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The 19th century also featured many used or canceled US stamps, which were more common and accessible to the average collector. The condition and rarity were very important in determining the value of a stamp. Even the cancellation (known as 'cancel' or 'killer' in the philately world), are important to focus on as well.
So what does it mean when a stamp is 'canceled' or used? Basically, this is a technique used by the postmasters to stamped or hand-cancelled, usually with ink. This was done to prevent people from re-using the stamps because shipping letters did cost a bit of money back in the 19th Century United States. The 'cancels' themselves were usually hand-carved from cork wood. 'fancy cancels' had special designs and artistic designs carved in the cork.
It turns out that the less postmark there is on the stamp, the more valuable it usually becomes. So when the stamps have a lighter cancel stamp, or if the mark shows up on only a small corner, then the stamp will be worth more. The exception to this rule is when the stamp is totally readable on the stamp, often known as a 'bulls-eye' cancellation. Philatelist and collectors desire stamps having the entire date, time and location of where the postmark was used. A true Philatelist not only collect stamps, they also enjoy studying the history behind it!