What do “AVR,” “APU,” and “SSP” stand for?

These abbreviations are stamp printers.

AVR: Avery Dennison

APU: Ashton Potter USA

SSP: Sennet Security Products


Here’s some information on these (and a few more) stamp printers:

American Bank Note Company (ABNCo) – American Bank Note Co. formed when 7 individual firms merged. In 1879, ABNCo absorbed both NBNCo and CNBCo. At this time, CNBCo held the contract for printing postage, which ABNCo continued. ABNCo’s first stamp was #182.

Ashton Potter (“P” private contractor mark or “APU”) – Ashton Potter began making stamps for Canada Post in 1970. The Circus stamps of 1993 (#2750-53) were the first US stamps printed by the company. Along with Banknote Corporation of America, it is one of two companies that still produces US stamps.

Avery Dennison (“V” private contractor mark or “AVR”) – Avery Dennison was known as a leading manufacturer of self-adhesive materials, and was chosen to produce the first self-adhesive stamp, the 1974 Dove Weather Vane Christmas issue (#1552). This experiment was considered a failure. But in 1990, the USPS asked Avery Dennison to try again, resulting in the 25¢ Flag stamp printed on plastic (#2475). This stamp was more successful, and Avery Dennison would continue to produce self-adhesive stamps for the USPS until it’s stamp printing division was bought out by CCL Label in 2013.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) – The Bureau The Bureau of Engraving and Printing began printing stamps for the US government in 1894 and held a stamp-printing monopoly until the late 1960s. At this time, a few contracts were awarded to private printers. By 2005, the BEP had completely ended stamp production. The first BEP-printed stamp was #246.

Banknote Corporation of America (“B” private contractor mark) – In 1989, US Banknote Corporation (USBNC) sought to buy American Bank Note Company. To avoid anti-trust laws, USBNC worked with the French securities printer François-Charles Oberthur Fiduciaire (FCOF) to create Banknote Corporation of America (BCA) to act as competition. The first US stamp produced by BCA was the 2994 Heart Rising Love stamp (#2813). Ownership of BCA was transferred from FCOF to Sennett Security Products, which is now owned by CCL Label.

CCL Label (“C” private contractor mark) – CCL Label acquired the stamp-printing division of Avery Dennison in 2013. The first US stamps printed under CCL Label were the five nondenominated presorted standard Snowflakes of 2013 (#4808-12). In 2015, CCL Label bought Sennett Security Products, which owns Banknote Corporation of America.

Continental Bank Note Company (CNBCo) – Founded in 1863, Continental succeeded NBNCo, who held the contract for US postage stamps since 1861. Later merged with ABNCo. Continental secured the sole contract to print US postage. In 1877, CNBCo secured another four-year contract, but merged with ABNCo. in 1879. CNBCo’s first stamp was #156.

Guilford Gravure Inc. (“G” private contractor mark) – The first US stamps printed at Guilford Gravure were the Anti-Pollution (#1410-14) and Christmas (#1414-18) issues of 1970. The BEP had ordered an Andreotti seven-color web rotogravure press and planned to print these stamps, but when it wasn’t installed in time, the stamps were printed at Guilford Gravure by the BEP personnel who would be using the Bureau’s press once it was ready.

National Bank Note Company (NBNCo) – National Bank Note Co. was created as an act of opposition to the formation of the American Bank Note Co. In mid-1861, NBNCo won the contract to print all postage. Along with Continental Bank Note Co., NBNCo. was absorbed by American Bank Note Company in 1879, ending the intense competition between the three. NBNCo’s first stamp was #134.

Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson (RWH&E) – Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Edson was the first company to receive a contract to design and print United States postage stamps. The company merged with seven other firms in 1858 to form American Bank Note Co. TWH&E’s first stamp was #1.

Sennett Security Products (formerly Stamp Venturers, Inc.) (“S” private contractor mark or “SSP”) – The first US stamp produced by Stamp Venturers, Inc., was the 1992 Eagle & Shield stamp with the denomination in red (#2597). In 1998, the company changed its name to Sennett Security Products. SSP acquired Banknote Corporation of America, before being bought itself in 2015 by CCL Label.

Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Company – Toppan, Carpenter, Casilear & Co.’s original contract lasted through 1857, but it was extended through 1861. Casilear left and the remaining company merged with other firms to form American Bank Note Co. Stamps printed after 1858 would still carry the TC&C name. The company’s first stamp was #5.

US Banknote Company (“U” private contractor mark) – The first US stamp produced by US Banknote Company (USBC) was the 1990 Love stamp (#2440). USBC had begun the process of taking over the American Bank Note Company (ABNCo) in 1989, and once the merger was complete, all stamp printing occurred through ABNCo. In 1995, the company changed its name to American Banknote Corporation (ABCorp).