What Is A Cinderella Stamp?

However you choose to view them, collectors can’t argue as to the intrigue surrounding Cinderella stamps. They are truly unique, but many new collectors – and avid collectors too – wonder what a Cinderella stamp actually is.

A Cinderella stamp is any kind of label which bears a resemblance to a postage stamp yet doesn’t hold any validity for postal purposes. Such labels which may be recognized as Cinderellas include charity seals, promotion or decoration, or railway stamps.

Despite “Cinderella” being such a loose definition for stamps, collectors will find that the art of identifying this type of label presents a worthwhile new avenue of philately to explore. Below, we’ll go through identifying a Cinderella stamp, and why they are so unique.

How To Identify A Cinderella Stamp

Starting with the basics, the main way to identify a Cinderella stamp is thatit should, in fact, look like a regular postage stamp. However, one of the key features we would expect to see in an official stamp design will be altered or missing.

For instance, a denomination may be missing, or the name of an issuing country or government. Perhaps a location will be specified, but one you recognize to be fictional, or the issuing government may be unofficial.

The fact that some Cinderellas bear such a strong resemblance to official stamps has led to them being regarded as ‘fakes’ in some collecting circles. However, one could just as easily argue that designing labels to be instantly identifiable as such a universally recognized shape only adds to the fun of Cinderellas, and that they bring a fresh new angle to collecting.

Why Are They Called Cinderella Stamps?

You no doubt already know the story of Cinderella, whose “rags to riches” tale has been shared throughout common folklore for centuries. Perhaps the most recognized retelling would be the 1950 Walt Disney animated feature, yet in fact, the earliest recounting of the fable has been dated right back to as early as 5 BC.

As the story goes, a beautiful young girl living with a wicked and neglectful stepmother catches the eye of a handsome royal. Fleeing from him, the girl loses a slipper. Upon finding the slipper, the prince makes it his mission to locate the girl whose feet fit the footwear and, after searching the entire kingdom, the two reunite.

So, Cinderella goes from living in tragic circumstances to unimaginable fortune, marrying her prince and living happily ever after. But what on earth does this have to do with stamps?

Well, this may depend on how you interpret the story. Possibly the simplest answer is because Cinderella stamps are considered inferior to the ‘official’ postage stamps, or perhaps the Cinderella line of philately is the inferior stepchild of stamp collecting?

Rags To Riches

Another possible interpretation of the name could even be that the seemingly simple Cinderellas just need the right person looking at them to truly appreciate their beauty and worth. To some, the use of the name ‘Cinderella’ might offer the impression that every basic little Cinderella stamp holds the potential to go on to generate great fortune, but is this the case?

It is worth noting that forgeries of official stamps may also be classified as Cinderellas by some, and many collectors will argue against Cinderellas due to their supposed inauthenticity – when it comes to postage, at least.

Common Types Of Cinderella Stamps & Their Uses

Since the definition of Cinderella stamps is so loose and open-ended, we couldn’t possibly list every variety below. However, below are some of the most popular and sought-after types of Cinderella staps, and how you can spot them for yourself.

Charity Labels vs Charity Stamps

Charity labels are a popular and common type of Cinderella stamp, resembling an official stamp in shape but sold to raise funds for a cause, rather than for postage.

Perhaps seen more frequently around holidays such as Christmas and Easter, this type of Cinderella stamp serves as a simultaneously fun and profitable fundraising scheme. Often used by charities raising donations for health-related causes, charity stamps have also been used for disaster relief, war aid and child welfare.

Although used worldwide to raise money for all kinds of charities, more commonly seen charity labels include those produced by the American Red Cross, and for tuberculosis charities. Despite the fact that they are generally intended to be attached to mail, charity labels need to be accompanied by official postage in order to be sent. This is why they should not be confused with charity stamps.

Charity stamps are produced as an alternative to charity labels, and the two should not be confused. The difference is that charity stamps are valid for postal purposes, and sold by postal services for a premium, with the difference in price donated to a specified charity.

These kinds of charity stamps may be identified as having a small plus sign with a figure displayed below the regular denomination, signifying the donation amount.Of course, since charity stamps do hold postage validity, this would mean they are not classed as Cinderellas.

Poster Stamps

Poster stamps are a brilliantly fun addition to philately and fit neatly under the umbrella definition of Cinderella stamps. Colorful, collectible and used to advertise or commemorate a variety of topics, collectors are bound to find something that appeals to their tastes in this category.

Although it is rare to find poster stamps still being issued in this day and age, the fun little labels had quite they heyday from their origination in the mid-19th century and throughout the 20th century. They are often brightly colored, intricately detailed and are the perfect addition to any scrapbook or album.

The bracket of ‘poster stamp’ includes all sorts of subcategories. Collectible favorites include advertising labels for household staples, event commemoration, warnings of safety concerns, or travel promotion (like a postcard, but smaller). Stamps used for promotional purposes are often more eye-catching than postage labels, whilst still maintaining that instantly recognizable format of a stamp.

Even more interestingly, poster stamps have also been used for the purposes of politics and propaganda, with such stamps being widely circulated during World War One.

Sometimes, breakaway and provisional governments created issued their own stamps as an attempt to gain further legitimacy. Poster stamps like these hold huge historical value, fitting into their own cultural category completely aside from postage stamps.


Next up on the Cinderella stamp list are artistamps. As the name would suggest, this category bridges the popularity of both art and stamps, where artists use a template of a stamp to create any design they choose.

With stamps being such recognizable and small canvases to work on, you can imagine the possibilities of artistamp creation are endless. For artists and philatelists alike, this is a fascinating branch of Cinderella collecting to explore, and even a fun avenue into a new crossover hobby.

