Stamp Glossary

Here are some stamp collecting terms that we have compiled.

Airmail Stamp  

Stamp issued specifically to prepay postage for mail carried by air.

Approvals  

Look before buying" opportunity where stamps are sent to a collector for examination. Approvals offer the collector a wide range of material to choose from and must be bought or returned to the dealer within a specified time

Block  

Stamp collecting terminology for four or more attached stamps forming a square or rectangle.

Booklet Panes  

Small, specifically-printed sheets of stamps sold in a booklet format.

Cachet  

Illustration or description on an envelope denoting the commemorative purpose for which it was mailed.

Cancellation  

Stamp collecting term for any mark applied to a stamp to prevent its reuse.

Centering  

The position of the design on a stamp. On perfectly centered stamps, the design is exactly in the middle.

Coil Stamp  

Stamp produced in a roll for use in vending machines. Usually identified by a pair of straight edges on opposite sides.

Commemorative Stamp  

Stamp issued specifically to honor a person, place or event; usually on sale for only a short period of time.

Commemorative Sheet  

A small sheet of stamps bearing a commemorative inscription.

Cover  

An envelope, postcard or any other wrapper used to mail correspondence.

Cut Square  

The cut corner of a postal stationery item (envelope or postcard) bearing the imprinted stamp with ample margins.

Definitive  

Stamp issued for ordinary postal use that remains on sale for an extended period of time.

Denomination  

The monetary value printed on a stamp.

Die  

The stamp design is engraved on this small flat piece of soft steel used to print the stamp.

Duck Stamp  

Issued annually since 1934, these U.S. duck hunting permits help finance the federal waterfowl program.

Embossed Envelope  

An envelope bearing a postage stamp with raised surface designs printed on the envelope itself.

Errors  

Stamp collecting terminology for highly-collectible stamps because of something incorrect in their design or manufacture.

First Day Cover  

Envelope or card postmarked on the affixed stamp's first day of use.

First Flight Cover  

Envelope or card carried on the inaugural mail flight between two points.

Grill  

Series of small dots embossed on a stamp allowing ink from the postmark to sink in, thus preventing cleaning and reuse of the stamp.

Gum  

Stamp collecting terminology for the coating of glue on the back of an unused stamp.

Hinges  

Small gummed, glassine strips used to affix stamps to album pages.

Imperforate Stamp  

Stamp collecting terminology for a stamp bearing straight edges on all four sides.

Invert  

Stamp with one part of its design upside down in relation to the rest of the stamp.

Mint  

Stamps in original unused condition, never canceled.

Mint Sheet  

An entire sheet of stamps in original unused condition.

Official Stamp  

Stamp valid solely for government agency use.

Overprint  

Any printing added to a stamp after the original printing was completed.

Pair  

Two unseparated stamps joined either vertically or horizontally.

Perforations  

Holes punched between stamps on a sheet to facilitate separation.

Perforation Gauge  

Stamp collecting terminology for a device that measures the number of perforations on a stamp per two centimeters.

Philately  

Technical name for stamp collecting.

Pictorial  

Stamp that features a view such as a landscape or seascape, rather than a portrait, coat of arms or other symbolic design.

Plate Block  

Four or more attached stamps still fastened to the margin on which the number of the printing plate is inscribed.

Postal Stationery  

Envelopes, cards or other covers bearing imprinted or impressed stamps.

Postmark  

Marking on a postal item recording the date and/or origin of its transit through the mail system.

Precancel  

Stamp collecting terminology for a stamp canceled by the post office before it is sold.

Revenue Stamp  

Any stamp that indicates payment of a tax or fee.

Rouletting  

The use of slits or cuts between stamps to facilitate separation.

Self-Adhesive  

A stamp with a pressure-sensitive adhesive that does not require moistening to affix the stamp to paper.

Selvage  

Stamp collecting terminology for unprinted paper around panes of stamps, sometimes called the margin.

Semi-Postal  

Stamp from which all or part of the sales receipts go to charity or other causes.

Se-Tenant  

Term describing adjoining stamps that differ from each other in design, denomination or some other aspect.

Surcharge  

Stamp collecting term for overprint altering or establishing a stamp's face value.

Tab  

Illustrated or descriptive label attached to a stamp.

Tongs  

Stamp collecting term for metal tweezers used for safe and easy handling of stamps.

Topicals  

A group of stamps with the same theme, such as space travel or Disney cartoons.

Unused  

A stamp with no cancellation or other sign of use.

Used  

A stamp that has been canceled.

Watermark  

Stamp collecting term for design or pattern in paper formed during the manufacturing process, valuable as a security precaution against forgery.

Watermark Detector  

A method of safely determining the existence of a watermark by placing a stamp in a tray filled with special fluid.