Glossary of Aerogrammatic Terms


by Jerome V. V. Kasper

Expanded from that published in The AerogrammeR, May, 1997.


The definitions below have been reviewed by several aerogramme collectors and dealers. However, this does NOT guarantee that the definitions are complete or are without typos or ambiguity. Please inform us of any such that you might spot or of terms that have been omitted. Thank you.




ADDRESS LINES: One or more lines on the front of the aerogramme where the name and address of the addressee is to be written. These are NOT the same as the sender's address lines.

ADHESIVE: The material on the back of the sealing flap(s) which, when moistened, seals the folded aerogramme to prevent it from opening during transmission. This term is also used to refer to a postage stamp affixed to an aerogramme or airletter.

ADMONITION or ADMONITORY TEXT: The optional printed statement that describes any conditions for or restrictions in usage. A common admonition refers to the prohibition against enclosures.

AIRLETTER: The term originally used to refer to aerogrammes. This term was generally replaced by "aerogramme" When the UPU mandated that all aerogrammes MUST have this French term printed on the front to identify it to all Postal authorities.

ALBINO IMPRESSION: This is an aerogramme where the impression of the printing plate is clearly visible, but no ink was applied. This can occur if the plate is somehow left uninked, although it is more commonly found when two sheets of paper are fed simultaneously thru the printer with the bottom sheet getting no ink but receiving a weakened impression. Since several of the aerogramme forms were made available for use with added adhesives, be careful that the plate impression is clearly present.

BORDER DESIGN: The repeating imprints in one or more colors often used to indicate that the aerogramme is to be sent by air. Lozenges were the most common such design on early issues.

CANCELLATION: Any form of defacing on or near the stamp that indicates that the aerogramme has been used for postal duty. This is most commonly the postmark.

COMMEMORATIVE: An issue that in some way marks the occurrence of an event or anniversary. The "marking" can be anything from a simple overprint to an elaborate pictorial.

DEFINITIVE: An issue intended for normal and extended usage that is not a commemorative, although it may have pictorials or scenes to increase its attractiveness.

DOUBLE PAPER: When aerogrammes are printed from continuous rolls of paper, the end of one roll is often joined to the beginning of the next roll. Since the two rolls are overlapped at the join for strength, there is a short length of paper that is of double thickness. The adhesive or tape will make a shorter length of even greater thickness. An aerogramme printed on this paper join is referred to as a "double paper" variety. This can also occur as the result of a break in the paper. The term "paste-up" is sometimes used.

EFO: Error, Freak or Oddity where errors are generally found on more than one copy. Missing colors, double prints and color errors are examples of errors that are normally found on more than one copy. Foldovers tend to be unique are are considered freaks or oddities.

FLAPS or SEALING FLAPS: Aerogrammes are normally cut to provide one to three narrow extensions, called flaps, which are gummed and are to be folded and used to seal the folded aerogramme. Sometimes the gum is omitted and the sender is expected to provide glue or tape to seal the aerogramme.

FOLDING INSTRUCTIONS: To assist the writer in folding the aerogramme, instructions such as "First Fold Here" or "Second Fold" are often printed at the appropriate places.

FOLDING LINES: To assist the writer in folding the aerogramme, solid or dotted lines are often printed to show how to fold the aerogramme.

FORMAT: The overall shape or form of the unfolded cut aerogramme is sometimes referred to as the "knife".

FORMULAR AEROGRAMME: An aerogramme or airletter issued by any entity that has no face value and requires an adhesive be added for it to be mailed.

ILLUSTRATED AEROGRAMME: An aerogramme with a printed illustration either on the outside or inside. The earliest ones were printed for use by military servicemen serving in World War 2. Most commemorative aerogrammes have illustrations related to the event or entity being commemorated.

INSCRIPTIONS or LEGEND: These consist of all printed text on the aerogramme other than the stamp or the overlay.

