Stamp Collecting Ideas – Precancels

A lot of times new collectors ask me questions about how can they start a stamp collection, what should they collect, what’s valuable and so on. I recently posted my advice to new collectors.

In my blog theme “Stamp Collecting Ideas”, I will share some themes for new collectors that are relatively inexpensive to start with and yet interesting enough to keep you busy hunting for elusive stamps.

I will talk about Precancels today. Wikipedia describes precanels as:

A precanceled stamp, or precancel for short, is a postage stamp that has been cancelled before being affixed to mail.

Precanceled stamps are typically used by mass mailers, who can save the postal system time and effort by prearranging to use the precancels, and delivering the stamped mail ready for sorting. Precancels were also used on newspaper wrappers in Canada, Austria and Great Britain. The postal administration will typically offer an incentive in the form of a reduced price for precanceled stamps in volume. Precancels cannot normally be purchased by the general public, although they are often seen in one’s daily mail.

The easiest place to begin in my view are the USA Precancels. There are probably 1.5-2.0 million different precancels to be collected, so there’s no dearth of collecting ideas even for precancels alone. Of course you don’t have be bogged down by the large number. You could simply start by collecting whatever you get and then slowly develop a theme for either a state or a city. As you progress in your collection, you could start with type of precancellations and specific stamp issues.

For example, Atlanta in Georgia state was the first city in the USA I spent significant time in. I could start by collecting precancels from Georgia (GA) or just from Atlanta. Remember, the focus on precancel collection is the precancel, not the stamp itself. So you could have different stamps representing a Georgia or Atlanta precancel.

Best way to get started with precancels is to buy large lots to begin with. Sort those out for your collection. As your collection grows you can be more discerning about what you buy or exchange with others.

One of the best resources for precancels is The Precancel Stamp Society website. It’s got some great articles that help you get started and even has album pages that you can print to organize your collection. You could even join their Facebook group to connect with other precancel collectors.

Happy Collecting!

Image attribution:

  • USA Precancel By Scan by Stan Shebs, Public Domain,
  • France precancel By Joseph Blanc (1846-1904) – Scan myself, Public Domain,
  • Atlanta Precancels By Manish Mohan, 
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