Precancel Stamp Mystry

Good Morning Ted and Jody:

As you will recall, I purchased a huge lot of used United States coil stamps in pairs and strips back in January.  I come across a few minor EFOs (errors, freaks and oddities) such as perforation shifts, miscuts and an inking variety or so.  I also come across the occasional precanceled pair or strip with either a Bureau of Printing and Engraving precancel overprint on stamps or a local overprint.  While I have been aware of folks who collect precancels I have never looked into it.  So, after over 50 years of collecting and messing with stamps, I bought a pair of precancel catalogs—one for Bureau precancels and one for local precancels—from the Precancel Stamp Society.

Precanceled stamps are used by bulk mailers among others.  They usually pay a lower rate as the precancel and the sorting the bulk mailer does of the mail they take to the post office supposedly saves the post office time and money in handling, at the point of mailing, to justify the lower rate.  The precancel is used, just as normal cancels are to prevent reuse of the stamps by recipients.  Normally, these stamps were overprinted with the city and state or territory in which they were to be used.  Late in the last Century, the Postal Service switched to generic precanceled stamps with specific rate designations, non-profit, presort and the like; at the same time it stopped using city and state overprints.

Nominally the Bureau of Printing and Engraving overprinted stamp issues for a city that needed at least a quarter of a million coil precancels.  For smaller quantities, local imprints were applied using a variety of techniques ranging from rubber handstamps to electroplates.  Hence there is a greater variety of locally applied precancels on any give stamp issue than there are Bureau precancels for the same issue.  The catalog with local issues, called Town precancels is twice as thick as the Bureau Precancel Catalot.

So, armed with my new catalogs of precancel stamps I looked up a Rochester, NY precancel on a pair of 10₵, James Monroe, coil stamps issued first in 1924.  Now, the catalogs provide an image of each of the precancels imprints.  So, it should be easy.  So comparing the catalog image with the imprint on the Monroe pair looks like rochester ny precancel on 10 cent monroe from1924 c email.jpg

So, no good match.  All the town and Bureau precancels are without the vertical lines in the precancel on the 10₵ Monroe pair.  I guess I have to read more about the precancels to figure out what this precancel is.  For, it is highly unlikely I have discovered a new variety.  The detective work shall go one before this goes into the cold case file.

Warmest regards, Ed


About democratizemoney

Retired University Professor
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4 Responses to Precancel Stamp Mystry

  1. beetleypete says:

    Stamps are still fuddling my brain, Theo. Sadly this latest example doesn’t really make the collection of them a great deal clearer. That’s only me though. I’m a stamp dunce!
    Best wishes as always, Pete.


  2. Pete:
    One of Terry Pratchett’s characters, Lord Vetinari, in either the novel Going Postal or Making Money described postage stamps as unsecured notes. When Sir Rowland Hill introduced the One Penny Black postage stamp in 1840, he in effect introduced the concept of prepaid postage in the form of stamps that, as the fictional Lord Vetinari points out, are unsecured promises worth a penny each to anyone who uses one to mail a letter. Generally, one can think of stamp collectors as accumulating and organizing these unsecured notes either canceled (used [obligation fulfilled]) or not (unused or mint [obligation not fulfilled]). A precanceled stamp is an unsecured promise of service to only those who qualify to use them. For all others the obligation is not available, so they are technically used.


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