A cachet is basically a rubber stamp. It is NOT a postmark. Postmarks can only be applied by official Post Offices where as anyone can design a cachet and put it on their cover. A cachet makes a cover unique and tells its story. It might show that the cover has been carried – for example this cachet on our Concorde cover shows that it was flown on the very last flight of Concorde.
Alternatively, a cachet could be used to give information about a signer or a postmark.
[First woman in Space] A good example is this cover signed by the first woman in space. A superb signature but not very readable and of course, if people don’t know who has signed, they don’t understand the value of the cover. In this case, the cachet gives information about the autograph.
[Hornby Cover] [QE2 Cover] As Royal Mail no longer counts pre-decimal stamps as valid and will not postmark them, you will often see cachets used to cancel any old stamps on a cover in the manner of a postmark. In the same way, it might be used to cancel a Cinderella stamp. The cachet is the link that touches both the stamp and the envelope and ties them together. For example, this Hornby coverhas a Hornby Cinderella, cancelled by a Hornby cachet while this QE2 cover is a prime example of cachets at their best! Details like cachets are what make a cover really special so they are worth looking out for.
Stamps are cancelled by a postmark, which shows they have been used and can’t be re-used to send a letter. Of course, in cover collecting terms, the “cancel” or postmark is extremely important. For more information, see postmark.
Mail has been carried from the very early days by mail coach, sailing ships and early flights. This still carries on today and so, for example, when a new set of stamps features The Flying Scotsman, it adds extra interest and value to have it carried on board. You can usually tell if a cover has been carried by seeing if it has had a cachet added.
CDS (Circular Date Stamp)
Circular Date Stamps are the bread-and-butter postmarks used on everyday mail by Post Office counters across the UK. A CDS postmark is very straight forward and only features the town’s name and the date. There is no picture. It you wanted to use a CDS postmark because the town is relevant to the stamp issue, you would have to go to the town’s local Post Office to get it. This 1980 Christmas cover has a CDS postmark from Nazareth (Wales!).
This stands for the Conference of European Postal and Telecommunication Administrations, and the second of these was held in Torquay in 1961 and a special set of stamps were issued.
Certificate of Authenticity
This a certificate provided with an item to say that it is genuine. It may refer to the signature and confirm that it is a genuine autograph, not a print. Alternatively, it may verify that a cover has been genuinely carried.
This idea of having a certificate is new to the world of covers and stems from the autograph market where, with so many forgeries around, customers wanted reassurance that any signature they bought was genuine. We are slightly skeptical of Certificates of Authenticity. It seems to us that if someone is going to forge a signature, they are not likely to get a qualm of conscience about forging a certificate to go with it! As far as we are concerned, if you buy from a reputable source that you can trust, you should not need a certificate of authenticity – although we are delighted to provide one if you request it. We arrange the signatures for Buckingham Covers directly with the person signing and if we were ever challenged, could produce plenty of evidence to show that they are genuine (including the word of the signer themselves).
Remember that a certificate is only as good as the company that provides it. Be careful when buying autographs and check the company’s pedigree. Fraser’s, one of the leading suppliers of autographed photographs, destroys items if they are even slightly worried that the signature is a forgery. Internet Stamps (Buckingham Covers’ parent company) does the same. You need to check that whoever you buy from has the same policy and reputation for honesty. That way, their word on a certificate means something.
Remember Cinderella? She was the fairy-tale character who looked like a princess but was really a commoner in disguise. Cinderella stamps follow the same idea. They look like genuine postage stamps, but are really just decorative labels. A real postage stamp can only be issued by a genuine Post Office. However, anyone is welcome to design and print Cinderella stamps. They can’t be used for postage. They are very collectable and some people specialise just in Cinderella stamps. A Cinderella can bring a striking touch to a first day or commemorative cover. All our Cinderellas are mainly designed by Cath Buckingham and are unique to us.
This Tintagel Old Post Office (National Trust) first day cover has a unique Cinderella Tintagel stamp, cancelled with a cachet. For another example of a Cinderella, look at the Hornby cover shown in our definition of cachets.
Get a fuller history of the Cinderella here.
Royal Mail introduced commemorative labels to mark special events that did not have their own stamps. There issued a large commemorative label inside books of 4 or 6 1st Class Stamps. These were only issued around once or twice a year and are now discontinued altogether. The last commemorative label issued was on 29 January 2001 to mark the Centenary of the death of Queen Victoria. To see what it looked like, check out our Queen Victoria covers.
Stamps that mark anniversaries, special events or important people are called commemorative stamps. Another way of describing commemoratives is as pictorial stamps (stamps with pictures rather than the Queen’s Head). Pictorial stamps were first introduced by Royal Mail (then known as the General Post Office or GPO) in 1962, although there were many fore-runners such as those issued for the Coronations, Olympic Games and the British Empire Exhibitions in 1924 and 1925.
Though sometimes it may feel like it, the Royal Mail cannot issue a pictorial stamp for every big occasion, so what dealers or even you yourself can do is produce a commemorative cover. For example, Royal Mail might not issue a new stamp to mark each of the Queen’s Birthdays, but there is nothing to stop you putting an existing royalty stamp on an envelope illustrated with a picture of the Queen and arrange to get it postmarked on the correct day in, say, London SW1 - and you have your own commemorative cover!
Since a commemorative cover is not about new stamps, the aim of the game is to find the most relevant old stamps to use. This can be a real challenge for the cover producer. You might find the perfect stamps but can you source out enough to produce all of your covers? When we made covers to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Victoria Cross in 2004, we searched high and low to find the Victoria Cross stamp from the 1990 Gallantry set but still couldn’t find enough to do all the covers that we’d planned. Of course, this makes our VC covers even more special.
[60th Anniversary of D-Day Cover] Our D-Day range is an example of different commemorative covers. Royal Mail decided not to produce stamps marking the 60th Anniversary of D-Day in 2004 but we felt it was important. Some of the veterans had told us they didn’t think they would be around to celebrate the 70th Anniversary so we wanted to make this occasion a big one. This particular example is a cover produced especially for Jim Wallwork DFM to sign. Mr Wallwork was the first glider pilot to enter France on D-Day. The cover is postmarked at Tarrant Rushton, where the gliders took off on 5 June 1944. The British stamps show the Distinguished Flying Medal (from a 1990 set of stamps), which is the medal awarded to Jim Wallwork for his services on D-Day. Next to it is a Queen Mother stamp (from 1980). Commemorative covers are also sometimes referred to as “souvenir” covers or “special issue” covers.
Stamps and covers are like antiques. Condition is everything. The best way of checking for defects is to hold a cover up to the light at eye level. Check each stamp for creases, bumps or tears. You can find out much more about Condition in our Essential Guide to Condition.
The term “cover” goes right back to the very start of the postal service. It was another word for an envelope. When the Victorians first started sending letters, they wrapped them up in paper (the “cover”) and wrote the address on that. In 1840, a Penny Black was stuck on a cover to put in the post and cancelled on that day. This was the start of the “first day cover” and they have been collected ever since.
We still use the word “cover” to refer to a collectable envelope. Of course, more specifically there are two types of cover: first day covers and commemorative covers.