Displaying items by tag: stamp glossary

Sunday, 12 August 2018 00:00


Acknowledgement of receipt stamp - forms used as prepayment on notices attesting to the delivery and receipt of mail

Adhesive - a substance applied to the back of most stamps to facilitate attaching them to the mailing surface. Adhensives are both water-activated and pressure-sensitive (self-adhesive). Adhesives are described according to color, texture, pattern, or method of application. Gum is one such substance.

Adhesive revenue stamp - a stamp that may be affixed to an article to prepay postal fees, in contrast to a design printed directly on an article, as with postal stationery. An adhesive can also refer to a registration label or other label added to a cover.

Adversity cover - letter writing material, including envelopes, used when paper supplies were in short supply. For example, during the Civil War, the Union blockade proved critical in restricting goods from entering and leaving the Confederacy. Southerners faced increasing shortages of supplies, including paper and envelopes. Writers began to use whatever was handy as letter writing paper and envelopes. These items are known by philatelists as "adversity covers." Letters and envelopes were fashioned from the backs of ledger sheets, printed circulars, blank pages in books, maps and even wallpaper torn from walls. Some writers re-used envelopes by turning them inside out. Any blank or partially blank piece of paper could be pressed into service as an envelope.
Advertising cover - an envelope used as a form of advertising. Businesses began using this form of advertising in the mid 1800s. The cachets, meant to communicate a certain prestige, could be as simple as a blind-embossed corner card, a fancy return address corner card, an illustration of buildings or product, or as fancy as an all-over advertisement. The advertising envelope is still with us today and is most often found on our bills and junk mail.

Airmail envelope - an envelope transported by aircraft

Airmail pilots - a pilot who flew the mail. The profession of airmail pilot was, in 1918 America, a horrendously dangerous one. A surviving pilot recalled that the group was "considered pretty much a suicide club." Aviation was still in its infancy. Few planes offered protection and crashes were common. The service had to prove itself from the outset. Flight schedules were controlled by the Post Office Department and officials strove to keep schedules tight regardless of weather conditions. Pilots flew without parachutes over land that had few, if any, emergency landing fields. There were no lights on the ground or in the plane to assist with night flights; no wireless weather reports; and no wing de-icers or radio guides. The life expectancy of the first mail pilots was as short as 900 flying hours. Thirty-one of the forty pilots hired by the Post Office Department between 1919 and 1926 were killed while flying the mail. Most of those pilots died in the early years of the service. In 1919, one pilot died for every 115,325 miles flown. By 1926, the number had dropped to one pilot death for every 2,583,056 miles flown.

Airmail service - a type of mail transport using aircraft. The United States government instituted regular scheduled airmail service between New York, Philadelphia, and Washington on May 15, 1918. Coast-to-coast service began in 1920. Airmail has been carried under contract since 1926, with fast, efficient service resulting from extensive progress in the commercial airline industry.
Airmail stamp - a stamp prepaying postal rates for air transport. Italy issued the first airmail stamp in 1917.

Airway letter stamp - a local stamp issued by British European Airways (later British Airways) and also Cambrian Airways for transporting letters between airports

Arc roulette - a separation in which curved cuts appear as a semi-circle

Army Post Office (APO) - During the Civil War, the Civilian Postal Service delivered mail. A postmaster was assigned to each regiment and there was a post office on the battlefield for troops. When the Spanish-American War began, with soldiers fighting outside the United States, the Civilian Postal Service followed them. It wasn't until World War I that the Army Post Offices were developed. These were still operated by the Civilian Postal Service, but with assistance from the troops themselves. By the end of WWI there were a hundred sixty-nine Army Post Offices located in France. The first APO (Army Post Office) was opened on July 10, 1917. From WWI through current conflicts, military post offices have helped move mail to military personnel. In 1917, when the first APOs were established, the civilian postal service worked the mail with the assistance of U.S. troops. By the end of the war, there were a hundred sixty-nine APOs in France moving mail to and from American troops stationed in Europe. The military's mail was placed under their control in 1940, when Congress established the Army Postal Service. This new organization continued to work with the U.S. Post Office Department to keep mail moving between the troops and their loved ones back home.

Arrow - marking in a margin, as a guide for cutting sheets into smaller units for perforations. After 1894, arrows were used at both ends of guide lines of U. S. stamps printed from flat plates.
Authorized delivery stamp - denotes the tax on mail permitted to be delivered by private services
Authorized non-profit organization stamp - a stamp issued by U.S. Post Office to prepay special concessionary postage rates on correspondence of charities and other institutions. See also 'bulk rate stamps'.

