3132 - 1997 25c Juke Box, non-denominational, linerless coil
US #3132 paid the first-class, presort letter rate. Click image to order.

On March 14, 1997, the USPS issued two linerless coil stamps on a small scale to test the potentially money-saving format.

Throughout the 1990s, self-adhesive stamps grew in popularity for their convenience.  So the USPS began looking for ways to produce the stamps more efficiently.

3133 - 1997 32c Flag Over Porch, linerless coil
US #3133 was the last Flag Over Porch stamp. Click image to order.

Up until 1997, self-adhesive stamps were produced with a backing paper – a glossy paper the stamps could adhere to, but also be easily removed from.  In an effort to cut costs and be more environmentally friendly, the USPS decided to experiment with linerless self-adhesive coils.  In order to do this, the stamps would have to receive a special silicone coating to keep them from sticking to each other.

The process to produce these stamps would turn out to be quite complex.  For example, the 32¢ Flag over Porch stamps were being printed by Stamp Venturers in Richmond, Virginia. They were shipped to 3M Corporation in St. Paul, Minnesota.  There, they were coated with adhesive on the back and silicone on the front.  The stamps were then shipped back to Stamp Venturers, cut down into 100-stamp coils, and packaged similarly to tape dispensers.

496564FDC - First Day Cover
US #3132 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover. Click image to order.

Despite the lengthy process of creating the stamps, the USPS thought the idea had merit, and the first linerless coil self-adhesive stamps (#3132 and 3133) were issued on March 14, 1997.  The stamps were tested at 17 post offices and a few bulk-mail houses.  The stamps received positive feedback and the USPS announced it would continue to issue linerless coils.

321166 - First Day Cover
US #3133 – Fleetwood First Day Cover. Click image to order.
US #3404-07 – The Fruit Berries stamps were issued in four different formats. Click image to order.

In spite of the positive reviews from customers, collectors weren’t as pleased with the stamps.  An article in Linn’s titled, “New linerless coils not ready for prime time” detailed the issues:

“The stamp surface appears to be too slick, a quality that seems necessary for the stamp to be linerless and to peel easily from other stamps in the roll…Is the surface stable?  Is it chemically inert?  In all likelihood, it’s not.  Collectors should think first before putting this new material in their albums or mounts.  Like any of the other new self-adhesive stamps, the storage strip and the new linerless stamps have not stood the test of time.  We collectors are the guinea pigs.”  Perhaps in response to such criticisms, the USPS produced specially treated backing strips to which the stamps could be attached, so they could then be inserted into mounts and displayed in albums.

3680-83 - 2002 37c Contemporary Christmas: Snowmen, linerless coil
US #3680-83 were the last linerless coil stamps.  Click image to order.

The USPS issued more linerless coils in 2000, featuring the fruit berries design.  These stamps were die cut on the top and bottom, rather than on the sides as the previous linerless coils.  However, postal customers complained that the stamps were difficult to separate.

In 2002, the USPS issued another set of linerless coils, which featured snowmen.  Customers could purchase a container for the stamps for $1.  After these stamps were produced, the USPS decided that linerless coils didn’t provide significant production savings.  They also required new or modified equipment for affixing stamps, so no more linerless coils were produced.

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  1. Old gum system which required moistening was best,and most environmentally friendly. I dislike self adhesive fake perforation stamps. But I am just an old collector who prefers stamps from 1840-1970

    1. I agree! My collection ends when engraving ends – in the case of the British World, that’s with the first Elizabeth issues in 1952.

  2. I and thousands of other stamp collectors agree with Brian. Self adhesive stamps with discourage many a prospective collector.

  3. I agree with Charles & Brian! “Lick ’em” stamps were the best! Unfortunately, a thing of the past?

  4. One of the reasons that turn off prospective first time collectors, is that self adhesive stamps are very hard to come off the cover when soaked. Postal authorities should consider this aspect to encourage the dying hobby of philately…

  5. There are the stamp lift fluids that are pretty good at removing self-adhesive stamps from paper. But if they are on a hard/moisture-proof surface like the USPS cardboard mailers and some package labels, the stamps are nearly impossible to remove. The fluid works on the adhesive from the back of the stamp. Doesn’t penetrate these surfaces to release the adhesive. Tried soaking them from the top surface. Some stamps, not all, print surface separates from the material with the adhesive. Whisker-thin stamp image. Not stiff for mounting or hinging.

  6. Plus a lot of the fluids I’ve tried tend to “bleed” the postmark badly. Especially if you want to remove all of the adhesive. Of course, if you don’t remove all of the adhesive, then you have to coat the back to prevent it sticking to the album pages (under pressure). Then you need to use mounts instead of hinges – which won’t stick to the treated adhesive. And on and on…

    Add to that the fact that you almost NEVER get actual mail with commemorative stamps any more, and I am surprised that NEW YOUNG people ever become collectors. [Sorry… just showing my age. ]

  7. I purchased sheets of silicon coated non-stick paper. I place these self-adhesive stamps on the non-stick paper and trim to an appropriate size with an attractive 1/8th inch border.

  8. Why remove the stamp from the backing in the first place? Just carefully trim it and mount it as is. This is what I do with all used stamps now, adhesive or gummed (unless I need to examine the watermark). Faster, simpler, and I can write the Scott number on the back without damaging the stamp. Soak it off later.

  9. It’s apparent; we collectors hate the self-adhesive stamps. Gummed stamps can lick self-adhesive stamps any day. Of course if the post office wants to encourage stamp collecting and commemorative stamps, that’s easy; stop issuing definitive FOREVER stamps!

