Locy System

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Locy System for Classifying Naval Postmarks, As Revised ©, of the Universal Ship Cancellation Society.

(excerpted and reprinted with permission)

For the full description of the Locy System, numerous examples, and a listing of known cancel types for each ship, see the Catalog of United States Naval Postmarks published by the Universal Ship Cancellation Society.

The U.S. Navy post offices were established in 1908 but it was not until the late 1920's that LCDR Francis E. Locy, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy, developed a system to classify these postmarks. The "Locy" system, with additions, modifications and updates, remains the basis for postmark classifications in use today by all Naval Cover collectors. Note that Locy is pronounced with a soft "c" (like "Lucy").


Building Postmark Classification Codes

See How To Construct Postmark Classification Codes for a detailed description of how to assemble the various postmark Type codes, variation code letters, and other codes into a formal classification for a given postmark.


Postmark Types

To see full-sized examples of cancel Types 1 to 13 on one page, view the comparison chart.

Type Image Description
The Type 1 was a rubber handstamp issued to ships between 1908 and about 1918. It has a standard dial at the left with the ship's name at the top, and four narrow killer bars at the right, spaced close together. Examples
The Type 2 is a rubber handstamp first issued to ships in 1911, but discontinued about 1913. It reappeared in 1943, and became the standard issue cancel until replaced by the Type 11 starting around 2000. It has a dial at the left with the ship's name at the bottom, and four wide killer bars at the right, spaced far apart. Examples
The Type 3 cancel (and its companion Type 5) is a unique form of cancel. It was a rubber handstamp cancel, with the letters "USS" at the top of the dial and the ship's name at the bottom. The unique feature is the use of three killer bars with slots between them. The kit of materials issued with the cancel included not only the usual date slugs, but also a set of rubber letters that could be fit into the slots to spell out words. The Type 3 was first issued to ships in December, 1912, and continued to be issued until the early days of World War II. Examples
4 All cancels originally classified as Type 4 were subsequently reclassified.
The Type 5 cancel resembles the Type 3 cancel in that it has three killer bars and slots between them for wording. It first appeared on ships in 1928, and seems to have replaced the Type 3 for about five years. The Type 5 is slightly smaller than a Type 3, and normally has the ship's name at the top of the dial. There are also differences in the killer bars. The top and bottom bars of a Type 3 are longer than the center bar, so that the killers tend to follow the curve of the dial. The killers on a Type 5 are all the same length, so that the top and bottom bars are far from the dial, and the center bar almost touches it.

The Type 5 cancel is an odd cancel in that it never appeared in a "pure" form -- that is, without some variation letter. The original cancel had serifed letters (always a "variation," indicated by an "s"), and three small dashes at the bottom of the dial. Examples

The Type 6 is a metal hand cancel, first issued to ships in the early 1920's. The killers of a Type 6 are not the usual straight lines, but rather a grid of about eleven lines in the shape of an oval. In its original form, it had a slot between the dial and the killer grid for the year date slug. The top and bottom of the grid are rounded, and the ship's name is at the top of the dial. Examples

Type 6 cancels often had a circle inside the killer grid with a number in it. The only number ever seen on naval Type 6 postmarks is a 1, and when it appears, it is given following a dash after the cancel type. Occasionally the circle inside the grid is blank.

