A postmark is a
postal markingmade on a letter, package, postcardor the like indicating the (more or less precise) date and time that the item was delivered into the care of the postal service. Modern postmarks are often applied simultaneously with the cancellation or "killer" that marks the postage stamp(s) as having been used (though in some circumstances there may be a postmark without a killer, and sometimes the postmark and killer form a continuous design), and the two terms are often used interchangeably, if incorrectly. Postmarks may be applied by hand or by machines, using methods such as rollers or inkjets, while digital postmarks are a recent innovation. The local post Hawai'i Posthad a rubber-stamp postmark parts of which were hand-painted. [http://www.hawaii-post.com/postmarks.html] At Hideaway Island, Vanuatu, the Underwater Post Office has an embossedpostmark. [http://www.hideaway.com.vu/postoffice.htm]
The date of the postmark can be quite important. In the United States, the
Internal Revenue Servicewill still consider income taxreturns as filed on time though it receives them late if they are postmarked on time, and this date (with, perhaps, other proofs of mailing), may have significance as regards legal filings and proofs of service (though in this case the date may viewed as "on time" if the date of the postmark is no more than one day after the date service is supposed to have been made). [http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/Fishman/Declaration/venserv.html] Entries into sweepstakesand contests, and juried art exhibitions, may likewise have a "postmark deadline," and in at least one case it might have significance regarding the date of class withdrawal. [http://www.bulletins.wayne.edu/gbk-output/gen8.html]
There are some examples of "faked covers" produced by philatelic forgers, most usually in order to increase their value, in which the postmark has been altered in some way; for example, by changing the date. [http://www.askphil.org/b55.htm]
electronic postmark" was named by drawing a parallel with the regular postmark.
The first postmark (called the "Bishop Mark") was introduced by English Postmaster General Henry Bishop in 1661 and showed only the day and month of mailing in order to prevent the delay of the mail by carriers. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/alabaster/A1082558] In the 19th century and early 1900s it was common for letters to receive multiple postmarks indicating the time, date, and location of each post office delivering or transporting the letter, and this is still occasionally true, though to a lesser extent (see "
backstamp"). While almost every contemporary postmark includes a location as well as a date, in 2004 New Zealand Postannounced plans to eliminate the location on their postmarks and include only the date; however, information about this can be determined by a three-number code on the postmarks. [http://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/Cultures/en-NZ/Stamps/MoreAboutStamps/PostmarkService/]
Different types of postmarks include
railway post offices ("RPOs") and maritime (on-board ship) postmarks. Postmarks on naval vessels during sensitive operations in wartimeare sometimes "clean," showing less information than normally to prevent route of travel or other details from falling into enemy hands. Similar to this is the "censored postmark," overprinted with a black obliteration of the time and place of mailing for similar reasons. [http://www.linns.com/howto/refresher/myriad_20040119/rc5_0119_big.jpg]
Hawai'i post once had a
surfboardmail postmark, for covers that traveled by surfboard. [http://www.hawaii-post.com/postmarks.html]
A colour postmark is on the United States Postal Service-issued collectible envelope commemorating the 2004
inaugurationof George W. Bush.
While postmarks are applied almost universally by or under the authority of the official postal department, service, or authority [in the
United Statesit is possible to receive a permit to apply your own postmark, called a Mailer's Permit Postmark] ; it is at least theoretically possible that under certain conditions specified by the private express statutesin the United States, a privately carried letter may be cancelled with a private postmark. Unofficial entities that issue artistamps may use postmark-like markings as well.
Much of the published work on postmarks covers postmarks from before 1900. (This is perhaps because in the
United Statesso-called fancy cancels were prevalent in this period, with the cancelling device often hand-cut from cork by the postmasterin elaborate shapes such as flags, stars or shapes that were seasonally-appropriate such as turkeys for Thanksgiving). Much work in studying postmarks is needed for 1900 and later.
Great Britainthe first postmark employed for the cancellation of the then new postage stampswas the Maltese Cross, so named because of its shape and appearance. This was used in conjunction with a date stamp which was applied, usually to the rear of the letter, which denoted the date of posting.
Fewer postmarks are used now than previously, with the advent of
meter labels, which indicate the precise date and time of acceptance at the post office, some types of computer vended postage, and computerized postagepeople can print off their own PCs (called in the United States PC Postage, these services were offered by such companies as [http://www.stamps.com Stamps.com] and Neopost, Inc.). These indicia do not need to be postmarked, though occasionally they are redundantly, and inadvertently (or for whatever other reason).
