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Philatelic Elements for Exhibits

by Joan Bleakley in collaboration with Darrell R. Ertzberger and John M. Hotchner

Exhibits that reach the vermeil or gold award level contain a broad range of philatelic elements (postal stationery, covers, cancellations, postmarks, meter stamps, booklets, et al.). This listing is intended as a handy reference for preparing or judging thematic exhibits. It is by no means complete, nor would it be possible to have every element listed here in any one exhibit.

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

  1. initiated by the postal service
  2. introduced by the postal service (e.g. overprints, marginal markings, postal stationery, cachets, etc)
  3. or approved by the postal service
  4. if none of the above, their inclusion should be explained

Items should be selected for:

  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 general availability.
  • Overprints can change the theme, overprints unrelated to the design should be used solely for the overprint.
  • Postal stationery should not be windowed, the entire piece 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 stamp and/or cancel, not the cachet.

Items that should be avoided:

  1. Mixed subjects on covers (confuses the theme).
  2. Postmarks, etc. without indication of postage paid.
  3. Private information such as addressee or addressor, except for those granted free franking privilege.

Pre-production elements:

  1. Original drawings: submitted by artists and ACCEPTED for consideration by the postal authority for stamp designs
  2. Essay: proposed design, submitted to and rejected by, Postal Authorities, or adopted after changes have been made
  3. Photo essay: photograph of design with measurements and notations
  4. Proofs: trial impressions from the die or printing plate before actual production
  5. Engraver's proofs: impressions taken to check the progress of his work
  6. Die proofs: impressions from the completed die, submitted for final approval
  7. Plate proofs: impressions from the completed plate
  8. Color trials: proofs in selected colors to permit a final choice of color to be made
  9. Color proofs: impressions of the approved colors taken prior to printing
  10. Rainbow proofs: trials, to test various colored inks, cancellations and paper

Stamps as Issued (most are catalogue listed)

  1. Booklet stamps (preferably full pane if all one motif or related se-tenants)
  2. booklet covers and labels (shown with pane or booklet)
  3. plate numbers (or other marginal markings)
  4. Coil stamps (should be shown in pairs)
  5. line pairs
  6. plate numbers (best shown in strips of three or five for U.S.)
  7. Sheet stamps perforate, rouletted, or imperforate when issued as such
  8. plate, zip, arrow, mail early, and copyright blocks
  9. other marginal markings (printed, handstamped)
  10. se-tenant pairs and blocks, tabbed issues
  11. triptych (three joined stamps of different but related designs)
  12. tete-beche pairs
  13. bisects, trisects, quadrisects
  14. watermarks
  15. Discount postage (stamps issued at reduced price, chiefly for publicity)
  16. Encased postage and other monetary usages
  17. Expedition stamps
  18. Scientific (e.g. Shackleton Antarctic Expedition, 1908)
  19. Military (e.g. Liberian Field Force, IEF of India)
  20. Express or Special Delivery
  21. Geometric shapes (triangles, diamonds, etc.)
  22. Local issues (valid within a limited area or postal administration)
  23. Occupation issues (for use in territory occupied by a foreign power)
  24. Revenue issues: government, departmental
  25. Special fees, late fees, railway letter fees
  26. Miniature and souvenir sheets
  27. Newspaper stamps
  28. Official stamps
  29. Parcel post stamps
  30. Postage Due stamps
  31. Telegraph stamps
  32. War tax stamps
  33. Joint issues
  34. Provisional issues
  35. Plebiscite issues
  36. Military franks
  37. Military telegraph stamps
  38. Marine insurance issues
  39. value inserted issues

Machine Generated Postage: Framas, Postal Buddy Cards, Meter Imprints
Official Varieties (Official Government issued)

  1. Perforations (different measurements, methods)
  2. Experimental perforations and roulettes
  3. Perfins (e.g. O.H.M.S.)
  4. Precancels (different types and styles)
  5. Tagged or otherwise treated for use in automation equipment
  6. Printed information on reverse, attached label, or selvage
  7. Specimens, black prints and other publicity items
  8. Surcharges (revalued issues)
  9. Overprints (geographic, commemorative, etc.)
  10. Mirror prints
  11. Gum, watermark, or paper varieties
  12. Test stamps (for testing of dispensing machines)
  13. Post office training stamps
  14. Carrier stamps (charge for conveying mail to or from local post offices)
  15. Shipping company stamps (prepaying mail carried on mail-ships or packet boats)
  16. Obliterated stamps (e.g., portraits of deposed or deceased rulers)

Unofficial Varieties
Perfins, business, charity, (preferably on cover with corner card)

