LIST OF PHILATELIC WORDS, TERMS AND
A list of vocabulary words and terms used in the hobby
of collecting stamps and first day covers.
ADD-ON - A cachet design added to a cover which was originally
AEROGRAM - See AEROGRAMME.
AEROGRAMME - Postal stationary that is a single sheet which may be
folded not an envelope, sealed and mailed at less than the air mail
ALL-PURPOSE CACHET - A cachet with a general design that can be used for
many different stamp subjects.
BACK-OF-THE-BOOK - Stamps that are normally listed in the back of the
catalogue after the regular stamp issues. This might include air mail,
special delivery, semi-official, official, postage due, local issues,
stamped envelopes, post cards, hunting permit stamps, essays, and
BLOCK - An unseparated grouping of four stamps forming a rectangle or
BOURSE - A gathering of a group of dealers and collectors at which
stamps, first day covers, and supplies are bought, traded, and/or sold.
CACHET - A design found on an envelope describing an event.
CANCELLATION - The marks place by postal authorities which may indicate
date, rate, route, or place of the mailing. Similar term to Postmark.
COLOUR ABBREVIATIONS - Click HERE for a listing of colour abbreviations
commonly used by dealers.
COILS - Stamps issued in rolls for use in vending machines or
COMMEMORATIVES - Special issues to honour important people or events.
CONDITION - Factors that can assist in determining the value of a stamp.
Factors include colour, selvage, plate or die variations, unusual
cancels, faults, hinging, gum, and markings.
COVER - An envelope that has been sent through the mail.
CUT CORNER - An area in the upper right corner of an envelope or card
that has been removed from the original piece.
DEFINITIVE'S - Regular issues of postage stamps that are normally sold
for a longer period of time. Normally printed in large numbers.
EMBOSSING - The process of impressing a design in relief into the paper
of an envelope.
ENGRAVED - A method of printing in which the lines of the design are cut
into metal, which are recessed to retain the ink. The paper is forced
under pressure into these lines to pick up the ink. Therefore the
engraved cachets appear to have a design raised above the surface of the
ERROR - A consistent abnormal variety created by a mistake in the
production of a stamp or postmark.
EVENT COVER - A cacheted cover prepared as a souvenir of a specific
event or an anniversary of an event.
EVENT PROGRAM - A list of events or speakers in any program related to
the stamp release, such as a stamp show, any function at which a stamp
is released, or any event honouring the same event as the stamp.
FANCY CANCEL - A cancellation which is or includes a design.
FAULTS - Factors that can decrease the value of a stamp. Factors include
thin spots, creases, short or torn perforations, missing pieces, tears,
FILLER - A stiff piece of paper or cardboard found inside a First Day
Cover. It provides necessary stiffness for a clearer cancellation. It
also provides protection to help prevent the bending of the cover as it
travels through the mail.
FIRST CACHET - The first cachet commercially produced by a cachetmaker.
FIRST DAY - The day on which a stamp for the first time is officially
sold by the Post Office.
FIRST DAY COVERs - Envelopes with a new postage stamp and a cancellation
showing the date and place where the stamp was first issued. Some covers
will have a cachet (design) on the envelope describing an event.
FORGERY - A fraudulently produced or altered philatelic item intended to
deceive the collector.
FRANK - A stamp, mark or signature that shows payment of postage on a
piece of mail.
GENERAL PURPOSE - See ALL-PURPOSE
GRADE - The ranking of a stamp based on centering for mint stamps;
centering and cancellation for used stamps. Click HERE to view Grading
GUM - The coating of glue or adhesive on the back of an unused stamp.
HAND CANCEL - A cancel that is applied to stamps individually and by
HAND COLOURED - A printed, hand drawn or handmade cachet to which hand
painting or hand colouring has been added.
HAND DRAWN - A cachet applied to a cover by hand with pen, pencil,
brush, chalk or other art media.
HANDMADE - A cachet applied to a cover by hand by adding seals,
paste-ups, collage or similar materials. Each cachet is made
individually and is an original.