When the first universal postal system was started in the
United Kingdomwith its Penny Black, the postmark used red ink for contrast. This was not successful, and the stamp was changed to non-black colours so that the postmark could use black ink.
The majority of postmarks today are in black, with red (particularly in the United States with local post offices' handstamps) following, though sometimes they are in other colours. This is particularly true in the case of pictorial postmarks if the colour in question has some connection to the commemoration.
In 2004 the
United States Postal Serviceannounced plans to introduce first day digital colour postmarks to be used to cancel some first day covers for commemorative stamps in 2005 and this practice has continued into 2006 [http://www.usps.com/communications/news/stamps/2004/sr04_080.htm] and 2007.
Singapore Postoffers a "postmark advertising" service which, strictly speaking, applies to the "killer" rather than the postmark. [http://www.singpost.com.sg/03_biz_svcs/postmarkad_d.htm] Hungarian Post Co., Ltd. offers a similar service. [http://www.posta.hu/object.150fa336-6b9f-4599-9cbb-db4c6e7ed910.ivy]
A special or rare postmark can substantially add to the value of a stamp. (In addition to everyday postmarks there are postmarks indicating the
first day of issueof a particular stamp and pictorial cancellations commemorating local events, anniversaries, and the like and slogan postmarkswhich advertise an event or pass information to the public. [There has been a recent change to the term "pictorial postmarks" rather than "pictorial cancellations" by the USPS.] )
Postmark Africa is a program on the
BBC World Service.
timestampis a type of postmark.
The Postmark Award is given to outstanding employees of
A postmark should not be confused with the killer which are lines, bars, etc. used to cancel a postage stamp. Neither should a postmark be confused with
overprints generally, or pre-cancels(stamps that have been cancelled before the envelopeor package to which they are affixed is submitted or deposited for acceptance into the mailstream, they most commonly have taken the form of a pre-printed city nameon the stamp) specifically, which generally do not indicate a date.
cachets, more or less elaborate rubber-stamps on an envelope indicating on which flight (typically a first flight) a cover has traveled via air mail, are in addition to the postmark and are not postmarks either.
Source: "Collecting those strange Tongan stamps — on cover," in "
Scott Stamp Monthly" (August 2002)
There are many clubs devoted to the hobby of collecting postmarks. One of those clubs is the
Post Mark Collectors Club, founded in 1946 and based in the USA. Another is the British Postmark Society, founded in 1958.
* [http://www.linns.com/howto/refresher/world_20040223/refreshercourse.asp World postmark primer: how to decipher dates]
* [http://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images/view?back=http%3A%2F%2Fimages.search.yahoo.com%2Fsearch%2Fimages%3Fp%3Dpostmark%26fr%3DFP-tab-img-t%26toggle%3D1%26ei%3DUTF-8&h=121&w=150&imgcurl=www.coretek.org%2Falsmith%2Fpics%2Fpostmark.jpg&imgurl=www.coretek.org%2Falsmith%2Fpics%2Fpostmark.jpg&size=6.8kB&name=postmark.jpg&rcurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coretek.org%2Falsmith%2Fal6.html&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coretek.org%2Falsmith%2Fal6.html&p=postmark&type=jpeg&no=1&tt=10,554 Geographic North Pole Postmark]
* [http://members.tripod.com/~pennyreds/mystery.html A Mystery Postmark]
* [http://www.london2012.com/en/news/archive/2004/december/2004-12-20-11-40.htm London 2012 - New postmark kicks off 2012 day in London] (backing
London's bid to host 2012 Olympics)
* [http://www.usps.com/holiday/_pdf/HolidayPostmarks.pdf Specialty Holiday Postmarks Offered by the United States Postal Service]
** [http://www.postmarks.org/museum/ Post Mark Museum and Research Library]
** [http://www.geocities.com/moprecancels/beginner/abcsof.htm The ABCs of Precancel collecting]
** [http://www.postmarks.org/ Post Mark Collectors Club]
** [http://bccc.jeffhayward.com/ Bullseye Cancel Collectors Club]
** [http://www.britishpostmarksociety.org.uk/ British Postmark Society]
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