Refresher Course

Catalog prefixes identify designated issues

By Michael Baadke

Most stamps that collectors find and save are regular-issue postage stamps. They're made and used to prepay postage rates, usually a standard letter rate within the same country.

Figure 1. Semipostal stamps are identified with the prefix "B" in Scott catalogs. Shown are 1998 issues from the United States (Scott B1, left) and Germany (Scott B837, right). Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 2. The Scott catalog listing for a 1998 German semipostal set, including the stamp shown in Figure 1. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 3. The Mexican airmail issue at top includes the word "AEREO." The Greek airmail at bottom has an aviation theme for its design. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 4. Official stamps from the United States, Germany and Nevis (left to right). In the Scott catalog, all are identified with catalog numbers beginning with the prefix "O." Click on image to enlarge.

For example, collectors in the United States these days most often find 33¢ stamps, because that's the going rate for a domestic 1-ounce letter.

Almost every country creates other kinds of stamps and related postal items that collectors see from time to time.

Some of these stamps are regular postage with denominations other than the normal letter rate. The $3.20 Shuttle Landing stamp issued Nov. 9, 1998, is one such example from the United States.

Although the $3.20 rate is designed to pay the most common Priority Mail rate, the stamp has no markings on it specifically designating it for that use.

As a result, the stamp, which can be used to pay toward any postal need, is listed as Scott 3261 with other regular-issue postage stamps in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers and in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.

The Scott catalogs, like Linn's Stamp News, are published by Amos Press Inc. of Sidney, Ohio.

The Scott catalogs also recognize more than 100 other kinds of stamps, some postal, some fiscal (meaning, revenue stamps for taxation purposes).

A chart listing these different types of stamps can be found at the end of this page.

The chart is arranged alphabetically by the prefix-letter abbreviations that are used in the Scott catalogs.

For example, the prefix "B" is used in the catalogs to identify semipostal stamps.

A semipostal stamp has two purposes: to pay for postage at a specific rate and to accumulate funds for a specific cause.

The United States last year issued its first semipostal stamp, the nondenominated Breast Cancer Research semipostal, shown at left in Figure 1.

The stamp sells for 40¢, but it pays only 33¢ postage. An additional 7¢ surtax is collected to help fund efforts to combat breast cancer.

In the Scott catalog's U.S. stamp listings, the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp is identified as Scott B1.

Most of the world's semipostal stamps can be identified by the way the denomination is printed. At the right in Figure 1 is a 1998 semipostal stamp from Germany.

The denomination (or face value) of the stamp is expressed as "100+50."

This indicates that the postage value of the stamp is 100 pfennigs and that an additional 50pf is collected for distribution to charity.

At the post office, this stamp costs 150pf.

This type of "value+value" listing is common for semipostals. The U.S. issue was not given a denomination because it was issued at a time when a new postage rate was pending but not certain.

When it was first issued, the stamp had a postage value of 32¢ and a charity value of 8¢.

Figure 2 shows how the German semipostal stamp shown in Figure 1 is listed in Vol. 3 of the 2000 Scott standard catalog. It is the first stamp listed from a set of five, and it is identified as Scott B837.

The design description directly below the illustration and the listing of the value "100+50" makes it easier to find the Scott number for this stamp.

The listings for semipostal stamps immediately follow the listings for regular-issue postage stamps for any given country.

That is true for virtually all of the 100-plus headings given in the prefix chart.

For that reason, most of these stamps are referred to as "back-of-the-book" stamps, sometimes abbreviated as "BOB."

Like the German semipostal described previously, many of these specially designated stamps have some visual clues to help the collector recognize that they are something other than regular issues.

Collectors usually come upon airmail stamps (described as "air post" stamps in the Scott catalog) as they look through their collections or examine covers (postally used envelopes or cards).

In the Scott catalog, airmail stamps are listed with the prefix "C." Most (but not all) airmail stamps from the United States have had the word "airmail" printed upon them.

Airmail stamps from other countries often have a similar designation printed upon them.

Shown at the top of Figure 3 is a 1973 airmail stamp from Mexico, Scott C417.

The word "AEREO" is inscribed near the lower-left corner of the stamp. From Spanish, the word means "aerial," and it is used to designate stamps that are intended to pay airmail rates.

The 1933 airmail stamp from Greece shown at the bottom of Figure 3 might be a little more difficult to identify.

According to Linn's Stamp Identifier, a handy 130-page book that helps identify different stamp inscriptions, the Greek lettering that appears in smaller type near the lower-left corner of the design indicates the stamp is an airmail issue.

Another clue, however, is the design of the stamp itself.

Many airmail issues, such as this Greek stamp, show aircraft. Others have similar aviation themes, including images of Pegasus the flying horse, winged messengers or other symbols related to flight.

The Greek stamp shown in the illustration is Scott C8.

Official mail stamps are another example of a special-use issue that is listed in the back of the book.

Figure 4 shows three Official mail stamps. Two are fairly easy to identify: the 1983 U.S. $1 stamp inscribed "Official Mail USA" at top (left), and the 1983 55¢ stamp from Nevis overprinted "OFFICIAL" across the design.

