BNAPS ORE - Reference Articles

Guide to the Admiral Stamps of Canada

Randall W. Van Someren

Introduction | Formats | Printings | Dies | Paper | Straight Edges | Coils |
Fakes | Forgeries | Terminology | Varieties | Cancellations | Rates | Bibliography

Cancellations on the Admirals

During the 17 or so years the Admirals were in use, many different cancellations were used on Canada's mail. Older cancelling devices first used in the 19th century - the squared circle, for example - were phased out and new types introduced. While cancellations are properly collected on cover or document, the collector of the Admiral stamps can also put together an interesting collection of cancels on single stamps.

This page shows some of the cancellations found on the Admirals. Hans Reiche's handbook, Admiral Cancels, mentions many of these cancels. Some cancels shown here are not in his book, and some shown in his book are not shown here, so neither is a complete listing.

Postal cancellations are shown first, then fiscal cancellations. The postal cancellations are listed in alphabetical order by type of cancel.

1. Postal Cancellations

Item 1: AR cancel.  Item 2: bar cancel.  Items 3c and 3b: Circular Date Cancels.

  1. Acknowledgment of Receipt. This cancel is rarely found on stamps.

  2. Bars. Cancellations consisting of bars are often part of another cancellation such as the duplex cancel (see below). However, some bar cancels are stand-alone cancels, not part of another type.

  3. Circular Date Cancels (CDC). CDC cancels show the city / town name, province, and date of mailing. The circle comes in several diameters. Of special interest are CDCs from post offices established for government institutions such as the PARLEMENT PROVINCIAL QUEBEC cancel (3b above). Circular date cancels can be part of a duplex cancellation (see below).

Items 4a and 4b: cork cancels.  Item 5: dotted circle cancel.

  1. "Cork" Cancels. The cancelling device was usually made of cork or brass. These were more popular in the 19th century, and are not common on the Admirals.

  2. Dotted Circle. The seven examples I have are from Montreal.

3 examples of duplex cancels, one with bars, 
        one with the numeral 8 in the bars, and one with the letter S in the bars

  1. Duplex Cancels. Duplex cancels consist of a circular date cancel and a group of bars produced by the one cancelling device. There are several different styles, and sometimes letters, numerals, and words are found in the bars. From the Admiral period, the best known are probably the Montreal duplex cancels with the letters A to J and the numerals 1 to 13. However, several other cities used duplex cancels with letters in the bars (such as the example above with the S on the 2¢ carmine) during the Admiral period. All these variations combine to make duplex cancels a specialized field in itself.

Strip of three 1 cent green with Field Post 
        Office cancel dated September 13, 1918

  1. Field Post Office Cancels. These originate from post offices established for servicemen on active duty.

Three items: item 1 is stamp with the wavy line machine cancel;
        item 2 is a stamp with the circle part of a machine cancel showing the full year, 1912;
        item 3 is a stamp with a paquebot cancel

  1. Machine Cancels. The "wavy lines" of the International Rapid Machine cancels are probably the most common cancel found on the Admirals. Even these can be of some interest because various numbers and letters are sometimes found between the lines. The circle part of the cancellation can be identified by its diameter (about 21 mm) and the complete year at the bottom. Slogan / pictorial cancels (see below) are also machine cancels.

  2. Paquebot Cancels. Letters mailed onboard ship received paquebot cancels. At the next port of call, they were delivered to a post office where they entered the mail system.

Two precancelled stamps: 3c brown with bar precancel; 2c carmine
        with WINNIPEG MANITOBA precancel

  1. Precancelled Stamps. Precancelled Admiral stamps come in two flavours: bar precancels (10a above) and town and city precancels (10b above). Bar precancels exist on the following sheet stamps:

1¢ yellow, Dies I and II 5¢ violet
2¢ green 7¢ bistre
3¢ brown 10¢ blue
3¢ carmine, Dies I and II 10¢ bistre brown
4¢ bistre 20¢ olive green

The 1¢ yellow sidewise coil, Dies I and II, also exists with a bar precancel.

There are 51 town and city precancels on the Admirals. Many town and city precancels come in different styles. For example, there are ten different ones for Toronto on Admiral stamps. Many precancels also exist inverted, and a few come with the overprint doubled.

Two examples of registration cancels: a pair of the 5 cent 
        violet with R in oval; and a 2c green with rectangular box cancel

  1. Registered Cancels. There are several different types of registered cancellations, but the most common is the large R in an oval. Registered cancellations also come in different sizes and colours. The example of the R in an oval (11a above) is a fairly small example of this cancellation; they usually are much larger.

Four stamps with cancels.  Item 1 is a 2 cent carmine with a small 
        'Return to sender' hand; item 2 is a 1 cent green with a four ring 
        cancel; item 3 is a 10 cent plum with a roller cancel; and item 4 
        is a 2 cent green with an RPO cancel.

  1. Return to Sender Hand. I suspect this is not a genuine postal marking. The hand seems a bit small in comparison to those found on covers of the Admiral era.

