U.S. Fancy Cancel with Ammonite Design

Fancy cancels (actually killers) were used from the 1850s through the 1900s to render U.S. postage stamps used on mail invalid for reuse. They were often made by postmasters of third class offices as they had to pay for their own supplies. They used locally obtainable materials such as corks or wood blocks and cut designs into them, or in many instances, bought ready-made devices, commercially produced using vulcanized rubber. Such devices incorporated various geometric designs of crosses or stars, objects such as shields, more elaborate designs like a skull and crossbones or even images of people and animals.

These cancels are found mainly on banknote issues of the U.S. up until approximately 1900 even though the U.S. post office department issued regulations on the standardization of cancellations in 1890 which should have eliminated use of such devices. There are also later examples of commercially produced fancy cancels from the 1920s and 1930s and the U.S. was not the only country to use fancy cancels as Canada and other British Colonies used this type of killer as well.

The black ink normally used with metal devices clogged the commercial vulcanized rubber devices quickly. As a result, manufacturers formulated inks which could be used with them and not clog the device. The formulated inks were not as dark and other colors such as purple or violet were popular even though postal guidelines specified black.

Our interest lies in one cancel design with the spiral image of an ammonite worked into the center of an 8 petaled flower. One story I’ve heard on the origin of the design is that it was used in those cities and towns where ammonite fossils had been found. In the case of at least one city, it’s plausible to think this theory may have originated there, although a bit stretched when one considers the other cities where the design was used.

Ammonite Fancy Cancel

Ammonite Fancy Cancel Device

Although the cancel appears on many U.S. banknote issues of the period, the more interesting and scarcer examples of use appear on U.S. official stamps of the various departments of the federal government. These governmental departments had field offices which used official stamps to pay the postage fees and sent their mail through the normal local post office channels. For instance, in the case of the Department of Agriculture, pre-stamped return envelopes were provided to farmers so they might report issues concerning seed orders and other agricultural issues. Although covers bearing the design exist where the city of use can be verified, no cover has been reported on official mail bearing this design.

Ammonite Cancels on U.S. Official Issues

Ammonite Cancels on U.S. Official Issues

Note: the example on the 2 cent Interior stamp above appears as a negative impression. This is likely the result of over-inking the device and then using it multiple times before re-inking. The ink in the recessed areas would make the impression rather than ink from the raised design as would be normally expected.

Postage stamp issues the cancel design is known used on:

  1. U.S. banknote issues between 1870 and 1890
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture
  3. U.S. Department of the Interior
  4. U.S. War Department

Colors the cancel design is known in:

  1. Black
  2. Purple

Cities the cancel design is recorded from:

  1. Cash City, Kansas
  2. Gila Bend, Arizona
  3. Juniata, Pennsylvania
  4. South Bradford, New York
  5. Superior, Wisconsin
  6. Vicksburg, Colorado
  • My thanks to Mr. Alan C. Campbell for his assistance with information on the background of fancy cancels in general, on officials stamps specifically and the additional examples of this cancel design on official issues.
  • References from the James Cole work – Cancellations and Killers of the Banknote Era 1870-1894.
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Sinclair Dinosaur Postage Meters – Part 1

Mail of the Sinclair Oil Company from 1934 through 1968 utilized postage meters with illustrated advertising slugs which included the likeness of a dinosaur. The image of ‘Dino the Sinclair Dinosaur’ as the company logo was used to indicate the age of the raw materials used to make their oil and gas products.

Examples of this mail are the earliest items to depict dinosaurs and represent the scarcer philatelic material available in this thematic subject. Over the span of 40 years collecting these meters, nine basic designs of the advertising slug have been recorded from the U.S. and three types internationally. The major varieties on six of the U.S. basic designs are shown below.

In future posts, we’ll discuss the cities of origin, meter machine numbers, machine manufacturers, corner cards, and sub-varieties such as ink color, are also of interest. For the moment, let’s review only the basic designs. The dates of use listed are those years I’ve been able to verify and they may change as more information is obtained. Your assistance is always welcomed and solicited to further clarify the use of these advertising postage meters.

