This list of stamp terms is provided by the APS American Philatelic Society.
Click HERE for membership details.
The gum or coating on the back of a stamp
which allows you to attach it to an
A book for storing stamps. Most albums
consist of pages preprinted with stamp
images, although a stockbook with pockets to
hold stamps may also be considered an album.
A group of attached stamps at least two wide
and two tall.
A "page" of stamps from a booklet. Most
panes consist of at least six stamps.
A design or artwork on the left hand side of
an envelope, found primarily on first day
A mark used by the post office to show that
a stamp has been used.
The position of the design on a postage
stamp. On perfectly centered stamps, the
design is exactly in the middle (there is
equal spacing on all four sides between the
perforation and design).
Stamps sold in rolls. Two opposite edges
(most often the top and bottom) usually have
straight edges rather than perforations.
Coils are issued for use in dispensers or
vending machines or for automatic affixing
A stamp issued for a limited period of time,
usually at the first-class rate and in a
larger format than most stamps.
Commemoratives usually honor persons,
organizations, events or causes on
Broadly this refers to what shape the stamp
is in and will help in determining a stamp's
value. Condition considers questions such
as: Is the stamp cancelled? Is it hinged?
Does it have any flaws? How well it is
An envelope with a stamp or other means of
Used on most mail, generally these are
smaller size stamps printed in huge
quantities, often in a single color ink,
that are available from the post office for
an indefinite period of time which may be
The amount of postage which the stamp pays.
Another word for denomination.
First Day Cover
An envelope with a stamp canceled on its
first day of sale.
Adhesive that is used to attach a stamp to
Small pieces of gummed paper that are used
to affix stamps to an album page. Hinges
allow for stamps to be removed from an album
page without damaging the stamp.
A stamp sold without perforations or
A stamp in the same condition as originally
issued. This means it has its full gum and
has not been hinged.
An additional printing on a stamp that was
not part of the original design -- such as
additional words or symbols or even a new
value. Typically overprints occur when there
is not enough time to design and print a
whole new stamp needed for some special
reason or when rates increase. Precancels
and surcharges are the most common types of
The proper name for a sheet of stamps sold
at a post office. Most panes include a plate
number and other markings in the margin or
Holes punched between stamps to make it
easier for an individual to separate two or
more stamps. Collectors use a perf gauge to
measure the perforations helping them to
identify their stamp.
The hobby of stamp collecting.
A block of four or more stamps that has a
code (usually one or more numbers) printed
on the margin (selvage) identifying the
printing plate used in the stamps'
When a piece of mail is sent that does not
have the proper amount of postage affixed,
the post office will require the addressee
to pay the additional postage due. Hence, a
special type of stamp has been issued to
collect unpaid postage.
An envelope, card, or aerogramme sold by the
post office on which the image of a stamp is
preprinted. These stamps were printed as
part of the stationery and thus can not be
A mark indicating when and from where a
letter was sent. It may or may not also
serve as a cancel.
Stamps canceled prior to the mailing of a
letter. U.S. precancels often consist of a
city and state name between two black lines
and are used primarily by bulk mailers who
do some of the sorting of mail themselves.
The idea is to eliminate the need to cancel
the stamps; an effort to help to speed the
handling of mail.
Labels that do not pay postage but pay other
fees or taxes.
Two or more attached stamps with different
The margin of a pane of stamps that usually
includes the plate number and other markings
such as copyright notices.
Postage stamps which are used to raise funds
for a charity. These stamps are sold for
more than their postage value with the
difference supporting a cause or charity.
Stamps issued in a special format primarily
for stamp collectors. Most souvenir sheets
include only one of each stamp design and
usually have a special decorative border.
Christmas, Love, and Greeting stamps that
share some characteristics of definitives
(larger printing quantities and may be
reprinted) and some characteristics of
commemoratives (often larger size and
although they may be sold for longer periods
than most commemoratives they are still sold
for shorter periods of time than definitives).
A stamp that has been overprinted with a new
A subject or topic of stamps such as animals
Tweezer-like tools with a smooth gripping
service used to handle stamps.
Another word for thematic. A collection of
stamps based on subject rather than country.
A special mark incorporated into postage
stamp paper as a security device, making it
more difficult to counterfeit a stamp.
Watermarks are thinner parts of the paper
that sometimes may be seen by looking at the
back of a stamp but often require dipping in
special fluid to be visible.