Handout #2: Philatelic Elements for Thematic Collectors

AN ALLIANCE HANDOUT …… helping collectors

Number 2:

Philatelic Elements for Thematic Collectors

Experienced thematic collectors and exhibitors realize that there is a long list of elements that could be used in creating and organizing their unique collections and exhibits. Many others involved in the hobby, however, are not aware of the great variety of elements that can be used in their collections/exhibits. The listing below had been adapted from an article that appeared in the Best Of The Philatelic Exhibitor, ’86 – ’96, by Joan R. Bleakley, in collaboration with Darrell R. Ertzberger and John Hotchner, to assist the beginning exhibitor.

It is not meant to be a complete compilation but rather a handy reference for the seeking of a variety of possible elements to add to one’s collection/exhibit. Further, it should be understood that it would be neither possible nor desirable, to find examples of every element to include in anyone collection. Obviously, many elements would not exist for individual topics.

A good philatelic glossary would be invaluable, if further explanations are needed for elements not familiar to the collector/exhibitor. Another option would be to ask at the next stamp club meeting. Perhaps someone knowledgeable on this topic could lead a discussion on the many elements available.

This handout was prepared for the GTAPA clubs by Peter Butler, July ’04, and updated Nov. ’05.


• Original Drawing: submitted by an artist and accepted for consideration by postal authorities for stamp designs.

• Essay: proposed design, submitted to, and rejected by postal authorities, or adopted  after changes have been made.

• Photo Essay: photograph of design with measurements and notations.

• Proofs: trial impressions from the die or printing plate before actual production.

• Engraver’s Progress Proofs: impressions taken by the engraver at intervals to check the progress of his work.

• Die Proofs: impressions from the completed die, for submission to authorities for final approval.

• Plate Proofs: impressions from the completed plate.

• Colour Trials: proofs made in selected colours to permit a final choice of colour to be made.

• Colour Proofs: impressions of the approved colors taken prior to printing.

• Rainbow Proofs: Trials, produced to test various colored inks cancellations and paper.

STAMPS AS ISSUED (most are catalogue listed)

Booklet stamps (preferably full pane if all one motif or related se-tenants)

• booklet covers

• booklet labels (shown with pane or booklet)

• plate numbers (or other marginal markings).

Coil Stamps: (should be shown in pairs)

• line pairs .

• plate numbers (best shown in strips of three or five for U.S. )

Sheet Stamps: (perforated, rouletted, or imperforate when issued as such) plate, zip, arrow, mail early and copyright blocks

• other marginal markings (printed, hand- stamped)

• se-tenant pairs and blocks, tabbed issues

• triptych (three joined stamps of different but related designs)

• tete-beche pairs

• bisects, trisects, quadrisects watermarks

Self-stick issues

Joint issues

Geometric shaped (triangles, diamonds, etc.)

Discount postage (stamps issued at reduced price, chiefly for publicity)

Encased postage and other monetary usages

Expedition stamps:

• scientific (e.g. Shackleton Antarctic Expedition, 1908)

• military (e.g. Liberian Field force, IEF of India)

Express or Special Delivery

Military franks

Value inserted stamps

Miniature sheets

Souvenir sheets

Local issues (valid within a limited area or postal administration)

Newspaper stamps

Occupation issues (for use in territory occupied by a foreign power)

Official stamps

Parcel post stamps

Postage due stamps

Provisional issues

Marine insurance

Special fees

Late fees

Railway letter fees

Plebiscite issues

Revenue issues:



Telegraph stamps

Military telegraph

War tax stamp


• Framas

• Postal Buddy Cards

• Meter Imprints

OFFICIAL VARIETIES (Official Government Issued)

Perforations (different measurements, methods)

Experimental Perforations and roulettes perfins (e.g. OHMS)

Precancels (different types and styles)

Tabbed or otherwise treated for use in automated equipment

Printed Information On Reverse, attached label, or selvage

Specimens, black prints and other publicity items

Surcharges (revalued issues)

Overprints (geographic, commemorative, etc.)

Mirror Prints

Gum Varieties

Watermark Varieties

Paper Varieties

Test Stamps (for testing or dispensing machines)

Post Office Training Stamps

Carrier Stamps (charge for conveying mail to or from local post offices)


Shipping Company Stamps (prepaying mail carried or mail-ships or packet boats)

Obliterated Stamps (e.g. portraits of deposed or deceased rulers


perfins; business, charity, (preferably on cover with comer card)

UNPLANNED VARIETIES (EFO’s): Errors (as a result of the production process, but not favor made)

• imperforate in one direction

• fuIly imperforate

• imperforate between

• perforations of the wrong gauge on one or more sides

• perforations inverted on souvenir sheets

• perforations fuIly doubled or tripled

• complete color missing

• tagging missing

• inverted tagging

• inverted design

• inverted embossing

• multiple surcharges

• inverted surcharge

• multiple overprints

• inverted overprint

• overprint or surcharge on back of stamp

• lettering errors (misspelled, wrong name, etc.)

