That depends. Some postal agencies have two boxes for outgoing mail. One for unstamped letters that will put into stamping machines. Another box for hand-stamped letters that do not run through the stamping machines, but are handed directly into the sorting machine.
Letters are not stamped in sorting machines, but in stamp machines. These are two different machines.
If a post agency puts hand cancelled letters into the box for uncancelled letters they will probably put into the stamping machine and will cancelled twice. I already got postcards where that happened.
This is an interesting topic and I would like to give my contribution to understand how it works in Italy.
In Italy ordinary mail is mainly sorted out by CMP (Centro di Meccanizzazione Postale), automated sorting centers.
We have 22 automated sorting centers in the country. The green dots in the map.
Postmark is not 100% granted, very often they are delivered without any mark. Dont’ ask me why.
Hand cancellations are still available, but at the Philatelic Offices only.
In Italy we have 547 Philatelic Office, the complete list can be download here: (http://www.fsfi.it/annulli/2017/Struttura%20competenti.htm)
The postmark availbale at the Philatelic Offices can be considered permanent postmarks.
At the moment the available imprint shows the map of Italy, the zip code and name (location of the office) and the data, plus the words FILATELIA and Poste Italiane.
The Philatelic Offices of the main towns like: Rome, Milano, Firenze, Genova, Torino, Napoli, Verona, Trieste have a different imprint showing a famous monument/landmark of the town, like in this one from Milan, which depicts the Duomo:
As you can notice in the photo, we see double postmark: the hand postmark of the philatelic office plus the machine one of the CMP. It can happen. I haven’t discovered yet why sometimes it happens, sometimes not, this is part of the big mystery!
The permenent postmarks available at the Philatelic Offices can be asked at the desk or material to be hand postmarked can be sumbitted by post, in the same way as for special postmarks (occasional postmarks available for limited time only).
In Durness, a store owner told me that he still uses his old postmark for his post office agency. The British Post Office has already offered him several times to give him a new postmark, but he still prefers to keep his old one. In this stamp, individual metallic numbers for the date will be plugged into the stamp.
In Germany there is another speciality in addition to the normal hand cancellation stamps. There are still some packet ships that supply different islands and they have their own postmarks on board. These postmarks are titled “Deutsche Schiffspost” (German shipping mail) and include the shipping company and the the ship’s name.
If you like postmarks, postal labels and all the tiny signs of widely travelled mail you might be interested in the Travelling Envelope RR.
Your envelope travels across different countries and collects stamps, cancellations and charming little damages until it returns to you.
In my country we have both machine cancelation and cancellation by hand. For poscards cancellation by hand is more common.
We also have use an incoming mail postmarks. Postmarks are usually in Belarusian or Russian language. There were used postmarks in English earlier, but I don’t see it nowadays.
These are examples of outcoming and incoming postmarks:
Before each post office could postmark their outgoing mail with the postmark indicating the zip code and the name of the post office (location).
I am not sure when they stopped
I searched my collection and I found this card which is dated back the 90s , sent from Vulcano, a small island in front of Sicily.
The postmark looks like machine made, but here the origin of the card is clear.
It can also be a machine postmark in red color. According to the regulations of China Post, all postmarks should not be stamped on the picture side but machines have no idea which side is the picture side… (This card is from Germany.)
One interesting fact is they changed the postmark earlier this year. The old version says [Post Office Name]投递 instead of [Post Office Name]营投. The two differ in wording but express the same type of service.
About the machines, honestly, I haven’t visited the delivery departments so I don’t know how the machines there are like. I think they are able to sort the mail based on address since there is a bar code on every Chinese domestic mail, like those bar codes on registered mails. The machine may be able to extract the addresses by simply scanning the bar code. However, I have used the meter stamp machine several times. They are actually very similar to the machines in @Speicher3 's video. It is imported from Switzerland or Germany, especially the multicolor ones, I guess. Here is a sample I get from the machine in Songling Post Office, Wujiang District, Suzhou. The picture on the left is printed by the multicolor machine.
(Meter stamps are rarely used in postcrossing because people typically can enjoy some discount if they purchase stamps but need to pay fully if they use a meter stamp machine. Also, nearly all regular post offices do not offer multicolor meter stamp machines so the meter stamps are generally less beautiful than ordinary stamps.)
Oh my God, the thread I opened is actually extremely popular! So many new replies, and I had to go through all of them! I’m replying only to a few of the posts, because I’d rather not make my post extremely long. But, rest assured, I’ve read everything you sent with utmost pleasure!
I love when people send pictures of your own travelled mail. It’s just nice to marvel at what it looks like after travelling for thousands of miles!
I can see that the “Thinking of You” cancellation has been sprayed on twice! It’s such an ugly postmark I mean, the design isn’t bad; however, USPS should be aware of the fact that those machines can’t reproduce all the intricate details of the original design, and the result is always going to be a smudgy mess of ink!
Your knowledge is a gold mine for me! Thank you so much for solving this big mystery – I have to talk to more people who work in the postal system (wait, do you?)… I’m sure that I’d find an answer to many of my questions!
Come on! The rollover ones are so much nicer! At least they still feel like postmarks… The inkjet ones are just sad. Maybe I’m being a little bit too conservative here, but if I were to create a list of best postmarks, well, sprayed-on ones are going to be at the bottom of everything…
So, first of all, thank you sooo much for providing all these interesting pictures! It’s extremely interesting to see what the whole thing actually looks like. It’s similar in Italy, I guess. The last picture caught my attention: that’s actually a handstamp, right? However, it’s also a rollover one! The design is kinda smart… I’d love to see something like that in action!
How do you get to talk to such cool people? I also want to have postmark-related chats in real life! The stamp is made of metal, which is why it stood the test of time… Many rubber stamps will just disintegrate… Italian post offices have many of these rubber stamps which are used for registered mail. Let me just tell you that they’re often in terrible conditions and nothing can be read.
I really love Belarusian postmarks. They’re always super clear and nice to look at as well. I didn’t know that Belarus also stamped incoming mail! I always write a lot on my postcards, so there are no empty spaces… I’d really like to know what they look like once they’ve been stamped in the recipient’s country!
Yes! Smaller post offices also had these machines… Although I’d say that they’re not as complex as the ones in big sorting centres. Such “postmarking” machines have been around for a while actually – I saw them on old postcards from the 1950s! The picture below was taken from Google:
That stamp looks beautiful! I’ve never received something like that… I always get the other round ones (the green plant and the one with the moon). This one looks cool! And, by the way, your postcard even has the date on it! And the place where it was sorted. Where’s the cancellation then? I thought that cancellations are always sprayed on at the same time as place and date! You were extremely unlucky!
I sent out a few postcards from the town next to my dad’s village. It’s a very rural area (湖岭镇: from the name alone, you can tell that it’s a pretty anonymous place). There, they would postmark the stamps and then put the postmark on the front side of the card as well! For no apparent reason, actually. But it’s cool (and it made me erroneously assume it’s something that’s often done in China).
Why do Chinese post offices keep changing these details! They must’ve gone through at least 3 different “generations” of postmarks! I think there’s someone at China Post who is really indecisive…