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Peter's Stamps

Glossary of Philatelic terms and abbreviations.

When scouring through philatelic publications and stamp lists, you may come across the odd abbreviation or term that means little or nothing to you. I believe this list covers most of them, but if you meet up with one which isn't here, please let me know so that I can include it!

AdhesiveA gummed stamp AlbinoOmission of colour from a stamp giving a colourless impression of the design AnilineA stamp printed with a fugitive ink or dye
BackstampAn 'arrival' postmark applied to the back of a letter BâtonnéPaper watermarked with straight parallel lines BisectA stamp cut in two halves, each for separate use
Blind perf.A missing perforation BlockA group of 4 or more unseparated stamps Blued (paper)Paper with a pale blue colouration
BogusAn unauthorized label purporting to be a stamp BurélageA stamp's security background: a network of lines or dots in the design   
CachetA commemorative inscription or special endorsement on a cover Cancel(lation)Any authorized defacing mark on a stamp CentredIndicating equality of margins in stamp design
Chalk-surfacedPaper coated with chalky solution ChangelingA stamp where the original colour has changed Charity stampStamp bearing a premium for charitable purposes
ClassicA distinction of quality or rarity in early stamps Coil stampStamp from a vending machine roll Comb perf.From a perforating machine with pins arranged as a comb
CommemorativeA stamp marking a special anniversary or event Compound perf.A stamp having two different perforations ControlsLetters and/or numbers in the sheet margin
CoverA postally used envelope, letter-sheet or wrapper CTOCancelled-to-Order. Stamps postmarked but not used Cylinder no.Marks in sheet margin identifying printing cylinder used
Dandy rollA wire-mesh roller used to produce a watermark in paper DefinitiveA stamp issued for regular postal use over a period of (usually) years DieThe original engraved plate of a stamp design
Doctor bladeA steel blade which wipes excess ink from the printing cylinder Duty plateA printing plate producing the country name and denomination   
EmbossingA form of printing giving a raised (relief) image EngravingThe art of cutting designs into metal, wood etc. EntireA complete cover
ErrorA mistake in a stamp's design or production EssayA trial design, differing from the issued stamp   
Face (value)The value of the stamp as expressed on the front of it FakeA genuine stamp altered to defraud collectors FiscalA revenue or tax stamp - not a postage stamp
ForgeryA fraudulent copy of a postage stamp or postmark FoxingBrowning of paper because of age or dampness Frank''Free' (of postage). Also a postmark indicating postage paid
Fugitive inkInk or dye which is not fixed in printing and will 'run' if wetted       
Granite paperA paper embodying very small coloured fibres Graphite linesAn aid to automatic sorting: dark vertical lines on the backs of some British stamps GumResinous mucilage on the backs of adhesive stamps
GutterThe space between stamps to permit perforations Gutter marginA margin dividing a sheet of stamps into (usually) 2 or 4 panes   
HandstampA postmark applied by hand (or the device used) Harrow perf.Perforation of the whole sheet in a single process   
ImperforateWithout perforations Imperf-betweenAdjoining stamps without separating perforations ImprimaturThe first trial sheets of early stamps produced before a print run was authorised
ImprintName of designer/printer or date printed in sheet or stamp margin Ivory headQueen Victoria's head, in reverse, on the back of early stamps printed on blued paper   
Jubilee lineColoured line in sheet margin, framing stamps      
Key plateA printing plate in common use together with duty plate      
Line-engravingThe process of steel or copper engraving in lines Line perforationPerforating method where each line of holes is produced individually - frequently resulting in overlapping of holes at the corners of stamps LithographySurface printing from a flat 'stone' or plate
LocalA stamp which has limited use and postal validity      
MachinBritish definitive stamps in use since 1967 designed by Arnold Machin Miniature sheetA small souvenir sheet of stamp(s) MintA stamp as issued but not used (see also MM & MNH)
MMMounted mint: a stamp previously hinged in an album but not used MNHMint, never hinged: unmounted mint MulreadyPictorial envelope and letter-sheet produced in 1840
Newspaper stampsStamps issued for payment of postage on newspapers      
Obligatory taxStamps issued as a means of raising revenue - compulsory use ObliterationA heavy, defacing cancellation ObsoleteNo longer available or valid for postal use
OfficialA stamp issued or overprinted for government use OffsetAn impression on a sheet of stamps from another laid on it Offset lithographySurface printing by cylinders
OverprintAdditional printing added to an existing stamp      
PairTwo unseparated stamps PaneSection of sheet of stamps with gutter margin or leaf from a stamp booklet PerfinsInitial letters or symbols perforating the body of a stamp
Perf(oration)sHoles punched in stamps for aiding separation. Gauged by number of holes per 2 centimetres PhosphorOverprinted with a flourescent coating PhotogravureA form of recess printing using photo-etching
Plate numberNumbers in sheet margins identifying the printing plate used PlatingReconstruction of a sheet of stamps from original plate PlugInsertions on a plate - values, repairs etc.
Postage dueUsed to collect fees on unpaid/underpaid letters PostmarkA mark applied to a letter etc, by the postal authority, to indicate date/time of posting, transit, arrival or special service PrecancelA stamp postmarked prior to use in bulk mail preparation
ProofA trial impression taken from an original die or plate ProvisionalA stamp issued for temporary use   
Quadrillé paperPatterned or watermaked with criss-cross lines      
Recess printingLine engraving. Recesses are formed on the plate Re-entryA double impression, visible on the stamp(s) RemaindersStocks of stamps remaining after an issue has been withdrawn from sale
ReprintsStamp printed after initial issue date RetouchA minor correction made to a printing plate or cylinder RouletteA form of perforation using a line of 'cuts' instead of holes
Se-tenantStamps which are joined but are different in value or design ShadeA minor variation in the colour of a stamp SpecimenA sample stamp, usually overprinted or perforated 'Specimen'
Stamp moneyMint stamps used as cash or coin during shortages SurchargeAn overprint which alters a stamp's face value (up or down)   
TabA label or coupon attached to a stamp Telegraph stampsUsed for prepayment of telegraph charges Tête-bêcheA pair of stamps where one is upside-down in relation to the other
ThematicRelating to the collecting of stamps by particular subject. Birds, Insects etc. TiedA stamp on a complete or part cover to show the whole postmark TypographyLetterpress or surface printing from relief plates
UnissuedPrepared, but not issued for postal use UnusedAn uncancelled stamp, not necessarily mint UsedA stamp properly used and postmarked
Used abroadA stamp of one country used in another      
VarietyA stamp which is abnormal because of an error or flaw VignetteThe central feature of a stamp design   
War stampsIssued and inscribed for use during war. E.g 'War Tax' WatermarkA device or pattern embodied within the paper WildingA British definitive (1952-68) bearing Queen Elizabeth's portrait by Dorothy Wilding
Window bookBritish stamp booklet with hole in cover showing a stamp within Wing marginAn extra flap of margin within the stamp WoodblockCarved on wood - as Cape of Good Hope triangular stamps
Wove paperA paper with a fine, even texture      
Zemstvo issuesRussian local posts and stamps, 1870-1890      

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