The Type 7 cancel comes from the heavy-duty mail processing equipment, the cancelling machine. In its basic form, it has a small dial to the left with "USS" at the top and the ship's name at the bottom, and a series of seven wavy lines about two inches long to the right to cancel the stamp. Cancelling machines were first issued to ships in 1919, and continue in use today. Examples
The Type 8 is a machine "flag" cancel. It is similar to the Type 7, but the wavy lines of the killer have been made into the form of a waving flag. They were very popular in civilian post offices between 1900 and 1940, but only 15 different ships used them, between 1927 and 1935. Examples
The Type 9 has had the longest life of all the types in the chart. It was included in the kit of postmarks first issued to mail clerks in 1908, until replaced by the Type 12 starting around 2000. It is a rubber stamp with a double circle, the two circles spaced far apart, and the ship's name between them at the top. There are the usual slots in the center for date slugs, but there are no killer bars. The Type 9 is not a "cancel," but rather is a postal marking, intended for use on registered mail and as a datestamp on postal forms -- in fact, the Postal Service officially calls it a "validator stamp" or "round dater." However, over the years it has been used to cancel stamps. Examples
The steel roller first-class hand cancel first appeared aboard ships in the 1960's. The cancel consists of a double-circle dial, with the name of the ship at the top between the circles, and the month, day and time inside the dial. The dial is mounted on a round roller with continuous killer bars in the form of wavy lines. An inking wheel allows the cancel to be run across a large envelope or package. Examples
In the late 1990s, a manufacturer combined a self-inking postmark with a built-in thumbwheel dating device. This new cancel still has four killer bars, but they are so short they are of little use in cancelling the stamp. The other obvious feature is that the date is in a straight line across the center of the dial, rather than one part above the other. In 2002 this postmark was classified the Type 11. It can have the same variations as the Type 2 it was obviously intended to imitate. In its 'pure' form, the ship's name appears at the top of the dial. Examples
The Type 12 is an all-purpose round dater for postal paperwork and backstamps on registered mail. It is the modern version of the old Type 9. Like the Type 11, it is self-inking and has a built-in thumbwheel dater, creating the date in a straight line across the center of the dial. The name of the ship (and other possible data) appears between the double outer circle of the cancel. In its 'pure' form, the ship's name appears at the top of the dial. Examples
The Type 13 was initially typed as CD-9 but after further consideration, and more examples reported, the cancel was renumbered as Type 13 by the Postmark Committee of the USCS on July 25 2008. In its 'pure' form, the ship's name appears at the top of the dial. Examples
In addition to the numbered types, Dr. Locy also included in his original article two special designations. The first of these is the "Provisional" or Type P cancel. Dr. Locy used a very strict meaning for "provisional," saying that it applied only to a government-issue cancel that has been modified by the mail clerk after it is received. The two most common forms of modifications are the addition of the ship's name to a 2z or 3z cancel, and changing or deleting part of the wording in the dial. Another form is the addition of the ship's name in the killer bars. Examples
Dr. Locy's other special classification for cancels is the "Fancy" or Type F cancel. This category includes all cancels that are not issued to the ship through regular postal channels, or cancels which may have been issued by the Post Office but which are not classifiable under the present system. Privately made cancels appeared on ships as early as 1911, and some continue in use today. Examples


Certain styles of non-standard postmarks appear again and again in ships. All are classified as Type F, usually because they were not issued through government channels. There are 14 primary styles of these same-design postmarks and each is given a Common Design (CD) number for easy reference. See Type F Common Designs for more information.


Variation Codes

Variations of the standard postmark types have been classified using the following letter codes:

a All bars missing or removed, or issued without bars. Examples
b One or more, but not all bars, missing or removed. Examples
c Type 12 with split inner circle. Examples
d Type 7 cancel with straight bars, or Type 6 cancel with numeral in open grid. Examples
e Type 6 cancel with year date inside dial, or any type (except T-6) with "Br" in the dial. Examples
f "New York N.Y." in the dial in addition to ship's name. Examples
g Type 6 cancel with numeral in circle in grid. Examples
h Entire design in heavier lines than normal. Examples
i Type 6 cancel with pointed grids, or Type 7 cancel with wording or slogan in killer. Examples
j Entire design in lighter lines than normal. Examples
k Type 5 cancel with dashes absent from bottom of dial. Examples
l (not used)
m Entire design smaller than normal. Examples
n Ships hull number or hull designation and number included in the dial. Examples
o Bars longer than normal. Examples
p Entire design larger than normal. Examples
q Type 7 cancel with 6 wavy lines instead of 7. Examples
r Wider spacing than normal of letters in ship's name. There can be varying degrees of spacing, of course, but the general standard is that the letter must be at least one letter's width apart to qualify as an "r" variety. Examples
s U.S.S. and ship's name in serif letters. Examples
t Types 2, 3 or 7 with ship's name at top of dial. Examples
u Types 1, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12 or 13 with ship's name at bottom of dial; used in combination with "n", indicates that ship's designation and hull number are separated from the name at bottom of dial in a Type 2t, 7t or 9. Examples
v Type 9 with "Registered" in dial. Examples
w Type 9 with "M.O.B." (Money Order Business) in dial. Examples
x Type 9 with "Parcel Post" in dial. Examples
y Added wording in the dial not accounted for by any other code (the added wording is given in parentheses). Not used for removable slugs such as dates or "AT SEA".

