Gutter Pairs, Snipes and Selvage
One area of collecting that applies to United States, British Commonwealth and Worldwide issues is the area of "gutter pairs, snipes, and selvage." Stamps are printed on a sheet of paper and on the sheet are usually four or more panes of the stamps. Panes can contain from 1 to 150 individual stamps. What many collectors today call a sheet of stamps is, in reality, a pane of stamps from the original production sheet. A gutter is the stamp margin area, with or without printing, between the stamp of one pane and the stamp of an adjacent pane.
Full Sheet of Stamps
The following image is from the Rick Miller page of Linns.com web site and is a full sheet of United States Scott 3168-3172 Classic Movie Monsters. This particular sheet has nine panes of 20 stamps each for a total of 180 stamps on the sheet. While you can order the sheet from the USPS, only the individual panes can be purchased at the post offices. This sheet has six different gutter collecting formats.
Gutter Pairs and Various Combinations
This is the most common form of collecting gutter issues. If you are a United States collector then you most likely have some of the United States Park issues in you collection. These are known as the Farley issues and are the most complex gutter varieties in the world of collecting. This is because there are gutter pairs, blocks, cross gutter blocks, and the full gutter panes. Some collectors collect the gutter pairs in either the vertical or horizontal format or both.
Cross Gutter Block Vertical Center Line Block with small gutters on imperf sheet
Horizontal Center Line with small Cross Center Line Block
gutters on imperf sheet with small gutters on imperf sheet.
Technically the gutter snipe is classified as an EFO or Error-Freak-Oddity. As can be seen from the image below, the gutter exists between the stamps of each pane but a small amount of the stamp on the adjacent pane is still attached to the clear gutter. This is simply a mis-registration of the full sheet of stamps on the cutter machine. This image is US Scott 632, the 1c Franklin and is rather common to find in the gutter snipe, pair or selvage conditions.
Gutter selvage is simply the selvage left attached to a stamp that has perforations on the outside of the selvage indicating that the stamp was attached to another pane of stamps at some time. The image below is of three different gutter selvage stamps. Some collectors consider this format of collecting harder than finding gutter snipes. While all three images have gutter selvage with perforations on the non-stamp side of the selvage, the top image is most representative of this format for collecting. These images are from the Mickey Dwyer collection.