Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stamp Alphabet Series: S is For Sweden

Sample Overprint

In 1889, at the order of the United States Post Office Department, the American Bank Note Co. prepared special printings of a range of earlier Bank Note issues that had been produced between 1879 and 1888. Copies of U.S. stamps issued since 1851 that were subsequently circulated for official, promotional, or educational purposes had been overprinted "Specimen." This special printing had never been intended for postal use of any kind; however, it apparently was felt that a "Specimen" overprint was inappropriate for use on these stamps. To ensure that they would not be confused with regular stamps and postally used, therefore, these stamps were given "SAMPLE" and "SAMPLE A" overprints in red or blue. (On four of them, all or part of the overprint appears in manuscript.) The stamps are listed with specimen stamps in the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps & Covers.

Sawtooth Roulette

A roulette that leaves angular, pointed edges.


Any non-postal labels used to raise money for charity or to decorate or seal envelopes.

Sealed Coil

A full roll of coil stamps that is in the original condition it was when sold at the post office. The size of the roll and characteristics can differ, but it will bear some form of seal, label, or wrapper. Some collectors save full, sealed coil rolls, and others purchase them to break down into desirable components. Sealed coils can be found from virtually every country that has produced coil stamps. With rare exceptions, most sealed coil rolls do not command premiums over the prices of their component stamps.

Second Issue

United States revenue stamps released in 1871 to replace the first issue series. The second issue stamps differ slightly in design from first issue examples and were printed on chameleon paper with silk fibers. This was intended to prevent unlawful cleaning of the cancels and subsequent illegal reuse.

Secret Marks

Tiny marks on stamps added by the artist or engraver to allow two similar designs to be told apart. These are frequently used with specific reference to early U.S. 19th century bank not issues. Some engravers also hide heir names or other details in stamp designs, only to be discovered later by sharp-eyed collectors. These, too, are known as secret marks.

Security Paper

A catchall term that refers to different types of paper, including silk, chalky, and prephosphored papers, among others, used to prevent counterfeiting of stamps.

Selective Block Tagging

Although similar to block tagging, this type of application involves the cutting of tagging rollers on a pantograph machine to leave untagged areas on printed stamps. Examples of this type of tagging include the 1988 Classic Autos booklet and the 13-cent Eagle and Shield definitive. The untagged area left by selective block tagging allows the cancellation ink to adequately permeate the stamp paper to prevent illegal reuse.

Self-Adhesive Stamps

Stamps with pressure-sensitive adhesive. Stamps with self-adhesive gum require no moisture to apply. They feature a sheet of silicone-coated backing paper beneath that keeps them intact until they are used. The first self-adhesive U.S. stamp, a pre-canceled die-cut 10-cent Dove Weathervane introduced for use on Christmas cards in October 1974, met with only modest success, and the gum has tended to produce mottled brown spots on mint copies. Improved self-adhesive stamps issued during the last decade, however, beginning with the 1989 25-cent Eagle and Shield, have become popular with postal patrons. Self-adhesive technology is relatively new to stamps, but currently accounts for the vast majority of new postage stamps produced in the United States. The first self-adhesive stamp was released by Sierra Leone in 1964 to salute the New York World's Fair.

The unprinted paper surrounding the stamp in a pane, sheet, or booklet. The term also refers to the paper that borders sheets and pans of stamps as they are printed.

Example of "Selvage" that borders a small sheet of stamps

A postage stamp that also serves as a receipt for the prepayment of an additional fee, usually to benefit charity. This additional fee frequently is represented in the stamp's denomination as a "plus" indicator. Thus, a stamp with 3+2c denomination denotes 3 cents postage and 2 cents to a specific charity.


See Perforations and Roulette.


A grouping of stamps by design, theme, or other means, intentionally released as a group over a period of months or years.

Serpentine Roulette

A form of roulette consisting of wavy lines.

Serrated roulette (or Saw Tooth Rouletting)

A form of rouletting, probably in which the simulated perforations fit together in an interlocking pattern of jagged right angles.


When overprinted on a stamp, the term generally means "on government service." The overprint indicates the stamp is valid for use only by a governmental official.

Service-Inscribed Stamps

Stamps containing text indicating their intended function or rate, either as an integral part of the stamp design (as in the "BULK RATE" inscription on the 7.9-cent Drum definitive) or applied as an overprint (as in "CAR-RT SORT" Bureau pre-cancel.


