Officially Sealed Mails of the World
The earliest recorded on-cover use of an official seal was in Italy in 1864. Many other countries produced their own during the following decade. The United States issued its first post office seal, for use by the Dead Letter Office, in 1877.
Official seals have been recorded from more than 185 countries. Seal dimensions range from barely an inch in width on a few Danish examples, to some from New Zealand that are more than five inches wide. Designs vary greatly and include elaborate, beautifully engraved Queen Victoria and King Edward VII portrait seals of Canada and Newfoundland to relatively simple typeset seals from Mexico or Egypt.
A few countries, such as Haiti and Sierra Leone, have issued just one official seal, while the People's Republic of China has released at least 110 different seals (and counting)! Peru has over 60 recorded types, only a handful of which have been actually seen on cover.
Some seals are scarce, especially from remote or "exotic" places such as Fiji, Yemen, or Zanzibar. Because official seals were most commonly used to repair damaged envelopes or cards, most mail items bearing them were discarded by the recipient due to their condition and have therefore been lost forever to collectors.
Few countries continue to use post office seals today. Most postal authorities now use tapes rather than labels for repair, or they enclose badly damaged items in plastic bags. The era of government issued seals appears to be ending.
To explore examples of the wide range of officially sealed mails of the world, click on the Country (or section) of your choice in the menu on the left side of this page. Categorization is by the country of seal origin. Issue dates and earliest known usage (EKU) are also listed where possible.
Unless otherwise specified, all reference numbers shown on this site are from Jim Drummond's Official Seals of the World Catalog, 2007 1st edition.
Submissions of new official seal discoveries from countries not listed on this site are desired. If you have a cover that you would like to have added here, please contact the author at the e-mail address below.