The the term "Die-Cut" refers to a method of separation used for modern self-adhesive stamps, in which a cutting mat is laid over the stamps, and perforations are cut into the stamps, so that they can simply be peeled apart from their backing individually. In recent years, postal administrations have moved away from printing stamps on gummed paper, so that perforating has become obsolete, and perforated, gummed paper stamps are gradually being replaced by self-adhesive die-cut stamps. The above image shows pair of die-cut stamps issued for the Tall Ships Visit to Halifax for 2000. The die cutting is very visible at the top and bottom of the pair, but much harder to see between the two stamps, due to the nature of the stamp design.
First Class Mail, Second Class Mail and Third Class Mail
First Class refers to the standard mail stream with normal delivery and handling times. Envelopes which were not marked in any way and sealed at the flap on the back are referred to as "first class letters". The distinction is lost today because the only option in most cases for sending a letter is first class.
However, until about the early to mid-1970's cheaper second and third class options also existed. Mail sent in this manner was often required to be marked "second class mail" or "third class mail" and in some cases you were not permitted to seal the envelope. Apart from this, the main difference between first class and these two options was that the delivery time was slower. By the mid to late 1970's these services were generally abolished, though some countries still have a bulk rate which businesses sending out very high volume mailings can take advantage of.
First Day Cover
A first day cover refers to a cover that was sent on a stamp's first day of issue. Most first day covers until the 1970's were produced by private individuals who would take an envelope and print, draw or paint a design onto the envelope, called a cachet, address the cover to their customers and then take them to the post office where the issue of the day would be affixed and cancelled with the first day of issue postmark. Of course any cover at all, even those without cachets that happened to be used on a stamp's first day of issue would qualify as a first day cover, and as a matter of fact it is these covers that today are the most valuable and highly sought after. However, some of the hand-painted cachets can also be worth many hundreds of dollars each, even on what is normally a very inexpensive issue.
By the 1960's larger companies started producing first day covers, with standardized, pre-printed cachets, The Art Craft first day cover above is one such example. Then in the 1970's the postal authorities themselves began mass producing their own first day covers. These are of extremely high quality and their existence essentially killed the market for individual cachet-makers who simply could not compete with the economies of scale that were enjoyed by the post office.
Frameline, Spandrel, Vignette and Value Tablet
The term "franking" refers to the combination of stamps that has been affixed to a cover to pay the postage.