  10. I originally stopped collecting stamps around 1972. I had decided that I could no longer appreciate the many useless things appearing on “commemoratives” and because of the total lack of quality in the designs. It was more like comic book art than the beautiful engravings of a few years earlier. When my father died a few years ago I inherited his collection and apparently he began to feel the same way because his collection mostly stopped around 1987. So now I mostly just putter around with the older stuff I can’t afford because I hate most of the current “art” and because self-adhesives are disgusting.

    1. I agree with you Al, although I suffered through 2000 and gave it all up! Unworthy topics, ridiculous artwork, redundant subjects, and worst of all, self-adhesive stamps!! I’m done and only work on filling the pages from the earlier years!

  11. I dislike definitive stamps that are nearly identical such as 2005-2006 “Lady Liberty & Flag, Non-Denominated” (#3965-3975, and #3978-3985). You can hardly tell the seventeen different stamps without a magnifying glass.

  12. Stamp Collecting is not what it use to be. The Postal Service prints so many different stamps in a year now, that its getting difficult to keep up with all of them. I collect mint only stamps that go back to the good old days 60 + years ago.

  13. I purchased self-adhesive stamps in bulk especially when the subject might appeal to the grandchildren. After about 2 years the adhesion becomes weak and the stamp falls off while on the way to the distribution center. The mail is then returned because of insufficient postage. In order to use the stamps I have to scotch tape the edges which ruins it as a collectible. The old water-based adhesive stamps are far more desirable. It appears that the government is hell-bent on issuing stamps and coins in volume thereby ruining the collection aspect as a hobby. It’s impossible to keep up.

  14. I rarely see commemoratives on mail these days. Who buys them? ….Mostly collectors forced into buying whole mini sheets instead of singles available before the self adhesives were popular. This discourages new young collectors.

  15. I started collecting in 1947. As soon as linerless stamps were introduced it destroyed stamp collecting in albums. Stopped buying stamps for my collection. Now I’m using all my old mint stamps as postage. It’s like Linn’s no longer printing a printed copy of Linn’s. Linn’s will go the way of the DoDo Bird. It will be DEAD in five years

  16. My 2 adult sons and I are trying to complete all the stamps issued from 1930 to 1990. We want to complete 3 sets of these years. When we started collecting in 1980 it was fun asking businesses to save opened envelopes so we could soak the stamps off the paper. Today the younger generations have all kinds of electronic ways to receive letters. They don’t know how to send letters through the USPS. When I was in grade school we were taught how to write letters and address envelopes. Nothing like getting a surprise in the mail from your parents, siblings, etc., such as a “care package”.

  17. From Linda at Mystic

    As a lifetime collector, I understand where you’re coming from. I have some of the same frustrations with self-adhesive stamps. And I sometimes wonder how some modern topics manage to rate a stamp. (Are you listening, Bart Simpson?) Still, I don’t want my collection to miss out on the many cool stamps issued since the coming of self-adhesives. Think Flags of Our Nation series, the Statue of Freedom set, Views of our Planets, Mount Rushmore, Medal of Honor Winners…

    So here’s what I do: I “adhere” to the recommendation of our stamp experts at Mystic. I just neatly trim the backing paper or envelope the self-adhesive is attached to. I give it an approximately 1/8-inch margin all around. Then I hinge or mount the stamp in my album. It’s really so easy, even if I do kind of miss soaking stamps like the old days!

    At Mystic we always try to make collecting more fun by giving you lots of good background information on your stamps. And easier with collecting tips like the above.By the way, we recently created a little booklet all about self-adhesive stamps. Click here to read and download it if you like. https://catalog.mysticstamp.com/self-adhesive-stamps-guide/

    As Don Sundman always says, Happy Collecting!

  18. I have been collecting since the age of 12. I am now 77. Many of the new stamps are really meaningless from an informational standpoint. I was missing 30 years of stamps I have obtained all but 70. from 1990 to present.
    My 1800’s stamps were purchased 40 years ago. Very proud of them. The resent stuff is in question. The Global Express are reticules to obtain. Some day after I am gone, my 5-volume collection books will go to my grandchildren. I hope they will appreciate the effort, but who knows. My son says it is waste of time. But I love doing stamps.

  19. Only been seriously collecting for 38 years. During that time it appears the USPS has done about everything it can to discourage collecting. Too many stamps, too many formats, self-adhesives, single number PNCs., etc.

  20. I started collecting in 1947; FDC; Plate Blocks; Mint US; some Sheets; WW used and Mint. Until the USPS, previously known as the US Post Office decided to get greedy! Too many stamps, poor quality; lots of high value stamps nobody needs or uses as postage and now prevents stamps from soaking. ALSO gone into “Art Deco” which doesn’t resemble or properly represent what they are trying to commemorate! THEY KILLED STAMP COLLECTING!!! Haven’t bought new stamps for years, except when mailing a Christmas Present to the Grand Children when I get the stamps returned. I traveled the World for nearly 30 years living abroad in 5 countries and traveling in over 30 and found some postal administrations really do better than the US eg. Faroe Islands, Norway, Iceland, etc. although they are not quit the quality they used to be.

  21. I agree with Arthur Haspel, I too hope one of my Grandchildren will have an interest in my collection of stamps one day. I love collecting them and find most to be very interesting. It seems whether they are sons or in my case daughters they feel it is a waste of time. To them I guess it is, but to me it gives me pleasure and makes me happy. So there!

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