HAND PAINTED - See HAND COLOURED.
HIGHWAY POST OFFICE - The Post Office sorted mail on special motor
vehicles in transit between cities. This system was used from the late
1930s through the mid-1970s.
HISTORICAL COVERs - Envelopes that are cancelled with reference to an
historical event. For example, the inauguration of a new president. See
also EVENT COVER.
INAUGURAL COVER - A cover cancelled on the day that a president is sworn
JOINT ISSUE - Two or more stamps issued by different countries to
commemorate the same event, topic, place or person.
LAST DAY - The final day of a postal rate, post office operation or
LETTER SHEET - See AEROGRAMME.
LINE PAIR - A line of ink printed between two coil stamps at various
LIGHTLY HINGED - A stamp with full gum with only slight evidence of
hinge marks or disturbance.
LITHOGRAPHY - A common method of printing stamps and cachets in which
the design is transgerred from a smooth plate by selective inks which
wet only the design portion of the printing plate.
LUMINESCENT - The condition of a stamp which has been treated with
chemicals which are sensitive to, and glow under, ultraviolet light.
Military Telegraph Stamps
MAXIMUM CARD - A picture postcard with a reproduction of the stamp or
related subject from which the stamp was derived.
MINIATURE SHEET - A single stamp or group of stamps with a margin on all
sides with a special design or wording.
MINT - A stamp in the same condition as the day that it was printed.
MINT NEVER HINGED - A stamp that has never been hinged.
NEVER HINGED - A stamp with full gum without hinge marks or disturbance.
NO GUM - A stamp without gum.
NONDENOMINATED - Stamp or postal stationary without denomination or
value in the design.
OFFICIAL - Related to the Federal Government.
OFFSET - A printing method in which the design is transferred by ink
from the image to another surface and then applied to the paper.
ON PIECE - A stamp will is attached to an original piece of paper,
envelope, postcard, etc.
ORIGINAL GUM - Stamps after 1890 should have full, original gum.
OVERPRINT - Printing that was added to the original stamp.
PACKET - A sorted grouping of all different stamps.
PEELABLE LABEL - A self-stick label that can be easily removed from a
cover without leaving adhesive or blemish.
PERFORATIONS - The lines of small holes or cuts found between rows of
stamps which makes it easier to separate them.
PERFORATION GAUGE - A tool used to measure perforations.
PHILATELIST - An individual who enjoys collecting and/or studying stamps
and other postal items.
PHOTOCACHET - A cachet consisting in part or entirely of a photograph.
PICTORIAL - A cancellation incorporating a pictorial design.
PICTORIALS - These are stamps with pictures instead of portraits or
PLATE BLOCK - A block of stamps with an attached margin that shows the
plate number used to print the stamps.
PLATE NUMBER COIL - A small number that appears between two coil stamps
at various intervals.
PLATE NUMBERS - Numbers assigned to plates used in printing stamps.
POSTAGE DUE - Stamps issued to indicate a penalty for insufficient
POSTAGE AND MAILING CENTRE STAMP. Stamps with a variable denomination or
POSTAL CARD - A government produced post card with a design indicating
prepayment of postage.
POSTAL STATIONARY - Aerogrammes, envelopes or postal cards with a stamp
design embossed or printed on them.
POST CARD - A privately produced card usually bearing an illustration on
one side and space for postage, message, and address on the other.
POSTMARK - The marks place by postal authorities which may indicate
date, rate, route, or place of the mailing. Similar term to
PRECANCEL - Stamps issued by the Post Office with words or lines printed
thereon which prevent further use of the stamp.
PRINTED CACHET - A cachet design type that is produced by printing,
using any one of many methods.
REGULAR ISSUE - See DEFINITIVES
REGUMMED - Considered to be the same as "No Gum" when grading stamps.
SELF-ADHESIVE - A pre-gummed postage stamp on a peelable backing which
requires no moisture for affixing to an envelope.
SELVAGE (or SALVAGE) - The edge of paper that frames a sheet of stamps.
