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 uncacheted.


AEROGRAMME - Postal stationary that is a single sheet which may be folded not an envelope, sealed and mailed at less than the air mail rate.

ALL-PURPOSE CACHET - A cachet with a general design that can be used for many different stamp subjects.

Air Mails


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 revenue stamps.

BLOCK - An unseparated grouping of four stamps forming a rectangle or square.

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 dispensers.

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 paper.

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, or stains.

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.



GRADE - The ranking of a stamp based on centering for mint stamps; centering and cancellation for used stamps. Click HERE to view Grading Descriptions.

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.

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.


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 into office.


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 similar occurrence.


LINE PAIR - A line of ink printed between two coil stamps at various intervals.

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 symbols.

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.

POSTAGE AND MAILING CENTRE STAMP. Stamps with a variable denomination or value.

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 Cancellation.

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.



REGUMMED - Considered to be the same as "No Gum" when grading stamps.

Revenue 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).


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 marks.

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.



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 Telecommunications.

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 Organization

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



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



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