In the center is a 75pf German stamp from 1922 that a collector might not recognize. The Stamp Identifier helps out once again, explaining that the word "Dienstmarke" spelled out across the top of the design means this is an Official stamp.

Official stamps are identified in the Scott catalog with the prefix "O"

Many of the different stamps and other items shown in Scott and other catalogs do not actually pay for postage.

Revenue stamps of the United States are listed in the Scott U.S. specialized catalog, although revenue stamps for other countries do not appear in the Scott standard catalog.

Revenues are stamps that pay a tax or a duty for specific types of sales or services. These stamps are listed beginning with the prefix R.

Sometimes the letter R is combined with another letter to identify a specific type of revenue stamp, including the combination RA, as shown in the chart, which is used to identify postal tax stamps.

It is not unusual for various duties to be combined on a single stamp, and the Scott catalog then combines its prefix designators to identify those stamps.

As described earlier, the letter "C" identifies airmail issues, and the letter "B" identifies semipostal stamps.

Over the years a number of countries have issued airmail stamps that are also semipostals, that is, they collect funds for charity as well as pay for airmail postage.

Such stamps are identified with the combination prefix "CB" in the Scott catalog.

Some information about the Scott catalog's use of prefixes appears in the introduction to the Scott standard catalog under the heading "Special Notices."

For information about Scott catalogs and other products, check with your local stamp dealer or a dealer in philatelic literature or supplies.

You can also write to Scott Publishing Co., Box 828, Sidney, OH 45365-0828.

For information about Linn's Stamp Identifier, check with a dealer in philatelic literature or supplies, or see the Linn's Bookstore.

Prefix abbreviations used in Scott catalogs
The abbreviations listed below are used in the Scott catalog listings as prefixes to identify stamps that serve a purpose other than standard postage. Other prefixes may be used in individual country listings. Country-specific prefixes are identified with the country name in brackets.
AR — postal fiscal MQ — Military parcel post RI — [U.S.] revenue potato tax
B — semipostal MR — war tax RJ — [U.S.] revenue tobacco sale
BK — booklet N — occupation regular issues RJA — [U.S.] revenue narcotic tax
C — air post NB — occupation semipostal RK — [U.S.] revenue consular service fee
CB — air post semipostal NC — occupation air post RL — [U.S.] revenue customs fee
CBO — air post semipostal Official NE — occupation special delivery RM — [U.S.] embossed revenue stamped paper
CE — air post special delivery NIMH — [G.B.] Northern Ireland Machin RN — [U.S.] revenue stamped paper
CF — air post registration NJ — occupation postage due RO — [U.S.] revenue private die proprietary
CL — air post semi-Official NO — occupation Official RP — [U.S.] revenue private die canned fruit
CM — [U.S.] R.F. overprints NP — occupation newspaper RS — [U.S.] revenue private die medicine
CO — air post Official NRA — occupation postal tax RT — [U.S.] revenue private die perfumery
CQ — air post parcel post O — Official RTV — [U.S.] revenue trailer permit
D — pneumatic post OL — local Official RU — [U.S.] revenue private die playing card
E — special delivery OX — [U.S.] post office Official seals RV — [U.S.] revenue motor vehicle use
EB — semipostal special delivery OY — [New Zealand] life insurance RVB — [U.S.] revenue boating
EO — special delivery Official P — newspaper RW — [U.S.] revenue hunting permit
EY — authorized delivery PN — [U.S.] postal note RX — [U.S.] revenue distilled spirits
F — registration PR — newspaper tax RY — [U.S.] revenue firearms transfer
FA — certified mail Q — parcel post S — franchise
G — insured letter QE — special handling SMH — [G.B.] Scotland Machin
GY — marine insurance QI — postal insurance T — [U.S.] telegraph
H — acknowledgment of receipt QY — parcel post authorized delivery U — envelope or letter sheet
J — postage due R — [U.S.] revenue UC — air post envelope or letter sheet
JQ — parcel post postage due RA — postal tax UO — Official envelope
K — [U.S.] offices in China RAB — postal tax semipostal UX — postal card
L — local RAC — air post postal tax UXC — air post postal card
LB — carriers' semi-Official RAJ — postal tax due UY — paid reply postal card
LN — local occupation RB — [U.S.] revenue proprietary UZ — Official postal card
LO — carriers' Official RC — [U.S.] revenue future delivery W — wrapper
LOX — [U.S.] typeset Official seals RD — [U.S.] revenue stock transfer WO — Official wrapper
LU — local envelopes RE — [U.S.] revenue cordials, wines, etc. WMMH — [G.B.] Wales & Monmouthshire Machin
M — military REA — [U.S.] revenue beer WV — [U.S.] sanitary fair
MC — military air post RF — [U.S.] revenue playing cards WX — [U.S.] Christmas seals
ME — military special delivery RG — [U.S.] revenue silver tax  
MH — [Great Britain] Machin definitives RH — [U.S.] revenue cigarette tubes