PROPOSAL NO.: 2004-04

DATE: December 11, 2003

NAME: Definition of Field 258 (Philatelic Issue Data) in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format

SOURCE: National Archives of Canada

SUMMARY: This paper proposes defining Field 258 (Philatelic Issue Data) in the MARC 21 bibliographic format to record data relating to the issuing jurisdiction and denomination for philatelic material.

KEYWORDS: Field 258 (BD); Philatelic Issue Data (BD)



12/11/03 - Made available to the MARC 21 community for discussion.

01/10/04 - Results of the MARC Advisory Committee discussion - Approved

03/18/04 - Results of LC/NLC/BL review - Approved.

Proposal No. 2004-04: Definition of Field 258 (Philatelic Issue Data) in the MARC 21 Bibliographic Format


This paper proposes the addition of field 258 (Philatelic Issue Data) to the MARC 21 bibliographic format. This field would contain data relating to the issuing jurisdiction and denomination for philatelic material (i.e., description of stamps). This proposal has been approved by the Canadian Committee on Archival Description and the Canadian Committee on MARC.

The issuing jurisdiction and denomination are essential elements for identifying postage stamps and other philatelic material. Chapter 12 of the Rules for Archival Description (RAD) (see, a Canadian archival descriptive standard developed by the Bureau of Canadian Archivists in 1990 and recognized as a national standard by the Canadian Council of Archives, contains instructions for describing philatelic material. The Issue Data Area (RAD rule 12.3) prescribes the description of issuing jurisdiction and denomination and is used for the description of philatelic material at all hierarchical levels (e.g., fonds, series, file, item).

These elements (which are not transcribed from the item) provide specific information about the function (i.e., the denomination) and administrative context of the material. The order of the elements within a descriptive record implies a certain prominence of the information and relationships among the elements within a description. This prominence needs to be incorporated within the MARC 21 bibliographic format to facilitate access by issuing jurisdiction or denomination and labelling in displays.

Some institutions, including the National Archives of Canada, use the MARC 21 bibliographic format to encode records created according to RAD. These records are being shared, repackaged for different uses, and exchanged through a number of networks and initiatives. In order to communicate complete RAD descriptive records, the issuing jurisdiction and denomination information needs to be accommodated in MARC 21. Since the MARC 21 2XX block contains material specific descriptive data, field 258 is proposed for philatelic issue data.


2.1 Philatelic Material

Philatelic material is defined in the Rules for Archival Description as:

Stamps, postal stationery and all other documents created and/or used to signify pre-payment or payment due for postal services; stamps or other labels resembling the material described above, but which have no postal value; cancellations or other marks created and/or used by a postal administration to show evidence of postal usage; material bearing one or more of the items described above. (RAD, glossary)

Most philatelic material such as postage stamps, postal stationery (post cards, etc., made available by a postal administration bearing a stamped impression (indicium) of denomination), revenue stamps (tax stamps), postage due stamps, and registered mail stamps are valid within a defined area and carry a value signifying prepayment or payment due for services or taxes. The issuing jurisdiction and the denomination are key components of most philatelic material that need to be included in the description.

2.2 Issuing Jurisdiction (for proposed subfield $a of field 258)

The issuing jurisdiction is the administrative territory or entity that has the overall authority for creating the philatelic material and for regulating its use.

There is a clear distinction between the issuing jurisdiction and publication information. The government of the issuing jurisdiction often assigns responsibility for the operation of services, including the publication of the philatelic material, to another body. In Canada, for example, Canada Post Corporation runs postal services and publishes postage stamps and other philatelic material. In this case, the issuing jurisdiction is Canada, while the publisher is Canada Post Corporation and the place of publication is Ottawa (the headquarters of Canada Post Corporation). All three of these elements provide distinct information about the creation of the material.

As well as defining the administrative context for the creation of the material, the name of the issuing jurisdiction helps to physically identify a philatelic item. For many philatelic items, the name of the issuing jurisdiction is printed on the item. In certain cases, the issuing jurisdiction may also be one of the few distinguishing features of a philatelic item. For example, two stamps commemorating the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, one issued in Canada and the other in the United States, feature the same design with only slight differences, including the name of the issuing jurisdiction and the denomination. The issuing jurisdiction provides important information for identifying the content and context of philatelic material.

2.3 Denomination (for proposed subfield $b of field 258)

The denomination is the monetary value assigned to the unit by the issuing jurisdiction. Many types of philatelic material carry a denomination, including postage stamps, postal stationery, revenue stamps, and postage due stamps. The denomination, or a symbol representing the denomination, usually appears on the item. The denomination conveys important data about the physical and intellectual context of the material and is an important identifying element.

2.4 Data Sharing and Exchange

Increasingly, cataloguing records are shared among archival institutions. In the Canadian archival community, for example, a network of databases make archival descriptions available on the Internet. Archives Canada, formerly known as the Canadian Archival Information Network (CAIN), is a MARC based database which holds archival descriptions from archives across Canada (see Similar networks exist on a provincial or regional level. The National Archives of Canada is also investigating the possibility of contributing archival descriptions to the Canadian National Union Catalogue. Without a MARC field for Philatelic Issue Data, important information about the issuing jurisdiction and denomination risks being lost as it is carried from one system to another.


Define Field 258 (Philatelic Issue Data) in the MARC 21 bibliographic format:

258 Philatelic Issue Data (R)
  First indicator    
      # Undefined    
  Second indicator    
      # Undefined    
  Subfield codes    
      $a Issuing jurisdiction (NR)    
      $b Denomination (NR)    
      $6 Linkage (NR)    
      $8 Field link and sequence number (R)    


  258 ## $a Newfoundland : $b 5 pence.
  258 ## $a Nippon : $b 120.
  258 ## $a United States : $b 36 cents.
  258 ## $a South Africa : $b R2.
  258 ## $a République du Mali : $b 1000 F.
  258 ## $a United Kingdom : $b 1 pound.
  258 ## $a Türkiye Cumhuriyeti : $b 1.000.000 lira.
  258 ## $a Canada : $b 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents.
  258 ## $a United States of America and other jurisdictions : $b various denominations.
  258 ## $a Lesotho : $b M7.
  258 ## $a République du Bénin : $b 1000 F.

Here is a partial description of a single postage stamp issued to commemorate the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, showing the anticipated use of field 258:

  245 10 $a Saint Lawrence Seaway $h [philatelic record] = $b Voie maritime du Saint-Laurent.
  258 ## $a Canada : $b 5 cents.
  260 ## $a [Ottawa : $b Post Office Department, $c 26 June 1959] $f (Canadian Bank Note Co.)

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