Refresher Course

There are many different types of stamps: which are yours?

By Janet Klug

If you are a stamp collector who collects stamps from all over the world — or even if you collect from just a few specific countries – you will soon discover that there are many different kinds of stamps you will put into your albums.

Figure 1. A French 40-franc+10fr Modern Plane and Adler's Ecole airmail semipostal stamp (Scott CB3) issued in 1948. Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 2. A United States Postal Agency in China 1¢ George Washington stamp overprinted "Shanghai 2¢ China" (Scott K1). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 3. An overprinted British ½-penny Queen Victoria stamp (Scott O54) issued in 1896. Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 4. An Austrian 2-heller Mercury military newspaper stamp (Scott MP1). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 5. A Romanian 5-bani Numeral occupation postage due stamp (Scott 3NJ3). Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 6. A U.S. 10¢ Numeral postal savings stamp (Scott PS1) issued in 1911. Click on image to enlarge.
Figure 7. A Slovenian 25-taler Firemen postal tax stamp (Scott RA32) issued in 2006. Click on image to enlarge.

In addition to stamps that simply pay postage, the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue lists many other types of stamps.

Each type of stamp could become a collection in its own right, but for those who want a finite project, consider assembling a type collection of one category of stamps. It could be an inexpensive project that will teach a new collector, or a seasoned one, about different kinds of stamps and how they are used.

The easiest stamps to find are postage stamps that are routinely used on mail: definitives, commemoratives and special stamps.

Definitive issues are workhorse stamps, usually small in size, in general circulation for a long period of time and often released in several formats, such as coils and booklets. Great Britain's 1840 Penny Black, the first stamp ever issued (Scott 1) was a definitive.

Commemorative stamps are those that honor specific people, places, achievements or events. Commemoratives are usually larger in size than definitives and are in circulation for a limited period of time. You can get an argument about which stamp was the first United States commemorative, but there is no doubt that the 1893 Columbian set (Scott 230-45) consists of some of the earliest U.S. commemorative stamps.

The special stamp category is a catchall for postage stamps that don't fit neatly into the other two categories. These include holiday stamps, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving,

Hanukkah, Eid and Kwanzaa stamps, and other items like Greetings stamps and Love stamps.

Once you get beyond the ordinary day-to-day postage stamps, there are stamps for special services. These are listed in the Scott standard catalog and the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers with catalog numbers that have an alphabetical prefix.

These include: AR postal fiscal; B semipostal; C airmail; CB airmail semipostal; CBO airmail semipostal Official; CE airmail special delivery; CF registered airmail; CL semiofficial airmail; CM military airmail; CO Official airmail; CQ airmail parcel post; E special delivery; EB semipostal special delivery; EO special delivery Official; EY authorized delivery; F registration; FA certified; G insured letter; GY marine insurance; H acknowledgement of receipt; I late fee; J postage due; JQ parcel post postage due; K United States, Polish and Yugoslavian offices abroad; L local; M military; MC military airmail; MP military newspaper; MQ military parcel post; MR war tax; N occupation; NB occupation semipostal; NC occupation airmail; NE occupation special delivery; NJ occupation postage due; NO occupation Official; NRA occupation postal tax; O Official; OX post office seals; OY Official government insurance department; P newspaper; PR newspaper tax; PN postal note; PS postal savings; Q parcel post; QE special handling; QY parcel post authorized delivery; R revenue; RA postal tax; RAB postal tax semipostal; RAC airmail postal tax; RAJ postal tax due; S franchise; T telegraph; WS war savings; and WX Christmas seals.

All of these types of stamps have specific purposes. Some pay for special services and some pay for fees. Others cover the cost of postage and include a charitable donation or pay a tax. Some exempt mail from having postage assessed and some mark a mailpiece as requiring additional postage.

Let's look at a few of these stamp types.

A French 40-franc+10fr Modern Plane and Adlers Ecole airmail semipostal stamp (Scott CB3) issued in 1948 is shown in Figure 1. The large "40f" inscription denotes payment for airmail service. The smaller "10f" is a charitable surcharge.

The K prefix is used only for U.S., Polish and Yugoslavian offices abroad stamps. All other offices abroad stamps have unprefixed catalog numbers. A 1¢ George Washington stamp overprinted "Shanghai 2¢ China" (Scott K1) is shown in Figure 2. This was issued in 1919 for use on mail sent from the U.S. Postal Agency in Shanghai, China.

The overprinted British ½-penny Queen Victoria stamp (Scott O54) shown in Figure 3 was issued in 1896 for use on Official mail sent by the Royal Army.

An Austrian military newspaper stamp (Scott MP1) issued in 1916 is shown in Figure 4. The 2-heller stamp shows the head of Mercury, the messenger and Roman god of commerce and industry.

Occupation stamps are used when a nation comes under the authority of a belligerent army. This can happen during a war or following a truce, surrender or negotiated peace. Figure 5 shows a 5-bani Numeral occupation postage due stamp (Scott 3NJ3) for use on unpaid or short-paid mail in Romania in 1918 during the German occupation.

For more than 50 years, the U.S. Post Office Department served as a de facto savings bank where postal customers could purchase savings stamps in small denominations. The stamps were saved in a booklet that, when filled, could be converted into an interest-bearing bond. A U.S. 10¢ Numeral postal savings stamp (Scott PS1) issued in 1911 is shown in Figure 6.

Postal tax stamps are used to collect tax on mail sent on certain days or during a certain period of time. Their use on mail is obligatory at these times. A Slovenian 25-taler Firemen postal tax stamp (Scott RA32) issued in 2006 is shown in Figure 7.

This survey only scratches the surface. An interesting and finite collection could be formed by attempting to find at least one of each type of stamp. If that does not sound challenging enough to keep your interest, try finding each type used on a cover or document.