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ADHESIVES: Term used to describe stamps that have gum on the back which are intended to be stuck on articles to be posted.

AEROPHILATLEY/ AIRMAIL: The collecting of anything to do with mail carried by air. Stamp, covers etc.

APPROVALS: A selection of stamps sent by a dealer for you approval. You pick the ones you want to purchase and return with payment those you have kept.

BACKSTAMP: A postmark applied to a letter at it's destination by the post office.

BANTEMS: A name given to very small stamps used during the second world war by South Africa to save paper.

BLOCK: A term used to describe a block of at least four intact stamps. Still joined.

BISECTS: A stamp which has been cut in half with official sanction, and used for postage. Due sometimes to a shortage of a particular value. It is best to collect these items on the original envelope. To show that they where bisected before posting. Check that the postmark is complete, and goes over the stamp.

BOURSE: a Meeting of stamp dealers and collectors with the purpose of trade 

BOOKLET STAMPS: These are usually special printings, making it easier for the printer to make the books up. Most TETE BECHE stamps come from these sheets. Sometimes the booklet stamps have one or two sides IMPERF. (no perforations). 

CACHETS: Impressions made on an envelope other than the postmark itself. These marks are frequently added to covers to commemorate special occasions. Like first flight or exhibition. These are not postmarks.

CANCELLATION: A mark applied by the post Office to cancel the stamp (POSTMARK). So the stamp can not be used again for postage.

CINDERELLA'S: Non Postage stamps such as special event labels, licences etc. These are becoming more collectable every year. 

C.T.O. CANCELLED TO ORDER: Stamps where the postmark has been applied by the Issuing government in sheets, making them appear to have been used through the post. Frequently the postmark is printed at the same time as the stamps! Many thematic stamps come like this.

CHALKY PAPER: This is where the the paper has been coated with a chalky substance. This is done to make the postmark more difficult to remove from the stamp, without damaging it. The print on chalky paper, sometimes appears smoother. If the chalky paper is rubbed with silver, a black mark appears. Many modern  chalky paper issues can be detected by  using a UV lamp.

COIL STAMPS: These are stamps are joined together in a large reel, being used  in slot machines at Post Offices. On single stamps these coil stamps are very difficult to distinguish. Sweden & USA coil stamps come with 2 sides imperf. Some issues are numbered.

COLOURS: An important feature of stamp collecting. Most catalogues list differences in shades and colours of the same stamp. You will find a colour guide issued for the purpose of identifying stamp colours a great help. But remember the light you view with will alter the colour seen. View in daylight if possible. Where a catalogue lists colours as RED & YELLOW, these would be the colours used to print the stamp. If it is listed as RED/YELLOW the yellow usually refers to the colour of the paper.

COMB PERFORATION: A method of perforating stamps in which whole rows of stamps are perforated both vertically and horizontally in one operation. Stamps perforated by this method can easily be spotted by the fact that the perforation holes meet in a regular pattern at all four corners of the stamp (see line perforation also).

COMMEMORATIVE STAMPS: Are those issued  to  mark  some  special  event  or anniversary;  they are often  larger than regular issues, and are usually on sale for only a limited period. 

CYLINDER BLOCK: Where a block of stamps with attached sheet margin, that also contains the printers cylinder numbers. When a printers replace a printing cylinder, the cylinder number is normally changed as well.

DIE: Refers to the original engraved master, from which multiple impressions are taken to produce printing plates.

ESSAY: Preliminary design for a stamp.

FACE VALUE: The price of the stamp, as printed on the stamp itself.

FISCAL STAMPS (FISCALS) Are stamps prepared not for postal purposes, but for the  collection  of revenue for Receipts, Licences,  Passports,  Permits,  Contracts, etc. Their inscriptions usually show the purpose  for  which  they where issued. It  is  not customary to include such items in an ordinary collection, which is  usually restricted to postage stamps only. You may come into possession of a number of FISCALS in which case you may find it interesting to keep a collection of them separately from your own ordinary postage stamp collection. WARNING postage stamps where legal tender in many Countries. And were used to collect taxes etc. You will find many stamps with writing across, instead of a postmark. These where used to collect duty/taxes etc, usually on legal documents. They are only worth a very small fraction of the catalogue value. Some collectors collect these stamps only. Some fiscal marks are very difficult to identify, as they look very much like postmarks. Check before buying high face value stamps, as these where only used for the purpose of collecting these duties/taxes. Example $500 dollar Strait Settlements stamp (enough postage to post an elephant!)

