One of the most difficult aspects of stamp collecting can be identifying your stamps. There are various points which make a stamp different from the next: perforation measure, actual stamp size, colour, paper, fluorescence, and special markings such as watermarks. There is also the problem of identifying world stamps correctly since the inscription is often in another language. We hope to demystify the process in this article.
Two useful tools are a stamp identifier or a stamp catalogue. If you wish to purchase a stamp identifier, we recommend The Unitrade Postage Stamp Identifier. This handy little book is one of the most comprehensive works on the market and lists all the countries which issue stamps, as well as their respective inscriptions and overprints. It also lists stamp issuing authorities, former and new. As well, there are many catalogues on the market; some well known ones are the Scott Standard 6-volume Postage Stamp Catalogue, and The Unitrade Specialized Catalogue of Canadian Stamps. There are other specialized catalogues for individual nations, revenue stamps, stamp booklets and special delivery stamps. There are also colour guides for stamps.
The Scott or Unitrade catalogue can help you get a basic understanding of most stamps. In the Unitrade catalogue, you will find all the precise details you need to help you identify your Canadian stamps, as well as all the characteristics of different stamp varieties. Obviously, the 6-volume Scott catalogue is a necessary catalogue if you collect world stamps. Contact Arpin Philately for other available catalogues.
In addition to having a catalogue, it can be helpful to know the wording you should look for on a stamp when trying to identify the country of origin. Here is an alphabetical list of some of the more difficult to identify world stamps, along with the inscription on the stamp. Hopefully it will make things easier for all of you out there!
Albania – Posta Shquiptare/Shquiperia
Austria – Österreichische Post/Österreich/Republik Österreich
Azerbaijan – A. C. C. P./Azarbaycan
Bavaria – Bayern
Bohemia Moravia – Cechy a Morava/Bohmen und Mähren
Crete – KPHTH
Estonia – Estland/Eesti
French Equatorial Africa – A. E. F.
Germany – Deutschland/Deutschesreich
Germany (East) – DDR
Germany (West) – Deutsch Bundespost
Great Britain – this is the only country in the world which doesn’t have its name on its stamps, but there is either a figure of the reigning monarch or a small cameo head silhouette of the queen on their stamps
Greece – Hellas or EΛΛA∑
Hungary – Magyar Posta
Iceland – Island/AUR
Ireland – ÉIRE
Japan – NIPPON
Lithuania – Lietuva
Montenegro –ЦРНА ГОРА
Norway – Norge/Noreg
Poland – Polska
Republic of South Africa – RSA
Romania – Posta Romana/R.P. Romina
Serbia – СРбИЈА
South West Africa – SWA
St-Thomas & Prince – Sao Tomé & Príncipe
Sweden – Sverige
Switzerland – Helvetia
Turkey – Türkiye/Emp. Ottoman