Home Glossary
Glossary
A

Accessories : The tools used by stamp collectors, such as tongs, hinges, etc.

Adhesive : A gummed stamp made to be attached to mail.

Aerogramme : Air letters designed to be letters and envelopes in one. They are specially stamped and ready for folding.

Aerophilately : Stamp collecting that focuses on stamps or postage relating to airmail.

Album : A book designed to hold stamps and covers.

Albino : A fortuitous omission of color from a stamp which results in a colorless impression of the design.

Analine : A fugitive ink or dye which causes suffusion of color.

Approvals : Stamps sent by a dealer to a collector for examination. Approvals must either be bought or returned to the dealer within a specified time.

Auction : A sale at which philatelic material is sold to the highest bidder.


B

Back Stamp : A postmark applied to the back of a letter on 'arrival'.

Bantams : The smaller sized stamps issued by South Africa during WWII to conserve paper.

Bar code : A series of vertical full bars and half bars representing the ZIP Code information printed on a mail piece to facilitate automated processing by bar code reader equipment.

Bisect : A stamp which is cut in half, usually diagonally. Often used when stamps are in short supply.

Blind Perforation : A perforation which has not been punched out due to a broken, blunt or missing pin in the comb.

Block of stamps : A group of 4 or more stamps which are not separated.

Booklet : A folder containing stamps, either definitive or commemoratives and issued by the postal authorities.

Booklet Pane : A small sheet of stamps specially cut to be sold in booklets.

Bogus : A completely fictitious, worthless "stamp," created only for sale to collectors. Bogus stamps include labels for nonexistent values added to regularly issued sets, issues for nations without postal systems, etc.

Bourse : A marketplace, such as a stamp exhibition, where stamps are bought, sold, or exchanged.


C

Cachet : A design on an envelope describing an event. Cachets appear on first day of issue, first flight and stamp exhibition covers, etc.

Cancellation : A mark placed on a stamp by a postal authority to show that it has been used.

C.D.S. : A circular date stamp used for cancelling the stamp by the postal authorities.

Centering/Centered : The position of the design on a postage stamp. On perfectly centered stamps the design is exactly in the middle. e.g. Well Centered - an equal margin between the edges of the stamp and the design.

Changling : A stamp whose original color has changed.

Charity Stamp : A stamp that has an additional charge for charity.

Cinderella : Any stamp-like label without an official postal value.

Classic : An early stamp issue which is rare and of high quality. However it is not always true. They aren't necessarily rare.

Coils : Stamps issued in rolls (one stamp wide) for use in dispensers or vending machines.

Color Shift : Where the design of the stamp has more than one color and these are applied at different times in the process of printing and the positioning of the colors is incorrect in relation to the intended design.

Comb Perforation : The perforations of a stamp formed by the pins of the perforating machine which are arranged like a comb.

Commemoratives : Stamps issued to commemorate anniversaries, important people, special events, or aspects of national culture.

Compound Perforations : Different gauge perforations on different (normally adjacent) sides of a single stamp.

Condition : Condition is the most important characteristic in determining the value of a stamp. It refers to the state of a stamp regarding such details as centering, color, and gum.

Condominium : A Territory over which there is joint rule by two Powers. An example of this is the Anglo - French New Hebrides Condominium whose stamps are inscribed in English and French.

Control Marks : The numbers or letters in the margins of a sheet of stamps, normally for the benefit of the Post Office in stock control and accounting.

Cover : An envelope that has been used in the postal system and sent through the mail.

Cracked Plate : A term used to describe stamps which show evidence that the plate from which they were printed was cracked.

Customer Perfect! : A quality process management system that builds customer satisfaction and excellence into every process and procedure of the Postal Service.

Cylinder Number : The number in the margins of a sheet of stamps which identifies the cylinder which has been used in the production process.


D

Dandy roll : A roller of mesh used in the manufacture of the paper which produces the watermark.

Definitives : Regular issues of postage stamps, usually sold over long periods of time. They tend to be fairly small and printed in large quantities often more than once.

Denomination : The postage value appearing on a stamp.

Die : The original engraved plate of the design of the stamp.

Die Cut : Scoring of self-adhesive stamps that allow a stamp to be separated from the liner.

Directory Markings : Postal markings that indicate a failed delivery attempt, stating reasons such as "No Such Number" or "Address Unknown."

Doctor Blade : A metal blade used to clean surplus ink from the cylinder or plate.

Double Transfer : The condition on a printing plate that shows evidence of a duplication of all or part of the design.

Duplicates : Extra copies of stamps that can be sold or traded. Duplicates should be examined carefully for color and perforation variations.


