Precancel stamps are stamps that have cancellations applied prior to the use of the stamps to save time and money in handling the mail. Since the stamp has already been cancelled, time is saved in not having to run the item through the cancellation machine.
Precancels are normally applied to regular (definitive) issue stamps, not to commemoratives. However, where post offices have a rubber handstamp precancel device, the precancel may be found applied to definitive and commemorative stamps. The precancel stamps may be obtained at the post office for face value and may be obtained from dealers at prices ranging from 10 to 50 cents for the most common items.
I have found this sideline fun to see where they come from and to see if I can find one from each state. I have a long way to go to get all the states. See what you can do. In the past, precancels have been found more commonly on the 1948 Girl Scout and the 1950 Boy Scout stamps.
Journal Editors note: There are many collectors who specialize in precancel stamps in general from the U.S. Collectors should note that even though a precanceled stamp has never been used and still has gum on the back, as the name preCANCELED implies, the stamp is classified as a used stamp.
SOSSI Journal, Volume 30, Number 10, October 1981