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Killing the Postage Stamp: Postmark Cancellations

PC-SS 860_back.jpg

This exhibit examines postmark cancellations, otherwise known as cancels or killers, on various postcards from the FSU Card Archive.

Postmark FI-Lahti 19821219

As defined by the United States Postal Service, a cancellation is a defacing mark used to prevent the reuse of a post stamp (Potter). The cancellation can typically be seen as parallel bars that extend to the right of the postmark known as “killer bars,” the “obliteration,” or simply the “killer” (Potter). Although often confused, a postmark is not the same thing as a cancellation. A postmark is used to identify the origin, date, and time of mailing while the cancellation is used to kill the re-use of a stamp. Although sometimes a postmark might be used as a cancellation, a cancellation will never be used as a postmark (Potter).

It is important to note that there is an extensive variety of cancellations in existence covering a wide array of information and history much greater than the scope of this exhibit.

This exhibit will focus on three categories of cancellations found within the FSU Card Archive database. These categories include the following:

  1. Slogan cancellations: cancellations that feature slogans/words

  2. Pictorial cancellations: cancellations with an image featured as part of the design

  3. Killer bars: cancellations commonly found in postal history that do not contain words or images, but simply use bars to "kill" the stamp

Each category will be followed by a small gallery of sample cancellations in the FSU Card Archive to click through for more examples.

Throughout this exhibit, it is evident that no matter the slogan or picture that various cancellations carry - or don't carry - they all have one clear message in common: “this stamp is void.” 

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