Precancellation on United States stamps has a long and varied history but, when collectors use the term, they mean stamps that were issued already cancelled by the Post Office for use on bulk rate mail. This was the predominant way that bulk rate and newspapers were carried between 1915-1935. After 1935, most of this type of mail carried preprinted postage paid indices and not stamps. The details of precancel issue and usage are complex. From a philatelic standpoint though the stamps are straight forward and interesting. Most regular issues of this period are known precanceled and such precancels were issued either overprinted as the stamps were printed (by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing) or overprinted at the local Post Offices where the stamps were sold and used. Precancel collectors attempt to find as many city and cancel types on as many stamps as they can. There are thousands of mostly very inexpensive varieties.

 Fifty years ago, precancel collecting was very popular as an inexpensive adjunct to mainstream US collecting. Today, few collectors collect precancels. First, there are so many newer US stamps that collectors have their stamp appetites sated on newer issues alone without resorting to specialties like precancels. But the main reason for the decline to near death of precancel collecting is that they aren’t issued any more and haven’t been for many years. Philatelic specialties need publicity and if new stamps aren’t coming out in a specialty that specialty is apt to wither. The opportunity for the contrarian collector is here though. Precancels can be bought cheaply and they make for a rigorous collecting experience. The Precancel Society is an excellent place to start.

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