If you are a postal history collector, postmarks will be more important to you than the stamps themselves. Even for the collector of used stamps only, some postmarks are more desirable than others.
As an example, the 1847 10¢ Washington issue of the United States may bear a common red cancellation that makes the stamp's catalog price $2,000, while "Canada" or "Steamer 10" markings add another $1,000 to $1,250 to its value.
Hundreds of collectors save old and modern postmarks only, not really caring which stamp bears them. Postmarks thus spread over three philatelic fields: postal history, used stamps and postmark collections. Following is a description of general postmark terms that all collectors should understand:
Postmark is an all-inclusive term for any marking officially applied to a piece of mail as it passes through the mailstream. It not only includes the circle giving date and town data, but also all the extraneous markings indicating routing, directory service, postage due, censorship, registration, special delivery, forwarding, carriage by special transportation, and many others.
The lines canceling the stamp to prevent its reuse comprise a postmark. Any official marking on an envelope, such as "Mail delayed. Found in supposedly empty box," is a postmark.
Datestamps are postmarks that show the date and sometimes the actual hour of mailing. The latter are from an earlier era; today's U.S. datestamps include only date, city and state information. When this date/town data is enclosed in a circle, the postmark is called a circular datestamp (CDS).
|An example of a circular datestamp from 1922.|
|An example of a slogan cancel honoring the Detroit Tigers baseball team and their 1984 playoff appearance.|
Cancellations are those portions of postmarks that mark the stamp to prevent its reuse. Prior to the advent of stamps to prepay postage, such markings only served to provide information to postal clerks as they handled the stampless envelope. After stamps came into use, cancellations became necessary to void the stamp for repeat usage.
Cancellations come in many forms: bars or wavy lines (called "killers"), ink blobs or fancy designs (called "obliterators"), and wording for special occasions (called "slogan cancels"). Even a postman's ball-point pen squiggle, placed on a stamp that escaped being canceled at the post office, is an official cancellation.
Canceled-to-order (CTO) stamps are mint issues with original gum that bear a cancellation, even though they have never been postally used. These cancels are most often applied to entire sheets of stamps as they are printed. Typically, they are small, quarter-circle marks found at the corners of stamps. Some postal administrations create these to sell them at a discount to the stamp trade. Such CTO stamps generally are not regarded as philatelically desirable.
Canceled-by-favor, or favor-canceled stamps are those canceled in a specific manner at the request of a collector. Anytime a collector asks for and receives a form of cancellation that otherwise would not have been applied to the material being mailed, it can be described as "canceled-by-favor." Such an item may or may not pass through the mailstream.
Obtaining current postmarks is an activity of many postmark collectors. Requests should be addressed to the postmaster of the post office from which the postmark is desired. State the type of marking wanted: either the office's regular machine cancel, with or without slogan; or the standard handstamp, with or without killer bars.
At times, special pictorial handstamps are used for a short period. These are announced in advance in releases from the U.S. Postal Service, and often in the philatelic press such as Linn's Stamp News.
To obtain the marking desired, prepare a cover by placing first-class postage in the upper right corner, approximately one-fourth inch from the edges of the envelope. Postal cards also are acceptable. Since postal regulations state that unaddressed covers may not be canceled and returned under separate cover, you must address the cover to yourself in the lower right-hand portion of the envelope or card.
Many collectors prefer to use peelable labels for this purpose. Placing a stuffer of postcard thickness in the envelope usually will ensure a cleaner, sharper postmark. Insert the prepared cover and your note of cancel request in an outer envelope stamped with first-class postage, and send it to the proper postmaster.
blogIn this column in the Aug. 24 issue of Linn’s, I referred to the American Philatelic Research Library in Bellefonte, Pa., as a “gift to stamp collectors.” The BNAPS library and the APRL are two of many libraries available to stamp collectors, and some philatelic libraries are available online. Read More ›
blogIt’s often been said that one of the salutary benefits of collecting stamps is the friendships made along one’s philatelic journey. If I were asked to place a value on the bonds thus forged with collectors in locales near and far, I would be rich beyond measure. A few of these hobby friends I have never met in person. Read More ›
blogToday, Nov. 11, 2015, is Veterans Day. Over the years, a number of United States stamps honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces have been issued. Read More ›
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Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Denise McCarty discusses Great Britain’s final stamp issue for 2015, a Star Wars prestige booklet, and reveals what is included in its stamp program for 2016.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News managing editor Chad Snee discusses a registered 1967 cover from Qatar that recently sold for almost $1,200 and the latest discovery of an Upright Jenny Invert pane.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman announces that Linn’s has been named official daily publisher of World Stamp Show-NY 2016 and provides an update on the reorganization of the Scott catalogs.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News senior editor Marty Frankevicz reports on the suspension of Canada Post’s cluster box conversion plan after the election of a new prime minister.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.