Glossary: This basic glossary of descriptions defines many of the most basic terms in philately. A separate glossary for Christmas Seals and other Charity Seals is also provided here. List of Stamp and Charity Seal Catalogs used for Identification and Descriptions.
Accessories: Any of the large variety of collecting tools and aids. Accessories include hinges, mounts, stamp tongs, perforation gauges, stock books, magnifiers and philatelic literature. Stamp albums and catalogs can also be regarded as accessories.
Admirals: A nickname for three British Commonwealth definitive series, those of Canada, 1912-25; New Zealand, 1926; and Rhodesia, 1913-19). These stamps depict King George V in naval uniform.
Aerogramme: The official Universal Postal Union designation for an airletter sheet. These sheets, with gummed flaps, are written on and folded into themselves to form their own envelope and are carried at less than the letter airmail rate. No enclosures are permitted.
Aerophilately: A specialized area of collecting concentrating on stamps or covers carried by air.
Agency: 1) The extraterritorial post offices maintained at various times by governments in the territory of other governments. Examples are the post offices maintained by many European powers in the Turkish Empire until 1923. 2) An official or private organization that publicizes or sells new issues of stamps on behalf of stamp-issuing entities.
Air Labels: Air labels, or etiquettes, are standard-sized blue labels used by UPU member nations to denote airmail carriage. They are inscribed "Par Avion'" (French for "By Airmail''). The text usually includes the same message in the language of the native country. Air labels also are adhesives issued by private organizations for specific, unofficial flights. See also Semiofficial.
Airmail: The carriage of mail by air. The first regular airmail service began in 1870, when mail was carried from Paris, France, then besieged by German forces, over enemy lines by balloon. The first airmail stamp was issued by Italy in 1917.
Album: Albums are binders, usually with pages, for the mounting and display of stamps and covers. Albums come in many sizes, styles and themes. See the Album section in this almanac.
Aniline: Ink with a coal-tar base. Such inks were used in stamp printing to prevent erasure of cancellations and reuse of stamps. Aniline inks are very sensitive and may dissolve in water or other liquids or chemicals.
Approvals: Priced selections of stamps sent to collectors by mail. The collector purchases the items he chooses, returning the balance with payment for those kept.
Army Post Office: An official United States post office for use by U.S. military units abroad. An army post office or military post office is set up to distribute mail to and from military personnel. Locations are indicated by numbers only to prevent revealing personnel locations. The locations become generally known after a war is over.
Arrow: On many sheets, small arrow-like markings appear in the selvage, generally serving as guides for the cutting of the sheets into predetermined units. Some collectors save stamps or blocks displaying these marks.
Art Paper: A very fine paper with a specially prepared surface that allows the controlled application of ink or pigment.
As Is: A term written in auction descriptions and spoken or written during a retail transaction. It indicates that an item or lot is sold without guarantee or return privilege. Stamps are usually sold "as is" when they are in poor condition or are possibly not genuine.
Authentication Mark: A marking, such as initials, placed on the reverse of a stamp examined and certified to be genuine by an expert. Such markings do not detract from the value of the stamps when they represent the endorsement of recognized authorities.
Backprint: Printing on the reverse of a stamp. Some countries have printed advertising or messages on the backs of stamps.
Backstamp: A postmark applied to mail by the receiving post office or by a post office handling the piece while it is in transit. Backstamps are usually on the back of a cover, but they can be on the front.
Bank Mixture: A high-quality mixture of stamps. It generally represents clippings from the correspondence of banks and other businesses with extensive overseas business, and thus includes a relatively high proportion of foreign stamps of high face value. See also Mission Mixture.
Bantams: The nickname of the South African definitive series of 1942-43. Wartime economy measures required stamps of small size to conserve paper.
Batonne: A wove or laid paper with watermark-like lines deliberately added in the papermaking process and intended as a guide for handwriting.
Bicolored Stamps: Stamps printed in two colors.
Bilingual: Refers to stamps inscribed in two languages. Most Canadian stamps include both English and French text. South African stamps are sometimes in both English and Afrikaans.
Bisect: A stamp cut or perforated into two parts, each half representing half the face value of the original stamp. Officially authorized bisects have often been used during temporary shortages of commonly used denominations. Unauthorized bisects appear frequently on mail from some countries in some periods. Bisects are usually collected on full cover with the stamp tied by a cancel. At times, some countries have permitted trisects or quadrisects.
Black Jack: The nickname of the United States 2? black Andrew Jackson stamp, issued between 1863 and 1875.
Blind Perforation: Perforations that have been only lightly impressed by the perforating pins, leaving the paper intact, but cut or with a faint impression. Some stamps that appear to be imperforate really are not if they have blind perfs. Stamps with blind perfs are minor varieties carrying little, if any, price premium over normally perforated copies.
Block: A unit of four or more unsevered stamps, including at least two stamps both vertically and horizontally. Most commonly a block refers to a block of four, or a block of stamps two high and two wide.
Bluenose: The nickname for the Canadian 50? issue of 1929, picturing the schooner Bluenose, Canada.
Bogus: A completely fictitious stamp-like label, created solely for sale to collectors. Bogus issues include labels for non-existent countries, non-existent values appended to regularly issued sets and issues for nations or entities without postal systems.
Bond Paper: A security paper of high quality, used to a limited extent in early stamp printing. Originally, bond was made from rags. The modern paper used for first-day covers is usually a bond quality paper.
Booklet: A unit of one or more small panes or blocks (known as booklet panes) glued, stitched or stapled together between thin card covers to form a convenient unit for mailers to purchase and carry. The first officially issued booklet was produced by Luxembourg in 1895.