The standard for classifying postmarks says that the ship's name appears in the dial, and additional wording of any kind is a variation. The letter "y" indicates that some other additional wording appears that cannot be described by another code. The exact text of the additional wording is always given as part of the listing. Examples

z "U.S. Navy" instead of ship's name in dial. Examples
# Dial has "U.S. Navy" rather than the ship's name and also has a Branch number (an administrative number used as a security measure during the later part of World War II). Examples
* With 2z, 6z, 7z, or 9z, indicates a star on each side of the dial, e.g., 2z* or 9uz*. Examples
(n) Hull designation and number appear between parentheses. Examples
+ and
Hyphen between hull designation and hull number. Examples
-1 "U.S. NAVY" in dial in addition to ship's name. If present, this variant code is always listed immediately after the type code and before any other variant codes.

This variant code is also used for a Type 6d and 6g cancel to indicate the presence of the numeral "1" inside the grid. If present, it is placed at the end of the list of lowercase letter variant codes and before the capital letter variant codes. Examples

-2 "FPO" and ZIP Code in dial in addition to ship's name. If present, this variant code is always listed immediately after the type code and before any other variant codes. Examples
A Letters of U.S.S. widely spaced, or unusually wide spacing between elements in types 2-1 and 2-2. Examples
B Letters of U.S.S. narrowly spaced, or unusually narrow spacing between elements in types 2-1 and 2-2 ("narrow" is defined as insufficient space for another letter). Examples
C Period following ship name, any type. Examples
C+ Comma following ship name, any type. Examples
D# Lettering in dial rotated substantially (difference of more than 1 letter height). Examples

D1 - Clockwise rotation
D2 - Counterclockwise rotation

L Non standard arrangement not otherwise defined.

There are occasions when the text or arrangement of the wording in a postmark defies classification. Among these are postmarks which have both "U.S. NAVY" and the FPO address (a combination of -1 and -2 variants). Other postmarks have wording arranged such that the "t" and "u" codes cannot accurately describe them. A few postmarks have been issued with the ship's ZIP code and even hull designation/number, but not the ship's name. The code L after a major type number indicates an unclassifiable arrangement. Examples

(1), (2), (3) There are one, two or three small dashes at bottom of a Type 6 or 7 dial. Examples
From 1908 until the 1960s the letters "USS" in a cancel were invariably followed by periods. During the last 30 years, however, the periods are no longer standard, and often the distinction between two otherwise similar cancels is the presence or absence of periods after USS. When "U.S. NAVY" was added to cancels in the 1970s, making the "-1" variations, the same situation occurred -- sometimes there are periods after "U.S.," and sometimes there are no periods. To avoid the need for illustrations, the standard is that there are periods after these two terms unless the cancel is annotated "USN" and/or "USS." Examples

Ships under the Military Sealift Command have the prefix U.S.N.S. (United States Naval Ship) rather than U.S.S. (United States Ship). If the periods are missing from U.S.N.S. then the USNS code is used.


Type 3 (BC-BTT)

It was with the Type 3 cancel that the spacing of the letters "U.S.S." and punctuation after the ship's name first became important ways of distinguishing between otherwise similar postmarks. Since these distinctions are somewhat different from those described by Dr. Locy's small letter codes, capital letters are used to define them. To distinguish these capital letter codes clearly from the small letter variations, they are placed in parentheses after the other codes.

Although these spacing and punctuation codes were first used for Type 3 cancels, they now apply to postmarks of any style, as long as the code is useful in classifying the marking.

In 1931, a new and very distinctive Type 3 variant appeared. The mold from which the killer bar was made had a thin line next to it, which might appear either above or below the main killer bar.

The capital letters T (top of the bar) and B (bottom of the bar) are used to indicate the position of the thin line, counting from the top bar down. These follow the capital letters A, B, and/or C that describe the spacing of USS and the punctuation in the cancel, and are also placed in parentheses after the cancel type.

In 1940, a new killer bar mold was introduced that was slightly narrower than the earlier ones, and had no thin line next to it. The presence of this bar is shown by the letter O. If one or more of the bars has been lost, its position is indicated by the letter X.

The letters O and X can also be useful in describing the position of lost killer bars on Type 3 cancels issued before 1931, and even the bars of Type 5 cancels, which were also prone to falling off.



