If you check the Scott catalog, you know that some stamps are valued more in used condition than mint condition. Scott #39 always comes to mind because itís a tough stamp to find with a genuine cancel.
A ďcontemporary cancelĒ means that itís a genuine cancel that would have been used in the time period that the stamp was in use. Not only does the stamp have to be used, but it has to have a cancel from that time period. For example, Scott #1059 (4 ĹĘ Hermitage coil from the Liberty series) is more scarce in used than in unused condition. With a Scott value of about $1, itís is not a rare stamp. But due to its odd denomination, it wasnít heavily used.
I could use one of those stamps today on a letter and it would get the standard USPS spray on cancel. Is it used? Yes. Does it have a contemporary cancel? No. A contemporary cancel, on this issue, would be the standard wavy line pattern or a slogan cancel that was so commonly used by the USPOD during the 1950s and 1960s when this stamp saw use.
With the change to Forever stamps, what is a contemporary cancel?
A Forever stamp is always good for postage. So a contemporary cancel on a Forever stamp would be any cancel used from its issue date onward? Suppose that twenty years from now, the USPS moves to using a metallic blue ink to cancel mail because itís superior in performance. Does a Forever stamp issued in 2011 have a contemporary cancel if it has one of todayís spray on cancels? Or one of the futuristic blue cancels? Technically speaking, both are contemporary. Think about it.