Illustrated Glossary of Precancels

by Colin Philip and Dave Philcox

© 1990, 2002 Precancel Stamp Society of Great Britain.
Version 2.0

This Glossary has been compiled primarily to assist collectors new to the fascinating field of precancel collecting, but the authors hope that it also might help precancellists of longer standing who want a quick reference to a topic which may have slipped their memory. As in any sphere of activity, a wealth of terms and expressions has evolved in precancel collecting and this jargon is often confusing to beginner and specialist alike. We have attempted to include as many relevant terms as we can think of, but inevitably some obvious ones may have been omitted. Readers are invited and encouraged to submit new terms and definitions, supply corrections to errors that almost certainly have crept in, or to suggest more appropriate alternatives to the ones given here. This second edition, produced as an online version some 12 years after our original efforts, is an attempt to bring the subject matter up to date and to include any new information that has come to light in the intervening period. We have every intention of maintaining this as a live document, amended from time to time by our readers’ comments and other expert opinion.

In much of the text, the descriptive material refers to precancels from the USA, being by far the largest user of these issues. To avoid monotonous repetition, it may be assumed that, unless stated, the US is implied.


A, B, C, D:

(1) These letters are used in most European catalogues and reference works to denote the aspect of the rectangular precancel overprint in earlier Belgian and Luxembourg issues. They are used as follows:
A - precancels in which the text reads up (ie from bottom to top of stamp),
B - text reads down,
C - text reads horizontally, and
D - text is inverted.
Types C and D are generally only found on roulettes (qv).


(2) The letters are also employed in the various Bureau Catalogues to denote the four levels of centring which determine pricing adjustments.


During the time it was a province of France (qv) a number of precancels were issued for this North African country between 1924 and 1963. The styles of overprint in this period were identical to those used in France. Algerian precancels are listed and priced in French francs in Part 2 of the Yvert & Tellier Catalogue, and in US dollars in the PSS Catalogue of France, Algeria, Tunisia and Monaco (1983).

Americana Series:

Set of definitive stamps, issued in 1975, which are commonly found precancelled, both as Bureaus (particularly in the decimal range of values, eg 7.7¢, 7.9¢ and 8.4¢) and as locals.


Precancellation of stamps of this country was effected by means of oversized holed perfins. Little is known other than stamps defaced in this fashion often received additional cancellations at the office of destination.


A minor precancel issuing country of Europe that is best known for the precancelled wrappers of the German and Austrian Alpine Association. The first precancels were handstamps, but printed ones were in use from 1910 until 1922, since which time no further precancels have been issued. The precancel was printed on the wrapper and included a date in the form, for example, MITTE JULI (middle of July), ENDE MARZ (end of March), etc. The early journal stamps were also precancelled by sticking them to a blank sheet of newspaper and allowing the newsprint to provide the cancellation, thus paying the appropriate newspaper tax.

Bar Type:

(1) In Canada, a stamp precancelled only by means of bars or lines, without other printed identification. Two main categories can be distinguished; the Early Bars issued from about 1889 to 1903, and the Later Bars which made their appearance in 1922. The Early Bars consist of various styles of parallel lines (sometimes including interrupted or wavy lines), which in most cases were applied horizontally across the stamp usually by means of rubber rollers. The Later Bars are straight, continuous and parallel and were applied using plates made for the purpose.


(2) In the USA, precancel forerunners were produced in the latter part of the 1800s by overprinting with bars or similar designs, and are commonly known as Bar Types. Similarly, some of the more recent National Bureau issues were precancelled with two parallel bars and can be called Bar Types. The term is also used to distinguish bars from lines in local precancels (see Bars & Lines below).

Bars and Lines:

In identifying local precancels where the town and state have straight bars or lines above and below, a bar is usually thicker than a line and does not extend beyond the boundary of the stamp. On the other hand, a line is generally thin and extends across many or all of the stamps in a horizontal row.