Bourse: A meeting of stamp collectors and/or dealers, where stamps and covers are sold or exchanged. A bourse usually has no competitive exhibits of stamps or covers. Almost all stamp exhibits, though, do include a dealer bourse.
Bull's-Eyes: 1) The nickname for the first issue of Brazil, 1843. The similar but smaller issues are called goat's eyes. 2) A bull's-eye cancel refers to a "socked-on-the-nose" cancel, one that is centered directly on the stamp so that the stamp shows the location and date of mailing.
Burelage: A design of fine, intricate lines printed on the face of security paper, either to discourage counterfeiting or to prevent the cleaning and reuse of a stamp. The burelage on some stamps is part of the stamp design.
Burele: Adjective form for burelage, meaning having a fine network of lines. Some stamps of Queensland have a burele band on the back. Also called moire.
Cachet: In French, cachet means a stamp or a seal. In cover collecting, a cachet refers to a printed or handstamped design on an envelope denoting some special feature of the cover. Cachets appear on modern first-day covers, first-flight covers and special event covers.
Canceled To Order: Stamps are "canceled to order," usually in full sheets, by many governments. Often, the cancels are printed on the stamps at the same time that the stamp design is printed. CTO stamps are sold to stamp dealers at large discounts from face value. CTO stamps have never seen actual postal use. Most catalogs say whether they price CTO stamps or genuinely used ones. A stamp with a cancel and with full gum is likely a CTO stamp.
Cancellation: A marking that shows a stamp has been used. Modern cancels usually include the location of the post office from which the item is mailed and the date of mailing. Some also include a section of lines, bars, text or a design that "kills" the value of the stamp. This part of a cancel is called the killer.
Cantonal Stamps: Issues of the Swiss cantons used before the release of national stamps. The cantonal issues of Basel (1845), Geneva (1843-50) and Zurich (1843-50) are among the classics of philately.
Cape Triangles: Nickname for the triangular Cape of Good Hope stamps of 1853-64, the first stamps printed in triangular format. The distinctive shape helped illiterate postal clerks distinguishing letters originating in the colony from those from other colonies.
Catalog: Comprehensive compilation of postage stamps and revenue stamps, providing descriptions and, usually, values for the items, often including stamps priced on cover.
Catalog Value: The value of a stamp as listed in a given catalog for the most common condition in which the stamp is usually collected. Some catalogs list stamps at a retail value. European catalogs call their retail catalogs "netto" catalogs. In general, a stamp's catalog value should be regarded as a target price for the stamp. Some stamps are a bargain at double their catalog value. Others may be overpriced at one quarter of their catalog value. Most catalogs have a minimum price for the most common stamps that reflect
Censored Mail: A cover bearing a handstamp or label indicating that the envelope has been opened and read by a censor.
Centering: The relative position of the design of a stamp in relation to its margins. Assuming that a stamp is undamaged, centering is generally a very important factor in determining condition and value.
Certified Mail: A service of most postal adminstrations that provides proof of mailing and delivery without indemnity for loss or damage.
Chalky Paper: A chalk-surfaced paper for printing stamps. Any attempt to remove the cancel on a used chalky-paper stamp will also remove the design. Immersion of such stamps in water will cause the design to lift off. Touching chalky paper with silver will leave a discernible, pencil-like mark and is a means of distinguishing chalky paper.
Changeling: A stamp whose color has been changed by contact with a chemical or sunlight.
Charity Seals: Stamp-like labels that are produced by a charity. They have no postal validity, although they are often affixed to envelopes, usually on the reverse. Christmas Seals and Easter Seals are an example.
Charity Stamp: A stamp sold at a higher price than its postal value. The additional charge is usually noted on the stamp and is earmarked for a special fund. The use of semipostal stamps is voluntary. Postal tax stamps are similar to semipostals, but their use is usually required for all mail being posted during a specific period.
Cinderella: Stamp-like label that is not a postage stamp. Cinderellas include a wide variety of stamp-like labels, seals and bogus issues.
Classic: An early issue, with a connotation of rarity, although classic stamps are not necessarily rare. A particularly scarce recent item may be referred to as a modern classic.
Cleaning: Soiled or stained stamps are sometimes cleaned with chemicals or by erasing. The cleaning is usually done to improve the appearance of a stamp. Sometimes it is done to make a used stamp appear unused. A cleaned stamp can also mean one from which a cancellation has been removed.
Coil: A stamp prepared in rolls for sale and use in stamp-vending and affixing machines. Coils are often imperforate on two parallel sides and bear distinctive perforations. Some are numbered on the back to distinguish them from sheet stamps.
Collateral Material: Any supportive or explanatory material relating to a given stamp or philatelic topic. The material may be either directly postal in nature (post office news releases, rate schedules, souvenir cards, promotional buttons) or non-postal (maps, photos of scenes appearing on stamps).
Combination Cover: Cover bearing the stamps of more than one country when separate postal charges are paid for transport of a cover by each country. Also stamps of the same country canceled at two different times on the same cover as a souvenir.
Commatology: Specialized collecting of postmarks. This term was invented before World War II to describe postmark collecting. It is rarely used. Usually, collectors refer to postmark collecting or marcophily.
Commemorative: A stamp issued to note a special event or anniversary. A limited quantity of these stamps is available at the post office for a limited period. See also Definitive.
Compound Perforations: Different gauge perforations on different sides of a single stamp. The sides with the different perforations are usually perpendicular.
Condition: The general state of a stamp or a cover. Condition relates to a stamp's centering, gum, perforations, freshness and color.
Copyright Block: Block of four or more United States stamps with the copyright notice marginal marking of the United States Postal Service. The copyright marking was introduced in 1978 and replaced the Mail Early marking.
