THE POSTAL HISTORY OF ICAO
language of stamp and cover collecting
It is good
to remind some basic concepts and terms regarding stamps and covers occurring
in the language of philately. Most of these are used in the chapters displaying
the stamps related to the Organization.
- Block: Units of
two or more postage stamps not separated and arranged vertically or
horizontally. A Corner block is a block of four or more stamps from
any of the four corners of a sheet or pane of stamps, usually (but not
necessarily) with the margins. A block of 12 stamps could be four stamps across
and three down, or three across and four down, or even two across and six
down. Blocks normally have a regular rectangular shape, but you might also
encounter an irregular block, such as five connected stamps consisting of
two stamps in one row and three in another.
- Cachet: In
stamp-collecting parlance, cachet refers to a design or inscription added
as a decoration to an envelope or cover, a piece of postal stationery, or
a postal card. The cachet design may be printed, painted or drawn, or it
may be a label or a marking made by a rubber stamp. An add-on
cachet is a cachet that has been added to a previously uncacheted first
day cover after the first day of issue. The add-on could be hand-painted,
hand-drawn, computer printed, rubber stamped, a glued photograph to name a
few methods, and made in very limited edition, many are one-of-a-kind.
- Cancellation or Cancel: A mark
placed on a stamp by a postal authority to prevent its reuse.
- CDS: A circular
date stamp (CDS) is a circular postmark containing the date and
usually the place of mailing.
Proofs: are preproduction colour way matching proofs prior to
print press proofing using a laminated film/toner system. It is normal
that only one or two Chromalins are produced per item before progressing
to print proof stage; therefore, these items are extremely rare.
Proof: Impression of the approved colors taken prior to
Trial: Proof made in selected colors to permit a final choice
of color to be made.
- CTO: Stamps
that are cancelled-to-order (CTO) have cancels printed on them
without having been used. The cancels are either printed on the stamps at
the time the stamps are produced, or they are cancelled later. CTO stamps
can be distinguished from genuinely used stamps because they usually still
have full adhesive gum.
- Cover: An
envelope, letter sheet or postal stationery for mail. An envelope mailed
with no stamps on it is a cover, and there are also covers that have not
- Die Proof:
Impression from the completed die, for submission to authorities for final
- Error: The term
error has two very specific meanings. The first refers to stamps or postal
stationery that have one or more inadvertent, complete and consistent
printing or production errors, e.g. omitted colors, perforations, tagging
or any other completely missing step; inverts of color; improper color;
double printings or perforations. The second definition of an error deals
with stamp design; misspellings, typos or incorrect factual or design
information on a stamp give such issues design error status.
- First Day
City: is the city or town where the new issue firstly goes on
sale. Today, the designation of the city is largely ceremonial and the
stamps are supposed to go on sale in every post office on the first day of
issue. The first day city’s postmark is often abbreviated as FDOI for First
Day of Issue.
- First Day
Cover (FDC): Envelope or postal stationery items with
one or more stamps cancelled on the first day the stamps or stationery
were issued. The First Day Covers are either
commercially made or limited-edition add-on cachets.
- Freak: A freak
is differentiated from an error because it is a more random occurrence,
may occur inconsistently on numerous stamps, envelopes or postal cards.
Typical printing freaks include color shifts, over- or under-inking,
smears, nearly missing colors or ink contamination. Typical production
freaks include misperforated or miscut items.
pair: Two stamps, one on each side of a gutter, either
vertical or horizontal.
cancel: Cancellation applied by hand to deface a stamp.
- Imperforate or Imperf: A stamp
in the issued colors but without perforations.
- Margin: The
border outside the printed design of a stamp, usually beyond the
card: Post card made from a photograph of a working model of
a stamp demonetized and enlarged.
stamp or meter: Postage imprinted
directly onto an envelope by means of a meter machine.
