FDC Terminology

Click on term to see definition

  • add-on
    A cachet design added to a cover which was originally uncacheted. An add-on cachet should be identified by maker and date so that it is clear that it is not contemporary with the cover. Unfortunately, many add-ons are not so identified. [Back to top]
  • aerogramme
    Postal stationery characterized by a single sheet which may be folded into an envelope, sealed and then sent at a rate less than the air mail letter rate. Postage is usually but not always imprinted. Also known as aerogram. [Back to top]
  • AFDCS
    American First Day Cover Society. [Back to top]
  • all-over cachet
    A cachet design that covers most of or the entire face (front) of the envelope, as compared to one that occupies just the left side. [Back to top]
  • all-purpose cachet
    A cachet with a general design that can be used for any stamp subject. It has no specific theme. Also, general purpose. [Back to top]
  • alternate cancel
    Any first day cancellation from the official first day city, other than the official first day of issue postmarks supplied by the USPS. (These are sometimes referred to as semi-officials, or by the specific name of the cancel, such as plug, slogan, show or ship cancels, etc.) [Back to top]
  • AMF
    Air Mail Field. Found in many postmarks of postal facilities located in airports. [Back to top]
  • autographed
    An autographed envelope bears one or more signatures of individuals who are usually associated with the stamp. The autograph relationships may be the stamp subject, the designer, the localpostmaster, dignitaries present at the dedication ceremony, etc. Authenticity and possible mechanical application of an autograph are significant considerations. [Back to top]
  • auxiliary markings
    Postal markings which are occasionally found on First Day Covers such as "Registered," "Insured," "Return to Sender," "Postage Due __¢," etc. [Back to top]
  • B/4
    Block of four stamps. Also B4. [Back to top]
  • back stamp
    The arrival mark of the destination city which usually appears on the reverse of the cover. Most registered covers are back stamped on arrival. [Back to top]
  • booklet pane
    A sheetlet of stamps removed from a stamp booklet which may have one or more such panes. On FDCs it is desirable to include the tab which is used to bind the pane into the booklet. This may not be possible with some modern issues. [Back to top]
  • bullseye
    Also, bull's-eye.
    (1) The dial or circular portion of a postmark used by itself as a cancel.
    (2) Any circular postmark struck directly on the center of a stamp. (See socked-on-the-nose.) [Back to top]
  • cachet
    Any textual or graphic design which has been applied to a cover usually, but not always, on the left side of the envelope. A cachet may be produced by any means— printed, rubberstamped, handdrawn, etc. A first day cachet should be related specifically to the stamp on the cover. [Back to top]
  • cachetmaker
    One who designs and/or produces cacheted envelopes. Cachets may be identified by the artist's name, brand name, or manufacturing firm. [Back to top]
  • cancel
    The portion of a postmark which defaces or "kills" the stamp. Often loosely used interchangeably with "postmark." [Back to top]
  • CDS
    Circular date stamp, i.e., the dial or circular portion of the postmark. [Back to top]
  • ceremony program
    The printed program usually distributed by the Postal Service or sponsoring organization at the first day dedication of a new stamp. These are usually collected with the new stamp affixed and cancelled on the first day. [Back to top]
  • classic
    The period prior to 1930 during which few first day covers were serviced and cachets were not common. [Back to top]
  • coil
    Stamps produced in rolls for use in vending machines. They are characterized by two opposite edges being straight or imperforate. A horizontal coil stamp is imperforate top and bottom and a vertical coil is straight-edged at the left and right sides. [Back to top]
  • combo (combination)
    One or more thematically related stamps affixed to a FDC. Also, combination cover. [Back to top]
  • commemorative
    A stamp, usually of large format, which is issued to salute or honor a person, event, state, organization, place, etc. Typically issued on an anniversary in a multiple of 10, 50, 100 years, etc. and produced in limited quantities. Contrasted with "definitive." [Back to top]
  • contract station
    A sub-unit of a larger post office which is contracted to a private individual. Most contract stations are located in private business establishments. [Back to top]