Corner Card: An imprinted return address, generally in the upper left corner of an envelope, from a commercial, institutional or private source, similar to business cards or letterheads.
Counterfeit: Any stamp, cancellation or cover created for deception or imitation, intended to be used as genuine. A counterfeit stamp is designed to deceive postal authorities.
Cover: An envelope or piece of postal stationery, usually one that has been mailed. A cover also refers to folded letters that were addressed and mailed without an envelope.
Crash Cover: A cover that has been salvaged from the crash of an airplane, train, ship or other vehicle. Such covers often carry a postal marking explaining their damaged condition.
Crease: A noticeable weakening of the paper of a stamp or cover, having been caused by its being folded or bent at some point. Creases substantially lower a stamp's value. On covers, creases affect value when they go through the attached stamp or a postal marking. Stamp creases are visible in watermark fluid.
Cut Cancellation: A cancellation that cuts the stamp. Often a wedge-shaped section is cut away. On many issues, such cancellations indicate use of postage stamps as fiscals or telegraph stamps rather than as postage. Cut cancellations were used experimentally on early U.S. postage stamps to prevent re-use.
Cut Square: A postal stationery cut-out. The imprinted stamp is neatly cut from the entire envelope, wrapper or postal card in a square or rectangular piece. Collectors generally prefer to collect stationery as entire pieces rather than as cut squares. Some older stationery is only available in cut squares.
Cut To Shape: A non-rectangular stamp or postal stationery imprint cut to the shape of the design, rather than cut square. Cut-to-shape stamps and stationery generally have lower value than those cut square. The unique 1856 British Guiana 1? magenta, the world's most valuable stamp, is a cut-to-shape stamp.
Cylinder: A plate used on a modern rotary press. The plate has no seams. For United States stamps, cylinders are used to print photogravure stamps. See also Sleeve.
Dead Country: A former stamp-issuing entity that has ceased to issue its own stamps. Also, the old name of a stamp-issuing entity that has changed its name, so that the old name will no longer be used on stamps.
Definitive: Stamp issued for an indefinite period and in indefinite quantity, usually for several years or more. The United States Presidential issue of 1938 and the Transportation coil stamps are examples. Definitive stamp designs usually do not honor a specific time-dated event.
Deltiology: Picture postcard collecting.
Denomination: The face value of a stamp. It is usually printed on the stamp. Modern stamps produced for rate changes sometimes are denominated with a letter. A numerical value is assigned when the letter stamps are issued. An example of this is the U.S. E stamp, which represented the first-class rate of 25?.
Die: The original engraving of a stamp. A transfer roller is made from a die, and printing plates are made from the transfer roller. When more than one die is used in the production of an issue, distinctive varieties are often identifiable.
Directory Markings: Postal indication of delivery attempt, stating reason for failure. Examples are "No Such Number," "Address Unknown" and "Moved."
Duck Stamp: Popular name of United States hunting permit stamp, issued for use on hunting licenses. Each annual stamp depicts waterfowl. Also, the duck stamps issued by the various states for use by hunters or for sale to collectors.
Duplex Cancel: A two-part postal marking comprised of a canceler and a postmark. The canceler voids the stamp so it cannot be reused. The postmark notes place and date of mailing.
Duplicate: An additional copy of a stamp that one already has in a collection. Beginners often consider stamps to be duplicates that really are not. They overlook perforation, watermark or color varieties.
Embossing: The process of giving relief to paper by pressing it with a die. Embossed designs are often found on postal stationery (usually on envelopes and wrappers). Occasionally stamps have been embossed.
Encased Postage Stamp: A stamp inserted into a small coin-size case with a transparent front or back. Such stamps were circulated as legal coins during periods when coins were scarce.
Entire: An intact piece of postal stationery, in contrast to a cut-out of the printed design. This term is sometimes used in reference to an intact cover or folded letter.
Error: A major mistake in the production of a stamp or postal stationery item. Printing errors include imperforate or part-perforate varieties, missing or incorrect colors and inversion or doubling of part of the design or overprint. Major errors are usually far scarcer than the normal stamps and are highly valued by collectors.
Essay: The artwork of a proposed design for a stamp. Some essays are rendered photographically. Others are drawn in pencil or ink or are painted. Most essays are rejected. One becomes the essay for the accepted design.
Europa: The "United Europe" theme, celebrated on stamps of Western European nations since 1956. The original Europa stamps were issued by the nations in the European coal and steel association. Today, the European nations that are members of the postal and telecommunications association (CEPT) issue Europa stamps.
Expertization: The examination of a stamp or cover by an acknowledged expert, to determine if it is genuine. Today, an expert or expertizing body issues a signed certificate, often with an attached photograph, attesting to the item's status.
Exploded: A stamp booklet is said to be exploded when it has been separated into its various components for purposes of display. This usually refers to booklets held together by staples. Modern glued booklets usually cannot be exploded without damaging the individual booklet panes.
Face Value: The value of a stamp as inscribed on its face, or for letter-denominated or undenominated stamps, the understood postal value of the stamp.
Facsimile: Reproduction of a genuine stamp or cover. Such items are usually made with no intent to deceive collectors or postal officials. Catalog illustrations are facsimiles.
Fake: A stamp, cover or cancel altered or concocted to appeal to a collector. In a broad sense, fakes include repairs, reperforations and regummed stamps, as well as painted-in cancels, bogus cancels or markings. Sometimes entire covers are faked.
Farley's Follies: During 1933-34, U.S. Postmaster General James A. Farley supplied a few imperforate sheets of current commemorative issues to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other government officials. The resulting uproar from U.S. collectors forced the government to release for public sale 20 stamps in generally imperforate and ungummed condition.