  1. Unplanned Varieties (EFOs)
  2. Errors (as a result of the production process, but not "favor" made)
  3. Imperforate in one direction
  4. Fully imperforate
  5. Imperforate between
  6. Perforations of the wrong gauge on one or more sides
  7. Perforations inverted on souvenir sheets
  8. Perforations fully doubled or tripled
  9. Complete color missing
  10. Tagging missing
  11. Inverted tagging
  12. Inverted design
  13. Inverted design
  14. Inverted embossing
  15. Design error
  16. Inverted or multiple surcharge
  17. Inverted or multiple overprint
  18. Overprint or surcharge on back of stamp
  19. Lettering errors (misspelled country, name, etc.)
  20. Double print
  21. Wrong value stamp
  22. Colors reversed
  23. Missing overprint, surcharge, or precancel
  24. Offset (printed on reverse)
  25. Paper errors
  26. Printed on wrong color paper
  27. Wrong, incomplete or changed watermark
  28. Other constant errors (worthy of catalogue listing)
  29. Freaks (minor production varieties, usually not repeated, rarely catalogue listed)
  30. Gutter snipes
  31. Ink smears, flaws and blots
  32. Set-offs (from flatplate printed sheet laid atop another)
  33. Misperfs (one direction, two directions, diagonal)
  34. Partially perforated
  35. Color shifts (misregistration of color)
  36. Miscuts
  37. Over or under inked
  38. Color partially missing
  39. Foldovers, foldunders
  40. Creases (pre-perforating or pre-printing)
  41. Minor shade/color differences
  42. Partial stamp printed on reverse
  43. Partially doubled overprint or surcharge
  44. Rejection markings (indicating printers' waste to be destroyed)
  45. Oddities
  46. Plate varieties (double transfers, layout lines, position dots)
  47. Design errors and ghosts
  48. Intentionally created varieties
  49. Local overprints
  50. Cancels that change the design
  51. Intentionally created errors
  52. Intentionally produced gutter pairs
  53. Provisional overprints
  54. Stolen printers' waste
  55. Unauthorized bisects
  56. Color changelings
  57. Altered stamps (attempts to create higher value stamps)
  58. Rotary coil end strips
  59. Flatplate coil paste-ups
  60. Private perfs


  1. folded letters
  2. stampless covers
  3. air mail
  4. balloon post
  5. camp mail (concentration camp, POW camp, displaced persons, etc.)
  6. catapult mail
  7. censored mail
  8. combination franking (stamps of more than one country
  9. crash covers
  10. cross-border mail
  11. fieldpost
  12. first day or special event covers
  13. first flights
  14. free franks
  15. glider mail
  16. international organizations (U.N., Red Cross, etc.)
  17. military (APO, FPO)
  18. naval ships mail
  19. official government mail
  20. official cachets
  21. packet letters
  22. paquebot
  23. parachute mail
  24. pigeon post
  25. pneumatic post
  26. rocket post
  27. ship letters
  28. zeppelin mail

Postal Stationery:

  1. imprinted envelopes and postal cards
  2. letter cards
  3. reply paid cards
  4. aerogrammes, airgraphs, air letter sheets
  5. V mail
  6. wrappers for newspapers and periodicals
  7. printed-to-order envelopes, cards; produced/authorized by postal authorities
  8. folded advertising letters (e.g., France, Germany)
  9. formula cards (France, etc.)
  10. echo cards (Japan)
  11. postal telegrams (e.g. Germany, Great Britain)

Maximum Card: (a picture postcard with a stamp depicting the exact same subject affixed to the picture side of the card, and the cancellation having a direct relationship to the subject pictured on the stamp.


  1. air mail etiquettes
  2. charity (Christmas seals)
  3. fiscals
  4. official seals
  5. postal fiscals
  6. registration
  7. special delivery
  8. telegraph

Cancellations (should be tied to a piece or on cover, if possible)

  1. postmarks
  2. town circles
  3. fancy cancels
  4. pictorial
  5. slogan
  6. traveling post office (TPO)
  7. highway post office (HPO)
  8. mobile post office (MPO)
  9. railway post office (RPO)
  10. military (fieldpost, APO, etc.)

Auxiliary Markings:

  1. air mail
  2. registered
  3. certified or insured
  4. special delivery
  5. night delivery
  6. COD
  7. censored
  8. postage due
  9. postage not valid
  10. transit
  11. backstamps
  12. receiving marks
  13. forwarding comments
  14. refused
  15. undeliverable
  16. unmailable
  17. carrier comments
  18. directory markings
  19. weight markings
  20. return to sender: better address, proper postage, service suspended, etc.

Other Elements — these must be identified when used in an exhibit

  1. Bogus Stamps – 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).
  2. Cinderellas
  3. Christmas seals (when tied to the cover)
  4. Propaganda stamps
  5. Facsimile – reproduction of a genuine stamp with no intent to deceive collectors or postal officials (e.g. illustrations)
  6. 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)
  7. Forgery – completely fraudulent reproduction of a genuine stamp intended to defraud. They are generally classified into two types:
  8. Philatelic forgeries made to defraud collectors
  9. Postal forgeries made to defraud the postal service
  10. Postal Documents
  11. Official receipts
  12. Orders and bulletins
  13. Stamp shipment wrappings and labels

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