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US Classic Stamps

Gallery of Fancy Cancels


US Classic Stamps of the Banknote Issues of 1870-1888 offer the postmark collector many different possibilities. Everyone is aware of the beautiful and ornate cork cancels of the New York Foreign Mail Office from this period, but regular domestic fancy cancels offer an even wider opportunity for the postmark collector.

In the 1870's and 1880's, Post Office regulations forbade applying town cancels to postage stamps on envelopes. The postal clerks were required to use a "killer" or "obliterator" canceling device to cancel the stamps instead. This eventually lead to the use of "duplex cancels", those awful looking things that came into regular use in the 1890's and continued into the 1930's.

1870 National Banknote Co. Issue - 1 Cent - Cover
Illustrating the positioning of the postmark and killer.

Many postal clerks used rubber stoppers or bottle corks as "killer" devices, and they often carved personalized designs into them. They used these home-made "killer" devices to cancel the stamps and then applied the circular town cancel elsewhere on the envelope.

All US classic stamp postmark collections are composed of whatever the collector deems appropriate, based on their goals and pocketbooks. A nice representative collection can be made of each type of cancel, for a moderate cost. Or the collector can try to get as many different cancel types on as many different issues of the period that they can. And then there are covers, but covers with these stamps and cancellations can get very expensive.

When I collected the stamps shown in this "gallery" back in the 1980's and 1990's, I tried to get as many cancels as I could, on each issue and each denomination of the Banknote Series (1870-1890). Of course, the stamps were much cheaper then. It may have been over-kill, but I almost never passed up on a well struck, pretty cancel, when I found one, even though I might have had multiple copies of that particular stamp with the particular fancy cancel.

The GALLERY below shows images of most of the fancy cancels that I was able to collect. Although I sold my US collection back in the late 1990's, I did manage to scan a great number of stamps from the collection. I am sharing some of those scans, arranged by issue and denominations. Please enjoy them!

Elaborate Subject Cancels

Hat, Eagle, Crossed Cannons?, Flower?

Negative US, MASS, Ornate US PAID, Ornate US PAID

Miscellaneous Geometric Cancels

Leaf Cancels

Cross Cancels

Shield Cancels

Numeral and Letter Cancels

Star Cancels

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Gallery of Fancy Cancels 1870-1888