Battleship Proprietary Stamps:

This 1895 issue of revenue stamps was used to collect tax during the Spanish-American War. The tax was levied on medicines, pills, etc., it became easier to apply printed (usually dated) cancellations prior to the stamp being stuck on the relevant bottle, box or packet. This precancellation was authorized by the US Internal Revenue.



One of the major precancel issuing countries of Europe, its precancels can be neatly divided into two major categories: roulettes (qv) and typos (qv), the latter still being produced at the time of writing. Belgian precancels are easy to recognize, being a rectangular, or truncated rectangular, box containing town or country names and date, or more recently various styles of posthorn with or without dates. The main source of information is provided by the Catalogue Officiel des Timbres Préoblitérés de Belgique (1996).

Bicentennial Series:

Commonly known to collectors as Bicents, this series was first issued in 1932. It is found cancelled locally and with DLE’s, but never with Bureaus. A Bicent catalogue was published in 1989.

Black Hardings:

Precancels on the Black 2¢ Harding Memorial Issue, 1923, in all states of perforation. A catalogue specifically for these issues was published by the PSS in 1983.

’Bosch perforations:

The town of s’Hertogenbosch in Holland produced a large circulation Catholic newspaper. Stamps used on the postal wrappers were first stuck on to labels, then precancelled, and finally perforated again prior to being stuck on to the wrappers and returned to the post office for dispatch.

Box Cancel:

Often very difficult to identify, but usually consists of the town and state names enclosed by a four-sided box, perhaps one of a series of boxes. These normally extend beyond the edges of the stamp, leaving perhaps part of the name and a vertical side between the parallel lines. They are frequently applied with a roller canceller. There are, however, a few precancels that are boxed and not between lines only; these are so designed to fit within the margins of the stamp. Examples of these are many of the City Type Coils (qv), eg Lynn MA, L-3 and Champaign IL, L-1.

Bureau Print:

A stamp precancelled by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing located in Washington DC. They are identified by having clear, distinct impressions using one of a small range of standard styles. Bureaus are listed in a number of catalogues, the most popular being the Noble Official Catalogue (64th ed., 1983) and the PSS Bureau Precancel Catalogue (4th ed., 1997). There are about ten thousand collectible varieties, covering towns, types, denominations and stamp issues and are one of the most popular aspects of precancel collecting.


From 1889 until 1978, a major precancel issuing country of North America. The various types which have appeared are described else-where (see Bar Type, City Type and Numeral Type). Canadian precancels have always been popular with collectors, and because demand usually exceeds supply, their prices have remained high. A number of catalogues and handbooks cater for Canadian collectors, the most general catalogue being the Standard Canada Precancel Catalogue, 5th Ed., (2002).

City Type:

In Canada, a stamp which is precancelled with the names of the town and province (sometimes abbreviated) and a distinctive pattern of wavy or straight lines. Such stamps were used in 54 towns, some of which are extremely scarce. They were introduced in 1903 and were discontinued as the numeral types (qv) made their appearance in the 1930s. The term may also be applied to a precancel from any country that contains the name of a town or city in the cancellation. In some US catalogues, a City Type is any non-Bureau precancel bearing the name of a town or city.

City Type Coil:

Generally used to describe a non-Bureau coil stamp that has been precancelled by a special machine that also rewinds the coil in the process. These are covered by the PSS City Type Coils Precancelled by Coil Machines (2001).


Term used for US precancels on stamps issued between 1895 and 1902

Clipped Edge:

See Straight Edge.

Coil Pair:

Pair of coil stamps, joined vertically or horizontally in the case of the City Type Coils, and horizontally only in Bureau issues. In Bureaus, one also finds gap pairs (qv), line pairs (qv), and combination (line and gap) pairs (qv).

Combination Pair:

Used to describe precancelled coil pairs where the gap between the ends of the lines showing the joining of the two halves of the precancel printing cylinder coincides with the line produced during the printing of the stamp themselves. In other words, a combination of a line and gap pair. Due to the different sizes of the cylinders used in the printing of coil stamps and the subsequent precancelling, a line-gap situation occurs only every 204 stamps, showing the scarcity value of such pairs. See Coil Pair, Gap Pair, Line Pair.