INSIDE or REVERSE SIDE: The side of the paper opposite to that bearing the stamp imprint is usually the side on which the bulk of the message is written. It may be blank, printed with lines to facilitate writing or imprinted with some form of letterhead (often found on officials) or other decorations. The adhesive is located on the reverse of the sealing flaps.

LOZENGES: The diamond-shaped imprints (parallelograms or rhomboids) often used as a border design to indicate that the aerogramme is to be sent by air.

MICROPRINT: A type of overlay which consists of small text repeated over and over. It can either be text printed on the paper, or a reverse print where the text is cut away and the background is printed leaving unprinted letters.

MILITARY AEROGRAMME: Issues which are intended for use only to or from members of the armed forces of a country or its allies.

OFFICIAL AEROGRAMME: An issue intended for use by a government department or agency.

OUTSIDE, FRONT SIDE or OBVERSE: The side of the paper including the front panel and generally the back panel. This is usually the outside of the folded aerogramme.

OVERLAY: Some form of printing applied to large portions of an aerogramme for the purpose of making it more difficult to view the written contents of the aerogramme. The overlay can be on the inside, outside or both, and it can be on the entire surface or only on parts. It can consist of a solid or half-tone color or of text, often very small (see MICROPRINT), repeated over and over. Overlays are not usually applied to heavy or colored paper.

OVERLAY CUTOUT: Overlays often have openings or cutouts for the stamp or other printing, to make it clear where to fold the gummed flaps.

OVERPRINT: Any imprint on the outside of the aerogramme that does not change the postal value. It may be either printed or handstamped.

PANEL, BACK: The back of the folded aerogramme usually includes address lines for the sender's name and address. The admonitory text often appears on the reverse. Pictorial prints are often found on this panel.

PANEL, FRONT: The front or address side of the folded aerogramme usually includes the stamp imprint, the tablet, and address lines. Around the edge of the front panel is often found a border consisting of some larger design, such as parallelograms, that make it easier to identify that the letter is to be sent via air.

PANEL, MIDDLE: A panel located between the front and back panels.

PANEL, SIDE: Any panel that is to the left or right of the front panel, but is not the back panel.

PERFORATIONS: Some air letter card formats have sealing strips on one or more sides that have been perforated along the folding lines to permit easier opening. Aerogrammes are also known with perforations surrounding the stamp on the front.

POW AEROGRAMME: Several issues have been intended solely for use to or by incarcerated Prisoners of War.

PROVISIONAL ISSUE: These are usually short-lived issues printed by local authorities and used until regular issues are received.

REVERSE DIE CUTTING: This results when the printed sheet is placed in an inverted position for the final step of cutting via a steel die. Note that all printing and the gummed surface are in correct orientation with respect to one another and only the die cutting is reversed. If the gummed surfaces match the die cut but not the printing, the aerogramme is referred to as being "INVERTED".

SENDER'S ADDRESS LINES: One or more lines, usually located on the back panel of the aerogramme, where the name and address of the sender is to be written. Do not confuse with "address lines".

SIMULATED PERFORATIONS: To make the stamp appear more "stamp-like", false or simulated perforations are often printed on all four sides of the stamp design.

SPECIMEN: An issue overprinted or perforated in some manner to indicate that it is a sample or reference copy not intended for normal postal usage.

STAMP or INDICIUM: The part of the design that usually includes the postal value and country of origin of the aerogramme and is generally found in the upper right corner of the front panel. In many cases it appears like an adhesive stamp that has been printed on the paper.

SURCHARGE: Any imprint on the outside of the aerogramme that changes the postal face value of an aerogramme. It may be either printed or handstamped.

TABLET: The block of inscriptions on the front panel that includes "VIA AIR MAIL", "AIR LETTER", "AEROGRAMME" or the equivalent in the language of the issuing country indicating transmission by air. It often includes admonitory text warning that the letter will not be sent by air if anything is enclosed. This may be referred to as the "air mail tablet".

VARIETY: Any aerogramme that differs from the normal issue in a specific and constant manner.

WATERMARK: This is any kind of design, letter or legend that is incorporated in the paper at the time it is manufactured.


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