢ penalty fee, the total due was 8¢. The amount due was assessed using:
          3¢ Liberty - Scott 1035, K-M 573p
          5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83





This July 12th cover mailed from the Los Angeles Terminal Annex is from the Steve Unkrich collection. No postage was affixed to this cover weighing less than or equal to 1 ounce. Postage due of 8¢ was affixed (3¢ postage + 5¢ penalty fee).

Four 2¢ postage due stamps were used to indicate the amount due:
            2¢ postage due - Scott J81, K-M PD81

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This postcard in Joann's collection (ex Pusecker) was mailed from Toledo, Ohio, on July 17th. Since no postage was affixed, the card was assessed 7¢ due: 2¢ for postage + 5¢ for the penalty fee.

Two postage due stamps were applied to show the amount due on delivery:
             5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
             2¢ postage due - Scott J81, K-M PD81

(Click image for 300 dpi scan)





This July 23rd cover (ex Pusecker) in David Eeles' collection was mailed in Wickliffe, Ohio, on July 23, 1958.  The scan below shows both the front and back of the envelope.  Franked with a 2¢ Jefferson sheet stamp, the envelope was shortpaid by 1¢ for the 3¢ first class postage required at the time.

Initially the envelope was rated as 1¢ due but later the 5¢ penalty fee was also assesed for a total of 6¢ postage due.

Delivery was attempted in Cleveland on July 24th (two postage due stamps on front of envelope) but was initially  unsuccessful and the postage dues were voided.   Later the same day delivery was accomplished and the 6¢ due collected as shown on the back of the envelope.

Each of the due stamps applied were:
            3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82  

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The last dated cover in this July 1958 penalty period census, from Joann's collection, was mailed on July 25th from Oroville, California. The cover was short paid 1¢, so the 1¢ plus 5¢ penalty were assessed. Perhaps the sender was assuming the 2¢ greeting card rate applied because the cover was not sealed.

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Two postage due stamps were affixed:
          5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
          1¢ postage due - Scott J80, K-M PD80



Rounding out this mini census of July 1958 covers showing the 5¢ penalty fee is this undated cover from John Hotchner's collection.  Mailed without postage from Nashville, Tennessee, this window envelope is noted as 3¢ due for the missing postage and 5¢ due for the penalty, for a total due of 8¢.

Two postage due stamps were affixed to show the amount due on delivery:
             5¢ postage due - Scott J83, K-M PD83
             3¢ postage due - Scott J82, K-M PD82

(Click image for 300 dpi scan)

 
David Eeles replies...I finally found the 5c surcharge on an item franked with a 3¢ Liberty stamp.  Unfortunately, the Postage Due stamps cover the Canadian cancel so I can't confirm the date without removing them.  Since it was a 3c rate postcard, however, it would seem to be after July 1958.  Click <here> for a 300 dpi image.








For more information about  U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-1999, the excellent reference used to help rate these covers , click <here>
  

I welcome your comments, additional examples and information on the penalty fees charged by the Post Office for underpayment of postage.

 
Censuses

Stampsjoann (click here)