Fast Colors: Inks resistant to fading.
Field Post Office: A military post office operating in the field, either on land or at sea. See also Fleet Post Office.
Find: A new discovery, usually of something that was not thought to exist. It can be a single item or a hoard of stamps or covers.
First Day Cover: A cover bearing a stamp tied by a cancellation showing the date of the first day of issue of that stamp.
Fiscal: A revenue stamp or similar label denoting the payment of taxes. Fiscals are ordinarily affixed to documents and canceled by pen, canceler or mutilation. Because of their similarity to postage stamps, fiscals have occasionally been used both legally and illegally to prepay postage. See also Postal Fiscal.
Flat Plate: Printing from a flat plate, as opposed to a curved or cylindrical plate.
Flaw: A defect in a plate, causing an identifiable variety in the stamp itself.
Fleet Post Office: An official U.S. post office for use by U.S. military naval units abroad. See also Field Post Office.
Forerunner: A stamp or postal stationery item used in a given location prior to the issuing of regular stamps for that location. Turkish stamps before 1918 canceled in Palestine are forerunners of Israeli issues. So are the various European nations" issues for use in Palestine, and the subsequent issues of the Palestine Mandate.
Forgery: A completely fraudulent reproduction of a postage stamp. There are two general types of forgeries: 1) those intended to defraud the postal authorities, see also Counterfeit; and 2) those intended to defraud the collectors, see also Bogus.
Frame: The outer portion of the stamp design, usually a line or a group of panels.
Frank, Franking: An indication on a cover that postage is prepaid, partially prepaid or that the letter is to be carried free of postage. Franks may be written, handstamped, imprinted or affixed. Free franking is usually limited to government correspondence or soldiers" mail. Stamps are the modern method of franking a letter.
Freak: An abnormal, usually non-repetitive occurrence in the production of stamps. Most paper folds, overinking and perforation shifts are freaks. Those abnormalities occurring regularly are called varieties or major errors.
Front: The front of a cover with most or all of the back and side panels torn away or removed. Fronts, while desirable if they bear unusual or uncommon postal markings, are less desirable than an intact cover.
Granite Paper: A paper with small colored fibers added when the paper is made. This paper is used as a deterrent against forgery.
Gravure: The process of creating an intaglio printing plate by photographic and chemical means, rather than by hand engraving. See also Intaglio.
Grill: A pattern of parallel lines (or dots at the points where lines would cross) forming a grid. A grill is usually: 1) the impressed breaks added to stamps as a security measure (United States issues of 1867-71 and Peru issues of 1874-79); or 2) a grill-like canceling device used on various 19th-century issues.
Gum: The mucilage applied to the backs of adhesive postage stamps, revenue stamps or envelope flaps. Gum is a concern of stamp collectors. It may crack and harm the paper of the stamp itself. It may stain or adhere to other stamps or album pages under certain climatic conditions. Many collectors are willing to pay extra for 19th- and some 20th-century stamps with intact, undisturbed original gum.
Gutter: The selvage, either unprinted or with plate numbers, advertising or accounting or control numbers, between the panes of a sheet of stamps.
Gutter Snipe: One or more stamps to which is attached the full gutter from between panes, plus any amount of an adjoining stamp or stamps. This term is typically used in reference to U.S. stamps. Gutter snipes are freaks caused by misregistration of the cutting device and paper foldover.
Handstamp: Cancellation or overprint applied by hand to a cover or to an adhesive .
Hinge: Stamp hinges are small, rectangular-shaped pieces of paper, usually gummed on one side, used in the mounting of stamps. Most modern hinges are peelable. Once dry, they may be easily removed from the stamp, leaving little trace of having been applied.
Imperforate: Refers to stamps without perforations or rouletting between the individual stamps in a pane. The earliest stamps were imperforate, but after about 1860, most stamps were perforated. Modern imperforates are usually errors or are produced specifically for sale to stamp collectors.
Impression: Any stamped or embossed printing.
Imprimatur: Latin for "let it be printed." The first sheets of stamps from an approved plate, normally checked and retained in a file, prior to a final directive to begin stamp production from a plate.
International Reply Coupon: Coupons issued by members of the Universal Postal Union to provide for return postage from recipients in foreign countries. IRCs are exchangeable for postage at a post office.
Invert: The term generally used to describe any error where one portion of the design is inverted in relation to the other portion(s).
Keytype: A basic design utilized for the issues of two or more postal entities, usually differing in the country name and inscription of value. Many of the earlier colonial issues of Britain, France, Spain, Germany and Portugal are keytypes.
Kiloware: A stamp mixture, consisting of miscellaneous stamps on envelope corner paper from various sources. Kiloware is often sold by the kilogram (about 2.2 pounds).
Label: Any stamp-like adhesive that is not a postage stamp or revenue stamp.
Laid Paper: One of the two basic types of paper used in stamp printing. Laid paper is distinguished from the other type
Letterpress: Printing done directly from the inked, raised surface of the printing plate.
Line Engraving: Printing done from an intaglio plate produced from a hand-engraved die and transfer roller rather than by photographic or chemical means. See also Gravure.
Line Pair: A line between a pair of coil stamps. Stamps produced on a flatbed press have a line
Lithography: Printing from a flat surface with a design area that is ink-receptive. The area that is not to print is ink-repellant. The process is based on the principle that an oil-based design surface will attract oily ink.
Locals: Stamps valid within a limited area or within a limited postal system. Local post mail requires the addition of nationally or internationally valid stamps for further service. Locals have been produced both privately and officially.
