Fancy cancels include any stamps or covers marked with an interesting cancellation design to indicate used postage. While many collectors use the terms postmark and cancel synonymously, the earliest postmarks served only to denote the date a letter was accepted at an official post office; it wasn’t until the advent of adhesive stamps in 1840 that a separate system for indicating used stamps was required.

The most unique cancellation marks are the hand-stamps created before the advent of mail-processing machinery. Many local post offices designed and carved their own cancellation stamps, resulting in an array of diverse cancels to serve the basic purpose of defacing an official postage mark. Besides frequent variations on geometric forms like stars, crosses, and circles, some rare cancel marks featured initial letters or imagery like skulls or moons.

In 1840, Great Britain standardized its postmark system by adopting a generic “Maltese Cross” cancel design for all districts. However, the mark conveyed no additional information beyond the country of circulation, so the British Royal Mail soon incorporated numbers associated with specific postal routes, and finally date marks. The duplex cancel was first used in 1853 to print these two adjacent marks, one with location and date information and another to obliterate the postage.

As mail volume increased, faster methods for postmarking letters were needed. During the late 1850s, the British began testing prototypes of automatic cancellation machines. Many postmark styles were tried and rejected, but the circular duplex system quickly became the most popular and widely used.

Cancellations for special routes, like airmail or military correspondence, were adopted during the early 20th century, along with more decorative cancels for specific events or exhibitions. Around the same time, the traditional “Stars and Stripes” cancel mark was spreading across the United States, thanks to the proliferation of automatic postmarking machines. Though the stars were eventually scrapped, the original design’s row of wavy, parallel flag-lines is still featured in modern American cancellations.


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Ckstamps : Fantastic Assorted Used Us Fancy Cancel & Old Stamps Collection Pages#1 * Early Us Stamp * Four Margins * Fancy Cancel1860s Lovingston Virginia Balloon Postmark; Fancy Cancel; Three-cent Rose (65)A375 Hawaii Fancy Cancel Lot Of 10 StampsScott #148 Beautiful With "waterbury Leaf" Fancy Cancel - Very Nice (aco6)Scott #63, #65, #68 San Francisco "cogwheel" Fancy Cancel GroupScott #63 Beautiful Color/center With Fancy Cancel - Very Nice (ack28)Scarce R-2 Fancy Cancel Uss Kentucky Bb-6 July 1916 Embossed Envelope1858 Threerivers Mich.2 Star Fancy Cancel With Wedding Invitation In CoverScott #25 Great Color/center & "paid" Fancy Cancel "son" - Very Nice (ack8)Scott #184 On Paper With Beautiful New Orleans Fancy Cancel - Very Nice(aco2)Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * FaultsScott#78a Beautiful San Francisco "cogwheel" Fancy Cancel "son" Very Nice (aco8)Scott # 26 Used - Brown Grid Fancy CancelUs.1869.90-cent Abraham Lincoln.scott #122.grill. Fancy Cancel To Be ReasearchedScott#116 Great Color & Centering With "leaf" Fancy Cancel - Very Nice (ack20)Scott 65, Used, Bold Sotn 6-point Star Of David Fancy CancelScott #208a Beautiful Color/center With Fancy Cancel - Very Nice (ack26)Scott #205 With Magenta "star" Fancy Cancel - Very Nice (aco5)Scott #65 Great Color/center & "paid" Fancy Cancel "son" - Very Nice (ack9)Scott #183 With Gorgeous "cog" Fancy Cancel "son" Very Nice(ack13)#72 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * FaultsUsa 1929 Trades & Labor Council Fancy Cancel Cover Appleton Wisconsin To Chicago#68 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy CancelScott #73 W/great San Francisco "cogwheel" Fancy Cancel "son" Very Nice(ack14)Scott #179/185 Group Of Six With Gorgeous "son" Fancy Cancel - Very Nice(abn142)#78 Used Black Fancy Cancel#69 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel19th Century Cover Amherst Mass Fancy Cancel "saturn" Nice!!Scott #179/185 Group Of Six With Gorgeous "son" Fancy Cancel - Very Nice(abn143)Scott # 156 Used - Nice Fancy CancelScott # 65 Used Xxf - Light Crossroads Fancy CancelClassic U.s. Stamp + 19th Century + 1800's "fancy Cancel" (lot Uu21)Scott #148 Great Color/center & "star" Fancy Cancel "son" - Very Nice (ack10)Us, #94, 1867 Issue, 3ct. Pair+, Grilled, Blue Fancy Cancel.#71 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy CancelScott #210 Stunning " Double Star" Fancy Cancel "son" - Very Nice (ack18)Scott #210 With Gorgeous "star" Fancy Cancel "son" Very Nice(ack12)Fancy Cancel...2c Washington....wysiwyg (48) Fancy Cancel...3c Washington....wysiwyg (93) Fancy Cancel...1c Franklin (#63)....wysiwyg (60) Fancy Cancel...3c Washington (green)....wysiwyg (88)#113 2 Cent Horse And Rider Fancy Cancel Used A20th Century U.s. Fancy Cancel; Registered Cover; Mexico, InScott #213 Stamp Hollister California To Skowhegan Maine Fancy Cancel 1889Scott #153 Beautiful Color With Fancy Cancel - Very Nice (ack25)Usa 1931 Registered Cover Valier Pennsylvania Fancy Cancel To Wooster Ohio Scott #114 Great Color/center & "paid" Fancy Cancel "son" - Very Nice (ack7)Fancy Cancel...3c Washington....wysiwyg (54) 19th Century Fancy Cancel Cv Cleveland To Willoughby OhioUsa 1932 Us Navy Anchor Fancy Cancel Cover Ammunition Navy Day Hawthorne Nevada1869 Blue Scott 114 Blue Three Cents Train Stamp With Black Fancy CancelScott #179/185 Group Of Six With Gorgeous "son" Fancy Cancel - Very Nice(abn141)Fancy Cancel...2c Washington (brown) ....wysiwyg (9)Early 1800's Us Fancy Cancel LotOld Used U.s. Official Stamp Sc#o85 War Dept. W/ Fancy Cancel Item #988Scott #65 Great Color"paid" Fancy Cancel "son" - Very Nice (ack21)Scott Number 182, Used. Fancy Cancel.#76 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * FaultsClassic U.s. Stamp + 19th Century + 1800's "fancy Cancel" (lot Uu14)