ArticlesPostal History

Use of RetroReveal software to enhance faint cancels.

While reading the latest copy (Feb 2021) of the American Philatelist magazine(*), and in particular an article by Peter Congreve entitled ‘The Philatelist as Social Historian’ which discussed advice on research methods and useful sources of information, Andrew Williams noted he referred to a free online software tool called RetroReveal which he had used to enhance faint cancels on old covers.

The following picture extracted from the article illustrates the use of RetroReveal to isolate more clearly the cancels from the background such that it can be read and identified more easily.

The first picture shows two faint cancels covering two Australian stamps on a 1948 cover and the second picture shows the HFA handstamps showing more clearly after an image of the cover has been processed through the RetroReveal software. The tool basically splits the image into a range of different component colour channels and then generates a long list/page of different views – you then choose which ones are the best – it obviously depends on the set of original colours on the cover.

Details of the RetroReveal tool can be found at the link below.

Andrew is still experimenting with different covers but it does seem to ‘clean up’ some cancels and may be of interest/ use to members.

(*) For information, the American Philatelic Society is currently allowing all stamp collectors and enthusiasts free access to the digital issues of its magazine ‘The American Philatelist’ during the COVID-19 outbreak. Free access is arranged by registering at:

In closing, Andrew suggest that the referenced article on researching methods by Peter Congreve would also be an interesting read for any members who have particular interests in social philately.