Commercial Overprint:

In the UK, this term is used to describe overprinted security endorsements employed by private firms, local authorities, banks, etc., on ordinary postage stamps used for receipt duty and other fiscal purposes between 1853 and 1971. They have the appearance of precancels, but in general were not valid for any form of postage. With the abolition of the 2d receipt tax in 1971, the holders of printed stock were authorized to use up stocks as normal postage for a period of six months.


A precancel made, usually fraudulently, to imitate a legally issued and used device.


Until World War II, an enclave of East Prussia in what is now Poland and called Gdansk. In 1920 an order was issued that all stamps of 1 mark or over to be used for affixing to parcel cards should be cancelled with a rubber or cork cancellation before attaching the stamps. The most common designs of these precancels are stars and crosses.

Dated Controls:

A term applied to precancels that have an extra marking in the form of a date and user’s initials printed or handstamped upon them. In 1938 the US Post Office Department ruled that when an item of mail required postage of 6¢ or more, then all precancels used for the purpose must have imprinted on them the initials of the user and the month and year of usage. Collectors recognize several different categories in which to subdivide these issues; these are described elsewhere in this Glossary. See Handstamp Dated Controls, Integral Precancels, Printed Dated Controls.


Precancel printed on a stamp at an angle from the normal horizontal or vertical position. Catalogues consider any cancel at an angle of 22° or more to be a diagonal.

Discontinued Post Office:

A Post Office that has closed down or no longer exists. Generally referred to as a DPO.


In 1995 the US Postal Service issued three stamps that were forerunners of many more which have caused dispute among collectors of Bureau issues. One of the originals depicts the front of an “automobile” for Bulk Rate usage while the other shows the rear of another car - “Auto Tail Fin” for First Class Cards. Bureau purists consider these not to be Bureau precancel issues, but this is countered by the fact that the USPS cites them as precancels in its own USPS Stamp Catalogue. The collector is left to decide what they are.


See Double Line Electro below.


Precancel with two normal impressions, either both in the same plane, or one inverted.

Double Line Electro:

A distinctive and attractive type of precancel bearing the town and state name in a variety of styles between two pairs of parallel lines. Most of these are produced from electroplates consisting of 100 subjects supplied by the US Government. In addition, there are towns which have a similar style of precancel produced from locally made plates; these are not usually included in a DLE collection and are excluded from the standard catalogues on the topic of which the most recent is the 1999 edition of the Catalogue of Double Line Electro Precancels, published by the PSS.


see Discontinued Post Office.


Term usually applied to the US definitive issues of 1922-1931, in all states of perforation.


Also known as an electro, is a printing plate, usually of 25, 50 or 100 subjects, used when large numbers of precancels are needed. Such plates are generally made by the US Post Office and supplied to the various local post offices. Washington supplied the first electros in 1913. Precancels produced this way are easily distinguished by a sharp and clear impression, often in shiny black ink.


Term used for precancels with misspelling in the town or state names, or with missing punctuation (eg full stops or periods).


The earliest Bureau Prints (qv) which were issued in 1916 as an experiment in precancellation by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Only three cities were supplied with these stamps: New Orleans LA, Augusta ME, and Springfield MA.


A precancel that does not match any known accepted example.


A stamp which has been precancelled as a favour to a collector or individual post office customer and not genuinely issued in bulk to authorised users.


Synonymous with Counterfeit (qv).

Four and Five Liners:

The early (1893) experimental French precancels which were printed in positions A, B or C across the stamp. They are generally very scarce and rarely found in good condition.