E

Electronic Commerce Services (ECS) : An umbrella of services that would bring electronic mail up to the same level of acceptance that regular mail enjoys today. ECS includes a time and date stamp, return receipt, registered, certified, verification of sender and recipient, and archival services. Plans also call for creating public and private authentication keys to enable individuals to prove who they are when communicating on the Internet.

Electronic postmark : An electronic time and date stamp on electronic mail that will authenticate a document's existence at a particular point in time.

Embossing : The process by which part of the design of a stamp is 'raised'.

Engraving : The process of producing a stamp design from a metal or wood plate.

Entire : An intact piece of postal stationery, in contrast to a cut-out of the printed design.

Error : A stamp with something incorrect in its design, printing process or manufacture.

Essay : A stamp produced for trial or experimental purposes prior to the issue of the final agreed design.

Exploded : A stamp booklet is said to be "exploded" when it has been separated into its various components for show.

Express Mail : The Postal Service's premium delivery service, providing guaranteed overnight delivery for documents and packages.


F

Face Value : The monetary value of a stamp as printed on the stamp in the relative currency of the country of issue.

Fake : A genuine stamp that has been altered in some way to make it more attractive to collectors. It may be repaired, reperforated, or regummed to resemble a more valuable variety.

First Day Cover (FDC) : An envelope with a new stamp and cancellation showing the date the stamp was issued.

First Day Ceremony Program : A program given to those who attend first day of issue stamp ceremonies. It contains the actual stamp affixed and postmarked, a list of participants, and information on the stamp subject.

First-Class Mail : A class of mail including letters, postcards and postal cards, all matter wholly or partially in writing or typewriting, and all matter sealed or otherwise closed against inspection.

Fiscal : A stamp issued for revenue or tax purposes and not as a postage stamp.

Flaw : A fortuitous blemish on a stamp, a printing fault.

Forgery : A fraudulent copy of a genuine postage stamp, overprint or postmark.

Franks : Written, hand-stamped, or imprinted markings on the face of the cover indicating that it is carried free of postage. Franking is usually limited to official government correspondence.

Freak : An abnormal variety of stamps occurring because of paper fold, over-inking, perforation shift, etc., as opposed to a continually appearing variety or a major error.

Fugitive Colors : These are inks which are specially produced in order that they will change or wash out if there is an attempt to tamper with the stamp such as, removing the postmark. This is meant to deter the reuse of stamp already passed through the Postal System.


G

Global Priority Mail (GPM) : A category of international mail that provides fast service at attractive rates to 27 countries.

Graphite lines : A method of marking stamps for automatic sorting of mail. Used on some British stamps.

Greetings stamp : Stamp intended for use on birthday or other greetings mail.

Grill : A pattern of small, square pyramids in parallel rows impressed or embossed on the stamp to break paper fibers, allowing cancellation ink to soak in and preventing washing and reuse.

Gum : The coating of glue on the back of an unused stamp to form an adhesive when wetted.

Gutter : The narrow space between stamps in the sheet permitting perforation.

Gutter margin : The blank margins dividing a sheet of stamps into panes.


H

Handstamp : A postmark or overprint applied by hand

Hinges : Small strips of gummed material used by collectors to affix stamps to album pages.

High Value : The term applied to stamps which represent a higher value of postage. Not to be confused with the actual market value of a stamp.

Hologram : An image that appears to be three-dimensional when viewed from an angle. Holograms have appeared on some modern stamps and stationary.


I

Imperforate : Indicates stamps without perforations or separating holes. They usually are separated by scissors and collected in pairs.

Imperf : Where there are no perforations on one or more edges of the stamp.

Imprint : The imprint of the designer or producer of the stamp which is printed on the stamp.

Imprinted stamps : Stamps other than adhesives, printed direct on postal stationery items (postcards, envelopes etc).

Invert : The central design ('vignette') or portion of a stamp printed upside-down in relation to the frame, or vice versa.

Ivory Head : Where the Queen's head on Queen Victoria stamps show white on the back of blued stamps.


L

Label : Any stamp-like adhesive that is not a postage stamp.

Laid Paper : When held to the light, the paper shows alternate light and dark crossed lines.

Line Pairs (LP) : Most coil stamp rolls prior to 1891 feature a line of ink (known as a "joint line") printed between two stamps at various intervals, caused by two or more curved plates around the printing cylinder.

Line perforation : Perforation of a sheet of stamps by a single line or row of holes - the simplest form of perforation.

Liner : The backing paper for self-adhesive stamps.

Loupe : A magnifying glass used to examine details of stamps more closely.

Line-engraving : The process of making a stamp design on metal plates using a series of lines to form the design in steel or copper plate. Pioneered by Perkins & Bacon, Printers. The image is cut in to a steel or copper plate to create a 'Master' Die in reverse, then the plate is hardened which is then impressed onto a softer metal plate or roller. The roller is then hardened and the design again transferred onto a thin plate that will form the printing plate.

