Philatis Postal Archives

The philatelis collections, which bring together nearly one million items, include stamps and archival documents on philately and the postal service primarily acquired from Canada Post and private individuals.

The database contains both documentary information on each stamp released by Canada and British North America, as well as individual descriptions of documents found in the philatelic and postal fonds and collections at the Canadian Postal Archives. Descriptions are generally written in the language of the creator or donor, and English largely predominates.

This search engine provides documentary information on nearly 2,600 stamps released by Canada and British North America and approximately 40,000 individual descriptions of documents. It also allows on-line consultation of more than 15,000 digitized documents. The number of these documents is expected to increase regularly.

Please notice that records related to stamps recently issued may not have yet been described at the item level.

Search: Database by keyword

Search: Database by image

Search help

The records

The philatelic documents held at the Library and Archives Canada are grouped in fonds or collections. For each of these holdings, there is a general description containing the provenance, scope, and content, which can be accessed by using Archives Search. Select “Stamps and postal material” to limit your search. The database identifies specific finding aids for some of these fonds.

Philatelic collections include all aspects of the design and production of postage stamps.This encompasses original drawings and artwork, essays, preliminary and definitive die proofs, colour trials, plate proofs, as well as single or sheets of stamps.There are also postal covers, first-day covers, postal stationery, and related documents such as photographs on the history of the Canadian postal service.

The search screens

Visual search

More than 90 screens display Canada's and British North America's postage stamps issued between 1851 and 2004. The stamps are arranged by postal administrations and, in most cases, within the chronological date of issue. The screens related to Canada were compiled from the posters entitled Reflections of Canada: The Postage Stamps published by the Canada Post Corporation. Additions and revisions will be made on a regular basis.

From the menu at the top of the page, select

  1. the postal administration
  2. the desired time period

For example:

  • Canada, 1851-1966
  • Canada, 1967-1981
  • Canada, 1982-1992
  • Canada, 1993-2010
  • Newfoundland

Search results

  1. All the stamps from the selected period will appear on screen.
  2. Click on the image of a stamp to bring up the related information.

Keyword search (simple)

1. Enter the search term(s) in one or more of the following fields:

  • Keywords: carries out the search in various fields of the database.
  • Title: limits the search to the title field only.
  • Historical Notice: limits the search to the historical notice field only. This field includes information on the stamp's subject.

2. Select the type of search:

  • Stamp directory and records: searches for information on stamps, related archival documents and other archival documents.
  • Stamp directory : searches for information on stamps and related archival documents only.
  • Records: searches for Canadian Postal Archives documents

To limit the search to records with a digitized image, check the box.

3. Click the Submit button to start the search.

4. Click the Reset button to begin a new search.

The Number of references per page option allows the user to change the number of results that appear on a page.

Keyword search (detailed)

1. Enter the search term(s) in one or more of the following fields:

  • Keywords: carries out the search in various fields of the database.
  • Title / Series: limits the search to the title or series fields only.
  • Historical Notice: limits the search to the historical notice field only. This field includes information on the stamp's subject.
  • Creator(s): allows the user to find the name of a designer or artist (engraver, photographer, etc.).
  • Date of Issue / Publication : Allows a user to find stamps, artwork and any archival document according to date, year or month. Enter the day, month, year or a combination of these criteria. To search for a specific date, be sure to place the day followed by the month and then the year in quotation marks. Examples:
    • "15 November 1979"
    • 1979
    • novembre
  • Denomination: select one of the monetary symbols from the list and enter a number to limit the search to this nominal value.
    • ¢ - Cent
    • $ - Dollar
    • d - Penny
    • / - Shilling
    If there is no number in the field, the search will use all of the nominal values.
  • Document Type: select one of these document types from the list to limit the search.
    • All types
    • Essay
    • Die proof
    • Plate proof
    • Booklet
    • First Day Cover
  • Printer: Select one of the printers on the list to limit the search to a specific printer, for example:
    • American Bank Note Company
    • Ashton Potter
  • Postal administration: select one of the postal administrations on the list to limit the search to a specific one, for example:
    • Canada
    • British Columbia / Vancouver Island
    • New Brunswick

2. Select the type of search:

  • Stamp directory and records: searches for information on stamps, related archival documents and other archival documents.
  • Stamp directory : searches for information on stamps and related archival documents only.
  • Records : searches for Canadian Postal Archives documents.