A major European precancel country, such stamps have been issued by France, for strictly postal purposes, continually since 1893. Before this date, various issues of definitive and newspaper stamps had been precancelled by newspaper text. Only three major precancel styles have been used. Until 1954 the precancellation was applied to selected values from a range of definitive issues, and only rarely was a new value added which was found only in the precancelled state. From 1954, however, some precancels are only found in this state and since 1975 a new issue of stamps has been released annually. French precancels are listed in a number of catalogues including the Cérès Catalogue and Part 1 of the Yvert & Tellier Catalogue (both priced in French francs) and in the PSS Catalogue of France, Algeria, Tunisia and Monaco (1983), priced in US dollars.

Gap Pair:

In the printing of Bureau coil stamps, an obvious gap in the lines of the precancel show after every twelfth impression. This indicates the joining of the two halves of the precancel cylinder. Smaller and less obvious gaps occur after every sixth impression.

Great Britain:

Precancelled sheets of stamps similar to those used in the USA, Canada, etc., were never sanctioned in this country, but within the “newspaper industry” there has been a long history of precancellation of both stamps and postal stationery. In the 1860’s and 70’s both the Times and Stamford Mercury (qv) newspapers had permission to impress stamps on the paper, which did not require subsequent cancellation, and several private firms were also allowed to precancel their mail with handstamps not used for any other purpose. Further information can be found in “The Newspaper and Almanac Stamps of Great Britain and Ireland” by Chandler and Dagnall, published by GB Philatelic Publications, Ltd., 1981.


These are used by the smaller post offices where only a small number of precancels is required. They usually consist of 5, 10, 15 or 25 subjects and are mostly made from rubber, metal (often called a stereotype) or vinyl. Each of these categories is described further below.

Handstamp Dated Controls:

Dated Controls (qv) - where the date and firm’s initials are applied to an already precancelled stamp by means of a hand-stamp. The stamp may be a Bureau print, or a locally precancelled one.


From 1911 to the early 1920’s, this European country employed a special roller device to precancel stamps used for mailing newspapers. The cancellations consisted of 2 concentric circles, with the town name in between. Within the inner circle, the space was either left blank, or contained the last two digits of the year of issue. This part of the cancel had the appearance of a very small 2-ring circular date stamp. To complete the precancel these circles were connected by some straight parallel lines and spaced such that each stamp received a circular cancel. By far the majority of these precancels are to be found on the 1899-1913 1¢ lilac definitive stamp.


In 1959 the Dutch PTT began issuing literature on stamps to collectors in envelopes that had been precancelled. This continued until 1964. Again in 1985, under proper authority, private bulk mailing companies undertook the precancelling of envelopes for “junk” mail.


A minor precancel issuing country of Europe in which, from 1900 to 1914, newspaper publishers were authorised to precancel newspaper stamps. These were used exclusively for the franking of newspapers that were sent in a wrapper. The stamps are generally scarce and the subject is covered in a monograph “Hungarian Precancels”, by Otto Schäffling and published by the Society for Hungarian Philately (US).

Integral Precancels:

Dated Control (qv) precancels in which the dating and initialling portion is applied in the same operation that puts the city, state, lines, etc., on the stamp. In other words, it is an integrated process, the printing plate or handstamp performing the precancelling and dating at the same time. All such precancels, therefore, are local issues (ie non-Bureau).


New Year greetings cards have been issued, in conjunction with a lottery giving the recipient a chance to win a prize, since 1949. These have been so popular that in 1961, to alleviate the work of the Post Office, the cards were precancelled with special designs. If used only for New Year greetings and posted within a prescribed period, they required no additional postage and were not further cancelled. An additional 1 yen postage was needed if sent outside this period.

Liberty Series:

A set of US definitive stamps, first issued in 1954, which are commonly found precancelled, both as Bureaus and locally.

Line Pair:

This is indicated by a vertical line in the same colour ink as the stamp itself, running between an occasional pair of stamps. This shows the join where subject plates are attached to the cylinder. As there are ten such plates attached, one line pair occurs every 17 stamps.

Line-Gap Pair:

Another name used in some catalogues and literature to denote combination pairs (qv).

