By Janet Klug
Collecting postally used stamps can be challenging, but also quite rewarding. There are many options for those who wish to give it a try.
A postmark contains the name of the post office of mailing or receiving, and the date of mailing or receiving.First things first, though: Let's get the terminology straight.
A cancel is any marking that strikes the stamp and invalidates it for future use. A postmark can be a cancel, but a cancel is not necessarily a postmark. A cancel can be anything from an expensive, fancy marking made from carved cork and applied to a 19th-century stamp, to today's quick swipe with a felt-tipped marker that makes collectors cringe.
Postmarks can be collected by town, type, topic or special services. Cancels come in a vast array of styles. There are fancy cancels, numeral cancels, sprayed-on cancels, first-day cancels and many others. The field is huge.
Postmarks and cancels can be applied by hand (called handstamped), or by machine.
Many postmark enthusiasts will begin by collecting postmarks that are placed so perfectly that the place and date of mailing are fully intact on the stamp. Figure 1 shows a stamp issued by Ghana in 1964. It has a postmark from Dunkwa dated Nov. 27, 1964.
A well-centered postmark such as this is called a bull's-eye cancel or socked-on-the-nose cancel. In advertisements and literature, you might see this abbreviated as "SOTN."
An easy way to begin is to look for bull's-eye cancels in inexpensive mixtures. If you collect the world, or one country or even one year, it will be a nice challenge to complete a calendar of dates (ignoring the years). Feb. 29 is the most difficult date to acquire, as it only turns up once every four years.
Other collectors seek certain types of postmarks that are best collected on cover. An example is machine-made postmarks, such as the waving flag Nov. 1, 1906, Chickasha, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), machine cancellation shown in Figure 2 photographically cropped from the full cover.
These are generally collected on intact covers, as are first-day-of-issue postmarks, such as the Aug. 10, 1946, Washington, D.C., first-day-of-issue cancellation shown in Figure 3, photographically cropped from the full cover.
If you have a doubt about whether you should keep a stamp on the envelope to which it is affixed or remove it, the best advice is to keep it on the cover.
Some cancels are called killers because they blot out or seriously deface most of the stamp design. Collectors of used stamps generally try to avoid killer cancellations, but killer cancels on cover are often still collectible.
Figure 4 shows a 1-penny Queen Victoria stamp bearing a numeral cancellation photographically cropped from a cover that was mailed in Great Britain in 1859. Although this barred cancellation is a killer, the numeral between the bars is a clue that will tell a curious collector where the letter was mailed. In this instance, the number is "446," used in Ledbury, England, according to the book Collect British Postmarks by J.T. Whitney.
Great Britain has a vast array of early handstamped postmarks and cancels. They come with some great nicknames given to them by those who specialize in collecting them. In most cases, the names relate to the appearance of the postmarks. There are spoons, tombstones, numerals, squared circles, double circles, hoods and a host of others.
Figure 5 shows a corner of a cover with two different types of British postmarks. On the left is a numeral duplex postmark from Cambridge, England, and at right, tying the stamp to the cover, is a squared-circle postmark from Chester, England.
Sometimes seeing a gorgeous postmark on a cover is reason enough to acquire it. An example of a recent acquisition is shown in Figure 6: a beautifully struck squared-circle Nov. 5, 1897, Smith Falls, Ontario, Canada, postmark on a 1¢ Queen Victoria postal card.
Those who collect postmarks are well served with the availability of excellent reference works and several specialty groups. There are also a number of specialist societies for collectors interested in collecting postmarks and cancellations.
For information about the Post Mark Collectors Club, write to Terry W. Meier, 1828 A St. S.E., Washington, DC 20003-1705; or visit the web site at www.postmarks.org.
To learn about the Bullseye Cancel Collectors Club, write to Stan Vernon, 2749 Pine Knoll Drive, No. 4, Walnut Creek, CA 94595-2044; or visit the web site at http://bccc.jeffhayward.com.
For the Machine Cancel Society, write to Gary M. Carlson, 3097 Frobisher Ave., Dublin, OH 43017; or visit the web site at www.machinecancel.org.
The Universal Ship Cancel Society caters to those with a nautical bent. Write to Glenn W. Smith, 3571 Orrstown Road, Orrstown, PA 17244-9423; or visit the web site at www.uscs.org.
For information about the U.S. Cancellation Club, write to Roger D. Curran, 20 University Ave., Lewisburg, PA 17837.
The American First Day Cover Society serves the FDC-collecting community. Write to Douglas A. Kelsey, Box 16277, Tucson, AZ 85732-6277; or visit the web site at www.afdcs.org.
The Mobile Post Office Society is for collectors interested in railroad, highway and boat post offices. Write to Douglas N. Clark, Box 427, Marstons Mills, MA 02648-0427; or visit the web site at www.eskimo.com/~rkunz/mposhome.html.
July 30, 2015 08:04 PMIn the Editor’s Insights columns in the July 20 Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Aug. 10 weekly Linn’s, I mentioned Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board without giving too much detail. Linn’s goal is to engage its audience both in print and online and to grow this audience. The role of the newly formed Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board is to assist us achieving these goals by keeping us focused on the needs of our audience and helping us adapt to today’s market. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 09:01 AMAs in previous years, Rarities Week, the series of sales conducted June 22-26 by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, included several name sales as well as an assortment of notable items from around the world. The week kicked off with something of a do-over: a sizable assortment of better United States stamps and covers that had appeared in four previous sales, but whose winning bidder then failed to pay for them. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 04:35 PMThe Tieton, Wash., post office is a simple 1935 cement block building with a slat wood facade. Townsfolk in the agricultural community of 1,200 in central Washington believe the post office could become a landmark, if only the United States Postal Service would allow them to cover the front with a stamp-like mosaic. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 03:11 PMThe American Philatelic Society will host the nation’s largest annual stamp exhibition Aug. 20-23. The show will take place at the DeVos Place Convention Center, 303 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids, Mich. Read More ›
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the largest souvenir card produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The card is one of three issued to honor the centenary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke discusses Canada’s recently recalled $1.20 Dinosaur Provincial Park stamps featuring inaccurately described Hoodoo rock formations.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the discovery of another pane of the intentionally created upright variety of the $2 Jenny Invert stamp.
Chad Snee discusses the recent sale of the glass locket containing the famed 1918 Jenny Invert airmail error stamp.
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.