Computer Vended Postage Stamps 

US #CVP31 was issued on this day in 1992.

On August 20, 1992, Computer Vended Postage stamps were first made available for sale in five test cities.

Prior to these, there were tests of computer vended postage on an even smaller scale.  Between November 13, and December 14, 1989, self-service machines were available at the 20th Universal Postal Congress at the Washington, DC. But they weren’t available to the general public.

US #CVP32 was issued on February 19, 1994.

Not long after, similar machines were available at the Martin Luther King Jr. Station of the Washington, DC, Post Office and the White Flint Mall in Kensington, Maryland.  Those machines were only in operation until May 7, 1990.

US #CVP33 was issued on January 26, 1996.

Then in 1992, the USPS decided to launch a test program to try the idea of variable-rate postage stamps on a larger scale. On August 20, they introduced computer-vended postage at 15 post offices in the Southern Maryland, Miami, Oklahoma City, Detroit and Santa Ana, CA, divisions.

These Postage and Mailing Center machines could print any denomination from 1¢ to $99.99 on the stamp. Customers used the built-in scale to determine the necessary postage. There were many mechanical problems, and when the machines were working properly, collectors quickly emptied them.

US #CVP31 – Classic First Day Cover.

Questions soon arose over what constituted a complete variable rate stamp collection. Obtaining one stamp with each denomination would have cost $499.950.  The denomination printed on these stamps, dispensed by ECA GARD machines, had an asterisk instead of a dollar sign.

US #CVP32 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

Phosphorous tagging is added to stamps for use by the automatic canceling machines used by the post office. These variable-rate stamps sometimes passed through the machines, even if the stamps had only a 1¢ denomination.

US #CVP33 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

The design of CVP32 design is similar to CVP31 but is in vertical format, which is how the artist originally intended it to be. A dollar sign is used in place of an asterisk.  The third variable-rate coil stamps (CVP33) featured the same design as the previous two issues. This stamp has perforations along the sides like CVP32, printed by American Bank Note Company. The BEP version has a small “1996” printed in the lower left corner.

Item #M92-111 – First Day Maximum Card.

Computer vended postage is still in use today, though the look has changed over the years.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. I remember standing in line waiting for the postal vending machine mechanic to complete the set up of the Postage Vending Machine at the Main Post Office in downtown Detroit, Michigan on that first day of operation. I purchased several dozen stamps, in a variety of different face values. I bought a few of each denomination from 1¢ through 10¢, and then a bunch of 19¢, 23¢, 29¢, 32¢, 52¢ & 55¢ values. I have a strip of three stamps that are 8¢, 4¢ & 5¢ that made up one purchase of 15¢ worth of stamps. It was quite an exciting experience, truly a hobbyists dream.

    1. Oops, that was a strip of three stamps that are 8¢, 4¢ & 3¢ that made up the 15¢ purchase.

  2. It was hard to decide what to collect, so for CVP31 I went for 1c – through 29c. And I found a glossy and a flat gum variety. Got a plate strip of CV32, but ignored CV33. It was an interesting experiment. Though certainly not breathtaking stamps, they made for a unique interesting addition to the hobby. No more experiments like that, as they almost all say “forever”. I think the collector has lost something in the “forever” era.

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