Please note – the words ‘Opaline’ and ‘Pennsylvania’ refer to oil types. Opaline was a brand purchased by Sinclair and retained its name under Sinclair ownership.

Design 1

Comes in two types. The text bubble is directly above the dinosaur and the dinosaur measures 33mm wide by 16mm high. The readily apparent difference is in the text – ‘Opaline’ in the first type as opposed to ‘Pennsylvania’ in the second. The ‘Opaline’ type also includes a small line of text ‘REG. U.S. PAT. OFF.’ (Registered United States Patent Office) below the word ‘Opaline’. Used from 1934 through 1942.

Type 1-O (Opaline)

Type 1-O (Opaline)

Type 1-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 1-P (Pennsylvania)

Design 2

Comes in two types. The text bubble is above the dinosaur’s tail and the dinosaur measures 32mm wide by 12mm high. This design looks similar to design 1, but the smaller size of the dinosaur is readily visible. Used from 1934 through 1939.

(NOTE: Even though this design uses an earlier machine type, the earliest date known is after the use of type 1)

Type 2-O (Opaline)

Type 2-O (Opaline)

Type 2-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 2-P (Pennsylvania)

Design 3

Comes in two types. The text bubble is above the dinosaur and extends to the left. The dinosaur measures 25mm wide and 11mm high. This dinosaur is much more elongated body than in the first two designs. Used from 1940 through 1959.

Type 3-O (Opaline)

Type 3-O (Opaline)

Type 3-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 3-P (Pennsylvania)

Design 4

Comes in two types. The text bubble is above the dinosaur and the dinosaur measures 31mm wide and 13mm high. This dinosaur is similar to design 3 but larger overall. Used from 1940 through 1950.

Type 4-O (Opaline)

Type 4-O (Opaline)

Type 4-P (Pennsylvania)

Type 4-P (Pennsylvania)

Design 5

Comes in only one type. The text is not in a bubble and the dinosaur now wears a jacket, bow tie and hat reminiscent of those worn by gas station attendants of the time. Used from 1957 through 1963.

Type 5

Type 5

Design 6

Comes in two types. The size of the advertising slug differs, 6a being 44mm wide and 19mm high and 6b being 50mm wide and 25mm high, both with a tiny dinosaur image in the Sinclair logo. Used from 1962 through 1964.

Type 6a (small logo)

Type 6a (small logo)

Type 6b (large logo)

Type 6b (large logo)

Design 7

Comes in only one type. This design utilizes an oil can as the main theme with the image of ‘Dino’ being a small detail (similar to a design used in Belgium). Used during 1963.

Type 7

Type 7

Design 8

Comes in only one type. This design was an advertisement for the Sinclair Oil Company’s ‘Dinoland‘ pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Used from 1964 through 1965.

Type 8

Type 8

Design 9

Comes in two types. The name ‘Dino’ is in text and no illustration of the dinosaur is part of the design. The variation occurs in the wording: ‘Play Double Dino Dollars’ or ‘Play New Dino Dollars’. Used during 1968.

Type 9a (DOUBLE)

Type 9a (DOUBLE)

Type 9b (NEW)

Type 9b (NEW)

Quezalcoatlus – Commemorative Cancel

Commemorative cancel depicting Quetzalcoatlus northropi used on a Certified Mail cover is unusual as commemorative cancels are normally used on philatelic mail. This certified mail (75 cents) 1st class (22 cents) cover from Detroit, MI (10 Oct 1986) to Army Post Office (APO) New York 09333 (Sandhofen, Germany) was back-stamped as received on 22 Dec 1986 at APO New York 09102 (Heidelberg, Germany). Evidently, the mail was ‘really slow’ when carried by pterosaur!!!

Quetzalcoatlus commemorative cancel

Quetzalcoatlus commemorative cancel

British Prehistoric Animals – First Day of Issue

The new set of prehistoric animal stamps from Great Britain was issued today. They include:

Prehistoric Animals 2013

Prehistoric Animals 2013

Polacanthus
The heavily armoured Polacanthus was protected from predators by a host of spikes and studs.

