A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are printed on special custom-made paper, show a national designation and a denomination (value) on the front, and have an adhesive gum on the back or are self-adhesive. Postage stamps are purchased from a postal administration (post office) or other authorized vendor, and are used to pay for the costs involved in moving mail, as well as other business necessities such as insurance and registration. They are sometimes a source of net profit to the issuing agency, especially when sold to collectors who will not actually use them for postage. Stamps are usually rectangular, but triangles or other shapes are occasionally used. The stamp is affixed to an envelope or other postal cover (e.g., packet, box, mailing cylinder) the customer wishes to send. The item is then processed by the postal system, where a postmark, sometimes known as a cancellation mark, is usually applied in overlapping manner to stamp and cover. This procedure marks the stamp as used to prevent its reuse. In modern usage, postmarks generally indicate the date and point of origin of the mailing. The mailed item is then delivered to the address the customer has applied to the envelope or parcel.
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