Glossary: S

Self Adhesive Stamps

Instead of having gum on the reverse that needs to be wet in order to stick, self adhesive stamps are already sticky and are peeled from a backing paper like stickers.


Se-tenant comes from the French word meaning “held together” and refers to when stamps of different value or design are joined together. More often than not, sheets of stamps all have the same value, so se-tenants are less usual. A recent example of a se-tenant set is on this Farm Animals cover.
We see our covers as miniature works of art that are treasured as a whole, combining cover illustration, postmark, stamps and, perhaps, an autograph. We usually, therefore, separate se-tenant stamp sets on our covers, to compliment the overall look. Most of our collectors prefer this. However, some collectors like to keep the integrity of a se-tenant issue so when se-tenant stamps are issued, we often produce a limited number of se-tenant covers on a plain envelope.


Someone who has signed one of our covers. The correct term of course is “signatory” but it doesn’t trip off the tongue so well, so with apologies to the Oxford Dictionary, we use our own word instead!


This is the type of postmark you see on most mail today, where you get the date and then three or four ‘wavy’ lines. The best known is probably ‘Don’t forget your postcode’. These type of postmarks do appear on first day covers and are very collectable if the postmark connects with the subject of the stamps. They are very hard to get as you have to place the stamps correctly and the machines are known to ‘eat’ covers.


This is a Royal Mail marketing initiative, introduced at the International StampShow 2000 with the 1990 set of Greetings stamps. The idea is that anyone can put their own chosen picture (perhaps a photograph or a logo) as label next to a stamp (a bit like aCinderella). This has proved a popular, personalised way to mark births, marriages and promote companies. Many different Smiler issues have followed, including Father Christmas in 2004 and Farm Animals in 2005. The name “Smilers” was chosen because they are designed to be used as celebrations of happy events. 
For collectors. Royal Mail produce Generic versions of the Smiler stamps. Instead of being personalised, these versions have relevant decorative labels printed alongside the stamps instead. For an example, have a look at the pictures next to each stamp on our Farm Animals smiler covers above.

Sorting Machine

These are machines used to sort, or at least partly sort, the mail. As new ones came in to operation or were trialled they printed the post with different postmarks and these are collected.

Souvenir Sheet

This is a form of miniature sheet where small sheet are joined together inside a specially designed frame. These are usually se-tenant.

Special Handstamp

These are pictorial postmarks, applied by trained Royal Mail staff in Special Handstamps Centres across the country. See postmark for more information.