I love studying cork cancellations! Why? I guess I find machine cancels a little boring. That’s just my personal opinion. However, the fancy cancellations (also called cork cancellations) of the early 19th and 20th centuries have a true artistic flair. According to many sources, Canadian cork cancellations are particularly prized by many collectors. Here’s a little bit of their history.
A HISTORY OF CORK CANCELLATIONS
As discussed in a previous article, there is a difference between a postmark and a cancellation. A postmark is a hand-held rubber stamp applied to the envelope which indicates the time, date, and place where the envelope was mailed from. Sometimes postmarks were used to cancel stamps, although technically this is not their purpose.
A cancellation is a mark applied directly to the stamp to prevent its reuse. Post offices of the world soon realized that unscrupulous individuals would try to peel stamps off an envelope in order to reuse them. So, post offices instructed their postal workers to “cancel” stamps with a “killer.” Which basically could just mean putting a line through the stamp with a pen to indicate it had already been used to send mail.
In some cases, a “killer” was provided to the postmaster. It was usually some kind of hand-held stamp. If nothing was provided, then an ink line or “x” could do the job just as well. But some postal workers got creative. If you want to get poetic, fancy cancellations were actually born of necessity!
CARVING THE CANCELLATIONS
Many took the cork stoppers from bottles of alcohol and carved them into designs. Which begs the question: Were these the corks from bottles of alcohol being kept and drank at the post office (LOL)? They then dipped the cork in ink and used it to “cancel” the stamp. These cork cancellations are also referred to as “Fancy Cancellations.”
Learn even more details about fancy cancellations from another one of my previous articles.
For an in-depth history of fancy cancellations, you might enjoy “A Study of Canada’s Fancy Cancels” from the Stanley Gibbons website.
Eventually, cork cancellations and any other type of hand cancellation came to an end with the advent of machine cancelling. So ended an era of individuality and free artistic expression. Am I being too melodramatic?
Some of the designs are really fabulous. It’s fun to try and collect them. Some fancy cancellations are worth a lot of money. Arpin Philately has a nice inventory of cork cancellations right now. Some of them are even quite rare! Check them out by typing “cork cancellations” in the search bar of our website home page.