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