Mail Early Block: U.S. marginal marking block with the marginal selvage bearing the inscription "Mail Early (in the Day)." This first appeared on U.S. marginal selvage in 1968. It was subsequently replaced by the Copyright notice. Typically a block of four or six stamps.
Marcophily: Postmark collecting.
Margin: 1) the selvage surrounding the stamps in a sheet, often carrying inscriptions of various kinds; or 2) the unprinted area between stamps in a sheet or what is left after stamps are separated. The collectible grades of stamps are determined by the position of the design in relation to the edge of the stamp as perforated or, in the case of imperforate stamps, as cut from the sheet.
Maximaphily: Maximum card collecting.
Maximum Card: A picture postcard, a cancel, and a stamp presenting maximum concordance. The stamp is usually affixed to the picture side of the card and is tied by the cancel. Collectors of maximum cards seek to find or seek to create cards with stamp, cancel and picture in maximum agreement, or concordance. The statutes of the International Federation of Philately (FIP) give specific explanatory notes for the postage stamp, the picture postcard, the cancel, concordance of subject, concordance of place and concordance of
Meter: Government permit of specified face value applied as a prepaid postmark in lieu of stamps.
Metered Mail: Mail franked by a postage meter, a device that automatically imprints the proper postal rate with a distinctive imprint in the upper right-hand area of the envelope. Meters were authorized by the UPU in 1920. They are used today by volume mailers to cut the cost of franking mail.
Miniature Sheet: A smaller-than-normal pane of stamps issued only in that form or in addition to full panes. A miniature sheet is usually without marginal markings or text saying that the sheet was issued in conjuction with or to commemorate some event. See also Souvenir Sheet.
Mint: A stamp in the same state as issued by a post office: unused, undamaged and with full original gum (if so issued with gum). Over time, handling, light and atmospheric conditions affect the mint state of stamps.
Mirror Image: Negative or reverse impression. An offset.
Mission Mixture: The lowest grade of stamp mixture, containing unsorted but primarily common, stamps on paper, as purchased from missions or other institutions. See also Bank Mixture.
Missionaries: The first stamps of Hawaii, issued in 1851-52. They are among the great classics of philately.
Mixed Perforation: See Compound Perforation and Syncopated Perforation.
Mixed Postage: Refers to a cover bearing the stamps of two or more stamp-issuing entities, properly used.
Mixture: A large group of stamps, understood to contain duplication. A mixture is said to be unpicked or picked. A picked mixture may have been previously gone through by a collector or dealer.
Mobile Post Office: Portable mail-handling equipment and personnel, generally in railroad cars, trucks, streetcars or buses.
Money, Stamps As: During periods of coin shortage, stamps have circulated officially as small change. Often, stamps used in this way are printed on thin card stock, enclosed in cases of various kinds or affixed to cards. See Encased Postage Stamps.
Mounts: Acetate holders, clear on the front and with some sort of adhesive on the back. Mounts hold stamps with pressure and are affixed to an album page. Collectors use mounts to mount stamps or covers.
Multicolor: More than two colors.
Multiple: An unseparated unit of stamps including at least two stamps, but fewer than the number included in a full pane.
Native Paper: Crude, handmade paper produced locally, as opposed to finer, machine-made paper.
Never Hinged: A stamp without hinge marks. Usually a never-hinged stamp has original gum, but this is not always the case.
New Issue Service: A dealer service that automatically supplies subscribers with new issues of a given country, area or topic. Issues provided are determined by a pre-arranged standing order defining the quantity and types of issues.
Newspaper Stamps: Stamps issued specifically for prepayment of mailing rates for newspapers, periodicals and printed matter.
Obliteration: 1) A cancellation intended solely to deface a stamp. Also called a killer; 2) An overprint intended to deface a portion of the design of a stamp, like the face of a deposed ruler.
Obsolete: A stamp no longer available from post offices, although possibly still postally valid.
Occupation Issue: An issue released for use in territory occupied by a foreign power.
Off-Center: A stamp design is not centered in relation to the edges of the stamp. Generally, off-center stamps are less desirable than stamps more nearly centered in relation to the edges. Some collectors specialize in collecting stamps that are extremely off-center.
Offices Abroad: At various times, many nations have maintained post offices in other countries, usually because of the unreliability of the local postal system. In China and the Turkish Empire, especially, many foreign nations maintained their own postal systems as part of their extraterritorial powers. Usually, special stationery and stamps were used for these offices. Most often they were overprints on the regular issues of the nations maintaining the offices.
Official: Stamp or stationery issued solely for the use of government departments and officials. Such items may or may not be available to collectors in unused condition from a post office.
Offset: 1) A printing process that transfers an inked image from a plate to a roller. The roller than applies the ink to paper; 2) The transfer of part of a stamp design or an overprint from one sheet to the back of another, before the ink has dried (also called set off). Such impressions are in reverse. They are different than stamps printed on both sides.
OHMS: Abbreviation for On His (Her) Majesty's Service. Used in perfins, overprints or franks to indicate official use in the British Commonwealth.
Omnibus Issue: An issue released by several postal entities celebrating a common theme. Omnibus issues may or may not share a keytype design.
On Paper: Stamps on paper, usually used stamps, that still bear portions of the original envelope or wrapper upon which they were used.
On Piece: A stamp on a portion of the original envelope or wrapper showing all or most of the cancel.
Original Gum: The adhesive coating on a mint or unused stamp or envelope flap applied by a postal authority or security printer, usually before the item was issued. Upon request of stamp collectors, postal authorities have at some times offered to add gum to items first issued ungummed.
Overprint: Any printing over the original design of a stamp. An overprint that changes the value of a stamp is also called a surcharge.
