US Stamps

What to do when you can’t find a definitive stamp in the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog

May 3, 2021, 7 AM
This digitally cropped image shows a partial listing of the United States Flag issue of 2007 taken from the Identifier of Definitive Issues found in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

Editor’s Insights — By Donna Houseman

The editors of the Scott catalogs frequently receive inquiries from collectors on how to find a regular-issue, or definitive, stamp in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers.

Definitive stamps are the workhorses of postage stamps. They are the stamps routinely found on mail. Definitive stamps are generally smaller in size and have simpler designs than commemoratives and special stamps. 

The same design is frequently used for several different formats (panes, coil rolls, and booklets), making it difficult for collectors to determine what stamp they have.

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For this reason, the Scott U.S. Specialized catalog provides a handy Identifier of Definitive Issues as part of the introductory material, preceding the actual listings of U.S. stamps.

The Identifier of Definitive Issues was added to the Scott U.S. Specialized beginning with the 1978 catalog.

All U.S. regular issues are listed in the identifier in order of design number, the number listed under the stamp illustrations preceding the catalog listings. The design number is also known as the illustration number, or type number.

The identifier is intended to be used as a pictorial guide to finding definitive stamps in the Scott catalog. To use this feature, find the picture that most looks like the definitive stamp you have in your collection.

Once you find the picture that looks like your stamp, look at the listings below the picture. Find the description that matches your stamp. The Scott number is found at the end of each listing. 

Using the Scott number, you can find your stamp by going to the Scott number within the body of the catalog. This process leads you to the correct stamp, where you will find the detailed listing, including the current values for the stamp.

The image pictured with this column shows a digitally cropped partial listing from the identifier section.

The identifier is especially helpful to collectors trying to identify stamps from lengthy definitive series issued over a period of several years. The Flora and Fauna issue of 1988 to 2001 comes to mind.

The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog is the most essential reference work for collectors of U.S. stamps.

The 2017 catalog is still available. The 2018 Scott U.S. Specialized catalog will be placed on sale in October of this year.

2018 SCOTT CATALOG U.S. Specialized
Buy the NEW 2018 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Specialized Catalogue of U.S. Stamps & Covers direct from & Save over $35 off MSRP!