Local Precancel:

(1) Generally used to denote a non-Bureau precancel, ie one produced or ordered locally in the town or city in which it is needed. It can also have a more restricted meaning when it refers to a precancel style that is more or less unique to a particular town or city and does not match any of the standard types classified in the Official Style Chart (qv).


(2) The term is some-times used synonymously with roulettes (qv) when referring to Belgian precancels.


This small European country issued precancels between 1900 to 1925 and, like neighbouring Belgium, can be categorised into two main types: roulettes (qv) and typos (qv). The roulettes were issued first, the precancel consisting of a rectangular box, mainly reading up or down (qv), and containing the words LUXEMBOURG VILLE and the year of issue. The typos, issued from 1904 to 1925, were various definitive stamps overprinted horizontally with the word LUXEMBOURG and below it the last two digits of the year of issue. Luxembourg precancels are listed and priced in the Prifix Catalogue.


Apparent precancels, worded “Manila, P.I.” and similar, are actually anti-theft cancels used by firms in the Philippines and have no postal precancel purpose.


A rotary machine that prints through a wax stencil stretched over the curved surface of a cylindrical drum. Precancels produced on such a machine are also called mimeographs. Since the stencils are almost always cut on a typewriter, the precancels generally have a typewritten appearance.


Precancels have been issued by Monaco since 1943, with identical styles of overprint to those of France (qv). Again like France, separate issues of stamps have been produced annually from 1975 to the present day. Monaco precancels are listed in a number of catalogues including the Cerès Catalogue and Part 1 of the Yvert & Tellier Catalogue (both priced in French francs) and in the PSS Catalogue of France, Algeria, Tunisia and Monaco (1983), priced in US dollars.

National Type:

In 1978, US Bureau prints for individual town and cities were discontinued and were replaced by a precancel in the form of a pair of horizontal parallel lines across the stamps. Since then a number of different types have been issued, generally inscribed with an indication of the usage rather than location of point of mailing. All these Bureaus are known as National types.

Newsprint Cancellation:

This denotes stamps that were applied to sheets of blank newsprint and then cancelled by the printed text of the newspaper. In the early 1860’s France collected tax on newspapers by using postage stamps for this purpose and followed this in 1868 by the introduction of special Newspaper Stamps. Other countries employing this type of precancellation include Austria, Belgium, Italy and Turkey.

Numeral Type:

In Canada, a stamp which is precancelled with a numeral within two pairs of parallel lines. This numeral denotes the town or city, and is the number allocated in the Dominion Post Office Money Order system. It is formed of either four digits or a capital X followed by three digits. Such stamps were used in 47 towns, being introduced gradually in the 1930’s and discontinued in the early 1950’s.

Official Style Chart:

A chart, published by the Precancel Stamp Society, Inc., which classified precancelling overprints applied under authority of the US Post Office Department. The classification is divided into sections, each representing a variation in the method of precancellation. Each distinct precancel style is assigned a number in the following ranges:


1-100 Bureau prints
101-200 City type coils
201-400 Electroplates for use by local printer
401-700 Rubber handstamps made under government contract
701-800 Stereotype handstamps made under government contract
801-900 Vinyl handstamps made under government contract
Pearls, the:

The 1879 issue of postage due stamps were precancelled by the New York Post Office throughout its range of values. The device consisted of a ring of dots giving the appearance of a string of pearls and surrounding a monogram of the letters N and Y at right angles, one superimposed upon the other.

Plain Pair:

Term used for the commonest state of Bureau coil pairs; ie those not showing gaps, lines, or combinations of these.

Playing Card Precancel:

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing also overprinted Playing Card tax stamps in a similar manner to Bureau prints. Although not valid for any form of postage, these issues often form part of a Bureau precancel collection.

Post Cancellation:

At times precancelled mail inadvertently passes through the normal postal system and emerges bearing a post cancellation. This usually detracts from the value of the stamp and in most cases such examples may be discarded. There are, however, a few instances where such copies are desirable, because of the rarity of precancels without the post cancellation. The best example of this is the 3¢ coil Bureau from Buffalo, NY (illustrated) of which less than ten copies are known not post cancelled.