FORGERY: An imitation of stamp or cancel, to deceive collectors or post offices.

FOXING: Brown spots found on stamps and books. This is a fungus. It will spread if not treated with chemicals like "foxit". Mostly caused by items being stored in  a damp/humid place. See tropicalisation. Found very often on old books.


FRANK: A mark applied instead of stamps to indicate that the postage has been paid. (Office franking machines, normally in RED.) 

FUGITIVE INKS: A special water-based inks used to print stamps, so that the postmark can not be washed off. Some early stamps colour will run when placed in water.  Some postmarks are use this type of ink (purple); These will also run and ruin your stamps.

GRANITE PAPER: Paper containing coloured fibre flecks.

GUM ARABIC: Gum used on back of stamps. Usually shinny in appearance. Gum arabic suffers from gum cracking with age and also from damp/humidity, by going brown. See tropicalised.

HANDSTAMP: A postmark applied by hand. Registered or FDC cancels are sometimes done this way.

HINGE: A specially gummed piece used to attach collectors stamps to albums. (DO NOT USE THESE ON NEW MINT STAMPS, THEY WILL LOOSE SOME OF THEIR VALUE)

IMPERFORATE: Stamps having no perforations on all sides or having imperforate only on a few edges. 

INSCRIPTION:  Any wording which is printed as a part of the original design of  the  stamp  (as  distinct from  SUR-CHARGES or OVERPRINTS).  

KEY TYPES Refer  to stamps of common design used by a number of colonies.  You will find these in particular amongst  the  earlier  French  Colonial stamps, most of the Portuguese Colonies, the old German Colonies and very many of the British Colonies.   These stamps differ from territory to territory only in the name of the colony and figure of value inserted in panels in the design. 

KILOWARE: This is name given to stamps still on bits of paper. Sold by weight. Hence it's name.

LINE PERFORATION:  A method of perforating stamps in which each action of the machine perforates one or more rows of stamps running in one direction only (i.e. either horizontally or vertically but not both). Stamps so perforated are usually easily spotted by the irregular way in  which  the  perforation  holes  meet  at the Corners of the stamps. (See also Comb Perforation.) 

LOCAL STAMPS: Stamps that are only valid in small area. Some are not valid for official postage at all.

MARGIN: Stamp coming from edge of sheet, with edge still attached.

MINIATURE  SHEETS: Specially printed souvenir sheets containing a small. number of stamps (often only one, two or three). They are frequently issued as the top values to set of stamps. The  margins  often  have  special descriptive wording on them. 

MINT: Stamps that are in unused condition. Collectors further split these into 2 groups. U/M (unmounted, never had a hinge applied)  or M/M (mounted mint. A stamp that has been attached in an album at some time by a hinge.

M/M Mounted Mint: A stamp that has been attached in an album at some time by a hinge.

OFFICIAL STAMPS:  These are stamps either printed specially for official use or ordinary   issues  OVERPRINTED   with words  such  as  OFFICIAL,  SERVICE, O.H.M.S., etc.  They are used for Government mail and are usually collected in the same way as ordinary stamps 

O.G.: Original Gum. Used to describe a mint stamp that has some of the original gum, but not all over. 

OVERPRINT:  Wording or any design printed on the stamp which is not itself part of the original design. OVERPRINTS are usually applied to alter the purpose for  which  the  stamp  was  originally  printed; such as making it valid for use elsewhere, to commemorate some special event, to convert a normal postage stamp to air mail stamp, etc.

PANE: A block of stamps 

PAPER: There are many different kinds of paper used in stamp production, and in  some  cases  you  can  find  the  same stamp  printed  on  distinctly  different papers. The principal sorts of paper are: WOVE PAPER which is smooth on both sides,  may or may not be watermarked, and has no other markings in particular in  its  texture,  as  in  the  case  of  LAID PAPER, which has a series of close parallel lines running through  it in the form  of a watermark.  SILK PAPER (Silk Thread Paper) has very small fibres of silk put in    the    paper    during    manufacture. CHALKY PAPER is specially prepared with a coating of chalky substance which has the effect of making the removal of a postmark without disturbing the design very difficult.  This is done as a measure of security, and particular care must be taken in removing such stamps from paper to avoid smudging the ink.  SURFACE COLOURED PAPER is. as the description suggests, paper which has been coloured all over on the front before being printed, the back still being the original colour. 

