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PNC FAQ     (Frequently Asked Questions)
(page updated: Aug 18/03)

1What is a PNC?

A PNC (Plate Number Coil) is single United States stamp (typically a coil but it could also be a booklet single) that contains a plate number in the bottom margin of the design.

The plate number appears on about every 12 or 20 or 25 stamps along the coil roll (or some other interval - it varies depending on the printing press). Most plate numbers are centered at the bottom of the design but some do appear at the lower left or lower right corner of the design [don't confuse the year date, found at the lower left corner of recent issues, as a plate number!]

[The plate interval of each stamp is outside the scope of this site - I refer you to the Plate Number Coil Collectors Club (PNC3) for detailed data listings that indicate the plate number interval on each stamp.]

When the first PNC appeared in April 1981, PNCs were usually collected in mint strips of 3 with the PNC on the middle stamp. However, as time has gone on, mint strips of 5 has become the standard (thus, early PNC strips of 5 can command a premium over strips of 3).

Mint PNC strip of 3, plate 1
PNC strip of 3

Mint PNC strip of 5, plate 1

PNC strip of 5

Longer strips are collected if the issue contains multiple stamp designs - an example of each design should be included in the PNC strip with the PNC on the middle stamp of the strip.

If the printing plate became worn or damaged a new plate would be used to print the stamps (or a single colour on multi-coloured stamps). In this case a new plate number would appear.
Plate 1 and 2 on the 17c Electric Auto stamp
2 plate numbers

This site is based on used Plate Number singles. Note that there are some booklet singles that contain a plate number on the stamp itself. They are also listed on this site.
Booklet single
Booklet single

2Some PNCs have a 'letter' as part of the number. What do they represent?

A single letter may appear at the beginning of a plate number or at the end of a plate number. These two placements are for different reasons:

  • a letter at the beginning of the PNC indicates the printer
  • a letter at the end of the PNC indicates that more than 10 different plate numbers were required
Different Printers

The letter at the beginning of the PNC indicates the printer:
  • (no letter) means that the Bureau of Engraving and Printer printed the stamp
  • A indicates American Bank Note Company
  • B indicates Banknote Corporation of America, Inc.
  • G indicates Guilford Gravure, Inc.
  • P indicates Ashton Potter
  • S indicates Stamp Venturers or Sennett Security Products
  • V indicates Avery Dennison

S Avery

Multiple plate numbers

Certain multi-coloured issues required large numbers of plates due to the large quantity of stamps required. Typically each digit of a PNC describes a single colour.

What happens though when a 10th plate is required for a single stamp? In the 'early' days, a double digit was used for plate numbers over 9 (as illustrated on the Eagle and Shield below left). This produced a very long PNC that was quickly changed.

Instead of using double digits for numbers 10 and up, single digits were again used but a letter A was included at the end of the PNC. The letter at the end of the PNC indicates that this number, containing single digits, really represents a series of number that are greater than 10 (as illustrated on the Flag over Porch stamp below right).

Double digits Single high

3Do you sell PNCs?


Scott numbers are copyright Scott Publishing Co.
Values shown (US$) are from the Trends of Stamp Values published in the June 10, 2002 Linn's Stamp News.

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