Oxidation: Darkening of the ink on certain stamps caused by contact with air or light. Some inks used in printing stamps, especially oranges, may in time turn brown or black.
Packet: A pre-sorted unit of all different stamps, a common and economical way to begin a general collection.
Pair: Two unseparated stamps.
Pane: The unit into which a full sheet is divided before sale at post offices. The "sheets" that one normally sees at post offices are panes. Most United States full sheets are divided into four regular panes or many more booklet panes before they are shipped to post offices.
Paquebot: Cancellation indicating an item was mailed aboard a ship.
Par Avion: French for "By Air."
Parcel Post Stamps: Special stamps for payment of parcel post fees.
Part-Perforate: A stamp imperforate on one or more sides, but with at least one side perforated.
Paste-Up: The area where the ends of rolls of coiled stamps are joined with glue or tape.
Pelure Paper: A strong, thin paper occasionally used in stamp printing. Pelure paper is translucent and resembles a slightly dark, thin onion-skin paper.
Pen-Canceled: Stamps canceled with a pen rather than a handstamp or machine cancel. Many early stamps were routinely canceled by pen. A pen cancel may also indicate that a stamp was used as a fiscal.
Penny Black: The black 1-penny British stamp issued May 6, 1840, bearing the portrait of Queen Victoria. It is the world's first adhesive postage stamp issued for the prepayment of postage.
Perfins: Stamps punched with "perforated initials" or designs of holes that stand for letters, numbers or symbols. Perfins are normally used by a business or government office to discourage pilferage or misuse of stamps by employees. Perfins may be either privately or officially produced.
Perforation: The punching out of holes between stamps to make separation easy. 1) Comb perforation
Perforation Gauge: A scale printed or designed on metal, plastic or cardboard to measure the number of perf holes or teeth within two centimeters.
Permit: Procedure used by businesses or post offices that imprints mailer's assigned permit number and an indication of the prepaid postage on each piece of mail. This eliminates the need to affix and cancel stamps on large mailings. The machine counts the postage used and is read periodically for accounting.
Philatelic Cover: An envelope or postal card franked and mailed by a stamp collector to create a collectible object. It may or may not have carried a personal or business message. A non-philatelic cover is usually one that has carried business or personal correspondence or messages and has had its stamps applied by a non-collector. Some stamps are known only on collector-created covers. It is impossible to say whether some covers are philatelically inspired or not. See also Used and Postally Used.
Philately: The collection and study of postage stamps and postal stationery.
Phosphor: A chemical substance used in stamp production to activate machines that automatically cancel mail. The machines react to the phosphor under ultraviolet light. In 1959, Great Britain began to print phosphor lines on some of its stamps. See also Tagging.
Photogravure: A modern stamp-printing process. Plates are made photographically and chemically, rather than by hand engraving a die and transferring it to a plate. Photogravure is a form of intaglio printing. The ink in this process rests in the design depressions. The actual surface of the printing plate is wiped clean. The paper is forced into the depressions and picks up the ink, in a manner much like the line-engraved process.
Pictorial: Stamp bearing a picture of some sort, other than a portrait or coat of arms.
Plate: The basic printing unit placed on a press and used to produce stamps. Early stamps were printed from flat plates. Later curved or cylindrical plates were used. See also Cylinder and Sleeve.
Plate Block: A block of stamps from the corner or side of a pane including the selvage bearing the number(s) of the plate(s) used to print the sheet from which the pane was separated. Some stamp production methods, like booklet production, normally cut off plate numbers. In the United States, plate number blocks are collected normally as blocks of four to 20 stamps, depending on the press used to print the stamps. When each stamp in a pane is a different design, the plate block is usually collected as an entire pane.
Plating: The reconstruction of a stamp pane by collecting blocks and individual stamps representing various positions. This is possible for many older issues, but most modern issues are too uniform to make the identification of individual positions possible.
PNC: 1) A plate number coil stamp; 2) A philatelic-numismatic combination: a cover bearing a stamp and containing a coin, medal or token. In the latter, the coin and stamp are usually related. Often the cover is canceled on the first day of use of the coin.
Postage Dues: Stamps or markings indicating that insufficient postage has been affixed to the mailing piece. Postage dues are usually affixed at the office of delivery. The additional postage is collected from the addressee.
Postal Card: A government-produced postcard bearing an imprint in the upper right corner representing prepayment of postage.
Postal History: 1) The study of postal markings, rates and routes; 2) Anything to do with the history of the posts.
Postal Stationery: Stationery bearing imprinted stamps, as opposed to adhesive stamps. Postal stationery includes postal cards, lettercards, imprinted envelopes, wrappers, aerogrammes, telegraph cards, postal savings forms and similar government-produced items. Some early postcards had no imprinted stamp. These formular cards were sold with or without an added adhesive stamp.
Postally Used: A stamp or cover that has seen legitimate postal use, as opposed to one that has been canceled to order or favor-canceled. Postally used suggests that an item exists because it was used to carry a personal or business communication, without the sender thinking of creating an item to be collected.
Postcard: A small card, usually with a picture on one side and a space for a written message on the other. Postcards have no imprinted stamp. See also Postal Card.
Postmark: Any official postal marking. The term is usually used specifically in reference to cancellations bearing the name of a post office of origin and a mailing date.
Pre-stamp Covers: Folded letters or their outer enclosures used before the introduction of adhesive postage stamps or postal stationery.
Precancel: Stamp with a special cancellation, overprint or text allowing it to bypass normal canceling. The indication of stamps being precancels is applied by a post office before the stamps are sold. Precanceled stamps are used by volume mailers who hold a permit to use them. U.S. precancels fall into two categories: 1) Locals have the mark or text applied by a town or city post office; and 2) Bureaus have the mark or text applied by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Prexies: The nickname for the U.S. 1938-54 Presidential definitive series.
