- Q. (The obvious) What is a precancel?
- A. Regular mail is postcancelled. The stamp is cancelled AFTER being given to the post office. The original panes are "gang cancelled" by devices making 10, 25 or 100 (press printed) subjects
per impression. The pane is sold to the customer, who then affixes the stamps to the mail. The regular postcancelling operation can be bypassed. We're collecting the cancellation, not the stamp.
- Q. What is a dated and how much is a dated worth?
- A. Starting in 1938, the user's initials plus the month of use was required to be printed on denominations over 6 cents. The value of printed dateds is usually less than a nondated precancel. The value of printed MW (Montgomery Ward) and SRC (Sears Roebuck) are more common than other printed dateds.
Handstamp dates are worth less than printed dateds, and MW and SRC handstamp dateds are the most common. Illustrated is a Montgomery Ward PD-3 on a type 71 Bureau issue. There are exceptions for stamps from low piece-count mailings and rare months of use.
The Official Printed Dated Control Precancel Catalog, 6th Edition (2001) is the current reference.
- Q. What are write-ins and walk-ins?
- A. You can write to a post office to get precancels, if the device still exists and the postmaster still knows how to use it.
Write to "POSTMASTER", "Post Office Name, two letter State abbreviation and the regular zip code of the post office, followed by "-9998". The best results are obtained if you
send a picture of a precancel device. Don't be a slob. Send money to give them credit for a sale, not stamps. This practice only makes them mad, and it may
take several years(!) to get results. Exceptions can be made for those overseas, I suspect. Knowledgeable collectors can walk into a post office with a box of supplies and make their own precancels at
the front table. You may take your own stamps, but BUY something else to give them a sale. This puts them at ease.
- Q. What is needed to make precancels?
- A. Carter's #2 FELT pads are preferable. It must be large enough for a 10 subject device. Don't use the junk foam pads present in all post offices.
Carry more than one pad -- one for metal devices and one for vinyl devices. The Carter's MICROPORE self-inking pads work
GREAT for vinyls. The 25 subject pads are increasingly rare, but occasionally surface as part of precancel makers' estates. Ink for metal cancelling
machines works for hand electros, but the quality of the ink can be poor. John Foster uses one ounce bottles of "Bates Numbering Machine Ink, available
at a REAL Office Supply Store, not a chain. A detailed road atlas for your state
(published by DeLorme or Scherer) helps plot a course. A supply of Great Americans definitives gives the best results.
Have a supply of blank copy paper. A can of WD-40(!) does a wonderful job of cleaning gunk from metal hand electros.
A roll of paper towels. "wet-ones" to clean ink from fingers. A toothbrush to clean ink from devices when dry. Stamp tongs to move wet stamps around.
One or more PAPER DRAWING TABLETS to store wet precancels. These will also soak up excess ink. Do not store new precancels in the glassines supplied
by the post office. They will smear. (will add more...split metal and vinyl directions)
- Q. How do you make precancels?
- A. Ink your pads SPARINGLY. Start by making several impressions on blank paper, both to give yourself and us a "proof" of the device and
to make sure your pad is inked evenly. The vinyls are actually shorter than 5 rows of stamps. It will
end up being centered on the third row. The edges of metal hand electros can be lined up on the edges of
the stamps. Place the front edge on the stamps and "rock" it away from you. Better results can be obtained by standing
than sitting, since you may need to apply sufficient pressure. When you are done, return the device cleaner than you found it.(will add more...split metal and vinyl directions)
- Q. What are "nailheads"?
- A. Metal hand electro devices consist of a thin metal electroplate attached to a curved wooden block (similar to a "rocker" ink blotter) with about 8 nails in the case of a 10 subject device, and more for a 25 subject device. Over time, these nails can work loose.
If the head of the nail is high enough, it will get a round spot of ink that shows up next to the precancel. These minor varieties are collectible, and aid in "plating" stamps from the device. 100 subject flat electroplates have also been seen attached with slotted screws or phillips screws, instead of nails, with a similar effect. This is an inspiration for this site's new "Nailhead" Navigation. Since the scheme is nongraphical, it loads faster than graphics buttons. Shown here is the impression of a 10 subject device from Hallettsville, with nailheads showing at the left of subject #3 and at the right of subject #4.
Since this particular device was used heavily and is very beat up, various line breaks are also visible. These breaks also are an aid in "plating" the device. Naturally, this full device imprint shows the complete impression.
- Q. What is the rarest precancel?
- A. The rarest precancel is generally considered to be the 1055-61 (wide bureau precancel on 2c Liberty coil) from Phenix City, Alabama, because of more demand for bureau precancels than locals. One copy is known, valued probably in excess of $40,000. The rarest Bureau precancel from Texas is the type 61 of Waco with TEXAS in full. There are less than 50 copies known. There are many local precancels including several from Texas with only one copy known.
- Q. What Precancel Society Conventions been held in Texas?
- A. There have been five: August 16-19 1940, Rice Hotel, Houston; August 14-17 1952, Hotel Adolphus, Dallas; August 6-10 1980, North Park Inn, Dallas; Oct 8-11 1986 and Aug 31-Sep 3 1994, both at Menger Hotel, San Antonio.
- Q. How may I find out more?
- A. Please send me a message by e-mail or post something in my precancel forum if it is something that all should see.
precancels Precancel Stamps/préoblitérés FORUM HOST
Montgomery Ward type PD3-71
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Hallettsville type 704 precancel
Notice the nailheads by subjects
#3 and #4 in the second row.
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