Autogiro mail service - a service using experimental aircraft that carried mail over short, but congested routes. The postal service placed an autogiro aircraft (a rotary-winged aircraft with a freely rotating main rotor) into use flying mail between Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A series of 'rehearsal' flights were made before the official flight on July 6, 1939. The New York Times reported on July 3, 1939, that these rehearsal flights took only 6.5 minutes, easily besting the time needed by mail trucks covering the same forty to forty-five mile route. On the first day of service, 52,128 first-flight covers were cancelled and carried on the flight for philatelists, many of whom paid double the 6-cent stamp price to cover postage for a round trip. The postal service made over $3,000 in revenue from the flights. The autogiros were put to use flying airmail in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., into the 1940s. Helicopter airmail service eclipsed autogiro service.

Auxiliary mark - secondary or supplementary marking that requires the mailer or addressee to take further action on a piece of mail; for example, a mark which notifies the recipient of postage due

Published in Glossary
Sunday, 12 August 2018 00:00


Balloon Post, Siege of Paris (1870-71) - a system devised by French Doctor Julien F. Jeannel (1814-1896) which used free flying, un-manned balloons to transport post over Prussian lines during the Siege of Paris. These balloons marked the birth of airmail delivery.

Barcodes - series of vertical bars of varying heights. Each digit represents a number from zero to nine. The postal barcodes represent the delivery address and are used by autmated machinery in processing.

Bicycle mail - a delivery service operated with local stamps by themselves or with stamp of the country

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. Some countries have, at times, permitted trisects or quadrisects.

Blind perforation - intended performations that are only lightly impressed by the perforating pins, often the product of a badly adjusted perforating machine or worn or missing pins

Board of Governers - the Board is the Postal Service's governing board. Each member is appointed by the President of the U.S., and the Postmaster General serves at the pleasure of the board. Governors' appointments are for nine years.

Boating stamp - stamp paying U.S. Coast Guard certificate fee for boats of more than ten horsepower; $3 and $1 values

Bogus stamp - a fictitious, stamp-like label created for sale to collectors, also known as a 'Cinderella'. Bogus issues include labels for nonexistent countries or postal administrations; nonexistent values appended to regularly issued sets; and issues for nations or similar entities without postal systems. The more contemporary 'stamp art' can fall into this category but often leans toward lewd exhibitionism.

Bulk rate stamp - low denomination stamps for use bulk mail

Bus parcel stamp - private labels issued by bus firms to prepay freight charges on parcels carried on their routes

Bypost stamp - local stamp issued by municipal postal service for the town. The name means 'town post'.

Published in Glossary
Sunday, 12 August 2018 00:00


Cachet - a printed, embossed, or hand struck inscription, with or without illustration, impressed usually on the left side of an envelope face or postal packet to advertise the special circumstances under which the item was mailed, perhaps first or last day of issue, first flight, or any other commemorative situation. Cachets can be produced by the postal administration or by private parties and applied independent of postal authority.

Cancel - marks applied to stamps which prevent reuse. The marks often include a date, rate, route, or place of mailing.

Carriers' stamp - stamps used for mail delivery by private carrier from a post office to an individual addressee, particularly during the period 1842-60. When the postal service was first organized, letters were carried from post office to post office since there was no delivery to individual addressees.

Cash on Delivery (COD) Service - mail which collects the cost of postage and the product enclosed is collected from the recipient and forwarded to the mailer. This service is sometimes called 'Cash on Delivery'. Collect on Delivery (COD) service was introduced on July 1, 1913. Parcel Post Service, finally made available to U.S. citizens on January 1, 1913, was received with enormous enthusiasm. Farm families could use it to convey produce at standardized, understandable and lower rates than they had received from express companies. Marketers were thrilled with the promise of this new sales frontier. The growth of Parcel Post service was phenomenal. During the first six months of operation approximately 300 million parcels were handled. When Collect on Delivery (COD) Service was introduced seven months later, the popularity of parcel post went through the roof as mail order companies' profits exploded. COD and Parcel Post Service pushed the development of industry tied to the creation and development of unique parcel mailing containers, including those built to hold eggs by the dozens.

Certified Mail - a mail service that provides the individual sending a piece of mail with a receipt when the item enters the mail stream. It also provides a record of delivery when it reaches the final post office for dispatch to recipient

Certified mail stamp - a stamp paying for proof of delivery of first-class mail for which no indemnity value is claimed. Using this is a less expensive, less secure alternative to registered mail.

Charity seal - stamp-like label that is not a postage stamp and is distributed by a charity. They are often affixed to envelopes. Christmas seals are one example.

CIA invert - term applied to a U.S. stamp featuring a candlestick holder that was found upside down by CIA employees when buying stamps at their local USPS post office

Cigarette tube stamp
 - tax receipt paid on hollow tubes of cigarette paper to which small mouthpieces were attached, for those who made their own cigarettes, 1919-1933

Circular delivery stamp - local stamp issued in Great Britain (1865-67) by private companies for the delivery of circulars, sample packets, and other printed matter at rates which undercut the Post Office. A subsequent lawsuit disallowed the practice, but Post Office rates were lowered in 1870.

Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee - the committee (also known as SeeSac for its initials - SCAC) that determines final stamp selection for the U.S. Postal Service. The fifteen committee members are selected by the postmaster general and typically include individuals whose backgrounds include educational, artistic, historical, and professional expertise. In addition to selecting stop topics, the committee also reviews and guides stamp designs.

City Delivery Service - a free mail delivery service, initiated on July 1, 1863, which was limited to northern cities with populations over 20,000. The service was a tremendous success, and by 1869 revenues from City Free Delivery superseded costs ten times over. After 1887, the department opened the service to areas with either populations exceeding 10,000 or postal revenues in excess of $10,000. City carriers used a variety of methods to get their patrons attention, from ringing twice (yes, the postman did ring twice), to whistles and even wooden door knockers that helped save wear and tear on carriers' knuckles.

City Free Delivery Service - a form of mail service available prior to 1863. Many large post offices had letter carriers, but they weren't paid by the government. They earned their wages by charging recipients one or two cents for each delivered letter. Most people saved their money and picked up their own mail. When Free City Delivery Service began on July 1, 1863, it was limited to forty-nine Northern offices, using four hundred and fifty letter carriers. The service was a tremendous success and by 1869 revenues from City Free Delivery were over ten times its cost. Until 1887, the Post Office Department stipulated that only cities with populations in excess of 20,000 were eligible for free delivery. After 1887, the department opened the service up to areas with either populations exceeding 10,000, or postal revenues in excess of $10,000.

Civil War patriotic covers - envelopes bearing expressions of patriotism, be they for the North or the Confederacy, such as flags, cannons, leaders, soldiers, and other wartime themes

Classification schemes-mails
 - a means of organizing mail. On March 3, 1863, the Post Office Department began to classify mail into three levels. The levels differed in cost, and over the years, processing techniques. Letters were first-class mail. Regularly issued publications were second-class mail. All other mail pieces were placed in the third-class mail category.

Classification schemes—post offices
 - a means of defining post offices. In 1864, post offices were divided into classes, determined by each office’s receipts and mail volume. Fourth-class offices were usually small units located on private property. First-class post offices were typically large and government-owned buildings.

Clean-cut perforation - the normal state of perforations from a perforating machine using sharp pins

Coil stamp - stamps processed in a single row and prepared for sale in rolls, often for dispensing from stamp vending and affixing machines. Some coils, including most U.S. coils, have a straight edge on two parallel sides and perforations on the remaining two parallel sides. Some coils are backprinted with sequence or counting numbers.

College stamp - stamps issued by the British universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which were officially granted the right to issue their own stamps for internal messenger service in the mid-1600s. Several other colleges used their own stamps between 1871 and 1886.

Collotype - a process utilizing a thin film of gelatin on the plate surface

Color missing - usually denotes an error in the printing process. It might be a completely missing step or the accidental stoppage of ink in a fountain on a multicolor press.

Color separation - a printing process using different colors from different plates, partially superimposed and blended to give a harmonious effect

Colored line roulette - perforations indicated by colored dashes printed over the top of the slits, used on stamps of Thurn and Taxis

Comb perforation - perforation produced by a machine which has the pins so arranged that they perforate three or more sides of each stamp in one complete row at a single stroke. One hole at each corner of each stamp is common to both the horizontal and the vertical row.

Commemorative stamp - a stamp printed in a limited quantity and available for purchase for a limited time. The design might note an anniversary associated with an individual, an historic event, or a national landmark.

Compound perforations - perforations that consist of two or more gauges per stamp. These usually consist of one gauge horizontally and a different one vertically. The horizontal gauge is written first and the vertical last (12 x 8). Mixed compound perforations are written clockwise starting with the top of the stamp (9 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 12 1/2 x 6 1/2).

Concessionary parcel stamp
 - stamps used by private firms at rates lower than government services

Confederate handstamps - the first Confederate stamps, which were lithographed, non-perforated five-cent sheets printed by Hoyer & Ludwig. They became available in October 1861. The 'stampless period', which refers to the six-month period before Confederate stamps were issued, forced Southern postmasters to develop a temporary system to replace this commodity. By creating provisional stamps or handstamps, postmasters were able to continue mail service in absence of a government issued postage stamp.

Confederate semi-official envelope - imprinted envelopes provided to departments within the Confederate government, though not everyone was granted franking privileges. 'Semi-official' envelopes, like the example shown here, required prepayment of postage in stamps.

Constitutional Post - post office established by Congress in 1775

Consular service fee stamp - stamps affixed to documents showing payment of specific fees for various duties of consular officers

Control number - numbers printed on backs of stamp that denote the year of printing. Control letters serve as indices for accounting records.