Stamps released to mark the 150th anniversary of a significant date or event.


A grouping of stamps all belonging to the same issue or series.

Set Off

Often inaccurately referred to as offset, set-off is a phenomenon that occurs when freshly printed sheets of stamps are stacked before the ink has completely dried. The design from a bottom sheet frequently, partially or fully, transfers to the un printed side of the sheet directly above it. The more complete the impression, the more desirable the freak is to collectors. The most pronounced examples of set offs are caused by a printing plate leaving a fully inked impression on an underlying roller when the press skips a sheet of paper. Subsequent sheets then receive normally inked impressions on the top side, as well as a reversed impression on the gummed side, where it has come in contact with the roller. Subsequent offset impressions fade as the ink on the roller is exhausted. These freaks, which are usually strong impressions, are greatly sought after. A third form of set off can be simulated by normally printed stamps sticking together as a result of high humidity. When pulled apart, they can give the appearance of an offset, but they are not true set offs and have no philatelic value. Another similar form of setoff can also occur through improper storage of stamps in albums. Under pressure, stamp designs transfer from the face of the stamp to the next album page. This form of setoff is not desirable.


Two or more stamps of different designs or types that are attached. Se-tenant issues have become more popular in recent years with a number of different countries. Unintentional se-tenants also exist. If different die types or major variations occur on different stamps from the same sheet or pane, a pair of stamps exhibiting these different characteristics are considered to be se-tenant.

Sewing Machine Perfs

Privately produced perforations on imperforate second issue revenues. It is believed that the buyer of what would have been imperforate errors ran the stamps through a sewing machine, letting the needle to the perforating.


A color variation from the normally released version. A shade by nature refers only to one particular mix of hue and chroma, but is compared by collectors to what is considered normal for a stamp.


A complete printing sheet of stamps as it comes off the press. It may well be sliced into post office panes at a later date.

Sheet Files

An oversized glassine envelope capable of holding an entire mint pane.


A flat-plate press that prints stamps in individual sheets, as opposed to a webfed rotary press, which utilizes large rolls, or webs, of paper.

Ship Cancel

A postal marking applied aboard a ship. Such markings usually give not only the date, but also the name of the ship and, occasionally, the shipping line name. Such cancels are usually considered desirable.

Short Perf

Poor separation of attached stamps may result in one perforation tooth that is shorter than its neighbors. While a short perf is considered a fault, it may not seriously affect a stamp's value negatively. Short Set A grouping of stamps from the same issue or series that may be missing one or two values, usually the high values in the packet trade.


The practice (or art) of creating printing plates from the original die by using transfer rolls to rock stamp images onto the printing plate. Most siderography is now done by machine, rather than by hand.

Silk Paper

Revenue stamp paper that includes silk fibers. (The early experimental silk paper, found on first issue revenues and some private die proprietaries is difficult to distinguish.) In many cases, only a single fiber or two may be found on one stamp. Later silk paper types have numerous, highly visible silk fibers appearing in the paper.

Silver Tax Stamps

Used to pay tax on the net profit on the sale of silver bullion (1934-63). Silver tax stamps were to be affixed to the transfer memorandum. Although the last silver tax stamps were released in 1944, their use was continued until June 4, 1963.


Stamps that have been postally used but were not canceled. Although the use of skips is illegal, many people view them as found money. Once removed from the envelope, there is no way to distinguish a skip from an unused stamp without gum.


Abbreviation for straight line, referring, for example, to a town marking consisting of a straight line.


A stamp that is in short supply or inherently desirable for some reason, but the value has not yet been discovered by collectors.

Slogan Cancel

Metal die hub cancels that bear some informational, advertising, promotional, or propaganda message. They are found on the covers of many countries. Slogan cancels may also be hand-stamped, but do not occur as frequently as machine cancels.

Smears, Blobs, and Blotches

Caused on stamps by excess ink, by cleaning solvent or other chemicals, on the printing plate at some point during production.

