More about US precancels

» Email » Print
» Add comment

Yesterday I wrote a general introduction to US precancels. Since US precancels are IMHO a wide and interesting topic, lets dig in further…

US precancels can be put to two basic categories:

1) Bureau precancels, which were printed and precancelled by Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC.
2) Local (or City-type) precancels, which were (usually) precancelled in the town they were used.

Bureau precancels

Bureau precancels were used when USPOD (US Postal Offices Department) felt that large quantities of precancels could be prepared cheaper than by hiring local printers. Bureau precancels had to be ordered in lots of at least 500,000 sheet stamps or 250,000 coil stamps, and they were printed only to specific definitive stamps/sets.

Bureau precancels always show single lines above and below the city and state (with the exception of National precancels mentioned yesterday); never bars or double lines. Precancel design is always in the normal position, except on stamps that are wider than they are tall; on these stamps, the precancelation usually reads down.

US Bureau precancel

US Bureau precancel

In a sense, Bureau precancels are varieties of U.S. postage stamps made for restricted use, and several varieties (like untagged stamps, meaning absent phosphorescent coating) are known to be issued only as Bureau precancels.

Local (city) precancels

Orders for smaller quantities than 500,000 sheet stamps or 250,000 coil stamps had to be manufactured locally using (usually) government-issued electroplates or by using precancel devices (such as rubberstamps + inkpad) at local post office. Local precancels can be found on virtually any US stamp  - most of the local precancels are common, but there are some very rare items too with only a handful of copies known.

Local precancels can be roughly sorted to five main designs, but infinite number of local/plate/typeset etc. varieties exists.

1-2) Typesets and hand stamped precancels are easy to identify, since they lack uniform design and come in very mixed quality.

US rubberstamp precancel

US rubberstamped precancel

3) Single Line Electro (SLE) precancels were printed by local post offices with Electroplates.

US SLE precancel

US SLE precancel

4) Double Line Electro (DLE) precancels were printed by local post offices.

Double Line Electro (DLE) precancel

Double Line Electro (DLE) precancel

5) Dated – Starting in 1938, the user’s initials plus the month of use was required to be printed on denominations over 6 cents. This practice was put into action to prevent precancelled stamp re-use.

MW (Montgomery Ward) and SRC (Sears Roebuck) dateds are the most common.

MW (Montgomery Ward) and SRC (Sears Roebuck) are the most common dateds precancels.

How to collect US precancels

For starters, with precancels the cancel is more important than the stamp itself. Thus even damaged stamps (as shown in some of my pics) are good enough if better quality replacement is not available.  However, like in traditional stamp collecting, it is wise to strive for stamps that are free from tears, thins etc. faults.

Another difference to traditional stamp collection comes with ordering of stamps. The most common way to order a collection is alphabetical order by state and city of precancel. And if you have plenty of precancels, you can always split these to subcategories by origin (bureau or local) and precancel designs.

US precancels offer plenty to collect with low budget…To obtain a collection of each style of precancel used for each town and state in the US would take about 42,000 stamps (of which about 9,500 are Bureau precancels). If you collected each style and town used on each stamp that would mean a collection of few million stamps. . In addition, most of these are very common and low in value, but there are also some rarities with locals.

Finally few words about the catalogues… The very best US precancel catalogues are by the Precancel Stamps Society. They offer separate books for Bureaus and for Locals with very clear listing of all known stamp-types and precancel overprints.

You might also be interested of related posts about , , .

Show that you liked this article

Support the blog - become a premium member for 12.40€!

By joining Stamp Collecting Blog Premium membership programme, You can support this blog and quarantee that articles like this (and 300+ others already available) remain freely accessible to every stamp collector. Additionally, you can download some of the blog contents as downloadable eBooks (pdf) and You can opt out of ads for period of one year. Read more and sign up now!

Subscribe to free newsletter

Click here to subscribe the weekly newsletterSign-up to SCB newsletter and get notified when new articles like the above are published at Stamp Collecting Blog. The email-newsletter is sent to Your inbox one to four times a month, and it contains a summary of new entries and discussions on the blog.

Your email address:


There are 12 responses for this entry, click to read the responses.

Leave a new response

Doubleclick here and type your response...

All responses are moderated before publishing. Responses should be respectful of other voices in the discussion, and remain on topic (all buy/sell messages will be deleted). Stampcollectingblog.com reserves the right to edit or delete comments that violate these policies. If You want to share an picture/photo, simply write the entire URL of the photo in the comments field.

And finally... A small IQ test. Please click the picture that is NOT a postage stamp. Then press the "Submit Comment" button below images.

Stamp image Stamp image Stamp image Stamp image

All original content and images of this blog is under copyright protection; any kind of reproduction of full contents without permission of the owner is hereby denied. All Rights Reserved © Keijo Kortelainen, 2009-2014. All photos of stamps in this blog are enlargements or reductions of original stamps from private collection of author of the blog (unless otherwise stated). The designs of stamps and postmarks are copyright of issuing postal authorities and their designers. The comments / discussion on this blog are copyright of their retrospective authors, and represent the opinion of their authors. Catalog numbers (Scott, Michel, SG etc) are the copyrighted property of their publishers. | See our privacy policy