PAQUEBOT MAIL: Mail posted aboard ship. 

PERFORATIONS: Are the small holes in the paper between stamps to enable users to  separate  them  easily  without  using scissors.  The first stamps ever issued did not  have  PERFORATIONS,  but  most stamps now do. The spacing of the holes is  measured  for  the  purposes  of  stamp collecting  by  counting  the  number  of holes in a distance of TWO CENTIMETRES. Special gauges are made for this purpose, and  two  stamps  apparently  alike  but which differ slightly in these measurements count as different varieties.  Stamps which are without holes between them are known as IMPERFORATE.  See also ROULETTED. 

PERFORATION GAUGE: Device for measuring stamp perforations.


POSTAGE DUE STAMPS:  These are affixed  by the  postal  authorities on  un- stamped  or  under stamped  mail. These could be a stamp specially produced for the purpose or a handstamped mark applied at the Post Office.  The person receiving the letter has to pay the extra amount when it is delivered. These stamps are usually collected in the same way as ordinary postage stamps. 

POSTMARKS: Obliterating marks applied  to  stamps  for the  purpose  of cancelling  them  and  preventing  re-use. These could be of circular type with place & date when and where the item was posted. Or could be a wavy line or slogan postmark. The modern method of cancelling mail is by inkjet printing. Postmarks come in all shapes and sizes, and could form a study in there own right. 

PRECANCELLED STAMPS: These type of stamps come overprinted before sale. And are used a lot in the USA & Canada. Sometimes having the town printed on the stamps. Reserved for large bulk mailing purposes mostly, saving the Post Offices the task of canceling.

PROOFS: Are stamps prepared by the printers for approval or testing before production begins.

PERFINS: Punctured stamps. Normally applied by punching with small holes the initials of a Company, to prevent there misuse by employees. Some companies overprinted there stamps with their name. Example Gas & Electric Companies. Official overprints like OHMS, ARMY OFFICIALS etc are done for the same purpose for government use.

P.V.A./P.V.A.D: Modern synthetic gums used on stamps. Poly vinyl acetate. or with Dextrin added. PVAD.

ROULETTED: Stamps which are perforated using a line of small cuts instead of holes. Non of the paper being removed. These cuts sometimes are saw tooth shaped.

SE-TENANT: This describes two DIFFERENT stamps printed next to each other. Frequently found in booklets and miniature sheets.

SPECIMENS: Stamps either overprinted or punctured with the word. These are applied to stamps sent to Postal Officials of other countries, to show that these stamps are valid for postage.

SOUVENIR SHEET: A special stamp produced  to celebrate someone or an event.

SURCHARGES: Words or letters applied to a stamp to increase or decrease its value before it is issued.

TETE BECHE: Two stamps printed next to each other one being upside down. Mainly found in miscut booklet panes.

TROPICALISATION: The gum on stamps going brown. Usually caused by stamps being stored in damp or humid environment, like the tropics, hence the name. There is no cure for afflicted items. If you collect in a tropics, you will have to take precautions to avoid this problem.

U/M or M/M: Refers to the following condition of a stamp: U/M (**)As issued never having a hinge applied or any marks. M/M (*) refers to a stamp that has been mounted in an album at some time by a stamp hinge. Sometimes some of the stamp hinge is still to be found on the back of the stamp. WARNING: Prices in different catalogues change at certain dates for U/M as against M/M, when only listing mint stamps. Check. Beware of expensive stamps that have been re-gummed, to remove any trace of a hinge, so fetching a higher price.

V.F.U. : Very fine used stamp.

VIGNETTE: Refers to the center portion of a stamp. 

WING MARGIN: Commonly found on early stamps that where not perforated at side of sheet, leaving one side imperf. WATCH out for re-perforated wing margin stamps.

WATERMARKS: See watermarks


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