Collecting Stamps - Coney's Stamps

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Major Types of U.S. Stamps

There are many types and sub-types of US issued stamps. Although most people think of a stamp as evidence of prepayment for mail. These are many other types of stamps which are produced as evidence of prepayment of fees for a number of purposes. This is just a list of some of the more common that you may encounter. This is a very brief list of them and an explanation of their intended use. A more robust list is available.

See the list of stamp categories, stamp formats, perforation types and cancellations for additional information.

The first two are the most common stamps types and are used for normal U.S. Postage.

Definitive's (A.K.A. Regular)
This is the normal postage stamp. The workhorse of the lineup if you will. This type has been around throughout postal history. Use for franking everyday mail, it’s issued in a variety of denominations for general use. These are generally issued for a long period of time.

Regular issues present some interesting challenges to the collector. They are reprinted several times due to their long term use so the chance of a difference, error or other variant may appear. Color changes, printing type, sizes and details due to different printers, printing methods, plates, worn plates or even variations in materials such as inks, gum, watermarks or paper may be found.


Commemoratives have been issued in the United States since 1893. These are issued to commemorate or honor a specific person, place or event. They are generally printed in smaller quantities and for a shorter duration than regular issues. Usually on sale for a few months to a year at most and are generally limited to a few denominations such as the standard USPS First Class letter rate.

The first U.S. commemoratives were produced for the World’s Columbian Exposition and the 16-stamp series depicts the various stages of Columbus’ voyages.


There are a couple categories that are mentioned in articles and catalogs but it's not a "purpose" type. They are somewhat subjective and determined by the collecting community.

U.S. Classics
Many stamp collectors consider U.S. stamps released prior to 194? to be "classics".
The Scott's U.S. Classic Catalog spans 1840-1940.
The US Classic Society - Their Web site does not state a specific date range but seems to stop with the large bank notes of the 1870's - 1880's

Miniature works of art.
While many collectors consider all stamps as miniature works of art some only consider certain classic stamps and or engraved designs to be "miniature works of art". Art, like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Back of the Book Stamps (BoB)
The following types are often referred to as “back of the book” stamps. This is a reference to the fact that they are listed in the back half of the Scott's U.S. Specialized Catalogue. This is not an all inclusive list.

Semi-Postal's (Charity Stamps)
Semi-postal's are a relatively new addition to the stamp types offered by the U.S. They carry an addition charge or premium which is intended to raise cash for a specific charity or cause such as Breast Cancer Research.

Scott Catalog Prefix of B
B2 Shown

Heros 2001

In 1918, Airmail postage has been available since 1918 Service was started in the U.S. and the need was there for an Airmail Stamp to prepay airmail postal rates. Although mail is routinely carried by air now, airmail stamps are still issued as there are still a few countries that differentiate Air Mail services. From 1934-36, the Postal Service issued Airmail Special Delivery Stamps. These were to provide air postage and a fee for the special delivery.

Scott Catalog Prefix of: C
C23 Shown


Postage Due
In 1879, the U.S. Post Office started to issue Postage Due Stamps. These were used to show the amount due on delivery when insufficient postage was put on a piece of mail. Postage Due Stamps are plain and very functional, and usually have large numerals indicating the amount of postage owed.

Scott catalog Prefix of: J
J7 Shown


Special Delivery
In 1885, the Special Delivery service was started by the U.S. Post Office. Special Delivery Stamps included an extra fee for immediate delivery to a person’s address once the mail was delivered to the nearest Post Office.

Scott catalog Prefix of: E
E7 Shown


Parcel Post
In 1912, stamps were introduced to pre-pay postage on parcels. Parcel Post Stamps were issued in twelve denominations, and had the same look, format and color. So much so that Postal workers had trouble telling the difference between the 1¢ and $1 stamps. In 1913, parcel post charges could be paid for with any stamp, and Parcel Post Stamps became obsolete.

Scott catalog Prefix of: Q
Q2 Shown


Also issued in 1912 were the Parcel Post Postage Due Stamps

Scott catalog Prefix of: JQ
JQ5 Shown


In 1873 the U.S. Post Office began issuing Official Stamps for the Executive Branch and the departments of Agriculture, Interior, Justice, Navy, Post Office, Treasury, and War. "Official" refers to a stamp used only by the federal government. Individual Official Stamps were produced for seven years after which one universal official stamp was put into production for use by all branches of government.

Scott catalog Prefix of: O
O51 Shown


Revenue Stamps are issued for a fiscal or revenue purpose and show the collection of tax or payment of a government mandated fee. Although there are many types a few examples would be: document, stock transfer, “Duck” (hunting permit) stamps, as they are commonly called.

Scott catalog Prefix of: R
R24 Shown


Essays are not really stamps, per se' However they are highly prized among stamp collectors. These are stamp designs which have been submitted or proposed for issue as a stamp.

Scott catalog Prefix of: -e
11-e12 Shown


Service Inscribed
service inscribed postage stamps are the modern equivalent of the pre-cancel stamp. The most common use of these stamps are for bulk mailings and "junk mail".

Scott Catalog - 3844 Shown


A stamp without a numerical denomination or a denomination represented by a letter such as the "G" in the example to the right are most often issued during transitions between postal rates when a new rate is anticipated but not yet official or known.

Scott Catalog - 2891 Shown


"Make-up" Stamps
Not really a type but worth a mention. Although small denomination stamps are always available. After a postage rate change a "make-up" stamp is often used to cover the difference between the old rate and the new one.

Scott Catalog - 3757 Shown


Computer Vended
Unlike meters, except for the limits of the service requested, computer vended postage stamps are usable from any post office at any date. These were produced in a variety of formats and by a variety of machines. The first machines were put into service and available on August 23, 1989. The Contract for the machines was cancelled in Sept. 16, 1993

Scott Catalog Prefix of: CVP
CVP32 Shown


Meter Stamps
Meter stamps have been in use since 1912-1913. The first commercial use was in December 1920 by Pitney Bowes. Still in use today, they are generally used to aid a business or organization that sends out a steady volume of mail in a fast efficient way. As a matter of fact we use a Pitney Bowes meter in our office!

Pitney Bowes Mail O Mat Type

postage meter stamp

Test Stamps
Test stamps, also called “dummy stamps,” came into being in the late 19th century, and their production continues to the present. Test stamps were produced for a variety of purposes including: development and test production equipment, aid in the design of stamp vending equipment and to test stamp affixing equipment.

Scott Catalog Prefix of: TD
TD136 Shown


Cinderella Stamps
Stamps which are designed to look like postage stamps but are not are called "Cinderella's" by stamp collectors. This example of a Cinderella depicts the New York Public Library, and was part of a set of stamps showing New York City scenes produced by Eaton's Fine Letter Papers.


Postal Stationary
Envelopes, postcards or wrappers imprinted with a non-adhesive stamp. Stamped Envelopes & Wrappers were introduced on July 1, 1853 and post cards since May 1873.

Scott Catalog Prefix of: U
U294 Shown


These stamps, approved by the USPS, were created by individuals accessing an internet Web site to design stamps using their own digital pictures,
which were then produced by the companies and mailed to the customer.

Scott catalog Prefix of: 2CVP
2CVP23 Shown


First Day Cover - While this is not really a stamp type. It gets honorable mention here for those who are new to collecting.

A First Day Cover is an envelope, postcard, etc., affixed with unused stamps bearing at a minimum the current first-class postage, having a postmark indicating the first day of issuance city and date. These envelopes are often decorated with a picture or graphic design related to the subject of the stamp.

Scott Catalog - 3142C Stamp Shown


See the complete list of Stamp Types for additional information.