Printer's Waste: Misprinted, misperforated or misgummed stamps designated as waste. The stamps normally are destroyed. Such material enters the philatelic market through carelessness and theft. Security printing operations often were lax near the end of a war or just after a war had ended.
Printing: The process of imprinting designs on paper from an inked surface.
Proofs: Trial impressions from a die or printing plate before actual stamp production. Proofs are made to examine a die or plate for defects and to compare the results of different inks.
Provisional: A temporary postage stamp, issued to meet postal demands until new or regular stocks of stamps can be obtained
Railway Post Office: Portable mail-handling equipment for sorting mail in transit on trains. The last official U.S. RPO ran June 30, 1977. See also Mobile Post Office.
Re-engraved: A stamp with an altered design made by changing a transfer roll from an original die.
Receiving Mark: A postmark or other postal marking applied by the receiving, rather than the originating, post office. See also Backstamp.
Redrawn: A stamp design that has been slightly altered yet maintains the basic design as originally issued.
Regional: Stamp sold or valid in a specific part of a stamp issuing-entity. Great Britain has issued stamps for the regions of Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Regionals are usually sold only in a given region but are often valid for postage throughout a country.
Registered Mail: First-class mail with a numbered receipt, including a valuation of the registered item, for full or limited compensation if the mail is lost. Some countries have issued registered mail stamps. Registered mail is signed by each postal employee who handles it.
Registration Labels: Adhesive labels indicating the registry number and, usually, city of origin for registered articles sent through the mail.
Reissue: An official reprinting of a stamp from an obsolete or discontinued issue. Reissues are valid for postage. See also Reprint.
Remainders: Stocks of stamps remaining unsold at the time that an issue is declared obsolete by a post office. Some countries have sold remainders to the stamp trade at substantial discounts from face value. The countries often mark the stamps in some way, usually with a distinctive cancel. Uncanceled remainders usually cannot be distinguished from stamps sold over the counter before the issue was invalidated.
Repaired Stamp: A damaged stamp that has been repaired in some way to reinforce it or to make it resemble an undamaged stamp.
Replica: A reproduction of a stamp or cover. In the 19th century, replica stamps were sold as space-fillers. Replica stamps are often printed in one color in a sheet containing a number of different designs. Replicas can sometimes deceive either a postal clerk or collectors.
Reprint: A stamp printed from the original plate, after the issue has ceased to be postally valid. Official reprints are sometimes made for presentation purposes or official collections.They are often distinguishable in some way from the originals: different colors, perforations, paper or gum. Private reprints, on the other hand, are usually produced strictly for sale to collectors and often closely resemble the original stamps. Private reprints normally sell for less than original copies. Reprints are not valid for
Retouch: The minor repairing of a damaged plate or die, often producing a minor, but detectable, difference in the design of printed stamps.
Revenues: Stamps representing the prepayment or payment of various taxes. Revenues are affixed to official documents and to merchandise. Some stamps, including many issues of the British Commonwealth, were inscribed "Postage and Revenue" and were available for either use. Such issues are usually worth less fiscally canceled than postally used. In some cases, revenues have been used provisionally as postage stamps.
Rotary Plate: A curved or cylindrical printing plate used on a press that rotates and makes continuous impressions. Flat plates make single impressions.
Rouletting: The piercing of the paper between stamps to make their separation more convenient. No paper is actually removed from the sheet, as in perforating. Rouletting has been made by dash, sawtooth or wavy line.
Rural Free Delivery: System for free home delivery of mail in rural areas of the United States, begun just prior to the turn of the 20th century.
Rust: A brown mold, resembling the rust in iron. Rust affects stamp paper and gum in tropical regions.
SASE: A self-addressed, stamped envelope. An unused envelope bearing address of sender and return postage. Sent to make answering easy.
Se-tenant: French for "joined together." Two or more unseparated stamps of different designs, colors, denominations or types.
Secret Marks: Reference area in a stamp's design to foil attempts at counterfeiting and to differentiate issues.
Selvage: The unprinted marginal paper on a sheet or pane of stamps.
Semipostal: Stamp sold at a surcharge over postal value. The additional charge is for a special purpose. Usually recognized by the presence of two (often different) values, separated by a "+" sign, on a single stamp.
Series: A group of stamps with a similar design or theme. A series may be planned or may evolve.
Set: A unit of stamps issued for a common purpose, either at one time or over an extended period, embracing a common design or theme.
Shade: The minor variation commonly found in any basic color. Shades are usually accorded catalog status when they are very distinctive.
Sheet: A complete unit of stamps as printed. Stamps are usually printed in large sheets and are separated into two or more panes before shipment to post offices.
Ship Letter: Letter carried by private ship.
Short Set: An incomplete set of stamps, usually lacking either the high value(s) or one or more key values.
Sleeper: Stamp or other collectible item that seems to be underpriced and may have good investment potential.
Sleeve: A seamless cylindrical printing plate used in rotary intaglio printing.
Soaking: Removal of stamps from envelope paper. Most stamps may be safely soaked in water. Fugitive inks, however, will run in water, and chalky-surfaced papers will lose their designs entirely, so some knowledge of stamps is a necessity. Colored envelope paper should be soaked separately.
Souvenir Card: A philatelic card, not valid for postage, issued in conjunction with some special event.
Souvenir Sheet: A small sheet of stamps, usually including one value or a set of stamps. A souvenir sheet usually has a wide margin and a commemorative inscription.
