Space Cover 441: Not Supposed to Exist
Do you have any space flight recovery covers in your collection that should not exist?
Post office determines postal rates and usage requirements along with the publishing and enforcement of the rates and usage. Among these are rules about the postal use for mail mailed aboard/from ships.
Postal regulations specifically state:
Mail Posted on a U.S. Ship - For those unfamiliar with a Paquebot cancel –
Mail posted aboard a U.S. ship on the high seas, or aboard any ship while in a U.S. port, must bear U.S. stamps and is not entitled to Paquebot cancellation at a U.S. Post Office facility.
Mail posted aboard commercial vessels on the high seas may bear postage stamps of the country whose flag the vessel flies. On arrival at a port, an officer of the ship must give the mail to the post office of the foreign city. That post office must cancel the stamps and dispatch the items. If the stamps are foreign, the Post Office facility must use a special Paquebot postmark or apply the word "PAQUEBOT" to the envelope in ink or with a rubber stamp. Publication of how collectors were to send covers to be postmarked included a statement that US postage would need to be applied and requests not following that rule would be returned unserviced.
Collectors from around the world sent covers to be postmarked aboard ships for the spacecraft recoveries. Some collectors, not knowing how to acquire United States postage stamps, still sent envelopes or postcards with postage of their country to the ships with the request to postmark. With the high volume of mail sent to these ships, compared to their regular volume, the naval postal clerks processing the requests were likely not checking closely the postage denomination and/or country.
As an example, shown above, is a postal stationary card postmarked for the recovery of Apollo 12 from the USS Austin with the postage denomination from West Germany.
Here is an example, from Ross Smith's recovery ship website, of a USS Guadalcanal postmark on a cover with stamps from the United Kingdom.
Finally, here is an example of a cover from the USS Hoist for Apollo 4 that uses foreign postage but is postmarked, not aboard the ship itself as the USS Hoist doesn't have a post office aboard, but at Patrick AFB with stamps from Maldive Island.
So while you are on the hunt for recovery ship covers consider looking for some covers that shouldn't exist...