  • corner card
    The imprint at the upper left corner of a cover which may be the return address or other identification of the sender. [Back to top]
  • counterfeit
    A stamp, postmark, or cachet created in direct imitation of a genuine item and intended to deceive. It is a Federal offense to counterfeit any postal marking or postal issue. [Back to top]
  • cover
    An envelope that has seen postal service or has a cancelled stamp on it, usually one with philatelic interest. May exemplify some segment of postal history or simply be a souvenir of an event or a place. [Back to top]
  • crash cover
    Any cover or FDC salvaged from the crash of a plane or vehicle in which it was carried. Usually bears postal markings explaining its damaged condition. [Back to top]
  • CXL
    Abbreviation for "cancel." Also, cxl. [Back to top]
  • definitive
    Stamp issued for an indefinite period in an indefinite quantity to meet an ordinary postal rate. Designs do not usually honor a specific time dated event or person; most frequently in small format. Contrasted with "commemorative." Also known as "regular issue." [Back to top]
  • designated first day
    The date officially announced by the Postal Service for the sale of a new postal issue. Many issues prior to 1922 had no designated first day. Covers cancelled prior to the designated dates are predates. [Back to top]
  • dial
    Circular portion of a postmark, usually containing the city, date and time. See bullseye. [Back to top]
  • dual cancel
    Two related or unrelated cancellations on a cover, each cancelling a stamp. One or both cancels may be for a first day. [Back to top]
  • duplex cancel
    A metal handstamp containing both cancel and postmark in a single unit. Often found on FDCs before the mid-1930s. [Back to top]
  • EDC
    Earliest documented cover. The earliest known postmark on a postal issue which had no designated First Day. Used interchangeably with EKU. [Back to top]
  • EFO
    Errors, Freaks and Oddities, ie. stamps, cachets, cancellations, etc. that contain unintended mistakes or design faults. [Back to top]
  • EKU
    Earliest known use. A designation for the earliest identified postmark on a stamp for which a first day of issue was not designated. [Back to top]
  • electric eye (EE)
    An electronic device which guides the perforating equipment during stamp manufacture. This is accomplished by heavy ink dashes in the selvage, which are used for detection and alignment. FDCs of EE stamps must have the selvage with dashes attached to the stamps. [Back to top]
  • embossing
    The process of impressing a design in relief into the paper of an envelope. [Back to top]
  • engraving
    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. Hence engraved cachets appear to have the design raised above the paper surface. [Back to top]
  • error
    A consistent abnormal variety created by a mistake in the production of a stamp or postmark. For example, the name of a city may be misspelled in the first day cancel. Used in contrast to "freak." [Back to top]
  • esoterica
    Any item, other than a cover or envelope, that has been first day cancelled that doesn't fit any of the regular collecting categories. [Back to top]
  • event cover
    A cacheted cover, not a FDC, prepared as a souvenir of a specific event or an anniversary of an event. [Back to top]
  • 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 honoring the same event as the stamp. [Back to top]
  • fancy cancel
    A cancellation which is or includes a design. The term is normally used for 19th century cancels which were created by local postal officials according to personal whim. Also, see pictorial. [Back to top]
  • favor cancel
    Any postal marking supplied as a favor or accommodation for a stamp collector. [Back to top]
  • FD
    First day. [Back to top]
  • FDC
    First day cover. [Back to top]
  • FDOI
    First day of issue. The slogan found in most first day cancellations since Sc. 795, released in 1937. [Back to top]
  • FFC
    first flight cover, ie. a cover flown on the inaugural flight of a new air route. [Back to top]
  • filler
    A stiff piece of paper, cardboard or plastic found inside a first day cover. It provides necessary stiffness for a clearer cancellation. It also protects the cover from bending when it travels through the mail stream. Fillers, also termed stuffers, occasionally are imprinted with an advertising message or information pertaining to the stamp or cachet on the cover.