Space-Filler: A stamp in poor condition used to fill a space in an album until a better copy can be found.
Special Delivery: A service providing expedited delivery of mail. Also called express.
Special Handling: A U.S. service providing expeditious handling for fourth-class material.
Special Printing: Reissue of a stamp of current or recent design, often with distinctive color, paper or perforations.
Specialist: A stamp collector who intensively studies and collects the stamps and postal history of a given country or area, or who has otherwise limited his collecting field.
Specimen: Stamp or stationery item distributed to UPU members for identification purposes and to the philatelic press and trade for publicity purposes. Specimens are overprinted or punched with the word "SPECIMEN" or its equivalent, or are overprinted or punched in a way to make them different than the issued stamps. Specimens of scarce stamps tend to be less valuable than the actual stamps. Specimens of relatively common stamps are more valuable.
Splice: The repair of a break in a roll of stamp paper, or the joining of two rolls of paper for continuous printing. Stamps printed over a splice are usually removed before the normal stamps are issued.
Stamp: A postal adhesive. Initially used as a verb, meaning to imprint or impress, that is, to stamp a design.
Stampless Cover: A folded sheet or envelope carried as mail without a postage stamp. This term usually refers to covers predating the requirement that stamps be affixed to all letters (in the United States, 1856).
Stock Book: A book containing rows of pockets to hold unmounted or duplicate stamps.
Straight Edge: Flat-plate or rotary-plate stamps from the margins of panes where the sheets were cut apart. Straight-edge stamps have no perforations on one or two adjacent sides. Sometimes straight-edge stamps show a guideline.
Strip: Three or more unseparated stamps in a row, vertically or horizontally.
Surcharge: An overprint that changes or restates the denomination of a stamp.
Surface-Colored Paper: Paper colored on the surface only, with a white or uncolored back.
Tagging: Phosphor coating on stamps used to activate automatic mail-handling equipment. This may be lines, bars, letters, part of the design area or the entire stamp surface. Some stamps are issued both with and without tagging. Catalogs call them tagged or untagged.
Telegraph Stamp: Label used for the prepayment of telegraph fees. Telegraph stamps resemble postage stamps.
Tete-Beche: French for "head to tail." Two or more unsevered stamps, one of which is inverted in relation to the other.
Thematic: A collection of stamps or covers relating to a specific topic. The topic is expanded by careful inquiry and is presented as a logical story. See also Topical.
Tied: A stamp is said to be tied to a cover when the cancel extends over both the stamp and the envelope paper. Stamps can also be tied by the aging of the mucilage or glue that holds them to the paper.
Tong: Tweezer-like tool used to handle stamps. Tongs prevent stamps from being soiled by dirt, oil or perspiration.
Topical: 1) Stamp or cover showing a given subject. Examples are flowers, art, birds, elephants or the Statue of Liberty. 2) The collection of stamps by the topic depicted on them, rather than by country of origin. See also Thematic.
Transit Mark: A postal marking applied by a post office between the originating and receiving post offices. It can be on the front or back of a cover, card or wrapper.
Type: A basic design of a stamp or a set. Catalogs use type numbers or letters to save space. Catalogs show a typical design rather than every stamp with that design or a similar design.
Underprint: A fine printing underlying the design of a stamp, most often used to deter counterfeiting.
Ungummed: A stamp without gum. Ungummed stamps are either stamps issued without gum or stamps that have been stuck together and subsequently soaked apart, losing their gum in the process. Many countries in tropical climates have issued stamps without gum.
Unhinged: A stamp without hinge marks, but not necessarily with original gum.
Universal Postal Union: An international organization formed in Bern, Switzerland, in 1874, to regulate and standardize postal usage and to facilitate the movement of mail between member nations. Today, most nations belong to the UPU.(See UPU section of this almanac.)
Unused: An uncanceled stamp that has not been used but has a hinge mark or some other disturbance that keeps it from being mint. Uncanceled stamps without gum may have been used and missed being canceled, or they may have lost their gum by accident.
Used: A stamp or stationery item that has been canceled by a postal authority to prevent its re-use on mail. In general, a used stamp is any stamp with a cancel or a precanceled stamp without gum. See also Postally Used and Philatelic Cover.
Variety: A variation from the standard form of a stamp. Varieties include watermarks, inverts, imperforates, missing colors, wrong colors and major color shifts. See also Freak.
Vignette: The central part of a stamp design, usually surrounded by a border. The vignette often shades off gradually into the surrounding area.
Want List: A list of needed stamps or covers, identified by catalog number or some other description, submitted by a collector to a dealer, usually including requirements on condition and price.
Watermark: A deliberate thinning of paper during its manufacture, to produce a semitranslucent pattern. Watermarks appear frequently in paper used in stamp printing. See also Batonne.
Wove Paper: A paper showing few differences in texture and thickness when held to light. In the production of wove paper, the pulp is pressed against a very fine netting, producing a virtually uniform texture. Wove paper is the most commonly used paper in stamp production.
Wrapper: A flat sheet or strip open at both ends that can be folded and sealed around a newspaper or periodical. Wrappers can have an imprinted stamp or have a stamp attached.
Zeppelin Items: The stamps issued for, or in honor of, zeppelin flights, and the cacheted covers carried on such flights.
ZIP Block: U.S. marginal marking block with the selvage bearing the "Mr. ZIP" cartoon character and/or the inscription "Use ZIP Code." This first appeared on U.S. marginal selvage in 1964. Typically a ZIP block is a block of four stamps.
ZIP Code: The U.S. numerical post code used to speed and mechanize mail handling and delivery. The letters stand for Zoning Improvement Plan.
William J Kozersky, Philatelist