Technical Terms in My Posts

One reader has commented that I use a fair number of technical terms in my posts, which is true. What I had not considered, and perhaps I should have, is that many of you may be new to philately and have not had exposure to many of the technical terms.

As the next several posts are going to explore covers and postal history, I thought that it would be prudent to define some of the terms that will appear again and again in my posts:

Proud Type Such and Such:

Edward Proud is a prominent UK philatelist who has undertaken and completed a study of all known postmarks and cancellations for the entire British Empire up to Independence. This phenomenal undertaking has resulted in the publishing of a book for nearly every country in the Empire that lists, alphbetically all of the postmarks for every known post office. The listings are all fully illustrated and each mostmark is denoted by a alphanumeric type. So when I describe a postmark, I will generally refer to the type as listed in Proud's book.


A stamp is tied to a cover, or other document, when its cancellation extends from the stamp to the cover continuously. This is important because it proves the authenticity of the cover, and supports the notion that the stamps on the cover have not been added to the cover after the fact. Occasionally it is possible for a genuine cover to have stamps that are not tied, due to the postmark being poorly struck, but a firmly tied stamp is usually preferred by philatelists.


A duplex cancel is one where there is a dumb obliterator, usually consisting of an oval of bars, next to a circular date stamp (CDS). Postal regulations generally called for the postal clerk to apply the cancel in such a way that the killer would obliterate the stamp, leaving the CDS legible on the left side of the stamp to be read by the postal clerks. Occasionally, the cancels would be misapplied, which results in the beautiful and rare CDS used examples of classic stamps that we see today.

Circular Date Stamp (CDS):

This is the most common type of town cancellation. Generally it will consist of a town name, date and either a time code, or an actual time of day. Together this data is referrd to by philatelists as indicta. The CDS cancellations had a limited life span, as the hammers used to strike them wore out with use. There were therefore often many different types of CDS cancellations used for a particular town over time, each differing slighly in terms of the font used for the indicta, and the spacing of the letters.


A strike is an impression of a cancellation. When the cancellation or other postal marking is clearly readable on the cover or the individual stamp, we say that the cancellation has been clearly struck. A full strike means that the entire cancellation is visible, as opposed to a partial strike, in which only a portion is visible, but enough to enable philatelists to identify the marking.


A franking is the combination of stamps used to pay the postage rate and any other charges that the cover was subjected to. The franking is important because certain combinations of stamps are more commonly found than others.


When a cover is in transit it will pass through several points, or at least they did up until direct airmail flights replaced land and ocean based modes of transport. It was customary, when a cover reached each point on its journey for the post office to apply a CDS to the back of the cover. These markings are important because they reveal the route that the cover took to reach its destination, and the dates give clues about how long the cover took to reach its destination. Some routes are common, while others may be rare and desirable.

Hopefully these definitions will make the last post and the next several much easier to follow and understand. I will try to define terms as I introduce them in future posts.


  1. Hi there,,

    Thanks for the info, I've often wondered what those terms meant but, I was too lazy to find out! Your entire blog is so interesting. I am not a philatelist but I'm enjoying learning about stamps!

  2. Thanks for your comment. It is my pleasure to write about my passion. I'm curious though, what brought you to my blog?


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