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Definitions and Terms Used in Stamp Collecting

A to C
P to Z


Adhesives: Stamps intended to be affixed to postal items as distinguished from postage printed or hand stamped directly on the cover.


Aero-Philately: The collecting of airmail stamps and other mail items carried by airborne transportation.


Aerogramme: Air letter sheets, usually carried for less than the normal airmail rates.


Airmail Stamp: A stamp used specifically for airmail items.


Aniline Ink: An extremely bright water-soluble ink derived from coal-tar. Sometimes used in stamp printing because they are easily damaged by rubbing and run when wet, thus discouraging attempts to remove cancellations.


Approvals: These are stamps mailed by dealers to collectors for free examination. The collector selects and pays for, only those items he wishes to keep and sends the remainder back to the dealer.


Arrow Block: A block of stamps containing an arrow shaped marking used to guide the pane separator and perforator


Auction: A public sale at which various lots (groups) are sold to the highest bidder.


Bank Mixture: A package of mixed stamps, usually still on paper that was collected from banks and other financial institutions.


Bilingual Pair: Two attached stamps, identical except for the inscription, which is in two different languages.


Bisect: A stamp which has been cut in half (usually diagonally) to be used as two separate stamps. This method was utilized during the 19th century when lower denomination stamps were unavailable.


Block: Four or more unseparated stamps forming a square or rectangular shape.


Booklet: A small convenient book containing stamps of one or more denomination. Often sold through vending machines.Booklet Pane: Panes of stamps especially cut and printed to be sold in booklets. Booklets usually contain two or three of these panes. They are straight edged on two or three sides.


Bourse: An Organized show or meeting of stamp dealers and collectors at which stamps are sold or traded.Bulls Eye cancellation: A term used to indicate a stamp with a perfectly centered cancellation.


Cachet: A design or picture printed on an envelope to illustrate an event or occasion. See First Day covers.


Canceled To Order (CTO): Stamps that have been canceled with out having been postally used. Usually lightly corner canceled with full glue on reverse.


Cancellation: The ink mark or other defacement on a stamp indicating that it has been used and can not be used again.


Carrier Stamps: Stamps used in the United States from 1851 to 1863 in payment of mail delivered to the actual addressee from the postal receiving station and carried by private local carrier. During these years regular postage only covered delivery from one Post Office to another.


Catalog Number: The number used to identify individual stamps from a specific country by the publisher of a postage stamp catalog such as Scott, Stanley Gibbons or Michel.


Catalog Value: The identifying number assigned to each individual stamp of a country in a catalog. Catalog values are usually for stamps in "Very Fine" condition.


Centering: The placement or location of a stamp design with reference to the paper on which it was printed. If the design is placed so that the margins on all four sides are equal then it is said to be perfectly centered. Stamps in Very Fine condition generally are well centered except for some of the older issues where good centering does not exist.


Center Line Block: A block of stamps with a horizontal and vertical line intersecting the middle of the block.


Certified Mail: Mail for which the sender is given a receipt certifying that the item has been mailed. A "Return Receipt" can also be requested as proof of safe delivery.


Cinderella Stamp: Postally invalid adhesive labels, usually sold to raise money for various charities or for promotional purposes. Christmas Seals are an example of a Cinderella Stamp.


Classic: A term usually referring to older (19th century) engraved stamps of a country.


Coil Stamps: Stamps which are formatted in long coiled strips for use by businesses in affixing machines or for sale from vending machines. Coil stamps have straight edges on two opposite sides and perforations on the other two except in the case of some self-adhesive stamps.


Color Changeling: A stamp with the color altered, either accidentally or intentionally, by chemicals, heat, moisture, or sunlight.


Commemorative Stamp: A stamp issued in remembrance of an event or as a tribute to an individual.


Condition: The actual material state of a stamp as determined by its centering, freshness, cancellation, gum condition, etc. Stamps are general grades as Gem, Superb, Very Fine, Fine, Average, or Space Filler (Sometimes graded as intermediate categories such as "Fine to Very Fine").


Constant: The term used to describe a minor variety which appears in the same place on the sheet throughout multiple printing runs of a stamp.Control Mark: A letter or numeral placed in the sheet margin for accounting purposes.


Coupon: A postally invalid label or tag attached to a postage stamp, usually carrying a slogan or design related to the stamp.


Cover: A complete envelope or post card with the stamp or stamps and/or cancellation intact. ( In the case of a stampless cover (US Pre-1847) cancellation only).


Crash Cover: A cover which has been salvaged from a wreck or crash and delivered to the addressee, usually containing an official explanation of the delay.


Crease: A line or mark on a stamp caused by folding which greatly decreases the value of said stamp.


Cut Square: A stamp that has been cut from a preprinted postal envelope, postcard, wrapper, or letterset in square or rectangular form for placement in an album. Pre stamped items are more often collected as "Entires" at this time.

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