    [Back to top]
  • first cachet
    The initial cachet commercially produced by a cachetmaker. [Back to top]
  • first day
    The day on which a stamp for the first time is officially sold by the Postal Service. [Back to top]
  • first day cover
    Cover with a new stamp(s) or postal indicia, cancelled on the first day. [Back to top]
  • flag cancel
    A cancellation used during the early 20th century incorporating a flag design. The stripes of the flag are the killer bars. Also, any more recent cancel with a similar design. [Back to top]
  • flocked
    A cachet production method in which powdered fibers are adhered to the envelope in the desired design. [Back to top]
  • forgery
    A fraudulently produced or altered philatelic item intended to deceive the collector. [Back to top]
  • frank
    A stamp, mark or signature that shows payment of postage on a piece of mail. (A signature, with no stamp or paid marking, is called a free frank. Free franks are available to congress and the President.) [Back to top]
  • freak
    An abnormal variety created by an unusual circumstance and not repeated with regularity. For example, a FDC may bear only a portion of a postmark because the cover was misfed into the cancelling machine. Used in contrast to "error." [Back to top]
  • general purpose
    A cachet with a general design that is non-specific and may be used with any stamp subject. Also, all-purpose. [Back to top]
  • hand cancel (HC)
    A canceller which is applied to stamps individually and by hand. May be manufactured of plastic, rubber or steel and is similar to a rubberstamp. [Back to top]
  • hand drawn (HD)
    A cachet applied to a cover by hand with pen, pencil, brush, chalk, or other art media. Each cachet is made individually and is an original. [Back to top]
  • hand made (H/M)
    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. [Back to top]
  • hand painted (H/P) or hand colored (H/C)
    A printed, hand drawn or hand made cachet to which hand painting or hand coloring has been added. [Back to top]
  • HPO
    Highway Post Office. The Post Office sorted mail on special motor vehicles in transit between cities. This system was in use from the late 1930s through the mid-1970s. FDCs were occasionally cancelled with HPO markings. [Back to top]
  • IA
    Ink addressed. Refers to the method of addressing a cover. [Back to top]
  • imprinter (machine) cancellation
    A cancellation obtained from an imprinter machine using a rubber die. This machine is used for round date, first day of issue, and pictorial cancellations. The size of an imprinter cancellation is usually significantly larger than a metal die cancellation of the same issue. [Back to top]
  • inaugural cover
    A cover cancelled on the day that a president is sworn into office. Since 1957 the words INAUGURATION DAY have been incorporated into the cancel. The site was usually Washington, DC, although other locations, like the president's city of birth, are now being designated. (In 1957 and 1985 the inauguration date fell on a Sunday. In both cases, covers of January 20, the private swearing in ceremony, and January 21, the date of the public ceremony, both exist, and both are considered collectible.) [Back to top]
  • indicia
    An imprint on postal stationery indicating prepayment of postage. The plural is also "indicia." [Back to top]
  • joint issue
    Two or more stamps issued by different countries to commemorate the same event, topic, place or person. Officially sanctioned joint issues are intentionally issued with the cooperation of the postal services of the countries involved. [Back to top]
  • killer bars
    The horizontal lines of a postmark which cancel the stamp. Since 1937 the FIRST DAY OF ISSUE slogan has appeared between the bars of most first day cancels. [Back to top]
  • LA
    Label addressed. Refers to the method of addressing a cover. [Back to top]
  • LL
    Lower left. Refers to the plate number or marginal marking position on a sheet of stamps. [Back to top]
  • LR
    Lower right. Refers to the marginal marking position. [Back to top]
  • LSASE
    A legal-sized stamped, self-addressed envelope. See SASE. [Back to top]
  • last day
    The final day of the sale of a stamp, a postal rate, post office operation or similar occurrence. A cover cancelled on this day is referred to as a last day cover. [Back to top]
  • lithography (litho)
    A common method of printing stamps and cachets in which the design is transferred from a smooth plate by selective inks which wet only the design portion of the printing plate. [Back to top]
  • local post
    A delivery service for mail that operates only in a small or isolated geographical area. In the US, local posts are not affiliated with the USPS. Many US local posts are operated by stamp collectors as part of their stamp collecting hobby. [Back to top]
  • luminescent
    The condition of a stamp or postal stationery which has been treated with chemicals which are sensitive to and glow under ultraviolet (UV) light. This permits automatic cancelling equipment to detect the position of the postage on the cover and to orient it for rapid mechanical cancelling. [Back to top]
  • machine cancel (MC)
    A cancellation applied by an automatic cancelling device or machine. [Back to top]
  • maximum card
    A picture (post) card with a reproduction of the stamp or related subject from which the stamp was derived. Maximum card specialists prefer that the card and the stamp be as directly related as possible, but not be reproduced. The attempt is to achieve maximum agreement or concordance between the stamp subject and post card. The stamp and cancel are usually placed on the illustrated side. This may be cancelled on the first day of the stamp. See "souvenir card." [Back to top]
  • Mellone catalog
    A series of cachet catalogs for various time periods. They feature cachet illustrations with assigned code numbers for identification. [Back to top]
  • Model D (machine) cancellation
    An official first day of issue cancellation obtained from a Model D machine using a metal die. The size of a Model D cancellation is usually significantly smaller than a rubber die cancellation of the same issue. [Back to top]
  • Mylar
    Dupont's trademark for a durable plastic (polyester) film often recommended for storing stamps or covers because of its excellent chemical stability and the protection offered. [Back to top]
  • nondenominated
    Stamp or postal stationery without denomination or value in the design. These were created by the Post Office in anticipation of postal rate change when the exact rates could not be determined in advance. [Back to top]
  • obliterator
    Another term for the cancel portion of a postmark which defaces or obliterates the stamp. [Back to top]
  • OE
    An abbreviation which indicates that a cover has been opened at the end or side. [Back to top]
  • official
    (1) Of or related to the Federal government. USPS postmarks are official markings.
