Starting in the late 1960's many African countries began printing their high value stamps from gold foil which had the design embossed in whole or part. Some of these were produced from 100% foil, while others, like the above stamp from Upper Volta, which is now known as Burkina Faso, were printed on paper which had a coating of gold. These were largely eschewed by traditional collectors at the time they first appeared, with the result that many are quite scarce today.
Hinge and Hinge Remnant
Until acetate mounts and pages with glassine and acetate strips became widely available in the 1960's, the only practical way to display stamps in an album was to "mount" them using hinges. Hinges were made of little rectangles of gummed paper, usually glassine, that were attached to the stamp on one end, and to the page on the other. Of course, moistening the hinge and applying it to the back of mint stamps would leave a mark on the gum of the stamp that cannot be completely removed, though there are experts who are able to cleverly disguise such marks for a fee.
Oftentimes, the hinges are not completely removed from stamps that have been lifted from albums, resulting in what collectors call a hinge remnant - that little piece of the old hinge left behind on the gum, as shown in the scan above. The reasons for leaving the remnant on the stamp are varied. Sometimes removing the hinge can damage the gum and a decision is made to leave it in place. Other times it is left out of laziness. A large number of collectors do not like stamps with hinge remnants. Why? There are usually two reasons:
1. Very heavy hinging with multiple remnants can buckle the stamp so that it does not lie flat on the page. Many collectors find that to them, such a stamp simply does not look as good.
2. Hinging can sometimes be used to hide certain faults like thins or tears. Hinges from the early 20th century were usually made of thick, opaque paper, and were hard to remove. This made them ideal for hiding tears and thins by "patching". It is not uncommon to find several examples of patched used stamps in collections from the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.
My belief is that there is nothing wrong with a hinge remnant, provided that the hinge is a glassine hinge that enables you to see that no damage is being hidden underneath. Where the gum is very fragile and prone to peeling right off the stamps if the hinges are removed, it is definitely preferable, in my opinion, not to attempt to remove the hinges, and to just leave them the way they are.
Stamp designs used to be printed one design per sheet, with all stamps in a sheet being exactly the same. Starting in the 1950's many issues, usually commemoratives, consisted of three of four designs, which would all be printed in rotation on the same sheet. These are called se-tenant designs. They are not uncommon in mint condition, but properly used se-tenants on cover, used in the proper period of time (i.e. when on sale at the post office) are some of the most challenging items in modern philately.
The above scan shows the 2000 "Stampin the Future" issue, which consisted of four se-tenant designs.
A souvenir sheet is a small sheet consisting usually of fewer than 10 stamps, which has a very large decorative border. These sheets were first issued just before World War I, and have continued to increase in popularity over the years. Originally the sheets issued in the 1920's and 1930's were generally only available at philatelic exhibitions and you could only buy one sheet with one exhibition ticket. As a result the issue quantities of early souvenir sheets were quite low and these are worth a lot of money today. By the 1960's most souvenir sheets are only worth a small premium over the basic stamps contained in them. Once again, mint sheets are not uncommon, but used ones on cover, used when on sale are rare, and highly desirable.
Special Delivery Cover
Squared Circle Cancellation
Starburst or Sunburst Cancel
A surface cover is one that traveled exclusively by land and sea. Surface was the standard method of transmission until airmail became popular and affordable in the 1950's. However, airmail did not become the standard method of transmission until the 1970's, with surface still being offered as a less expensive option. Today, surface is generally not available in many countries for lettermail, though it is often still offered for parcels.
Envelopes sent by surface were generally not marked, though sometimes "by sea" or "sea mail" will appear on the envelope. Most of the time though, the only way to identify a surface cover, particularly for modern covers, is to know the postage rates. Quite often, pre-printed airmail envelopes were used for surface mail, such as in the case of the above cover to the Canary Islands. This can mislead the unwary collector into thinking that the cover went by air when it did not.