There is no single definition of a pre-cancel, but perhaps the most satisfactory is that given by the US Precancel Stamp Society, Inc., which states that “... a precancel is any postage stamp, stamped stationery, or revenue stamp which has been cancelled prior to the actual use for which it was issued, by, under the supervision of, or with permission of proper authority, with a device that was used for no form of post-cancelling by the same office”. Various countries introduced precancels as a means of saving time and reducing costs in handling certain classes of mail. This was done by allowing authorised users to affix stamps already cancelled on to bulk mail, thus avoiding a time-consuming step in processing at the post office. Countries that have issued precancels have different regulations governing their use, but in general they are employed by mail order companies which handle large quantities of bulk matter. In most countries, the general public are not permitted to use them; only authorised users may do so.

Precancel Countries:

As well as the United States, which is by far the largest precancel issuing country, Canada, Belgium, France and Monaco have made substantial use of the system. Other countries have used precancels on an experimental or limited basis; these include Luxembourg, Algeria, Tunisia, Hungary, Turkey, Danzig, Austria, United Nations and even Great Britain.

Precancel Forum:

A monthly magazine, first published in 1940, which is the Official Organ of the Precancel Stamp Society, Inc. in the United States of America.


The French word for precancel. Also called Préo.

Presidential Series:

A set of US definitive stamps, first issued in 1937, which are commonly found precancelled, both as Bureaus and locally.


A common US term for a stamp in the Presidential Series.

Printed Dated Controls:

Dated Controls (qv) where the date and user’s initials are printed (not hand-stamped) on an already precancelled stamp. The stamp may be a Bureau print, or locally precancelled. These are covered by the Official Printed Dated Control Catalogue (2001).

Prominent Americans Series:

A set of US definitive stamps, first issued in 1965, which are commonly found precancelled, both as Bureaus and locally.


The abbreviation by which the Precancel Stamp Society Inc., of the United States is commonly known.

Queen, the:

A term of affection used for the once rarest Bureau precancel; Liberty MO, #102, of which only 30 copies are known to exist. This has since been replaced by several other more modern issues, with the rarest, Phenix City AL, #743, having only one copy known.

Roller Cancellation:

(See Box Cancel).


A term applied to a class of Belgian and Luxembourg precancel that was produced locally using a rubber roller. The design consisted of a rectangular box containing the name of the town or city in which the stamp was used and the year of issue. In the case of Belgium, the town name usually appeared in both French and Flemish, and was first issued in 1894, lasting until the 1930’s, when typos valid for the whole of the country became available. Luxembourg (qv) had a much smaller issue and period of use. Roulettes can be distinguished from typos (qv) of the same period and town by their much inferior quality and often blurred impressions. They can be considered as analogous to some local precancel issues in the USA.

Rubber Handstamps:

These were supplied to post offices where only a small number of precancels were required. No further supplies were issued after 1932 when stereotype handstamps became available (qv).

Silent Precancels

These are mainly early American precancels not bearing any indication of the state or city of usage. The majority in this category are the lines and bars issues (qv), but also included here are various monograms such as “G” from Glastonbury CT and “M” from Menominee MI, as also are the 5-point stars from Glen Allen VA and Andover NY. Listings of such issues may be found in “Silent Precancels - Lines, Bars and Designs” by David W Smith (1995).

Stamford Mercury:

In 1878, the Stamford Mercury newspaper was given permission to use stamped to order wrappers that would be precancelled as required with a canceller incorporating the 742 Stamford duplex. Stamped wrappers were taken to the Stamford Post Office for cancelling. On return they were addressed and wrapped round the newspaper for sorting and dispatch without further handling by the Post Office. This practice is continued to the present, making it the only current GB precancel.

Stereotype Handstamps:

These replaced the earlier rubber handstamps that tended to wear and distort rapidly. Made from metal, the stereotypes were supplied until 1958 when they were replaced by vinyl plastic devices (qv).

