Stamp terms

View a glossary of commonly used stamp terms.

Aerophilately: A specialised area of collecting, concentrating on airmail stamps and/or mail items transported by air.
Backprint: Printing on the reverse of a stamp. Some stamps have numbers, symbols, advertising or information about the stamp subjects printed on the reverse of the stamps.
Backstamp: A postmark applied to mail by the receiving post office or by a post office handling the piece while it is in transit. Not commonly used today.
Bilingual: Inscribed in two languages. For example, most Canadian stamps include both English and French text.
Bilingual pair: Two unseparated stamps of the same design but in different languages.
Block: Unseparated stamps forming a square or rectangle.
Barcode block: Any part of a sheet of stamps that contains a printed barcode. Barcode blocks on the bottom and left-hand selvedge are A format and barcode blocks on the top and right-hand selvedge are B format.
Logo block: The section at the bottom right-hand side of a sheet of stamps that contains the New Zealand Post logo.
Plate/Imprint block: The bottom left-hand corner of a sheet of stamps containing the name of the printer and designer. This block also includes the colour bars used by the printer during the printing process.
Value block: The top right-hand corner of a sheet of stamps, containing the dollar value of the entire sheet.
Burelage: A design of fine, intricate lines to discourage counterfeiting and prevent the cleaning and reuse of a stamp.The burelage on some stamps is part of the stamp design.
Cachet: A design or description rubber stamped on a cover in addition to the postmark. The cachet explains the reason for the special mailing - e.g. exhibitions, pack-horse mail and new airmail routes. Cachets appear on modern first day covers, first-flight covers and special-event covers.
Cancellation: Also known as a date stamp or a postmark, the impression appended by postal administrations worldwide to indicate that a stamp has been used for postal purposes and cannot be reused.
Cancelled to order (CTO): Stamps that are cancelled, but not affixed to paper.
Catalogue value: The value of a stamp as listed in a given catalogue for the most common condition in which the stamp is collected.
Chalon Head: The name given to the first New Zealand stamp issue, so called because it bore a portrait of Queen Victoria originally painted by the artist Chalon.
Changeling: A stamp whose colour has been changed - intentionally or unintentionally - by contact with a chemical or exposure to light.
Charity stamp: A stamp sold at a price greater than its postal value, with the surcharge going to charity - e.g. New Zealand Health Stamps.
Cinderella: A stamp-like label that is not a postage stamp. Cinderellas include seals and bogus issues, as well as revenue stamps, local post issues and other similar items.
Coil: (Also known as a dispenser box) Self-adhesive stamps prepared in a long single roll and prepared for sale in rolls of 100.
Colour separation: Separating the stamp by colours to make negatives and plates for colour printing. The four-colour process requires four separations: cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK).
Commemorative: Stamps that are usually on sale for one year from issue date. They are issued to commemorate a person, achievement, event or anniversary.
Crowned circle: An early type of postal marking used in New Zealand.
Datestamp: The instrument used to cancel stamps. The term also describes the impression that is made by this instrument.
Definitive issue: Stamps issued specifically for ordinary everyday postal needs and on sale for an unspecified period (commonly four or five years).
Denomination: The postage value as printed on the stamp.
Expertisation: The examination of a stamp or cover by an acknowledged expert to determine its authenticity.
Face value: The value of a stamp as noted on its face.
First day cover: An unaddressed envelope on which stamps are affixed. The stamps are postmarked or cancelled on the first day of issue, or the first day of an event recorded by the cancellation date.
First side-faces: New Zealand stamp issue with a left-facing portrait of Queen Victoria (1874-1882).
Fiscals: Stamps issued mainly for duty, fine or tax purposes. 
New Zealand Post Definitives were inscribed ëPostage and Revenueí between 1882 and 1953 to indicate they could be used fiscally or as postage.
Full-Face Queens: Popular term for New Zealand's first adhesive stamps with the full-face portrait of Queen Victoria.
Gutter: The selvedge separating panes on a sheet of stamps. The gutter is usually discarded during processing. The gutter may be unprinted or bear plate numbers, accounting or control numbers, advertising or other words or markings.
Gutter pair: Two stamps, one on either side of a gutter panel from a sheet of stamps.
Health stamps: Stamps that carry a surcharge that is donated to the Children's Health Camps (Te Puna Whaiora) throughout New Zealand, and have been issued annually by New Zealand Post since 1929.
Hinges: Small, gummed, rectangular-shaped pieces of glassine paper. Folded, a hinge is affixed to the back of a stamp and the album page.
Imperforate: Stamps without perforations or a separation device between them on a sheet.
Invert: Any error where one portion of a stamp is printed upside down in relation to the rest of the design.
KiwiStamp™: Non-denominated stamps which will always be worth the required postage of a Standard Post™ medium letter. These stamps are issued by New Zealand Post. 
