GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Postcards and Stamps
by Joelle Steele
Aerophilately. The collecting of airmail stamps.
Airbrush. A small pressurized "gun" that sprays paint with compressed air to create tonal effects in artwork.
Airmails. Stamps issued for use on airmail letters before all mail was sent by air.
Approvals. Stamps sent to collectors by sellers for evaluation prior to purchase.
Benday (Ben Day). Process in which a tone is added to a printed image using a sheet of dots or other patterns.
Bisect. A stamp cut in half (a half-stamp) used to pay postage at only half its total value and that is still attached to the original cover with a cancellation or postmark covering the cut.
Bleed. When the printed part of an image extends to the trim edges of the piece.
Block. A group of attached stamps that is at least two stamps wide and two stamps high (usually called a "block of four").
Bond. A strong and permanent grade of paper.
Booklet Pane. Small panes of about six stamps printed and cut to be sold in booklets.
Booklet. A pane of stamps in a bound booklet.
C.T.O. See "Cancelled to Order."
Cachet. A special handstamp or printed device used to denote a special mailing.
Cancellation. A mark on a stamp that indicates the stamp has been postally used.
Cancelled to Order (CTO). Stamps which are cancelled by the post office but were never postally used.
Card Stock. A heavy paper that stays stiff and flat.
Centering. The positioning of a stamp so that the margins between the image and the perforations is equal on all sides.
Chromolithography. A lithographic printing method used to reproduce color photos and make multi-color prints.
Cinderella. A stamp-like item that is not valid for postage.
CMYK. A color palette of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black, the colors more often used in modern commercial printing.
Coarse Screen. A halftone screen of up to 85 lines per inch which is used in newsprint and other inexpensive paper stocks.
Coated Paper. Paper that has been coated on one or both sides giving it a slick, shiny, or glossy surface.
Coils. Stamps originally issued in rolls for use in dispensers or vending machines, but also used outside of those devices.
Color Changeling. A stamp in which the color has been changed, either by accident or on purpose.
Color Separation Film. The negative or positive film produced by a process camera or scanner.
Color Separation. In color reproduction, the process of separating the various original colors of an image by using color filters.
Commemoratives. Stamps honoring important dates or events and usually only sold for a limited period of time.
Compound Perforations. A stamp with different perforations on the top/bottom than on the sides.
Condition. The quality or state of a stamp in regard to its characteristic of centering, color, freshness, cancellation, gum, hinging, etc.
Continuous Tone. An image in which each color is reproduced as a single tone, such as one single color for monochromatic prints, or a combination of halftones for color prints.
Controlled Mail. A system in which mail is sent using specific stamps that are to be returned to the sender.
Convertible Booklet. A pane of self-adhesive stamps that can be folded into a booklet.
Cover. The envelope or postcard to which a stamp is affixed when it is postally used.
Cut Square. An envelope stamp cut out with a saquare margin.
Definitives. Small stamps used over long periods of time, as distinguished from commemoratives. Also called Regular Issue.
Deltiology. The study and collecting of postcards.
Die. A plate on which a stamp image is engraved and from which it is then printed.
Die-Cut. Cut by a device to produce wavy lines for separating stamps.
Drop Shadow. A shadow that shows behind a piece of text or an image.
Duotone. Two halftone plates made from the same original but to different tone ranges so that when printed together — one superimposed over the other — a greater tone range is produced than is possible in one color.
Duplex Halftone. Two color halftone blocks made from a monochrome original, the second plate being used as a tint.
Elliptical Dot Screen. A halftone contact screen that produces an elliptical dot, giving more even changes in the midtones.
Errors. Stamps with accidental mistakes, such as color, paper, watermark, inverted centers, perforations, etc.
Essays. Preliminary stamp designs that are not used as submitted, if at all.
Europa. Stamps issued by a group of European nations that share a common design or theme.
Face Value. The monetary value or denomination printed on a stamp.
Fade-out Halftone. See "Vignette."
First Day Cover. A stamp on cover cancelled for its first day of use, usually at an officially-designated location.
Flat Press or Flatbed Press. A printing press that uses a flat plate (rather than a curved plate as in a rotary press) and paper is fed into it one sheet at a time.
Flexography. Also called "flexo." Uses a flexible relief plate for printing on almost any kind of material.
