The San Francisco Cogwheel Fancy Cancel
#67 w/ Ty1 cog #63 w/ Ty2 cog #78 w/ Ty3 cog

Website and Information by Rick Mingee

Site Last Updated NOV 2010

The San Francisco cogwheel cancel was in use primarily during the years 1862-67 (although late usage in the 1880's has been sporadically observed, a majority of the cancels are on Postage Dues). The cancel is commonly found on the U.S. 1861-66 issues, Scott #63-78, however there are also foreign stamps (examples include from Hawaii, Canadian Provinces, Mexico and Australia) with cogwheel cancels on them, as these were cancelled in San Francisco as incoming ship mail.

There were three different types of the cancel (see stamps above), two 16-cog "long armed" versions (types 1 and 2) and one 14-cog "short arm" version (type 3). Types 1 & 2 were in use first, type 2 from Dec 1861 and type 1 from Jan 1862, used to 1864, while type 3 dominated the latter period, late 1863 to 1867. The typical Double Circle Date Stamp (DCDS) of the era was used with this cancel, type 3 was a duplex device, while types 1 & 2 were stand-alone cancels. Type 3 is easy to identify due to the number of cogs and the short arm design, however types 1 & 2 are similar and can be harder to discern with just a quick glance. This can be compounded by any "smudging" present during cancellation. Additional details of type 1 vs type 2 can be found here. Information on the three cancel types can be found here on the first page of "virtual" exhibit.

cog types
Cancel Types 1, 2 and 3 Shown in Order

Earliest Known Use:

The earliest known use (EKU) of the cogwheel cancel is DEC 27, 1861. It was actually a type 2 cancel (not type 1) even though it appeared first. A 1969 article in "Stamps" by T. Wierenga stated this is the earliest recorded example of the cogwheel cancel. My own research agrees with this, I have found no earlier examples to date (thus far). This cover is shown below. I do NOT own this, it was last seen at auction in DEC 2002...with me as the underbidder :-(
A word of advice, on KEY items like an EKU (there's only ONE of them), do not cheap-out and try to get a bargain! Just land the item and make sure it gets in your collection, you may never get another shot. If anyone knows where this cover is or if it comes up for sale, PLEASE get in touch with me.
cog wheel EKU

As best I can tell from a Jpeg, this is indeed a type 2 cancel and the date really does look like 1861. What I do not understand is how this managed to get through to NY at 3c, as the rate was 10c at this time (no due markings noted). So that part is still a mystery to me (it is possible the year date slug was in error but there is no specific evidence that proves this (more study is needed here). For what it's worth, my records show Jan 4, 1862 as the next earliest usage (1 week later), and this cover is also a type 2 cancel but with a correct 10c rate. Alas, I do not own this one either. My own early covers can be found here in the "virtual" exhibit.

As far as the type 1 cancel goes, my records show an EKU of FEB 3, 1862 (thus far) - a cover from Hawaii (last seen at auction in 2007). Lastly the type 3 EKU (thus far) is NOV 19, 1863 (I DO have this one!) shown in the "virtual" exhibit.

Latest Known Use:

The type 3 cancel was used early into 1868, at which time the cogwheel cancel appeared to fade away. For unknown reasons, after a 10+ year gap in time, the type 2 (not 3) cancel reappeared with VERY limited usage. I have observed a dozen items from this era, most cancels have been on Postage Dues, the cancel used as an obliterator. My latest usage data can be found here in the "virtual" exhibit, but it is not understood why this cancel “re-surfaced” after such a long hiatus. The latest usage was on the 2c 1887 New Color/Design issue (THE latest item I have found to date).

Online "Virtual" Exhibit...
The "virtual" exhibit is a "web-ized" version of a (roughly) single frame exhibit I have pulled together recently. Any comments/feedback are appreciated to help make this a better and more informative exhibit.

The exhibit is organized:
1. Main page providing information on the three types of cancels here
2. Early use for each of the three types of cancels here
3. Domestic destinations during the 10 cent and 3 cent rate periods of the 1860’s here
4. Examples carried by mail steamer here
5. Examples carried by overland here
6. Patriotic use here
7. Incoming mail from the Hawaiian Islands here
8. Foreign destinations - Germany/Switzerland here
9. Foreign destinations - Italy/Switzerland here
10. Foreign destinations - France here
11. Foreign destinations - Great Britain here
12. Foreign destinations - Canada here
13. Advertising Use here
14. Interesting rates, markings & destinations 1 here
15. Interesting rates, markings & destinations 2 here
16. Late use of the cancel here

Relevant Links:

Stamps & Postal History of 19th Century Hawaii
"Scott 31's" website dedicated to early Hawaii philatelic history, by far the GREATEST internet resource in this area. A truly great website.

Rick Mingee ( email
Copyright © 2009 Rick Mingee. All rights reserved.