Marcophily: The specialised collecting of postmarks.
Margin: The unprinted border around the actual design of a stamp. Also synonymous with ‘selvedge’.
Maximum card: A maximum card (also known as a maxicard) is a postcard with a postage stamp, of similar theme, placed on the picture side of the card. The collecting of maximum cards is known as Maximaphily.
Miniature sheet: A sheet of stamps issued in a small format. A miniature sheet usually contains between one and six stamps of varying denominations and the stamps are printed within an illustrative panel.
Mint: A stamp that is unused, undamaged and with full original gum. Handling, light and humidity may over time impact on the mint condition of a stamp.
Mounts: Vinyl or plastic holders, clear on the front and with gum on the back. Stamps and philatelic items are placed inside the mounts then mounted into an album.
Non denominated stamps: Stamps which can be used for the same level of service following a postage rate increase (eg. Kiwistamps)
Non value indicated Stamps: Usually aimed to be the standard post rate. Elimiates the need for printing new stamps or overprinting stamps when a new postage rate occurs. 
Obliteration: The defacing of a stamp to prevent its reuse.
Official stamps: Stamps used on government correspondence. Various New Zealand stamps were overprinted ‘official’ between 1907 and 1954 for such a purpose.
Overprint: Any printing over a stamp after the original production has been completed.
Pair: Two unseparated stamps.
Paquebot: Cancellation indicating an item was mailed aboard a ship. This term is French for ‘packet boat’.
Perfins: Stamps perforated through the face with identifying initials, designs or holes in coded positions to protect businesses and government against employee theft of stamps.
Perforation: Rows of small holes punched along a stamp margin to help separate individual stamps.
Philately: The collection and study of postage stamps, postal stationery and postal history.
Pictorial: Collector's term for a stamp bearing a design other than a portrait, numeral or coat of arms.
Postal fiscals: Revenue or fiscal stamps authorised for postage.
Postal history: The study of postal markings, rates and routes, or anything to do with the history of the post.
Postmark: Mark applied to mail to indicate the name of the post office of origin and the mailing date.
Presentation pack: A collection of stamps from a particular issue or series, attractively laid out and mounted within the pack. Presentation packs also include background information on the stamps they display.
Press sheet: A complete unit of stamps as printed. Stamps are usually printed in large sheets and are separated into two or more panes.
Printer’s waste: Defective printings of stamps that should be rejected and destroyed after inspection.
Provisional: A postage stamp used to satisfy an unexpected 
or temporary need until new or regular stocks of stamps can be obtained.
Replica: A reproduction of a stamp or cover. Replica stamps were sold as stamp album space fillers in the 19th century.
Rust: A brown fungus that appears on stamps in storage, caused by moisture and lack of light.
Second side-faces: The 1882 New Zealand issue with Queen Victoria facing left. These stamps bear the inscription ‘Postage and Revenue’.
Self-adhesive booklet: The self-adhesive booklet includes all the self-adhesive stamps released in a particular stamp issue.
Selvedge: The unprinted margin area around the outer edges on a sheet of stamps.
Se-tenant: Meaning ‘joined together’, this term describes two or more stamps that are connected but are of different designs and/or values.
Set of stamps: A set of stamps includes all the gummed or self-adhesive stamps released in the stamp issue.
Sheet of stamps: A sheet of stamps includes one stamp on the sheet 25 times (in some cases it could be more than 25 times).
Smiling Boys: Also known as the ‘Red and Blue Boys’, the New Zealand Health stamps issued in 1931.
Standard Post: The rate for a basic domestic letter
Strip of stamps: Three or more unseparated stamps in a row.
Surcharge: An overprint that alters or restates the face value of a stamp.
Surtax: An additional charge on a stamp so the purchase price of the stamp exceeds the postage value. The surtax is designated for donation to a charity such as with New Zealand Health stamps.
Tete beche pair: Two unseparated stamps printed upside down in relation to one another.
Thematic: A collection of stamps or covers relating to a specific topic such as birds or flowers. This is also known as topical.
Tin can mail: Mail carried to and from supply boats in the Tongan islands in a tin can by a swimmer. Tin can mail bears cachets to that effect.
Ultimate collection: A collection of stamp products which includes all the stamp products released within the stamp issue.
Used: Stamps that have passed through the mailing system or that have been affixed to paper and date stamped.
Variety: A variation on the standard form of a stamp, such as a different watermark, an inversion or a wrong colour.
Vignette: The central feature in a stamp design, usually surrounded by a border.
Watermark: A deliberate thinning of paper during its manufacture to produce a semi-translucent pattern. This is a security measure to prevent forgery.
Zeppelins: Stamps issued for, or in honour of, zeppelin flights.