  2. Rings. Cancels with various numbers of rings exist. Ring cancels were used more in the 19th century, and are not often seen on the Admirals.

  3. Roller Cancel. Not popular with stamp collectors because they do such a good job of obliterating the stamp, roller cancels were nonetheless used extensively during the Admiral period. Several different styles exist. Nice clean, clear examples are hard to find.

  4. RPO (Railroad Post Office) Cancel. The Admiral era coincides with the heyday of railroad post offices. Probably several hundred RPO cancels can be found on the Admirals.

Two examples of slogan machine cancels, one on a 2 cent carmine 
        and the other on a pair of the 1c yellow

  1. Slogan / Pictorial Cancels. There are hundreds of these cancels, many of them with one version in English and another in French. They promote everything from the War effort to tourism (16b above). They publicize Post Office directives and services as well as advertise various events and anniversaries. These are usually a type of machine cancel, and could be listed as such.

Four examples of cancels: 5 cent blue and 7c bistre with 
        smudge cancels, 2 cent plus 1 cent carmine War Tax with split 
        ring cancel, and 1 cent green with squared circle cancel

  1. Smears and Smudges. The two examples shown above (17a and 17b) are quite representative of this type of cancellation.

  2. Split Ring Cancel. This cancel was first used near the beginning of the Small Queens era or before. By the time the Admirals were in use, most larger towns and cities had moved on to other types of canceling devices, but the split ring cancel continued to be used in many small towns.

  3. Squared Circle. The squared circle cancellation was introduced in the early 1890s, but by the Admiral era, it was rarely used. The example shown is from Port Arthur, ON.

Four types of cancels: first, a 2 cent carmine with a blue 
        cancel shaped like a star; second, a 10 cent plum with a 
        three-ring cancel; third, a 1 cent green with a two-ring 
        cancel; and fourth, a 2 cent carmine with a small circular 
        cancel with the words 'WAY LETTER' inside it.

  1. Star. I suspect this cancellation is not a genuine postal cancellation.

  2. Three-Ring Cancel. This cancel comes with at least two diameters. Ottawa is the most common, but other cities also exist.

  3. Two-Ring Cancel.

  4. Way Letter.

2. Fiscal Cancellations

The "Special War Revenue Act" passed by the Federal Government in 1915 imposed a 1¢ War Tax on letters and postcards effective 15 April 1915. The Post Office issued War Tax stamps for the payment of this tax.

The Act also imposed a tax on cheques, promissory notes, and money orders. Although revenue stamps were issued for the payment of this tax, postage stamps were regularly used for this purpose. The stamps were affixed to a financial instrument such as a cheque and cancelled by a financial institution.

Four stamps with handwritten fiscal cancels.  2 cent carmine 
        and 1 cent yellow with initials; 2 cent carmine with date 
        ('5/26/16') and initials; 1 cent green with thick red line drawn with a crayon.

A wide variety of fiscal cancellations exist, often in bright colours. Fiscal cancels can be divided into two groups: those that are manuscript (done by hand with pen, pencil, or crayon) and those that are handstamped with a cancelling device. What follows is just a small sample of the types of fiscal cancels found on the Admirals.

2.1 Manuscript Fiscal Cancellations

Four stamps with handwritten fiscal cancels.  2 cent carmine 
        and 1 cent yellow with initials; 2 cent carmine with date 
        ('5/26/16') and initials; 1 cent green with thick red line drawn with a crayon.

  1. Initials, Names, and/or Dates.

  2. Crayon. Cheques were often cancelled with a heavy line made by a crayon. This often ended up on the stamp(s) affixed to the cheque.

One 1 cent yellow and four 2 cent carmine stamps with 
        miscellaneous handwritten symbols: diagonal line, star, three crosses, 
        pound sign, and undecipherable squiggle

  1. Miscellaneous signs, symbols, etc. Included here are strokes of a pen or pencil, asterisk, Xs, and "pound sign." Many others can be found.

2.2 Handstamped Fiscal Cancellations

2 cent carmine with rectangular cancel, 1 cent yellow with 
        part of cancel in which the word 'BANK' appears, and 2 cent carmine 
        with part of the word 'CANCELLED'

  1. Bank Cancels. There are two types: small usually rectangular cancels (27a above) or large cancels often containing the word PAID (27b above). Both types of cancels have the name of the bank in them.

  2. CANCELLED. The word CANCELLED is usually too large to fit completely on one stamp.

4 cent with small circle cancel inscribed '15' over '148'; 
        2 cent carmine with the date 'NOV 19 1915' rubber stamped in blue; 
        2 cent green with a cancel consisting of a three-by-three array of small squares.

  1. Small Circle or Triangle Cancel. Has numbers and/or letters inside.

  2. Straight-line Date Cancel.

  3. "Multiple Squares". For lack of a better term.

Introduction | Formats | Printings | Dies | Paper | Straight Edges | Coils |
Fakes | Forgeries | Terminology | Varieties | Cancellations | Rates | Bibliography

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