What are Precancels?
stamps, or precancels, were introduced by various countries 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.
There is no single definition of a precancel, 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.
Countries which have issued precancels have different regulations
governing their use, but in general they are employed by mail order
companies, religious and charitable organisations which handle
large quantities of bulk matter. In most countries, the general
public are not permitted to use them; only authorised users may
there are great variations in style, precancels are usually definitive
stamps overprinted with a town name, state or province, or some
other distinctive marking, which shows that they have been cancelled
prior to mailing.
Apart from the United States, which is by far the largest precancel
issuing country, substantial use of the system has been made by
Canada, Belgium, France and Monaco. Other countries have used precancels
on an experimental or limited basis; these include Holland, Luxembourg,
Algeria, Tunisia, Hungary, Turkey, Danzig, Austria, Venezuela,
Peru, Argentina, United Nations and even Great Britain.