Ichthyosaurus
Adapted to life in the sea, the Ichthyosaurus breathed air and gave birth to live young in the water.

Iguanodon
The herbivorous Iguanodon was able to walk on all fours, but would run using only its hind legs.

Ornithocheirus
This relative lightweight flew mainly by soaring and gliding, catching fish by skimming the sea.

Baryonyx
With a name meaning ‘heavy claw’, the thumb claw alone of the Baryonyx was more than 40cm long.

Dimorphodon
With its one metre wingspan and two types of teeth, the Dimorphodon preyed upon fish.

Hypsilophodon
The long shins of the Hypsilophodon suggest that a speedy escape was its main means of defence.

Cetiosaurus
The Cetiosaurus was a herbivore thought to weigh as much as 20,000kg, the same as 20 cars.

Megalosaurus
The fearsome Megalosaurus grew up to nine metres in length, and preyed upon other Dinosaurs.

Plesiosaurus
With its vast paddles, the Plesiosaurus hunted fish and other marine prey at an estimated 8kph.

My Favorite Prehistoric Animal

It’s really difficult to pick a single prehistoric animal as one’s favorite. Perhaps choosing a group might be easier so that’s the way I’ll get around this question, otherwise I’d have a list as long as my arm – well, OK, maybe longer. The group will have to be, insert drum roll here, the ‘Pterosaurs of the Mesozoic’. You likely saw that one coming due to the image in the left sidebar and the side bar link grouping.

Ornithocheirus on Chinese lottery postcard

Ornithocheirus on Chinese Dinosaur Park postcard

They’re a very varied group, and that’s what makes them so interesting. They maintain a mystical origin as they could have developed from as many as four different areas on the tree of life. They’re not birds, not dinosaurs and definitely, at least at the moment, not part of any other grouping. Of all sizes and shapes, weighing next to nothing, they sailed the prehistoric skies as the first aviators to conquer the air, they could fly! How cool is that?

Pteranodon in Chinese commemorative cancel

Zhejiangopterus in Chinese commemorative cancel *

The above Chinese postmark from Linhai, Zhejiang Province commemorates the 20th Anniversary of the discovery of the ‘Fossil of South-Changliang-River Pterosaur‘.

OK, OK, yes, I do have other interests like sabertooths (sabretooths), archaeopteryx, giant dragonflies, trilobites, jellyfish, ants in amber, cavemen, cave paintings of France and Spain, maybe a few dinosaurs or even a fish with big teeth. But as neat as all those are, none are quite as cool as a pterosaur. end of article

* NOTE: Assistance with identification of this cancel provided by PaleoPhilatelist – thanks.

Sinclair Postage Meter from Belgium

Regardless of how long we collect, there is always something that eludes us, sometimes for many years as is the case with this item. We know of these things often by accident and it’s only as a matter of luck that I even have this image.

‘Dino the Sinclair Dinosaur’ was a popular motif used as a logo by the Sinclair Oil Company. First used during the early 1930s and then again during the 1950s and 1960s, several major design styles were used as advertising on metered mail from a number of larger cities in the U.S. In addition, at least three countries other than the U.S., namely Belgium, Italy, and Venezuela also used versions of the logo on metered mail.

Sinclair Postage Meter from Belgium

Sinclair Postage Meter from Belgium

So, my search continues and that’s part of the lure of collecting, the chase is often more fun than the possession… That said, I’d still like to own a copy of this meter some day.

T. rex Missing Color Error

One of the favorite item types in my prehistoric collection is errors of stamps, be they misperforations, colors missing or other odd ducks. In this U.S. color error, the black normally indicating a value and the text for the country of issue is missing. It’s one of those things you love for no other reason than it’s cool – even though other things may be more rare or important.

T. rex error, missing color

Missing color error

This U.S. issue designed by James Gurney is one of the most dynamic images of the Tyrannosaurus yet to appear on postage stamps.