    (2) Stamps or stationery issued for use by government departments in the course of official business. [Back to top]
  • official cachet
    (1) A cachet produced and applied by or for postal administrations. Official cachets are rare on US FDCs but are common for many other countries.
    (2) Loosely used to refer to cachets authorized or sponsored by an organization closely associated with the issuance of a stamp, more properly called a sponsored cachet. The word "official" is abused by some cachetmakers. [Back to top]
  • official FDC
    Any first day cover with an official government postmark. This term is often misused for covers with sponsored cachets. [Back to top]
  • offset
    A printing method in which the design is transferred by ink from the image to another surface and then applied to the paper. [Back to top]
  • OT
    An abbreviation indicating that a cover has been opened at the top. [Back to top]
  • PA
    Pencil addressed. Refers to the method of addressing a cover. [Back to top]
  • paraphilatelic
    Material, other than first day covers, that properly belongs in a FDC exhibit, including ceremony programs, official USPS new issue announcements or promotion material and souvenir pages and panes. [Back to top]
  • patriotic or patriotic cachet
    Design with patriotic or nationalistic theme, most often used to bolster public spirit during periods of war or national stress. [Back to top]
  • PB
    Plate block. A group of stamps with the plate number in the selvage. May contain four or more stamps depending on the configuration of the printed numbers. [Back to top]
  • peelable label
    A self-stick label that can be easily removed from a cover without leaving adhesive or blemish. Used for addressing covers—later removed to create unaddressed covers. Refers to the method of addressing a cover. [Back to top]
  • philatelic center
    A post office window or station where most currently available stamps may be purchased by collectors. Created for the convenience of stamp collectors. Also postique. [Back to top]
  • photocachet
    A cachet consisting in part or entirely of a photograph. [Back to top]
  • pictorial
    A cancellation incorporating a pictorial design. Pictorial first day cancels were used by the US from 1958 to 1962 and are becoming more widespread on FDC issues of the 1980s and 90s. Many postiques each have a unique pictorial cancel. Many non-FD pictorial cancels are available nationwide, and are used for a limited time at special public or philatelic events. [Back to top]
  • Planty Catalogue
    Catalog of US cachets, for various year periods in individual volumes, assembled by Prof. Earl Planty. Planty identification designations are referred to as Planty Numbers. [Back to top]
  • plug cancel
    Colloquial name for a round, double circle marking, officially known as a validator stamp. The plug is chiefly used on postal receipts and registered envelopes. Also called a registry cancel or round-dater. [Back to top]
  • PNC
    (1) Plate number coil, ie. a coil stamp with a plate number thereon.
