Precanceled stamp



A precanceled stamp, or precancel for short, is a postage stamp that has been cancelled before being affixed to mail. Precancels are typically used by mass mailers, who can save a postal system time and effort by prearranging to use the precancels, and delivering the stamped mail ready for sorting. The postal administration will typically offer an incentive in the form of a reduced price for precancelled stamps in volume. Precancels cannot normally be purchased by the general public, although they are often seen in one's daily mail.

A number of nations of the world use precancels, typically in the form of an overprint on definitive series stamps. For instance, in France, the overprint is a semi-circle reading Affranches. Many towns and cities of Belgium and the United States have issued precancels printed with the community's name; in the case of the US, some 9,500 distinct examples of "bureau precancels" are known. Some types of precancels include a date as well.

In the US, overprints have been gradually displaced by special-purpose stamps typically inscribed "bulk rate", "presorted first-class", or "presorted STD".

The Precancel Stamp Society, formed in 1922 from two previously-existing clubs, specializes in the study of precancels. A number of catalogs list all the types of precancels issued in the countries that use them.


  • Noble Official Catalog of U.S. Bureau Precancelled Stamps (annually 1957 - 1983)
  • Precancel Stamp Society Catalog of United States Bureau Precancels (5th edition, 2005)
  • The Precancel Stamp Society's Town and Type Catalog of the United States and Territories (7th edition, 2007)
  • International Precancel Catalog (foreign precancels except Canada) (1st edition, 2005)

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