• gutter between two complete stamps

• wrong color/ink (intended for a different stamp)

• double print

• wrong value stamp

• colors reversed

• missing overprint, surcharge, or precancel

• printed on reverse

• paper errors:

• printed on wrong color paper

• wrong, incomplete, or changed watermark

• other constant errors (worthy of catalogue listing)

FREAKS: minor production varieties, usually not repeated and rarely catalogue listed:

• gutter snipes

• ink smears, flaws and blots

• offsets (from flat plate printed sheet laid atop another)

• misperfs (one direction, two directions, diagonal)

• partially perforated

• colour shifts (misregistration of colour)

• miscuts

• over or under inked

• color partially missing

• foldovers, foldunders

• creases (pre-printing)

• creases (pre-perforating)

• minor shade/color differences

• partial stamp printed on reverse

•partially doubled overprint or surcharge rejection markings (indicating printer’s waste to be destroyed)


• Plate varieties (double transfer, layout lines, position dots)

• design errors and ghosts

• intentionally created varieties:

• color changelings

• altered stamps (attempts to create higher value stamps)

• rotary coil end strips

• flat plate coil paste-ups

• private perfs

• local overprints

• cancels that change the design

• intentionally produced gutter pairs

• provisional overprints

• stolen printer’s waste

• unauthorized bisects


• folded letters

• stampless covers

• air mail

• balloon post

• camp mail (concentration camp, POW camp, Displaced persons, etc.)

• catapult mail

• censored mail

• combination franking (stamps of more than one country)

• crash covers

• cross-border mail

• field post

• First Day Covers

• first flight

• free franks

• glider mail

• international organizations (U.N., Red Cross, etc.)

• military (APO, FPO)

• naval ships mail

• official government mail

• official cachets

• packet Letters

• pacquebot

• parachute mail

• pigeon Post

• pneumatic Post

• rocket Post

• ship letters

• special event covers

• zeppelin mail


• imprinted envelopes

• postal cards

• letter cards

• Reply paid cards

• aerogrammes

• airgraphs

• air letter sheets

• V Mail

• wrappers for newspapers and periodicals

• printed-to-order envelopes; produced/ authorized by postal authorities.

• folded advertising letters (e.g. France, Germany)

• printed-to-order postal cards

• formula cards (France, etc.)

• echo cards (Japan)

• postal telegrams (e.g. Germany, Great Britain)

MAXIMUM CARD: picture postcard tying together an illustration, a stamp and a cancellation in a common theme usually related to the stamps itself.


• air mail etiquettes

• registration

• official seals

• fiscals

• postal Fiscals

• telegraph

• charity (Christmas seals)

• special delivery

CANCELLATIONS: (should be tied to a piece or on cover, if possible.)

• postmarks

• town circles

• metered mail

• 19th and 20th century fancy cancels

• pictorial

• slogan

• traveling post office (TPO)

• highway post office (HPO)

• mobile post office (MPO)

• railway post office (RPO)

• military (field post, APO, etc.)


• airmail

• registered

• certified

• backstamps

• receiving marks

• forwarding

• return to sender: better address, proper postage, service suspended, etc.

• undeliverable

• refused/unclaimed

• postage not valued

• unmailable

• censored

• postage due

• C.O.D.

• insured

• transit

• directory makings

• special delivery

• night delivery

• carrier comments

• weight markings


BOGUS STAMP: a completely fictitious “stamp” created solely for sale to collectors; or an actual stamp with an unauthorized surcharge or overprint. (These are not forgeries as the stamp never officially existed.)



Christmas seals (when tied to the cover), propaganda stamps

COUNTERFEIT: any stamp, cancellation or overprint created for deception or imitation, intended to be passed as genuine. (Similar to FORGERY)

FACSIMILE: reproduction of a genuine stamp with no intent to deceive collectors or postal officials (e.g. illustrations).

FAKE: a genuine stamp that has been altered to make it more attractive to collectors (e.g. altered color, added or changed postmark, repaired, reperfed, regummed, etc. to make a more valuable variety). .

FORGERY: a complete fraudulent reproduction of a genuine stamp intended to defraud; they are generally classified into two types:

• philatelic forgeries made to defraud collectors.

• postal forgeries made to defraud the postal service.


official receipts



stamp shipment wrappings and labels


All elements used in a thematic exhibit should have postal connotations. The item must have been:

•  initiated by the postal service;

• introduced by the postal service (e.g. overprints, cover or postal stationery cachets, marginal markings etc.);

• or approved by the postal service.

• If none of the above, their inclusion should be explained.



1) the primary or secondary design.

2) the purpose of issue or circumstance of issue.

3) the relation of the design or issue to the theme.

• Material should always be in the best possible condition given its source, age, and generally availability.

• Overprints can change the theme; over-prints unrelated to the design should be used for the overprint.

• Postal stationery cannot be windowed; the entire cover or card is the issued item.

• Underpaid or overpaid postage should be explained.

• First day and special event covers with privately printed cachets should be selected for the stamps and/or cancel, not the cachet.


• Mixed subjects on covers (confuses the theme).

• Postmarks, etc. without indication of postage paid.

• private information such as addressee or addressor, except for those granted free franking privilege.