Sheet: A miniature sheet (sometimes called Souvenir
Sheet) can be defined as a small sheet, different in format from
normal stamp sheets, containing one or more stamps, which are placed on
public sale and valid for normal postal use at the time of issue. The
selvage of the miniature sheet often bears special inscriptions. Stamps
on the miniature sheet can be in se-tenant position while the same stamps
were not se-tenants in regular issue. The first miniature
sheet was issued by Luxembourg in 1923 to celebrate the birth of the
Princess Elizabeth and this example was quickly followed by other
countries in the world.
- Oddity: Oddity
is a catch-all term to describe those desirable or collectable items that
don’t fit comfortably in the error or freak categories. Such items can
include all types of plate varieties, odd or unusual cancels, etc.
- Overprint: An overprint
is defined as a printed addition applied to the finishing stamp face that
does not alter or validate the face value of the basic printed stamp.
- Pair: Two
- Pane or Stamp
pane: Panes are the units into which sheets of stamps are
divided before delivery to the post office for sale.
initials or Perfins: Refers to letters
(i.e. company initials) or logos punched in adhesive stamps to discourage
theft of the stamps by employees. The practice ceased
with the introduction of postal metres. There are two general types of
Private perfins were used by commercial enterprises, whereas official
perfins were used by Federal or Provincial governments.
block (sometimes called a plate number block): A
specific type of stamp block that includes attached margin paper called
selvage imprinted with an identifying number for the plate or cylinder
that printed the stamps.
- Postmark: Marking
applied by the postal worker or machine giving place, date and time of
mailing. The term of postmark is usually used to refer to both the
postmark and the cancel.
stationery: Envelopes, aerogrammes, postcards or
wrappers bearing impressed postage stamps and issued by the post office
- Proof: Trial
impression from the die or printing plate before actual production.
Individual stamps issued in concert with other stamps that share similar
designs or commemorate the same subject. The sum of all stamps in a given issue
is called a set. Stamps in a set are most often issued on the same day,
but they might be issued individually over an interval of time. When
individual stamps or sets with similar themes are issued sequentially over
a period of time, the stamps and sets are known collectively as a series.
- Se-tenant: Many
stamp hobby terms have French roots, including the word “se-tenant,” which
is used to describe two or more stamps that are attached to one another
but have different designs.
- Sheet of stamps or Presse
sheet: A sheet is the complete printing unit of stamps as it comes
off the press, either as a sheet or part of a long roll called a web. Sheets
usually comprise two to 12 (or more) panes.
cancellation: Cancellation that contains a message.
- Specimen: A specimen
stamp is a sample postage stamp that a Postal Administration puts out to
introduce a new issue. It is usually overprinted or punched as such for
distribution to postmasters, to administrations, or to the Universal
Postal Union. Some are remaindered and thus become available to
- Stamp: Small
piece of adhesive paper that can be affixed to an envelope to send a
letter or bill through the mail.
- Souvenir sheet: See miniature sheet. The
postal authority that issued it generally intended it to be saved as a
souvenir, rather than to be used for postage.
- Surcharge: A surcharge
is defined as a specific type of overprint applied to the finishing stamp
face that alters, raises, or lowers the original face value in the same or
another currency. This usually accommodates inflation, currency change
and/or shortage of another denomination.
FDC: is a First Day Cover (FDC) cancelled in a city or at a
post office other than the one designated as Official first day
city. The term also refers to an FDC produced by a private company other
than the post office of the country.
- Variety: A stamp
with characteristics different from the normal state of the stamp.
proliferation of computers in printing, it may be interesting to remind the
variety of printing processes employed by the early cachetmakers. By
today’s standards, these 1930s cachets are primitive, not very colorful and, to
some, not very attractive; however, many pioneer cachetmakers overcame the
technical limitations of the printing arts.
1930s, for all but the most expensive, high-end printing presses, each color in
a printed piece required a separate pass through the machinery. Artwork was
restricted to simple generic line drawings that were supplied to printers and
non-generic artwork or photos that required processing. Text was first set by
hand, with each letter put into place on the printing form. Later, text was
generated for photo-offset presses by companies that specialized in typesetting
at an additional cost. Other types of high-end printers were later introduced.