SE-TENANT - An attached strip, pair or block of stamps that are
different in design or value.
SHEET - A sheet of stamps produced by a government postal authority.
SHIP CANCEL - A cancellation applied aboard a vessel.
SHOW CANCEL - Special Post Office cancellations designed for and applied
at a philatelic show or exhibition station.
SILK CACHET - A cachet type with a pictorial design printed on a piece
of fabric with a silky finish.
SPECIMEN - Members of the Universal Postal Union are required to send
samples of new stamps they place in service to member nations. Many are
overprinted, hand stamped or perforated with "Specimen," "Cancelled," or
"Muestra." These markings prevent use as postage and all items of this
nature are known as "specimens."
SOUVENIR SHEET - A small sheet of stamps with a special commemorative
inscription or decorative border (selvage / salvage).
STUFFERS - See FILLER
SURCHARGE - This is an overprint that changes the denomination of a
stamp from its original face value.
TAGGED - Stamps marked with phosphorescent material that could be
detected by ultraviolet-light sensing equipment.
TIED or TIED ON - Refers to the link between a cancellation and the
stamp. The cancel extends beyond the stamp onto the cover or card.
UNUSED - The condition of a stamp when it does not have any cancellation
USED - The condition of a stamp when it has been cancelled.
WATERMARK - A design pressed into stamp paper when it is manufactured.
Designs may sometimes be seen by holding the stamp to a strong light.
STANDARD PHILATELIC ABBREVIATIONS
Adm - Administration
AFDCS - American First Day Cover Society
AFL - American Football League; Australian Football League; American
Federation of Labour.
Anniv - Anniversary
APU - Arab Postal Union
APS - American Philatelic Society
ASDA - American Stamp Dealer's Association
ASEAN - Association of South East Asian Nations
ASPCA - American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Assoc - Association
b - Born
BEB - Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Bicent - Bicentennial
Bklt - Booklet
Blk or blk - Block of stamps
BOB - Short for back-of-the-book.
Brit - British
btwn - between
Bur - Bureau
c. or ca - Circa
CAR - Central African Republic
Cat - Catalogue
Cent - Centennial; centenary; century.
CEPT - Conference Europeenne des Administrations des Postes et des
CIO - Congress of Industrial Organizations
Conf - Conference
Cong - Congress
Cpl - Complete; Corporal
Cplt - Complete
CTO - Canceled to order
d - Died
Dbl - Double
DDR - German Democratic Republic (East Germany)
EC - European Community
ECU - European currency unit
EEC - European Economic Community
EF - Extra fine or extremely fine condition of a stamp.
EKU - Earliest known use
Engr - Engraved
Exhib - Exhibition
Expo - Exposition
F- Fine condition of a stamp.
F-VF - Fine to very fine condition of a stamp.
FAO - Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations
FD - First Day
FDC - First Day Cover
FDOI - First Day of Issue
Fed - Federation or Federal
FFC - First Flight Cover
FIP - Federation International de Philatelie
GB - Great Britain
Gen - General
GP - General purpose
GPO - General Post Office
HC - Hand cancel
H/C - Hand coloured
H/D - Hand drawn
H/M - Handmade
Horiz - Horizontal
H/P - Hand painted
HPO - Highway Post Office
IA - Ink addressed
ICAO - International Civil Aviation Organization
ICY - International Cooperation Year
ILO - International Labour Organization
Imperf - Imperforated
Impt - Imprint
Intl - International
Invtd - Inverted
IQSY - International Quiet Sun Year
ITU - International Telecommunications Union
ITY - International Tourism Year
IWY - International Women's Year
IYC - International Year of the Child
IYD - International Year of the Disabled
IYSH - International Year of Shelter for the Homeless
IYY - International Youth Year
L - Left
LA - Label addressed
LH - Lightly hinged
Lieut - Lieutenant
Litho - Lithographed
LL - Lower left
LP - Line pair
LR - Lower right
LSASE - A legal-sized stamped, self-addressed envelope.
