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Glossary of Philatelic Terms For Stamp Collectors

This is only a very simple glossary of GB philately terms. For a much more comprehensive reference we suggest acquiring a copy of Philatelic Terms Illustrated from your philatelic dealer or bookshop.

ADHESIVE: A gummed postage stamp.

ALBINO: A colourless design impression.

BLIND PERFORATION: A perforation which has not been fully punched and cleared.

BLOCK: A group of four or more joined stamps of the same design.

BOGUS: A spurious, pretend or faux postage stamp.

BOOKLET: A small book containing 'panes' of stamps.

BOOKLET PANE: A complete page of stamps taken from a booklet.

CACHET: A commemorative marking usually applied to covers by a handstamp.

CANCELLATION: An officially authorised obliteration mark on a stamp.

CENTRE: The positioning of a postage stamp's design within the frame formed by perforations.

CHALKY PAPER: The paper of a postage stamp which has had a chalky coating applied for security purposes meaning attempts to remove a postmark will damage a stamp.

CHARITY STAMP: A stamp sold at a premium price or surcharged for a charitable cause.

COIL STAMP: A postage stamp from a roll used in vending machines.

COIL JOIN: A visible connecting tab that joins sections within a roll of coil stamps.

COMMEMORATIVE: Special postage stamp issued to commemorate a special anniversary or event.

COVER: An envelope, letter-sheet or wrapper that has been postally used.

CYLINDER: Letters, numbers or markings printed in sheet margins to identify print cylinders.

DIE: A plate engraved for pressing stamp designs in to softer metal.

DOCTOR BLADE: A printer blade which removes surplus ink from printing cylinders. Stamps affected by faults in this process are often referred to as Doctor Blade errors or flaws.

ERROR: An visible error that affects a postage stamp design or its production process.

ESSAY: A printed trial of a stamp design which may be adopted or unused for postage stamps.

FACE VALUE: The value of a stamp as detailed in its design as either a monetary or service value.

FAKE: A genuine postage stamp that has been altered deliberately to try and deceive collectors.

FDC: Abbreviation term for First Day Cover.

FIRST DAY COVER: A cover displaying postage stamps postmarked on the official first day of use.

FLAW: A printing fault that affects a postage stamp design often creating a collectable 'variety'.

FORGERY: A fraudulent copy of a postage stamp, overprint or postmark intended to avoid payment of postage or deceive collectors.

GREETINGS STAMP: Postage stamp created for social use sending birthday, Xmas or other types of greeting cards and letters.

GUTTER: A space between stamps in a sheet to permit perforation.

GUTTER MARGIN: A blank margin that divides a sheet of stamps into separate panes.

GUTTER PAIR: A pair of stamps of the same design joined by the gutter margin.

HANDSTAMP: An official postmark or overprint that is applied manually.

IMPERFORATE: Postage stamps issued without perforations to seperate them either deliberately or due to error.

IMPRINT: The designer, printer or issuing authority name included on stamps or in the sheet margins.

IMPRINTED STAMPS: Stamps printed directly on to pre-paid postal stationery items such as postcards, aerogrammes etc.

LOCAL: A stamp, usually privately produced, that has limitations of postal use and validity.

MACHIN: The name given to the Queen Elizabeth II definitive stamp issues bearing the Queen's head profile design created by Arnold Machin.

MARGIN: The largely blank edging that surrounds or divides a sheet of stamps.

MINIATURE SHEET: A sheetlet of one stamp, a set of stamps or several associated stamps issued as a philatelic souvenir.

MINT: A stamp in unused state with gum intact.

OVERPRINT: An additional print on to a stamp's design.

PAIR: Two stamps still joined as issued.

PANE: Stamps still within the printed sheet.

PERFORATIONS: Holes punched between postage stamps to allow easy separation.

PHOSPHOR STAMPS: Stamps overprinted or coated with phosphorescent bands or coatings recognised by mail sorting machines.

PLATE NUMBER: Letters or numbers in sheet margins or in stamp designs which identify printing plates.

POSTMARK: A mark that cancels a postage stamp and indicates an item's posting date and routing through the mail system.

PROOF: A trial printing impression of a postage stamp taken from an original die or printing plate.

PROVISIONAL: A stamp, often overprinted and/or surcharged, that is issued only for temporary use.

REMAINDERS: Stamps that remain in stock after becoming obsolete.

REPRINTS: Previously withdrawn postage stamps printed again as opposed to printing an additional supply of currently used stamps which is usually described as a 'new printing'.

ROULETTE: Stamps that use a line of small cuts instead of perforations to allow easy seperation.

SELF-ADHESIVE: Postage stamps which don't require manual moistening to stick.

SE=TENANT: Stamps of a different design or value that are joined together vertically or horizontally.

SPECIMEN: Sample postage stamps which usually have the word 'specimen' overprinted on them (or perforated).

SURCHARGE: An overprint that alters a stamp's face value.

TETE-BECHE (tête-bêche): A french term meaning 'head to head' and used to describe a pair of stamps where one is inverted relative to the adjoining stamp.

UNUSED: A postage stamp that has not been cancelled but might not have gum and is not necessarily mint.

USED: A postally used stamp that displays a postmark.

USED ABROAD: Postage stamps of one country that are used and postmarked in another country.

VARIETY: A stamp that displays a visible difference in design or production detail from the norm.

WATERMARK: A security measure where a visible image or emblem is caused by deliberately thinning paper during stamp production.

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Glossary of Philatelic Terms For Stamp Collectors

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