Line Perf : Line perforations is where each horizontal or vertical line of perforations is formed.

Lithography : The process of printing from a flat plate.

Local : A stamp whose use is limited to a particular area within a country.


M

Margin : The unprinted edging surrounding or dividing a sheet of stamps.

MC : Maltese Cross cancel. Used to cancel Queen Victoria stamps e.g. 1d Black. These may be in black, red, yellow, blue or magenta and comprises an eight pointed cross

Miniature Sheet : A small sheet having single or more stamps with a margin on all sides bearing some special wording or design.

Mint : The condition of a stamp which has not been used. There are several states of mint. e.g. Unmounted Mint or Mint Never Hinged, Lightly Mounted mint ( where the stamp has been mounted in an album with some care) or, Mounted Mint ( where the hinge marks are heavy and affect the gum).


O

Obsolete : A stamp no longer sold by a post office though may still be valid for postage.

Official stamps : Stamps which are issued for use by government departments. e.g. Tax, Military.

On Paper : Stamps "on paper" are those that still have portions of the original envelope or wrapper stuck to them.

Optical Character Reader (OCR) : An automated mail processing machine that optically scans letter mail, locates the address and translates the address information into a bar code representation of the ZIP+4 delivery point bar code.

Overprint : Additional printing on a stamp added at a later stage, such as a change in postal rate or to denote a particular use and which was not part of the original design.


P

Pack and Send : A pilot retail service offered at selected post offices that allow customers to bring in any mailable item to have it securely packaged and, if they wish, mailed.

Packet : A presorted unit of all different stamps. This is one of the most common and economical ways to begin a collection.

Pair : Two stamps that are joined in the original state of issue. e.g. Vertical pair, Horizontal pair, Coil pair.

Pane : A full "sheet" of stamps as sold by a Post Office or Part of a sheet of stamps divided by a margin from the remainder of the sheet. Also, Booklet pane.

Par Avion : French for mail transported "by air."

Peel and Stick : Australian terminology for Self Adhesive.

Perforations : Lines of small holes or cuts between rows of stamps that make them easy to separate.

Perfin : Normal stamps which have initials formed in the stamp by perforations. Often used by commercial organizations as a security measure.

Philately : The collection and study of postage stamps and other postal materials.

Phosphor Stamps : Stamps which have been coated with a 'fluorescent' substance for detection in the mail sorting system.

Phosphor bands : A narrow line of 'fluorescent' substance across the face of a stamp. Stamps can have one or two bands and the position may vary.

Photogravure : Printing using the recess process.

Pictorials : Stamps with a picture of some sort, other than portraits or static designs such as coats of arms.

Pigeon Post : As it sounds. Used as long ago as the 1870 - 1872 Franco-Prussian war during the siege of Paris and also in Australia by the Great Barrier Pigeongram Service.

Plate Block (PB) (or Plate Number Block) : A block of stamps with the margin attached that bears the plate number used in printing that sheet.

Plate number : The number of the printing plate which was used to print the sheet of stamps and marked in the sheet margin.

Postage due : A stamp which is used by the postal authorities to indicate that the correct postal fee has not been paid and the sum due for the delivery of the item. Same as 'To Pay' labels.

Postal Cards : See "stamped postal cards."

Postal Inspection Service : The investigative arm of the Postal Service responsible for internal audits and investigating criminal acts involving the mails and misuse of the postal system.

Postal Stationery : Envelopes, aerogramme, stamped postal cards, and letter sheets with printed or embossed stamp designs.

Postcards : Commercially-produced mailable cards without imprinted postage.

Postmark : The postal service's official mark on the letter, envelope, letter sheet or postcard to show the time, date and place of posting, and to cancel the stamp.

Postmaster General (PMG) : The chief executive officer of the Postal Service

Precancels : Stamps cancelled by a proper authority prior to their use on mail.

Prestige booklet : A booklet of stamps issued by the postal authorities commemorating some event or particular subject or special topic.

Priority Mail : Priority Mail provides two to three day delivery service.

Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) : A large mail sorting and dispatching plant that serves as a hub for mail originating from post offices, collection boxes and customer mailboxes, and large-volume mailers in a designated service area.

Proof : A trial impression taken from an original die or printing plate.

Provisional : A stamp, usually overprinted or surcharged, issued for temporary use.

P.T.S.A. : Priced to Sell At. A term used in auctions where stamps in a lot have been previously priced for retail or approval purposes.


R

Registered Mail : First class mail with a numbered receipt that gives guarantee that customer will get the item and it will not be lost in the mail.

Reissue : An official reprinting of a stamp that was no longer being printed.

Remainders : Stamps remaining in official stocks after becoming obsolete.