Of course, being Cinderellas, artistamps hold no postal validity. However, many artistamp artists use their stamps to decorate posted mail, of course alongside legitimate, paid postage. These are definitely an attractive addition to any envelope, and just as fun to collect!

Railway Stamps

Last but not least on this list of Cinderella stamps are railway stamps. Originating in the mid 1800s, railway stamps are sometimes classed as Cinderellas, but not always.

Recognized primarily in the United Kingdom, railway stamps are issued by railway companies to cover the cost of postage by train. An important postal facility, these stamps became hugely collectible in their own right, and are notably not classed as Cinderellas due to them being purchased for proper postal purposes.

However, independent, local and state railways all over the world have also produced and issued these stamps, leading to a high appeal amongst collectors. These stamps, which have been produced unofficially, or semi-officially, are considered Cinderellas.

The Question Of Governmental Issue

With such a broad definition, one could reasonably expect debates to occur over whether or not different types of stamps could actually be classed as Cinderellas.

A variety often debated are revenue stamps. Although not used for postal purposes, revenue (or fiscal) stamps are adhesive labels resembling postage stamps, but are used by businesses to collect tax fees on items such as tobacco, medicines or licenses.

The question comes from the fact that these stamps are usually originally issued by the government. So, would that mean they can’t be classified as a Cinderella? A separate classification is often necessary for ambiguous stamps like these.

Other Unofficial Stamps

Another form of post mark which is usually not recognized as a Cinderella would be an indicium, or imprinted stamp, on official postage stationery. These types of stamps are used to indicate that postage has been pre-paid, thus holding postal value and therefore are more likely be classified as an ‘official’ stamp.

Similarly, we can’t forget that many governments do issue official commemorative stamps of their own. With collectors in mind, postal services such as USPS and Royal Mail regularly release limited-edition stamp collections, commemorating movies, sporting events, religious holidays or points of cultural significance.

A British Royal Mail stamp depicting the characters of Star Wars may appear at first glance to be a Cinderella, but it can, in fact, be used to post letters!

Collectible Value

In terms of collecting, the wide scope of types of Cinderellas can be seen as either a positive appeal, or a negative drawback.

A Negative View

Let’s start with the negative view. Many philatelists may shy away from starting a Cinderella collection, not just because of their supposed inauthenticity but also due to the knowledge that the inexplicably vast number of uncatalogued Cinderellas in the world would mean that their collection would never be truly complete.

Of course, this dilemma may be rectified by electing to only select a specific category of Cinderella for their collection, such as railway, charity, fantasy, etc.

The Positive View

Yet, on the other hand, the extensive number of Cinderellas could also be viewed as a perfect gateway into the world of stamp collecting. The different varieties may induct new fans into the philatelist community, such as railway enthusiasts, art lovers or history buffs, looking for a new avenue to explore within their main field of interest.

Furthermore, the variation of types of Cinderellas, their rarity, and their collectible appeal mean that there is also a huge variation in purchase value for the stamps. This availability of less-costly collectibles will also entice new collectors, who may be less concerned about fiscal value than they are about collecting for hobby.

Like regular postage stamps, some Cinderellas cost as little as a dollar, with others fetching hundreds at auction.

Cancelled Stamps

One desirable attribute which could vastly increase the value of a Cinderella amongst collectors would be those which have somehow passed as true postage, stamped as cancelled on their envelopes. Considering a lack of postal validity is the main qualifier in a Cinderella, sneaky stamps which have somehow eluded government postal services are particularly prized in the collecting community.

Perhaps due to how exhaustive the list would have to be, it is worth noting that leading stamp-collecting catalogues rarely feature Cinderellas in their main publications. However, the shared interest in Cinderellas amongst the philatelist community still spans the globe, with collectors worldwide holding membership to Cinderella stamp clubs.

Cinderella Stamp Clubs

It would be a great injustice to produce a guide on Cinderella stamps without mentioning the Cinderella Stamp Club. This is an association of professional and amateur philatelists with a common appreciation for non-postal stamps.

Founded over fifty years ago in 1959, the UK-based association has members from all over the world, recognizing the global appeal for Cinderellas. An annual membership to the club includes a subscription to their quarterly journal The Cinderella Philatelist, and access to meetings, competitions and more within a like-minded community.

Specific Types Of Cinderella Stamps

There are also clubs that specialize in collecting specific types of Cinderellas. The American Poster Stamp Association (or APSA) became the Poster Stamp Collectors Club (PSCC) in 2005, with members worldwide sharing a common appreciation for – you guessed it – poster stamps.

If a particular branch of Cinderella collecting catches your eye, you will no doubt find fellow collectors in groups across the world. The art of Cinderella stamp collecting has even been translated – look for ‘erinnophilie’ in France, and ‘erinnofillia’ in Italy!

How To Find Cinderella Stamps

Like postage stamps, Cinderella collectors may turn to a variety of places to find new additions to their albums. Common go-to retailers include official online outlets, marketplace websites such as eBay, auctions, or even in-person events held by collecting clubs and associations. Purchasable stamps may be available individually or compiled into complete collections according to their nature.

However, with such a broad definition and countless varieties, Cinderella stamps can be found anywhere! The art of hunting for and identifying new Cinderellas is all part of the fun of this branch of philately, especially as we know they can be used in all sorts of different scenarios. Instead of hunting for Cinderellas you could even create your own design of Cinderella to use!

Final Thoughts

Cinderella stamps are common but fascinating stamps to collect. With that being said, many stamp collectors choose to avoid Cinderellas, with their loose definition and arguably ‘inauthentic’ philatelic value.

Yet, with far more uses and varieties than the humble postage stamp, collectors may choose to embellish their albums with these ‘stepchildren stamps’. In doing so, they may uncover great historical, cultural, and potentially even financial value.

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