Stamp Terminology

Here you will find a list of stamp collecting terms, a list of stamp collecting acronyms, and a few websites I highly recommend as excellent resources for the stamp collector.

Glossary of Stamp Collecting Terms


Album: A book for storing stamps or covers.

Cachet: An image on the left-hand side of covers.

Cancel: An ink mark placed on the stamp by the Post Office in order to show that the stamp cannot be reused.

Cover: A postally used envelope with a stamp or other means of postage payment.

Duplicate: An additional copy of a stamp which one already has in their collection.

Fancy Cancel: A cancel with an interesting design.

Gum: The sticky substance on the reverse side of stamps. Also known as adhesive.

Hinge: A piece of gummed glassine which is used to attach a stamp to an album page.

Imperforate: A stamp without perforations.

Jumbo: A stamp with uncommonly large margins.

Margin: The blank area around a stamp’s design.

Mint: An unused stamp.

Mount: Clear acetate holders for stamps. Used to mount stamps into an album.

Pair: Two connected stamps.

Perforation: The little holes between stamps which enable easy separation of the stamps.

Philately: The collection and study of postage stamps and related items.

Plate Block: A block of stamps from the corner or side of a sheet of stamps.

Postmark: Same as a cancel.

Precancel: A stamp with a pre-printed cancel, allowing it to bypass normal cancellation by a Post Office.

Revenue Stamps: Stamps that do not pay normal postage, but pay other fees or taxes.

Selvage: The margin around a sheet of stamps usually depicting the plate number and other markings, such as copyright notices.

Sheet: A complete and unseparated unit of stamps as printed.

Strip: Three or more unseparated stamps in a row or column.

Tongs: Tweezers used for handling stamps.

Topical: A stamp depicting a specific topic such as bees, sports, guitars, etc.

Used: A postally used stamp which can never be used on mail again.

Watermark: Purposeful thinning of paper during the manufacturing process forming semitranslucent patterns or letters, making it difficult to counterfeit a stamp.



Glossary of Stamp Collecting Acronyms


BOB: Back of book. Referring to the stamps at the back of specialized catalogs.

CTO: Canceled to order

CTS: Circular date stamp

CV: Catalog value

DG: Disturbed gum

EFO: Errors, freaks, and oddities

F: Fine (centering)

FDC: First day cover

FV: Face value

F-VF: Fine to very fine (centering)

HH: Heavily hinged

HR: Hinge remnant

LH: Lightly hinged

LP: Line pair

MNH: Mint never hinged

NH: Never hinged

OG: Original gum

PB: Plate block

PNC: Plate number coil

PO: Post office

SCV: Scott catalog value

SE: Straight edge

SON: Socked on the nose (cancel)

SS: Souvenir sheet

VF: Very fine (centering)

VLH: Very lightly hinged

XF: Extremely (or extra) fine (centering)



Excellent stamp collecting resources

APS – American Philatelic Society

StampSmarter – Philatelic Learning Center