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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[01] Usa 1855 Scott#14 With Very Nice Fancy Cancel 4 Big Margins Must See!!!!Nystamps H Old Us Stamp & Fancy Cancel Collection !Fancy Cancel Time. Us 1800's Collection, Must SeeScott #65 Gorgeous "four Point Star" Fancy Cancel "son" Very Nice (agn4)[42] Usa 1861 Scott#65 With Fancy Cancel "star In Star" Very Nice Strike153 Purple Banknote Stamp With A Gorgeous Nyfm Fancy Cancel#78b * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * FaultsScott #88 Very Different Circled "b" Fancy Cancel "son" Very Nice (agn2)[75] Usa 1861 Scott#71 Used Cv:$180 Fancy Cancel[09] Usa 1867 Scott#96 Used F-grill Cv:$260 W/fancy Cancel "rosette"Nystamps Us Stamp Fancy Cancel#156 * Early Us Stamp * Blue Fancy Cancel[64] Usa 1871 Scott#149 Used Cv:$100 Fancy CancelNice Us 26 On Cover Nice Worcester Mass Mar 27 Fancy CancelScott# 148 With Blue "shield" Fancy Cancel - Very Nice (agy3)Buffalo Stamps: Scott #71, 1861 Issue Franklin, F/vf W/ Fancy Cancel, Cv = $225Nicks Fancy Cancel Sale: 210 With Scarce Us Mail CancelNystamps Us Stamp Fancy Cancel#69 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy CancelUs Scott 162 Old 12c Clay Banknote U/vf Fancy Cancel Cv $125[88] Usa 1863 Scott#73 With Nice Fancy Cancel Cv:$70$ Us Scott # 63 Used, Fine-vf, Fancy Cancel, Nice!Nystamps Us Hawaii Stamp Fancy CancelNorth Carolina Plymouth #65 1866 Shield Fancy Cancel Us Used 1867 E Grill - #88 3c Rose Washington - Margins - "fancy Cancel" - Nice[f77] Usa 1863 Scott#76 Used Cv:$120 With Fancy CancelScott #87 "e Grill" 2c Jackson Issue Of 1867 - Paid Fancy Cancel - Cat $200++Scott # 159, Used, F-vf, 6¢ Abraham Lincoln, 1873, W/secret Mark, Fancy CancelScott #65 Gorgeous Cambridgeport, Mass "geometric" Fancy Cancel "son" (agn6)1867 "andrew Jackson" Used Sc #87 E Grill Nice Wagon Wheel Fancy Cancel#94 * F Grill * Early Us Stamp * Blue Fancy Cancel * FaultsUs Scott 73 Old 2c Jackson "black Jack" U/f Fancy Cancel Cv $65Dr Jim Stamps Old Us Scott 88 3c Washington E Grill Used Fancy Cancel No ReserveDr Jim Stamps Old Us Cut Squares Scott U27 3c Used Fancy Cancel No ReserveCover From Elkport, Iowa 1884 Fancy Cancel To Guttenberg, Iowa[f80] Usa 1879 Scott#j4 Used Blue Fancy Cancel Cv:$70 Postage Due[f54] Usa 1867 Scott#94 Used With Nice Fancy Cancel "rosette"Scott #65 3c Wash Pm - Pf12 Black Boxed Paid Fancy Cancel Of 1861 /no FaultsU S Stamp Old Used 2 Cent Fancy Cancel Grill Combo E & F # 87 & 92 Platteville Wi Fancy Cancel * Nice#148 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * FaultsOldhal-new Haven, Oh/fancy Cancel/1870s Or 80sUnited States Sc #71 Used 30c Franklin Orange Fancy Cancel Cv $200 Vf#186 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * FaultsUs. Old Stamps With Fancy Cancel Vf.#186 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * Faults#188 * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel1893 Pomeroy Ohio To Boston Mass Fancy Cancel 2cent Colombian Expo Cover -082521United States Sc #154 Used 30c Hamilton Red Fancy Cancel Cv $300Us Scott #208, 6c Lincoln, Used, Rose, No Gum, Fancy Cancel, 1882 K113[72] Usa 1879 Scott#183 Used Cv:$5 With Fancy CancelUs Scott #159, 6c Lincoln, Used, Fancy Cancel, Dull Pink, No Gum, 1873 K109No Secret Mark Hamilton "star" Fancy Cancel Son 10 Cent Banknote Us Stamps F638#88 * E Grill * Early Us Stamp * Fancy Cancel * FaultsNo Secret Mark Hamilton "star" Fancy Cancel Son 10 Cent Banknote Us Stamps F631[39] Usa 1873 Scott#o85 Used With Fancy Cancel[73] Usa 1861 Scott#65 With Fancy Cancel[85] Usa 1873 Scott#158 With Very Nice Fancy Cancel "star"[89] Usa 1879 Scott#184 With Negative Fancy Cancel "h"[f87] Usa 1873 Scott#158 With Negative Fancy Cancel "h"