Sunday, 27 May 2012

Marcophily - The Study of Postmarks - Part 1

Sometimes, You Don't Notice The Stamp!

The hobby of collecting postmarks is known as Marcophily. It's a fascinating area, with specialist areas within the hobby. Avid postmark collectors are quite willing and able to look past deficiencies in the quality of the stamp if the postmark is scarce enough!
Postage stamps were introduced in 1840, and the first postmarks were designed to obliterate the stamp to ensure that it couldn't be re-used. The first postmark in wide use was this one, a Maltese Cross. Many different types exist, and this one can be identified as an Edinburgh Maltese Cross

Another style of postmark from the GB Queen Victoria period was the Edinburgh Brunswick Star.
A variety of types can be identified, this one is known as Type IVc 

The squared-circle postmark was used quite extensively, and can be found on the stamps of many countries.

The examples shown here are from Jamaica, South Australia and Great Britain, although they are also known from Italy, the Federated Malay States, Canada, and a number of other British colonies. Many sub-types exist, mainly based around the number of lines in each corner, however specialists also work on the letters within the postmark, for example the "I G" in the Jamaica example.

Duplex postmarks are postmarks with a circular date stamp and a number side by side. Both the CDS and the number go to identifying the town of despatch. Lists of the numbers have been compiled and these are available in both printed and online formats to assist with identification of single stamps.
Duplexes are larger than one stamp, and the GB example shown on a pair of 1d lilacs, is a complete duplex of Leek in Staffordshire.
The second example is a part-duplex of Ballarat in Victoria.

The fastest way to carry post was by rail. Travelling Post Offices, or TPO's, which are known as Railway Post Offices, or RPO's, in North America, were introduced in special rail carriages, so mail could be sorted and carried on board, thus expediting delivery.
TPO's still exist in some parts of the world, so careful examination of all postmarks can turn up some finds.
All of the postmarks shown here were found in bulk collections, and weren't purchased for what they are.

Covers with TPO postmarks are extremely collectable and some attract a high premium. Many "collector" covers exist, including Last Day covers, which although an interesting part of any TPO collection, have little value.
There will be further instalments in this series.


  1. The topic is quite interesting. I have in my collection some stamps that were cancelled by the Victoria post office in British Columbia, on Vancouver Island. So they do not have Canada ON THE POST MARK.
    Going to take a close look again and see what's what. I also have stamps from Straits Settlements too to take a re-look at. Guess I need to go through the whole collection again.

  2. Thanks for the post. I guarantee that once you start, you'll never stop. If you go through your duplicates, you'll be amazed at what you can find!