    (2) Philatelic-numismatic cover, ie. a cover with a cancelled stamp and a visible coin on the front, both thematically related. May be a FDC for the stamp. [Back to top]
  • POD
    Post Office Department, the predecessor of the USPS. Also USPOD. [Back to top]
  • polysleeve
    Any of a variety of generally clear plastic sleeves, usually closed on two or three sides, to contain covers so they may be handled without soiling or damage. [Back to top]
  • postage due
    Stamps issued to indicate a penalty for insufficient postage. Postage due stamps are not used to pay postage, yet some issues are known on FDCs. These FDCs were cancelled inadvertently or by favor. [Back to top]
  • postal card
    A government produced post card with an indicia indicating prepayment of postage. [Back to top]
  • postal stationery
    Postal cards, aerogrammes, and envelopes on which postage has been imprinted. Created as a convenience for the public so postage need not be applied. [Back to top]
  • postcancelled (post dated, back dated)
    A cover which has been cancelled on a date later than that indicated on the postmark. [Back to top]
  • post card
    A privately produced card usually bearing an illustration on one side and spaces for message, address and postage on the other. [Back to top]
  • postique
    A special station or location at a post office where collectors may obtain currently available stamps. Each office usually has its own pictorial cancellation. [Back to top]
  • postmark
    A postal marking which indicates the time and point of origin of the mail to which it is applied. Often loosely used interchangeably with "cancel." [Back to top]
  • precancel
    Stamps or stationery issued by the Post Office with words or lines printed thereon which prevent further use of the stamp. Precancelled stamps need not be cancelled again during mail handling. The standard first day postmarks, however, are applied to FDCs of precancels. [Back to top]
  • predate
    A cover with a stamp cancelled earlier than the officially designated first day of sale. Predates usually are created when stamps are sold prior to the official release date, contrary to postal regulations. Predates can exist only for issues with a designated first day date. [Back to top]
  • presentation album
    Album containing a pane of a new stamp which is distributed to each dignitary at a first day dedication ceremony. The album may have the recipient's name engraved on it. Traditionally, the first album is always for the President of the United States. [Back to top]
  • Presidentials
    The 1938 series of definitive stamps featuring the Presidents of the United States. [Back to top]
  • Prexy
    An informal alternative term to designate the 1938 Presidential series of definitives. [Back to top]
  • PR
    Pair of stamps. [Back to top]
  • printed cachet
    A cachet design type that is produced by printing, using any one of many methods. [Back to top]
  • program
  • rag content
    Pertains to the use of cotton fiber rather than wood pulp in the manufacture of envelopes. High rag content or 100% rag envelopes resist the ravages of time much better than do wood fiber covers, which contain processing chemicals that eventually discolor the paper and make the envelope more brittle. [Back to top]
  • rate
    Refers to the amount of money charged for a postal service. [Back to top]
  • regular issue
    Stamp issued for an indefinite period and quantity for ordinary postal use. See definitive. [Back to top]
  • RPO
    Railway post office. A system once used by the POD to process mail in railroad cars enroute between cities. A distinctive cancel was used and FDCs exist with RPO postmarks. [Back to top]
  • registry cancel
  • RSA
    Rubberstamp addressed. Refers to the method of addressing a cover. [Back to top]
  • RSC
    Rubberstamp cachet. [Back to top]
  • rubberstamp (R/S) cachet
    A cachet applied to a cover using a rubberstamp. This method or device was very popular in the 1930s. [Back to top]
  • SASE
    Self-addressed stamped envelope or SAE — self-addressed envelope. See also "LSASE." [Back to top]
  • Scott
    Philatelic publishing company that produces Scott catalogues. A Scott (Sc.) number refers to a Scott catalogue number to identify a stamp—a widely accepted practice. [Back to top]
  • second day cover
    A cover postmarked on the day following the first day of issue. These were popular in the 1940s when the stamps were available at the Philatelic Agency in Washington DC, on the second day. [Back to top]
  • self-adhesive
    A pre-gummed postage stamp on a peelable backing which requires no moisture for affixing to an envelope. [Back to top]
  • selvage
    The edges of a stamp pane beyond the perforations—including the portions that contain marginal markings as plate numbers, copyright notice, and other symbols/text. The plain selvage is usually removed from stamps when preparing FDCs, except for plate numbers and other collectible markings. Also spelled "selvedge." [Back to top]
  • service
    The act of affixing a stamp to and having it cancelled on a cover. [Back to top]
  • servicer
