New York's Distinctive Foreign Mail Cancels

New York's Distinctive Foreign Mail Cancels
By Percy Doane


We are deeply indebted to William R. Weiss, expert extraordinaire, for what is, to us, the best concise description of these intriguing New York Foreign Mail cancels:

“Some postmasters and clerks in 19th century U.S. post offices carved fancy designs to “cancel” stamps on mail they processed. Although the New York City post office had, by 1870, a long history of using various fancy killers, at about that time a group of fancy killers began to emerge that would become a popular and challanging collecting area for future generations. To add to their mystique, these fancy killers were only intended to be used on mail which was processed in the Foreign Mail Division sent to foreign destinations. This distinction would seem to set them apart from any other group of cancels that exist from any other city. Many of these killers are lovely and intricate Geometrics, Stars,and Representative designs. In total, over 200 different designs exist from the period between 1870-1880, and to collect them presents the student with a serious and rewarding hobby.”

Just look at the myriad geometric designs that are so unusual that it’s generally easy for a specialist to spot a New York Foreign Mail cancel as opposed to other geometric fancy cancels of the post-Civil War era of U.S. postal history. Fancy cancels, by the way, are collected either on or off cover and are welcome additions to a collection of good 19th century material, especially when tastefully mounted on blank album pages.

For the collector who likes to make a well defined checklist of items he wants and then goes out and see if every item on the checklist can be acquired, then the specialty of collecting NYFM cancels is for you. They’re loaded with New york City history and, with the exception of some usages on cover, are not expensive enough to break a bank and make one completely shy away from them. Mind you, they’re not cheap, either. But then, 19th century U.S. material is still one of our best investments!