MC - Machine cancel
mm - millimetre
MNH - Mint never hinged.
Ms - Manuscript
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Natl - National
NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NG - No gum
NH - No hinge
No or Nr - Number
NSTA - National Science Teachers Association
OAU - Organization of African Unity
OE - Cover has been opened on the end
OG - Original gum
OPEC - Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries
OT - Cover has been opened at the top
Ovpt - Overprint
Ovptd - Overprinted
P# - Plate number
PA - Pencil addressed
PB or pb - Plate block.
PDG - Philatelic Dealer's Group
PDR - People's Democratic Republic
Perf - Perforated
Phil - Philatelic
Photo - Photogravure
PMC - Postage and Mailing Centre stamp.
PNC - Plate numbered coil
PR or Pr - Pair of stamps
P.R. - Puerto Rico
PRC - People's Republic of China (Mainland China)
Prec - Precancel; precancelled
Pres - President
R - Right
RG - Regummed
Rio - Rio de Janeiro
ROC - Republic of China (Taiwan)
RPO - Railway Post Office
RSA - Rubberstamp addressed. South Africa.
RSC - Rubberstamp cachet.
SAE - Self-addressed envelope.
SASE - Self-addressed stamped envelope.
SEATO - South East Asia Treaty Organization
SGL or sgl - Single stamp
Sgt - Sergeant
Sht - Sheet
Soc - Society
Souv - Souvenir
S/S - Souvenir sheet
SSR - Soviet Socialist Republic
St - Saint; street.
Surch - Surcharge
Typo - Typographed
UA - Unaddressed
UAE - United Arab Emirate
UAMPT - Union of African and Malagasy Posts and Telecommunications
UK - United Kingdom
UL - Upper left
UN - United Nations
UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund
Univ - University
UNPA - United Nations Postal Authority
Unwmkd - Unwatermarked
UO - Unofficial First Day Cover
UPU - Universal Postal Union
UR - Upper right
US or USA - United States; United States of America
USPO - United States Post Office
USPS - United States Postal Service
USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
UV - Ultra-violet
Vert - Vertical
VF - Very fine condition of a stamp.
VP - Vice president
WCY - World Communications Year
WFUNA - World Federation of United Nations Associations
WHO - World Health Organization
Wmk - Watermark
Wmkd - Watermarked
WMO - World Meteorological Organization
WRY - World Refugee Year
WWF - World Wildlife Fund
WWI - World War I
WWII - World War II
YAR - Yemen Arab Republic
PHILATELIC COLOUR ABBREVIATIONS
amb - amber
anil - aniline
ap - apple
aqua - aquamarine
az - azure
bis - bister
bl - blue
bld - blood
blk - black
bril - brilliant
brn - brown
brnsh - brownish
brnz - bronze
brt - bright
brnt - burnt
car - carmine
cer - cerise
chlky - chalky
cham - chamois
chnt - chestnut
choc - chocolate
chr - chrome
cit - citron
cl - claret
cob - cobalt
cop - copper
crim - crimson
cr - cream
dk - dark
dl - dull
dp - deep
db - drab
emer - emerald
gld - gold
gldn - golden
grysh - grayish
grn - green
grnsh - greenish
hel - heliotrope
hn - henna
ind - indigo
int - intense
lav - lavender
lem - lemon
lil - lilac
lt - light
mag - magenta
man - manila
mar - maroon
mv - mauve
multi - multicoloured
mlky - milky
myr - myrtle
ol - olive
olvn - olivine
org - orange
pck - peacock
pnk - pink
pnksh - pinkish
Prus - Prussian
pur - purple
red - red
redsh - reddish
res - reseda
ros - rosine
ryl = royal
sal - salmon
saph - sapphire
scar - scarlet
sep - sepia
sien - sienna
sil - silver
sl - slate
stl - steel
turq - turquoise
ultra - ultramarine
ven - venetian
ver - vermilion
vio - violet
yel - yellow
yelsh - yellowish