Search syntax

Advanced syntax for ArchiviaNet

Use Boolean operators to include or exclude terms in your search:

  • The AND operator allows you to retrieve the two terms specified in the search.
  • The OR operator allows you to retrieve either of the terms specified in the search.
  • The NOT operator allows you to exclude a term from the search.

Use the following wildcards:

  • The $ sign replaces a chain of characters
  • The ? sign replaces one character

Tip

Put specific expressions between quotation marks to limit the number of results, for example:
"John Molson"
"22 May 1986"

In addition to using quotation marks, be sure to type in the day followed by the month and then the year (as shown above).

We suggest looking for terms in both official languages (French and English) to complete your search. The results may differ from one language to another.

How to read the results

Multiple results

The results screen lists the references found in the search and briefly describes the documents. The description includes the following zones:

  • Ref.: sequential reference number assigned by the system
  • Icon: click on the image or graphic to access a detailed description of the document
  • Phase of production: document production phase
  • Type of document: type of archival document
  • Postal administration: postal administration that issued the stamp
  • Title: document title - the nominal value is provided in the case of a stamp
  • Date: date the stamp was issued or the archival document was created

How to access a detailed description of the document

  1. Select the document from the reference list.
  2. Click on the icon to access a description of the stamp or the archival document.

Stamp results

The screen shows the picture of a stamp and the following information:

  • Title: Official title or name of stamp - the sub-title is also shown, should one exist.
  • Denomination: nominal value of the stamp, in terms of the following monetary units:
    • ¢ - Cent
    • $ - Dollar
    • d - Penny
    • / - Shilling
  • Series : name of the stamp's series, should it have one
  • Perforation : number of stamp perforations - the term imperf. will be shown if the stamp does not have any perforations
  • Postal administration: postal administration that issued the stamp
  • Date of Issue: date the stamp was first issued
  • Quantity: number of stamps issued
  • Inclusive date of the series: inclusive date of the series related to the stamp's issue
  • Printer: name of the printer of the stamp
  • Creator(s): name and function of the stamp's creators
  • Historical Notice: information on the stamp's subject
  • Source: reference number of the note

Search elements:

  • Click to view a list of Documents related to this stamp.
  • Click on the image to increase the viewing size.
  • Notice that records related to stamps recently issued may not have yet been descrided at the item level.

Archival document results

The description and sometimes the digitized images of an archival document appear on-screen.

  • Part of: name of the series, sub-series or fonds to which the archival document is related
  • Title: document name - the nominal value, the name of the postal administration, the name of the printer and the title of the series will also appear in the case of philatelic material.
  • Material Designation: type of archival document described
    • Philatelic material
    • Artwork
    • Graphic
    • Exhibition material
    • Design reference material
    • Postal history material
  • Description: brief description of the archival document
  • Cancellation: information on the cancellation of philatelic material
  • Additional Information: additional information pertaining to the archival document - for philatelic material, sub-headings will appear as needed; for example:
    • Perforation: number of stamp perforations - the term imperf. will be shown if the stamp does not have any perforations
    • Gum: type of glue used on the stamp
    • Paper Type: type of paper on which the stamp is printed
    • Tagging: type of markings on the stamp
    • Text on the item: information written on the archival item
  • Stamp Issue Date: date the stamp was first issued.
  • Creator(s): name and function of the stamp's creators
  • Reference: reference numbers of the archival item to which the searcher can refer:
    • Item number: identification number of the archival item
    • Reproduction Number: reproduction number of the archival item
  • Use / Reproduction: information on the consultation and reproduction rights related to the archival document
    • Copyright
    • Credit
  • Consult the Reference Services for more information.
  • Source: reference number of the archival document

Search elements: Click on the image, should one exist, to increase the viewing size.

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