Straight Edge:

Stamp with one or two adjacent edges lacking perforations as issued. These occur on margin or corner stamps, most frequently seen on Canadian precancels. A third straight edge, seen on coil stamps and more commonly known as a clipped edge, is usually due to the perforations being removed by automatic stamping machines.

Synoptic Collecting:

Such collections are formed by collecting one stamp of each issue of the US bearing a precancel. All types within an issue are collected, such as watermarks, perforations, types of printing process, etc.


A group name for the smaller US protected areas and non-mainland States that use, or have used, precancels. Puerto Rico, Canal Zone, DC and the Pacific Islands such as Guam are included in this category.

Towns & Types:

This term is usually applied to those collections in which one stamp is collected for each type of precancel from each town. The stamp issue or denomination is not considered important. It is estimated that in the US there are almost 41,000 distinct types from over 21,000 different towns, and known combinations of these T&T's number in excess of 4 million varieties. Because of this vast number, most collectors limit their activities to a single, or a specific range of, states, or to a particular denomination or stamp issue. A general catalogue covering these issues is the PSS Town and Type Catalogue of the United States and Territories, 6th Ed., (1998).

Training Stamps

Definitive stamps of Great Britain are regularly precancelled with one or two, usually vertical, thick black lines for use in training Post Office employees. A wide range of revenue and fiscal stamps handled by the Post Office are also similarly cancelled.


Like Algeria, this neighbouring North African country was issued with a small number of precancels between 1926 and 1947 while it was under French control. The type of overprint used was identical to that of France and only eight stamp values were precancelled. Tunisian precancels are listed and priced in Part 2 of the Yvert & Tellier Catalogue.


Around the turn of the century, Turkish stamps were applied to newspapers and were cancelled during the printing process by the newsprint. The main interest lies in the different languages which can be found in the precancel; those known include English, French, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and Armenian.


A term used to denote Belgian precancels produced centrally using typographic printing methods. They are somewhat analogous to the Bureau prints (qv) in the USA. The early typos were similar in design to the roulettes (qv), and were first issued in 1906 for Brussels. In subsequent years, only six other towns were supplied with them: Antwerp, Ghent, Louvain, Liege, Charleroi and Verviers. In 1930 a universal precancel bearing the name of Belgium in both French and Flemish was issued, and towards the end of that decade the name was dropped and replaced by a posthorn symbol. In later years, various style changes have taken place.


Similar to electroplates, in that they are printed in a printing press, typesets differ by using standard metal type rather than a solid piece of metal as is the case with electros. The inscription is set as many times as it is desired to precancel stamps in one impression.

United Nations:

Only one stamp denomination has been precancelled; the 1½¢ stamp of the first US issue. It had been widely believed that many counterfeit examples existed. However it is now considered that there were two different printings - letterpress and offset - with the microscopically clearer printing being from the letterpress, those from the offset originally being thought of as the counterfeit.

Universal Style Chart:

A chart produced by Hoover Bros in 1948 to classify US precancels. It is now largely superseded by the PSS Official Style Chart (qv).

Up (and Down):

Where the precancel is applied vertically to the upright design of the stamp and reading from the bottom towards the top is known as reading up, or simply UP. The reverse, of course, is DOWN. In the case of a cancel on a horizontal design, normal is up, while down gives an inverted impression. However, in Bureau issues, irrespective of design, all stamps are cancelled across the narrow width, making the normal reading down. In five cases there is an error in cancelling the 20¢ stamp of the Early Series, where the precancel reads up from the right side, eg Detroit MI.


Many of the larger (particularly tobacco) companies cancelled stamps by means of an overprint bearing the initials or name of the company sending mail. Usually seen on the 5¢ values issued around the turn of the century, stamps thus cancelled rarely received additional post office cancellations.

Vinyl Handstamp:

These are the most recent type of handstamp used in post offices needing only small numbers of precancels. They replaced stereotype metal handstamps in 1958 (qv).


The German word for precancel.


Term used for precancels received as a result of written application to relevant post offices.