Replicas : Reproductions of stamps sold during the early days of collecting. Usually printed in one color on a sheet containing a number of different designs. Replicas were never intended to deceive either the post office or the collector.

Reprint : A stamp printed from the original plate after the issue is no longer valid for postage. Official reprints are sometimes made for presentation purposes, official collections, etc., and are often distinguished in some way from the "real" ones.

Revenue Stamps : Stamps issued as proof of payment of certain taxes but not valid for postage.

Roulette : Stamps separated by a series of cuts instead of perforations.


S

Se-tenant : An attached pair, strip or block of stamps that differ in design, value or surcharge.

Secret Marks : Many stamps have included tiny reference points in their designs to foil attempts at counterfeiting and to differentiate issues.

Self-adhesive Stamp : A stamp which is peeled from a sheet and is ready with a pressure-sensitive adhesive.

Selvage : The unprinted paper around panes of stamps, sometimes called the margin.

Semi postal Stamp : A First-Class Mail stamp priced to include an additional charge earmarked for a specific purpose, e.g., breast cancer research.

Series : A number of individual stamps or sets of stamps having a common purpose or theme, issued over an extended periods of time (generally a year or more), including all variations of design and/or denomination.

Set : A group of stamps with a common design or theme issued at one time for a common purpose or over a limited period of time (generally less than a year).

Shade : A stamp that has a slight difference in color.

Souvenir Sheet : A small sheet of stamps with a commemorative inscription.

Space filler : A stamp which is not of high quality used to fill a space in an album where one of high quality is difficult to obtain.

Special Issues : Stamps with a commemorative appearance that supplement definitive and meet specific needs. These include Christmas, Love, Holiday Celebrations, Airmail, Express Mail, and Priority Mail stamps.

Specimen : A stamp used as an 'example' and overprinted as such.

Stamped Envelope : A mailable envelope with postage embossed or imprinted on it.

S.T.C : Stated to Catalogue. The term used by auctioneers for lots where the vendor has calculated the Catalogue value. The auctioneer does not bear any responsibility for this statement.

Strip : Three or more unseparated stamps in a row.

Surcharge : An overprint that alters the denomination of a stamp from its original face value.


T

Tagging : The marking of stamps with a phosphor or similar coating (which may be in lines, bars, letters, overall design area or entire stamp surface), done by many countries for use with automatic mail-handling equipment.

Telegraph stamps : Stamps used for the payment for the use of a telegraph service.

Testing label : A stamp sized label used for testing automatic stamp vending machines.

Tete-beche : Two adjoining stamps with one being upside down in relation to the other.

Thematic : A stamp collection that relates to a specific theme and is arranged to present a logical story and progression. Some of the collecting themes are Aircraft, Architecture, Animals, Army, Astronomy, Birds, Bridges, Buildings, Butterflies, Cars, Cats, Chess, Cricket, Disney, Dogs, Explorers, Fish, Football, Heraldry, Horses, Famous People, Flowers, Fauna, Gardens, Golf, Insects, Lighthouses, Medical, Royalty, Rugby, Shells, Ships, Space, Sport, Technology, Trains, Writers.

Tongs : A tweezers-like tool with rounded or flattened tips used to handle stamps.

Topical : Indicates a group of stamps with the same theme—space travel, for example.

Tied : A term used when a stamp is cancelled with a postmark which straddles both the stamp and cover.

Tone spot : A mark on a stamp of brown rusty appearance which detracts its value.


U

Unhinged : A stamp without hinge marks, but not necessarily with original gum.

Universal service : The Postal Service's mandate and commitment to the nation to provide mail delivery service at uniform and reasonable rates to everyone, everywhere, six days a week.

Unused : An uncancelled stamp, not necessarily 'mint'.

Used : A stamp which has been postally used and appropriately postmarked.

Used abroad : Where stamps from one country are used and cancelled in another. This is quite common in cases such as British Colonies or Possessions. Spain and France also were countries that issued stamps that were used in other areas of the world over which they had influence. These stamps can only be distinguished by the postmark applied.


V

Variety : A stamp that varies in some way from its standard or original form. Varieties can include missing colors or perforations, constant plate flaws, changes in ink or paper, differences in printing method or in format.

Vignette : The main central part of a stamp design.


W

Want List : A list of philatelic material sought by a collector.

War stamp : A stamp which is issued in time of war to raise additional revenue, and inscribed War Stamp or War Tax or such similar words.

Watermark : The pattern which is part of the paper and which is produced by the Dandy Roll by pressing a design into stamp paper during its manufacture


Z

Zoning Improvement Plan (ZIP) : Established in 1963, a system of five-digit codes or ZIP codes that identifies the individual post office or metropolitan area delivery station associated with every mailing address.

 
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