Four-color Process. See "Full color."
Frank. Prepaid postage stamp.
Freak. A stamp with an inconsistent production flaw, such as ink smears/smudges or off-center perforations.
Full Color. Color printing by means of the three primary color (yellow, magenta, and cyan) and black superimposed.
Gravure. See Rotogravure.
Grill. Rectangular areas of waffle design impressed/embossed in the back of some stamps using pointed steel rollers intended to hold cancellation inks and prevent the stamps from being "washed" and re-used.
Gruss aus. German phrase meaning "greetings from."
Gum Breakers. Ridges across the adhesive that prevents stamps from curling.
Gum Skips. An area on a stamp near the edge of a pane that is without gum/adhesive.
Gum. The adhesive on a stamp.
Gutter Pair. A pair of stamps with a wide gutter between them that separates a sheet into panes.
Halftone Screen. A glass plate cross-ruled with opaque lines leaving a grid of transparent squares used to split a photographic image into halftone dots, now usually done by computers.
Halftone. A photograph printed by any of the major printing processes that can adequately represent the intermediate tones by using dots of various sizes generated by a scanner or halftone screen.
Hinge. A gummed strip of paper used to mount a stamp in an album.
Hunting Permit Stamps. Stamps issued annually in the U.S. since 1934 to finance a federal waterfowl program.
Image Area. The printing and ink-carrying areas of a litho printing plate.
Image. Any photo or graphic presentation, or the portion of a page that contains the text and/or the photos or graphics.
Imperforate. Stamp without any perforations.
India Paper. A soft, thin, sily woven paper used for printer proofs of stamps.
Intaglio. Printing in which the image is incised/etched onto a plate.
Invert or Inverted Center. A two-color stamps that has a portion of its design, usually the center, inverted (upside down).
Laid Paper. A paper that shows parallel lines of light and ark when help up to the light or submerged in benzine solution.
Letterset. Offset letterpress printing, also called dry offset.
Line Art. Artwork entirely in black on white with no intermediary tones and not requiring a halftone for reproduction.
Line Drawing. See "Line art."
Line Pair. An attached pair of stamps with a printed guideline between them.
Linerless Coil. A coil of self-adhesive stamps without backing paper.
Lithography. Also called "litho." A printing process that uses a single stone (lithographic limestone) or a metal plate with a very smooth surface. The image and non-image surfaces are the same plate and the paper makes contact with the whole plate surface. The printing area is treated to accept ink and the non-printing surface is treated to attract water or some other solution that rejects ink. The process originally relied on the use of oil or fat to achieve this.
Locals. Stamps issued for use in restricted areas.
Margin. The border outside the printed design of a stamp.
Microprinting. Small, almost undetectable printing on a stamp for security purposes.
Miniature Sheet. Sheets of 25 or less definitive stamps.
Mint Sheet. A sheet of stamps in mint condition.
Mint. In unused, pristine condition.
Missionaries. The first four stamps issued by the Hawaiian Islands.
Monochrome. An image made with one color ink in various shades of that color.
Mount. A plastic sleeve that holds a stamp in an album without a hinge.
Official Stamps. Adhesive stamps for government use only.
Offset Letterpress. A form of rotary printing method in which the ink is transferred from the printing plate to an offset blanket cylinder and then to paper.
Offset Lithographic. See "Offset letterpress."
Omnibus Issue. Stamps issued by different countries, using similar designs or themes, to commemorate the same event.
Overprint. A word or inscription printed onto a stamp to alter its original use or locality, or to cause it to serve a special purpose.
Pair. Two attached/unsevered stamps.
Pane. A portion of a sheet of stamps as cut to be sold by post offices.
Parcel Post Stamp. A stamp issued for packages weighing more than 16 ounces.
Paste-up Pair. A pair of coil stamps showing a joint where two sheets were pasted together.
Perfin. A stamp perforated on its face with initials or designs by private entities.
Perforation Number. The number of perforations found in a 2-centimeter space.
Perforation. A row of holes punched between stamps to make it easier to separate them.
Philately. The collection and study of stamps and other postal materials.
Photochrome. See chromolithography.
Photogravure. An intaglio printmaking process in which photographic images are printed using forms of mechanized plate etching.