    One who performs the act of servicing. Frequently a person who does so on a commercial and large volume basis. [Back to top]
  • SGL
    Single stamp. Also "sgl." [Back to top]
  • ship cancel
    A cancellation applied aboard a vessel—most frequently US Navy although there are others. Ship cancels are fairly common but such strikes on FDCs are considered unusual because they represent a special effort in order to be obtained. [Back to top]
  • show cancel
    Special cancellation designed for and applied at a philatelic show or exhibition station. [Back to top]
  • silk cachet
    A cachet type with a pictorial design printed on a piece of fabric with a silky finish. [Back to top]
  • slogan cancel
    A cancellation with a message incorporated, such as—"Mail Early In The Day" or "Fight Tuberculosis." [Back to top]
  • socked-on-the-nose (SOTN)
    Designation for a stamp where the circle of the postmark falls exactly on the center. Another designation for "bullseye." [Back to top]
  • souvenir card
    A commemorative card, usually with reproductions of previously issued stamps and an inscription, issued by postal authorities in conjunction with a special philatelic event. The card or stamp units cannot be used for postal purposes but are often enhanced by collectors with an actual stamp and cancel. [Back to top]
  • souvenir program
  • station cancel
    A cancellation applied at a temporary postal station established for a convention, exhibition, or other special event. [Back to top]
  • stuffer
  • tagged
    Stamp or postal stationery which has had the postage area treated with a material sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light, so that the cover can be mechanically oriented for cancelling. Also luminescent. [Back to top]
  • thematic
    A type of exhibit or collection that centers on a theme that is developed using a wide variety of philatelic material. [Back to top]
  • thermography
    A printing method for producing raised designs by use of a special powder and heat. Often called, "poor man's embossing." [Back to top]
  • tied
    The cancellation overlaps the stamp, falling on both the postage and the cover, thus affirming that the stamp was affixed prior to the postmarking. Also may be applied to non-postal labels or adhesives to show contemporaneous usage. [Back to top]
  • toning
    A deleterious condition of a cover resembling darkening or discoloration caused by excess gum at the edge of the stamp or a stain from the gum of the envelope flap. May also result from chemicals used in the production of inexpensive envelopes. [Back to top]
  • topical
    Often used interchangeably with "thematic." [Back to top]
  • trade name
    A name or identification assigned to a cachet line by the producer. Example: Washington Press produces Artcraft Cachets.

    [Back to top]
  • UA
    Unaddressed. A cover which does not have an address. [Back to top]
  • UL
    Upper left. Refers to the position of stamp marginal markings. [Back to top]
  • uncacheted
    A cover which has no cachet design. [Back to top]
  • unofficial cancel
    A private, non-postal marking, usually resembling an official postmark, applied to a stamp or cover. [Back to top]
  • unofficial FDC (UO)
    A FDC cancelled with other than the official FIRST DAY OF ISSUE slogan cancel or official first day pictorial cancelled suppled by the USPS for the first day. For FDCs before the initial use of the FDOI slogan, this term refers to any city other than that which was officially designated. (There is much controversy among specialists and purists about this definition. Some dislike the use of the word "unofficial" as all postmarks are official cancellations of the USPS. Some would like to make a further distinction between stamps purchased in the official FD city, versus stamps sold in error on or before the FD in cities other than the FD city. Both of these are points well taken, but basically UOs are any FDC serviced in the city of issue or another location with any cancel other than the official FD cancel supplied by the USPS. A UO FDC must have the correct first day date.) [Back to top]
  • UO
    Unofficial first day cover. [Back to top]
  • UR
    Upper right. Refers to the position of the marginal markings on stamp selvage. [Back to top]
  • Universal Postal Union (U.P.U.)
    Established in 1874, the U.P.U. successfully established one set of international postal rates. Before this time, it was possible to send mail to a destination using a variety of postal rates using different postal routes as defined by a variety of different postal agreements in effect. [Back to top]
  • usages
    Ways in which stamps are used, such as first class, printed matter, drop rate, surface rate to foreign destinations, air mail, post card, etc. Usages also include the use of stamps to pay for auxiliary services such as certified, insured, registered or express mail. [Back to top]
  • USPS
    United States Postal Service, established in 1971. The successor of the United States Post Office Department. [Back to top]
  • validator

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