Other Postmark Codes

SL Straight Line Markings

No true straight line postmarks have ever been issued to ships, but a number of ships have used various rubber stamps with the ship's name from administrative offices to postmark mail. Straight Line markings are listed as "SL" with additional codes to describe the markings more fully.

"SLK" is a Straight Line Killer, struck alone across the stamp.
"SLP" is a Straight Line Postmark, with the date added by a separate stamp.

Many straight line ship's markings have been used on covers to identify the source of the letter without defacing the stamp. Only those markings reliably reported to have been used regularly to postmark the stamp are listed. Examples

Additional codes used to describe straight line markings are:
2, 3, etc -- the marking consists of 2, 3, etc. lines of text. Frequently these are return address stamps.
+ -- for ships only identified by their hull designation and number, indicates that there is a dash between the designation and number
b -- block lettering
f -- fancy (Old English) lettering
i -- italic lettering
l -- (lowercase L) ship's name in lower case letters
n, (n) or (n+) -- hull designation and number, in parentheses, with a hyphen.
o -- open lettering
s -- serif lettering
t -- typewriter lettering

These may be followed by additional codes within parentheses:
C -- there is a period after this ship's name
USS -- the letters USS have no periods between them.

Several codes are usually needed to describe the marking completely. The description is followed by its dimensions in millimeters, to the nearest whole millimeter, width by height. Straight Line markings are rubber stamps that can distort with use and wear, and the actual measurement of a marking on a cover may differ slightly from the dimensions given. On multiple-line markings, the dimensions are those of the line with the ship's name only (typically, but not always, the top line).

SLO Slogan Cancels

Slogan cancels are also straight line markings, but typically feature commemorative wording in addition to the ship's name, and were usually made from a rubber stamp kit. Occasionally they have also been used with all or part of a standard postmark to add a commemorative note to mail.

Parcel Post Killers

"Parcel Post Killer" is a generic term for a variety of devices intended only to cancel or "kill" stamps. The Postal Service still issues two generic devices for this purpose, a double oval about an inch across, and a "target" killer of four concentric circles somewhat less than an inch in diameter. These devices are always the same, and although many ships have used them, they are not listed under any ship because their generic design makes it impossible to determine the source. Examples

Several types of killers with the ship's name have been used over the years, however, and since these provide the name of the ship they are included in the listings. Three general styles are identified:

Parcel post Box (PPB) -- any rectangular or square device with the ship's name (and potentially other data).

Parcel Post Oval (PPO) -- any oval or round device that has the ship's name (and potentially other data).

Parcel Post Roller (PPR) -- any device that can be rolled across a letter or package so as to produce a continuous marking with the ship's name (and potentially other data).

RECD Correspondence "Received" Stamps

"Received" stamps are used in many ship's offices to mark correspondence to indicate the date (and often the time) it was received. On occasion these and similar markings (even a few that say "PAID" or "CANCELLED") have also been used to postmark mail, especially when the ship had no operating post office at the time, or no standard postmark was available.
Three styles of markings have been so widely used that they have been given Common Design numbers. The exact arrangement of wording in each marking may vary from ship to ship, and the details of the time markings on CD-R3 may also vary. See RECD Common Designs for more information.

Postage Meters A postage meter is a device that produces an imprint that is a substitute for both the postmark and postage stamp. The device may produce its imprint either directly on the mailpiece, or on a gummed strip of paper that may be affixed to a letter or package. Postage meters did not appear in ships until the 1960s, when a few aircraft carriers installed them in the post offices for the same purposes as in civilian post offices.

For classification purposes, the standard for a Navy ship meter is that it has the ship's name and hull designation/number at the top, and the ship's ZIP Code at the bottom.

PB -- Pitney Bowes Examples

FR -- Friden Examples

HA -- Hasler Examples

The letter "O" before a meter classification indicates that meter text includes "U.S. OFFICIAL MAIL."


Fake Postmarks

Unfortunately the field of Navy cover collecting has not been free of those who would take advantage of others by making fakes and forgeries. A forgery is defined as a privately made reproduction of a genuine postmark. A fake is a complete fabrication, a device that looks like a postmark but which was never used in the ship's post office.
Fake postmarks are identified with the code "Fake" along with any other relevant information. There is one set of Fake postmarks, known as Hobby Shop Fakes, that were numerous enough to warrant a Common Design code (CD-3). See Fake Common Designs for more information.


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