Pictorial. A type of stamp issued in 1869 that was the first two-color U.S. stamp and is the precursor to modern-day commemorative stamps.
Plate Block. A block of four or more stamps that has a printing plate number on its margin.
Plate Number Strip. A strip of three or five coil stamps with a plate number in middle stamp.
Plate. The metal, plastic, or paper image carrier used to transfer ink to paper in the letterpress printing or to the blanket in lithographic printing.
PMT. A photomechanical transfer; a photostat made on photographic paper with a high quality camera to be used in layout and paste-up of a publication; see also "Stat" and "Velox"; now usually done on a computer.
Postage Due Stamp. A discontinued stamp that was once placed on mail to indicate that the sender used insufficient postage and that postage was due by the recipient.
Postal Stationery. Envelopes, cards, and other materials with stamps printed on them.
Postmark. A cancellation mark that shows the date (sometimes the time) and place of mailing.
Precancel. A stamp that is postmarked before the item is mailed.
Prestige Booklet. A booklet with a large pane and accompanying text used for a commemorative purpose.
Prexies. A term applied to the 1938 U.S. Presidential Series, Scott #'s 803-334 and 839-51.
Process Color. See "Full color."
Proof. A preliminary printing to test the appearance of a stamp or piece of postal stationery.
Regular Issue. See Definitive Issue.
Reproduction. Also called "repro." The entire printing process from the completion of typesetting until lithographic plates reach the press.
Retouching. Treatment of a photographic negative or positive by hand to modify the tonal values or to remove imperfections prior to reproduction; see also "Airbrush."
Revenue Stamps. Stamps used to show that taxes were paid on specific items.
RGB. A palette of the colors red, green, and blue, used in older color printing methods.
Rotary Press. A printing press that uses curved printing plates and a continuous roll of paper.
Rotary Printing. Printing done on a rotary press (offset or web offset, rotogravure, or flexography press) on which images are curved around a cylinder and printing can be done on various kinds of materials.
Rotogravure. Also called "roto" or "gravure." A high speed intaglio-type printing process in which an image is engraved onto an image carrier — a copper cylinder rather than a plate — using a rotary printing press.
Screen. See "Halftone" and "Halftone screen."
Self-adhesive. Stamps that can be peeled off a special backing and affixed without being moistened.
Selvage. The border or margin of paper surrounding a pane.
Semi-Postal. Stamps that carry an additional charge to raise money for charity.
Series. Stamps with a common design or theme that are added to over time.
Serpentine. A wavy line impressed or embossed into the paper between stamps in place of perforations, which make separation easier.
Set. A complete series of stamps that were issued at one time.
Se-Tenant. Two or more stamps with different designs or values that are printed together on the same sheet.
Sheet. The arrangement of stamps as they come off the press, commemorative ones usually in sheets of 200 each.
Sheet-fed Press. See "Flat Press."
Soft Dot. A halftone dot that is less dense at the edge than at its center and is easier to retouch.
Souvenir Sheet. A small sheet of commemorative stamps with inscriptions or artwork on the border.
Special Delivery. A stamp for an extra fee charged for immediate delivery.
Spot Color. A line or graphic portion which is printed in color to stand out from the rest of the text.
Stat. See "PMT."
Stock Book. A stamp album with pocket-like strips to hold stamps for storage or display.
Strip. Three or more stamps attached horizontally or vertically.
Tagging. A chemical applied to stamps which activate automated cancelling machines.
Thin. An area where a layer of a stamp's paper has been removed.
Tone. The gradation from light to dark in black or any color, contrasted with line work that has no intermediate tones.
Tongs. Flat metal tweezers used to handle stamps.
Topicals. Stamps with a common theme, such as flowers, fish, etc.
Unused Stamp. A stamp that has never been postally used.
Used Stamp. A stamp that has been postall used to send a letter, package, etc.
Velox. See "PMT."
Vignette. An effect applied to halftones that have the tone etched away at the edges so that the image gradually fades out. Also the middle part of a stamp's design.
Water-activated. A stamp glue or gum that must be moistened to adhere to an envelope or other surface.
Watermark. A pattern that is inside the paper itself to discourage counterfeiting.
Web Press. A rotary presses that prints onto continuous rolls of paper.