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Philatelic Glossary

If some of the terms that we use throughout the website don't make sense to you, you will find them here, in our glossary. With our list of terms you will be able to understand exactly what it is you will be buying.

A stamp affixed to envelopes by means of gum on the reverse. Some stamps are printed directly onto postcards, envelopes or wrappers. See Postal Stationery.

Lightweight postal stationery, otherwise known as Air Letter Sheets, used for the economical transmission of letters by air.

Airmail Stamp
A stamp produced specifically for use on airmail letters/parcels although usually valid for postage on any mail.

Block of Stamps
Any multiple of unsevered stamps, other than a complete pane or sheet, which contains at least two parallel rows of stamps in any direction.

Many post offices sell stamps in small books, either over the counter or from vending machines, or both. Booklets may contain definitive, commemorative or self-adhesive stamps.

Booklet Pane
A small "page" of stamps in a stamp booklet. The panes are sometimes made up of mixed-value stamps, popular with some collectors. Some panes contain a mix of stamps and non-postally valid labels advertising postal services or products.

A printed, embossed or (usually) handstruck inscription or device impressed on a postal packet to denote the special circumstances in which it has been posted (usually an exhibition). The cachet may be official and applied by the Post Office or one of its overseas agents.

A mark applied to a stamp to prevent its re-use. Usually referred to as a Postmark.

Charity Stamp
A stamp sold at a premium over its face value, the premium supporting a worthwhile cause.

Cinderella Stamps
A term used to denote all manner of stamps and labels produced by official and private postal services, which are not mainstream postage stamps as listed in the main catalogues.

Coil Stamps
Stamps prepared in rolls or coils to be dispensed by shops or vending machines.

Commemorative Stamps
Stamps designed to commemorate current or historic events and personalities and nowadays on sale for only a limited period. A Jersey Post commemorative issue is generally withdrawn after two years after its issue.

Composite Stamps
Stamps in which the design is spread over two or more stamps.

Cylinder Blocks
Printed marks appear on the stamp margin (selvedge). Blocks of stamps with the marks printed on the selvedge are popular with collectors.

Implements for applying a date to postal matter. The term is also loosely used to denote the postmarks made by these instruments. Stamps affixed to envelopes may bear a postal cancellation but CTO (cancelled to order) items, ie mint or unaffixed stamps, will receive a Philatelic Bureau cancellation.

The stamps in general use, often of small size and featuring a monarch or other national symbol. Usually on sale for at least five years.

A method using a stamp to create texture.

Europa Stamps
Uniform designs of the Conference of European Posts and Telecommunications Authorities were used by the member countries until 1974, when it was decided that stamps should be issued in a common theme; the interpretation of which was left to individual countries. Guernsey's first Europa design was produced in 1976. These stamps incorporate the Europa logo of CEPT.

A mistake in the design of a stamp, such as an incorrect spelling or inscription, or a mistake in the printing that results, perhaps, in a stamp with a missing colour or without perforations.

Face Value
The postal value expressed on a stamp, not to be confused with the value to a collector, based on stamp catalogue valuation.

First Day Cover
A cover bearing new stamps cancelled on the day of issue, normally with a special "First Day" postmark.

Greetings Stamp
A stamp specially designed for use on greetings mail, such as birthday cards, Valentine's Day mail, Get Well cards, etc. Some countries call them "Love Stamps".

The gutter is the blank space, usually of stamp format, between the panes of a sheet of stamps. A gutter pair consists of two stamps separated by a stamp-sized piece of the gutter.

Strictly speaking, the implement used to apply a postmark by hand, but often used loosely to signify the postmark itself. Historically, some overprints were applied by means of handstamps.

The name of the printer (or designer) in the margin of the stamp. Sometimes the imprint appears in the sheet margin instead of on each stamp.

Any printed information on a stamp, usually giving the reason for issue.

Used stamps on paper collected and sold by weight.

Offset Lithography
The most common form of commercial printing. Its basic principle is that oil and water do not mix. A litho-printing plate has non-image areas that absorb water. During printing the plate is kept wet so that the ink, which is inherently greasy, is rejected by the wet areas and adheres to the image areas.

The paper bordering the stamps on a sheet, as well as the blank paper bordering the printed image on the stamps themselves.

Miniature Sheet
A small sheet containing one or more stamps with inscribed or decorated border. The full, intact sheet is valid for postal use, as are the stamps removed from it.

Non Value Indicator Stamps
Stamps bearing a symbol to show the class of postage they are valid for but without a specified face value. They sometimes remain valid for full postage after postal rates have increased.

Stamps no longer on regular sale at post offices, but usually still valid for postal use.

An inscription printed on a stamp after manufacture, often to commemorate an event or anniversary or a stamp exhibition.

Otherwise known as photographic lithography, photogravure is a photographic image produced from an engraving plate. The process is not commonly used by small companies due to the costs involved, but it produces prints that have the subtlety of a photograph and the art quality of a lithograph.

Pictorial Postmarks
Handstruck marks and machine impressions which include a pictorial element. Usually a First Day Cancellation or sponsored handstamp.

Plate Number
A numeral, occasionally with a letter suffix, usually inscribed on the sheet margins to denote the plate from which stamps were printed - for example 1A.

Postage Due Labels
Labels, sometimes loosely described as stamps but without postal validity in themselves, employed by many postal authorities to denote the charge to be raised from the addressee for unpaid or underpaid correspondence.

Postal History
A term used to describe covers of the pre-stamp era, ie before 1840. Also used for post-1840 covers of particular interest - unusual postmarks, scarce postal rates, etc. A somewhat misleading term.

Postal Stationery
Postcards, envelopes, wrappers, etc, on which the postage stamp has been directly printed. Should be kept intact. Where the stamps have been removed they are known as "cut outs".

A mark, applied by hand or machine, to cancel the stamp and thus prevent re-use. Also a general term for any postal markings applied to mail.

Presentation Pack
A folder containing a set of stamps with relevant background information.

Prestige Booklet
A stamp booklet that contains special panes of stamps with illustrations and descriptive text.

An impression made during the production of stamps. For use only by printers and postal administrations, these are not available to collectors.

Stamps printed from the original plates as a result of a particular issue selling out.

Stamp printed on specially gummed paper that will adhere directly to envelope without moistening. The stamps are thus sold attached to backing paper, which can be peeled, from the self-adhesive paper for attachment to mail. Such stamps are normally produced in booklets or rolls.

The imprinted edge of a sheet of stamps.

Pairs, strips, or blocks of stamps of different values or designs printed together. Such se-tenant stamps should not normally be split by collectors.

Souvenir Sheet
A small sheet containing one of each stamp in a given issue sold alongside the set of individual stamps. They are also available in FDC and in Presentation Packs.

Sponsored Handstamp
A handstamp paid for by a private individual or organisation to mark a specific event. The handstamp remains the property of the post office.

A popular form of collecting stamps on a particular theme or topic, such as Animals, Sport or Works of Art, rather than those of specified countries.

Traffic Lights
Term used by collectors to denote the check dots or colour dabs (to use printers' jargon) printed in the sheet margins of stamps printed by modern offset litho or photogravure methods. They assist in checking that all the colours have printed correctly. Blocks of stamps from the corner of the sheet, including the "traffic lights", are collected as a matched pair with the block showing the cylinder numbers.

Normally a fairly small printing flaw which renders a stamp different from most in a sheet of stamps. Of minor interest to the beginner, but of significance to advanced collectors.

A hard backed book, containing all the stamps from a year's issues, with photographs and information on each topic.