Authentication Terms

Philately has a large number of terms used to describe stamps and covers and their condition. Many of the terms have a common meaning throughout the various specialties, others do not. Our certificates sometimes contain terms that are not clear or completely understood by the submitter of an item. To help clarify the terminology contained in certificates the Authentication Service is preparing a glossary of terms most frequently used in authentication.  The first section of the glossary addresses stamps and a second section will address covers.

Stamp Terms          Cover Terms

Terms Used in Authenticating Stamps

General Terms

Facsimile – Copy or reproduction of a stamp not intended to defraud collectors.

FakeSee Forgery.

Fantasy - A fabricated stamp, cancel, marking or other item of a design that never existed.

Forgery – A likeness of an existing stamp, cancel, marking or other item made to defraud collectors.

Reprint – An issued stamp printed after the Civil War from the original plate, form or setting.

General Stamp Condition

Cancel – A handstamp or manuscript marking applied to a stamp to prevent its reuse for payment of postage.

Mint - A stamp as originally issued by the post office with full original gum as applied by the stamp printer. 

Unused – A stamp that shows no evidence of postal use and which lacks some or all of the original gum.

Used – A postally used stamp as indicated by one or more cancels. Normally used to describe an off cover stamp.


Official Perforations – Perforations of 12.5 gauge applied by the Post Office Department to Archer & Daily printings of CSA Scott 11 and 12.  

Private Separations – Small cuts or holes made in the margins between stamps to facilitate their separation. These were done mechanically or by hand.

Roulette – Private separations applied to stamps by mechanical means. The form of the roulettes must repeat and be of sufficient uniformity to allow consistent measurement.


No Gum – Absence of any gum. 

Disturbed Gum – Gum in other than its original state. 

Original Gum – Full original gum as applied by the stamp printer.

Part Original Gum – A stamp missing some of the original gum.

Regummed – A stamp which had gum applied by other than the stamp printer.

Ungummed – A stamp issued without gum.

Stamp Condition

Bleached – Use of a chemical agent to lighten or remove a stain or cancel.

Cleaned – Removal of superficial foreign substances from a stamp or cover.

Color Changeling – A noticeable change in the color of a stamp from chemical or light exposure.   

Crease – A folding of paper that creates a permanent deformity.

Faded – Color faded from exposure to light.

Foxing – Spots and stains caused by fungi. The spots or stains may range in color from brown to reddish-brown to yellowish-brown.

Hinged – A stamp to which a hinge or partial hinge is attached.  

Inclusion – A foreign substance or defect embedded in a stamp that was introduced during the paper making process.

Never hinged – A stamp which has no evidence of a hinge ever being applied (used only in reference to an unused stamp).

Paper Adhesion – Paper residue adhering to gum caused by contact with other paper when damp.

Pin Hole – A tiny hole in a stamp through which light can be seen.

Pressed – The application of pressure or heat and pressure to remove wrinkles and creases.

Repair – A missing or damaged portion of a stamp replaced or reconstructed \.

Scissors Cut – A physical separation of paper fibers by mechanical means (e.g. scissors) or a sharp object (e.g. knife).

Scrape – An abrasion on the front of a stamp resulting from the removal of some of the paper fibers.

Sealed Tear – A tear sealed by an adhesive.

Soiled – Any substance on the surface of a stamp that dulls or darkens its appearance. 

Stain – A soiled or discolored spot caused by a foreign substance 

Tear – A physical separation of the paper fibers.

Thin – The unnatural absence of some of the paper fibers from the back of the stamp so that place is thinner or more transparent than the surrounding paper.

Toning – A yellowing or darkening of paper from natural or other causes.

Wrinkle – A small ridge or ridges formed in paper from the uneven shrinking or contraction of the paper or gum. 

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