What Are Presorted First Class Stamps?

By John Peterson
Presorted First-Class mail
Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Casey Serin

Presorted first-class mail requires precanceled stamps or metered postage for discount bulk mailing. Both private businesses and nonprofit organizations use presorted mailings to save money. Collectors also acquire precanceled stamps and overprints as a specialized area of philately, the study of stamps and related items.

Precanceled Stamps

Precanceled stamp prices vary according to what is being mailed, but they are much cheaper than regular first-class. Stamps can be machine- or hand-canceled, and modern presorted stamps are printed as precanceled.

Business Bulk Mailing

To be eligible for presorted first-class rates, businesses must have mailings of at least 500, obtain a permit and pay an annual mailing fee.

Nonprofit Bulk Mailing

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has ten categories of nonprofit eligibility, and qualified nonprofit organizations, or combined organizations, are eligible for extra presorted first-class savings under Nonprofit Standard Mail.

How To Mail Presorted First-Class

The reason the USPS grants cheaper postage rates for presorted mail is that much of their work is done prior to mailing. All envelopes must be sorted by ZIP code and precanceled.

Collecting Precanceled First-Class Stamps

The USPS authorized precanceled stamps in 1887, and collectors will want to acquire a copy of "Catalog of United States Bureau Precancels," printed by the Precancel Stamp Society, to identify precancel overprints. Precanceled stamps are becoming less common with increasing usage of metered postage.

About the Author

John Peterson published his first article in 1992. Having written extensively on North American archaeology and material culture, he has contributed to various archaeological journals and publications. Peterson has a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern New Mexico University and a Master of Arts from the University of Nebraska, both in anthropology, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in history from Columbia College.