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MINT: A stamp that is in the same condition as when it left the printer with full original gum, never hinged, uncancelled, and free of any stains, tears, etc.

UNUSED: A stamp that has not been cancelled or defaced, but is not necessarily still in mint condition . May have a hinge mark.

USED: A stamp that has been postally used, with a cancellation mark, as distinguished from cancelled-to-order (CTO).

CTO: A stamp that has a cancellation mark but was never postally used, usually with gum still in tact.

CENTERING: VF Very Fine: A stamp that may be slightly off center, but the design will be well clear of the edge. The stamp will have a well balanced appearance. Imperforate issues will have a least three normal-sized margins. Early issues may be printed in such a manor that the perforations may touch the design on one or more sides. Used stamps will have light or otherwise neat cancellations.
F/VF Fine to Very Fine: A stamp that is somewhat off center on one side or slightly off center on two sides. Imperforate stamps will have two normal sized margins. Early issues may be printed in such a manor that the design naturally is very close to the edges and in may cases the perforations may cut into the design very slightly. Used stamps will not have a cancellation that detracts from the design.
F Fine: A stamp that is noticeable off center on two sides. Imperforate stamps may have small margins. Perforated issues will have designs that barely clear the perfs on one side. Early issues will have the perforations cut slightly into the design. Used stamps may have a heavy cancellation.
GUM: NH Never Hinged: The gum is free from any disturbance or marks caused from mounting or hinging.
LH Lightly Hinged: The gum will have a faint impression of a removed hinge.
IWG Issued Without Gum: Some imperforate stamps were issued by the U.S. Postal Service without gum.
SA Self Adhesive: A stamp that is issued with a peelable backing and an adhesive gum that does not require moistening.

PERFORATE: A stamp which comes from a sheet with holes, or perforations, punched between the rows of stamps to facilitate separation.

IMPERFORATE: A stamp which comes from a sheet that was issued without perforations. Imperf stamps are separated by cutting them apart.

COIL: A stamp that was issued in a long coil of stamps primarily for vending or affixing machines. A coil stamp will have two straight edges and perforations on the other two.

LINE PAIR: A pair of coil stamps which has a guide line between them.

PLATE BLOCK: A block of four or more stamps with a plate number(s) printed in the surrounding attached selvage. Early Flat Plate sheets usually contain plate blocks comprised of six stamps with selvage on only one side and the plate number center on the piece of selvage. On Rotary Press and other sheets where only one or two plate numbers appear together, the customary format is four stamps from the corner of the pane with selvage on two sides and the plate number. On multi-color, multi-plate printings, popular in the 1970s and 1980s, a series of plate numbers often ran down a substantial part of the selvage causing plate blocks to be 6, 8, 10, 12, or 20 stamps. Most modern plate blocks are now comprised of four stamps from one corner of a pane with selvage on two sides and a single multi-colored plate number. All prices listed for Plate Blocks are for 4 stamps unless otherwise noted in parenthesis like this: (12).

SHEET: A full uncut unit of stamps as they come from the press. A sheet is made up of four or more panes.

PANE: A unit of stamps cut from a sheet for distribution and sale to the public. Most definitives are printed in sheets of 400 and cut for sale into panes of 100 stamps. Commemoratives are typically printed in sheets of 200 and are cut for sale in panes of 50 stamps. There are many exceptions to these quantities especially in recent years.

MINI SHEET: Popular in recent years, a mini sheet is a pane of stamps in a smaller than normal format. Typically 20 stamps per pane. Some examples are the Bret Hart $5 definitive and the Marilyn Monroe 32¢ commemorative.

SOUVENIR SHEET: As the name implies, a souvenir sheet is a miniature sheet that was released as a souvenir to be saves rather than postally used - although such sheets and the single stamps from them can be legally used as postage.

COMMEMORATIVE: Stamps issued to honor a specific event, anniversary, individual, or group. Commemoratives are printed in predetermined quantities and are intended for sale during a limited period.

DEFINITIVE: Stamps that are issued for normal, everyday postage needs. They are put on sale for a period limited only by changing rate needs. Post offices can requisition additional stocks of difinitives as needed.

AIR MAIL: Stamps that are issued in denominations specifically valued for airmail use.

FLAT PLATE: A printing process in which stamps are printed from a flat plate pressed straight down onto the blank sheet. The gum on the back of a Flat Plate stamp will be smooth.

ROTARY PRESS: A printing process in which stamps are printed from a round plates that roll over the blank sheets. The design will be slightly larger than flat plate stamps due to stretching during the printing process. The gum on the back of a Rotary Press stamp will have ridges.

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Copyright © 1997, 1998 DeKalb Stamp & Coin Co., Inc. DBA Northlake Stamp & Coin, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.