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.