Cordials and wines stamp - stamp indicating collection of tax on such products

Counterfeit - an item, usually a replica of an existing stamp, made to defraud collectors. The term can also be applied to overprints, postmarks, etc. One of the most commonly found Confederate counterfeits is a complete set of counterfeit Confederate general issues, which was made up and marketed by a dealer in Springfield, Massachusetts. They are thus known as 'Springfield Facsimiles'. Crudely fashioned woodcut counterfeits have been made and printed of each of the Confederate general issues by several different counterfeiters, but few, if any, would deceive even the most novice collector. Many of these crude counterfeits were made in the 1870s, when there was a ready market for them as space fillers. There was little intent to defraud contemporary collectors. Also in this category are items termed 'bogus', which never existed in the presented format, bearing names of imaginary or existing postal authorities or services. These were created to fool or defraud collectors. There are numerous of these items among Confederate postmaster provisionals. They are also often referred to as 'fantasies' or 'Cinderellas'. The most dangerous types of counterfeits or fakes are covers with faked postmarks or genuine but post-war canceling devices used to enhance otherwise genuine usages in an effort to increase the value.

Cover - an envelope, post card, or folded letter sheet that has been cancelled

Cover (souvenir) - an envelope or item of postal stationery cancelled as a keepsake

Cracked plate - stamps that show evidence that the plate from which they were printed was cracked

Creased paper - a condition that creates a colorless wrinkle on a finished stamp. A crease occurs when the paper is fed into the press unevenly. A crease occurring after printing damages the stamp.

Curtiss Jenny - the Curtiss-Jenny JN-4 airplane, nicknamed the 'Jenny'. The Jenny was originally manufactured for army training use, but hundreds of surplus Jenny airplanes became available for public use at the end of the First World War. Just prior to the end of the war, six of these airplanes, designated JN-4H for their one-hundred fifty horse power Hispano-Suizo engines, were used for the first regularly scheduled Air Mail Service. 

Customs fee stamp - a stamp indicating payment of various customs fees excluding customs duties. Eight stamps were issued by the U.S. Postal Service between 1887 and 1918.

Cylinder numbers - numbers printed in small type on British photogravure stamps

Published in Glossary
Sunday, 12 August 2018 00:00


Definitive issue - a stamp issued in an indefinite quantity and for an indefinite period, usually several years or more. The United States presidential issue of 1938 and the 1995 32-cent Flag over Porch stamps are examples. Definitive stamp designs do not honor a specific time-dated event.

Dial (handstamp) - portion of a postmark that notes the city, date, and time

Die - the original engraving of a stamp design, usually recess-engraved in reverse on a small, flat sheet of soft steel. In traditional intaglio printing, a transfer roll is made from a die, and printing plates are made from impressions on the transfer roll. When more than one die is used in the production of an issue, distinctive variations are often identifiable.

Documentary stamp - a revenue stamp indicating payment of tax or fee on official or business document; overprinted to indicate use such as silver tax

Double entry - a term which refers to a visual characteristic on an engraved stamp such as partial doubling of the design due to misalignment of the transfer roll or over-rocking of a transfer roll which carries more than one design

Double impression - two impressions of the same stamp resulting from the sheet being run through the press twice

Double or triple perforation - a situation produced when a sheet is accidentally perforated more than once in the allotted space. This might result when the sheet is cut off center.

Dragging - the re-opening of lines for more color

Drop letter - mail to be delivered to an address within the same postal delivery area as the office in which it is posted. It is charged a lower postage rate.

Published in Glossary
Sunday, 12 August 2018 00:00


E-COM - an acronym for Electronic Computer-Originated Mail. The service began in 1982, years before widespread private Internet use. It allowed individuals to send a message electronically between post offices, with a hard copy provided to recipient by the receiving post office. The service ended in 1985.

Electric eye perforation - a type of perforation equipment. An electronically-controlled mechanical device acts as a guide in the operation of the perforating machine. Short, colored dashes are printed on the stamp sheet margins to activate the perforation machine.

Embossing - the process of giving relief to paper by pressing it with a die. Embossed designs are often found on the printed stamps of postal stationery. Selected stamps of certain countries have been embossed.

En epargne - 'in relief' type of printing plate used in letterpress process

Encased postage stamp - a postage stamp, first used during the American Civil War, encased within a protective covering that was used as a coin during periods of metal shortages

Engraving - a method whereby ink is carried in depressions below the surface of the plate, and from there transferred to the paper. Engraving is usually done by hand directly on wood or a steel die. Some dies are produced by etching the metal with acid, which creates depressions in the exposed area to form the design.

Expedition issue - a stamp issued by the state for use of members of official scientific, exploratory, or military expeditions to frank correspondence home

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