Snowman Perforations

A perforation anomaly that appears on some stamps of the 1990s processed on what is known as an APS grinding perforator. The name comes from the appearance of the anomaly: stacked perforation holes that resemble a sideways snowman. The APS grinding perforator does not punch holes in the stamp paper; it grinds out the holes, with the use of three rotary blades and a perforation pattern die that pushes the paper into cutting blades, producing dust, rather than tiny circles of paper. The practice, known as skiving, was borrowed from the leather making industry, where thin layers of skin are removed from the hide. Cutting heads are positioned so that the web first travels pas one cutter, grinding away the paper and perforating that portion of the web first. The web then travels under a take-up roller to the remaining two cutting heads. If the paper slips slightly out of alignment, or if the take-up rolls develop play or chatter, the edges of the blades, which normally overlap two or three holes, double-cut the stamps out of alignment, causing the snowman affect of slightly doubled perforations.


The process of removing stamps from their envelope backings by immersing in cool water for a time. Soaked stamps are then placed face down on absorbent paper to dry.


See Bull's Eye.

Solvent Smear

The most dramatic form of color smear, these result from use of solvents to clean printing plates. After cleaning, solvent remainders thin printing ink to the point that t messily smears across the surface of the finished stamp. Like all freaks, these items are supposed to be cut from the printed web of stamp paper and destroyed, but they occasionally slip though, to the delight of collectors.

Souvenir Card

Special items with philatelic interest, usually released in conjunction with philatelic exhibitions. Souvenir cards may or may not depict stamps. In some cases, such as those produced by the Bureau of Engraving and printing, souvenir cards bear die imprints of actual postage stamps. Souvenir cards are not valid for postage, but are simply intended to be attractive souvenirs.

Souvenir Panel

A specific product of the United States Postal Service. A souvenir panel is a specially engraved card, with text relating to a stamp issue. A mint block of four stamps is then added to the panel and sold as a souvenir.

Souvenir Sheet

Typically a small pane or sheet that contains one or more stamps, released for a specific event or purpose. The margins of souvenir sheets frequently are very large and contain printed information describing the stamps, the purpose of issue, or the special event being commemorated. The stamps in a souvenir sheet may either be perforated or imperforate, and, with rare exceptions, are valid for postage, either as part of the sheet or cut out and affixed separately. In many cases, stamps in souvenir sheets reproduce older stamp issues. Souvenir sheets have been issued by most countries at one time or another, frequently in celebration of a large stamp show.

Example of a "Souvenir Sheet"

A damaged or inferior copy of a stamp valued chiefly for its ability to fill as spot in an album. It is assumed that the stamp will be replaced when a better example is obtained, unless it happens to be very rare or valuable.


The corner area between the vignette (or central oval) and the outer frame line or border. This corner area frequently includes decorative design elements.

Special Delivery

A special service of mail used when a sender wishes a communication to be delivered quickly, by messenger, upon its arrival at the post office. Many different countries have released special delivery stamps for this service. In recent years, special delivery has fallen out of favor with mailers (and was discontinued in the United States in 1997). Expedited services, such as Express Mail, have largely replaced the need for special delivery.

Special Handling

Stamps representing a special fee for a service used on fourth-class mail that gives it the same handling privileges as first-class mail.

Special Printing

Stamps created for distribution to dignitaries as special favors, or for sale (often long after the fact) to collectors. They may or may not be valid for postage. Such stamps also may or may not be produced from original printing plates. Examples of special printings include the 1875 printings of numerous U.S. stamps (including newly engraved reproductions of numbers 1 and 2). The exact line of what constitutes a special printing is not always clear. The so-called Farley's Follies issues of the 1930's, which were produced to make stamps given to dignitaries available to collectors, are considered by most to be special printings. The intentional printing of the 1962 Hamarskjold Invert is, in fact, a special printing, but is not generally acknowledged as such.

Special Stamps

There is some discussion among collectors over special stamps, a not-entirely-satisfactory term coined by the U.S. Postal Service. These stamps fall somewhere between definitives and commemoratives in both size and use. They may be reprinted from time to time, like definitives, but are issued in a very limited range of denominations and have a more specialized function or intended period of use than ordinary definitives do. The Christmas stamps issued since 1962 and the Love stamps issued since 1973 are examples of U.S. special issues.


A collector who studies and gains special knowledge in one particular area. This can include country or topical collections as well as specialized studies of a single stamp or series. In many cases, the dedicated specialist is able to serve as an expert in his or her chosen specialty.

Specimen Stamp

A stamp that has been defaced by means of an overprint, perforation pattern, or other obliterations for the purpose of creating samples to be given to postmasters, philatelic agencies, and others.