Pre-Inked Notary Stamps vs. Self-Inking Notary Stamps

The official seal of a notary on a legal document is a recognized mark that the notary is an officer of the state qualified to provide the services being rendered and that the authenticity of the signature on a legal document is being verified. It is important when making an impression of your notary stamp to ensure that all the required information will clearly print on the document that you notarize. Missing or unclear elements of the notary stamp may jeopardize acceptance of the document you notarize, making it questionable and probably invalid.

In years gone by, notaries only had a choice of wooden, rubber notary stamps with a separate ink pad. The notary commission information was engraved on a rubber strip applied with adhesive onto the wooden stamp. The notary would first press the stamp onto the ink pad and then apply the stamp to the document to be notarized. (Rubber stamps and ink pads are still available today, though rarely used.) As technology advanced in the early 70's, the self-inking stamp was introduced and became the dominant tool used by notaries all over the United States and the world. Late in the 1990's, the pre-inked stamp was introduced and became equally as popular as the self-inking notary stamp.

So, what is the difference between the self-inking notary stamp and the pre-inked notary stamp if both serve the same purpose? Which one is the better choice? Which one is more popular and more durable? A study conducted by the American Association of Notaries shows that both stamps are durable, are equally popular, and serve the same purpose. It is up to the notary to decide which type of stamp he prefers. Here is a brief comparison between the two:

The pre-inked notary stamp is generally the more expensive stamp. It uses a flash light system to transfer the required written information from the laser printer to foam that will be inserted on the bottom of the stamp and then inked with an oil-based ink. Since it uses an oil-based ink, it lasts longer and can make up to 50,000 impressions. Once ordered, it can be manufactured in minutes and then shipped promptly to customers who need a stamp immediately. Since the ink is kept in a reservoir, the manufacturer can make the stamps in various designs, such as pocket notary stamps, or pen-shaped notary stamps. The only drawback to using pre-inked notary stamps is that some oil-based ink is slow to dry and might smear and run over text on the back of the document. The American Association of Notaries uses fast-drying oil-based ink that will not smear or pool behind the stamp. When the stamp is applied to a surface, the ink flows through the stamp from behind and creates a clear impression on the notarized documents. A second or two must pass before ink can flow through the pre-inked stamp surface, and the stamp may require a slight "break" after several documents have been stamped in succession.

The construction of the self-inking stamp is different: it uses a built-in ink pad to re-ink itself after each application. The ink pad is up in the casing of the stamp so that when pressure is applied the die plate hits the ink pad and flips to make the engraved impression on the document. Self-inking stamps have the advantage of being easily re-filled, and they use environmentally friendly water-based ink that does not smear. The built-in ink pad can be re-inked and is easily replaced. It is always wise to keep a bottle of ink handy in case you need to re-ink your stamp. The time required to manufacture a self-inking stamp varies depending on what type of equipment the manufacturer is using. Stamp manufacturers who use a laser engraver can manufacture a stamp within minutes. Many manufacturers are still using the old system (which still produces a stamp as good as one produced by laser engraving): a negative is created from a laser printout, then liquid rubber is poured on top of the negative and developed under ultraviolet light until it hardens. Oil-based ink cannot be used on a self-inking stamp because it will cause damage to the rubber piece.

Each type of stamp will serve any notary well. It behooves each notary to experiment by purchasing each type of stamp to see which one will best suit his needs for ease of use and durability based on his own notarizing and work patterns. We always recommend that you purchase your notary stamps from a reputable notary stamp manufacturer that will stand behind its products and be there in the future if you ever need to replace your stamp.

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information. However, it is important to note that the information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss, or consequential loss, out of or in connection with the use of the information contained on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions. 

Notary bonds and errors and omissions insurance policies provided by this insurance agency, American Association of Notaries, Inc., are underwritten by Western Surety Company, Universal Surety of America, or Surety Bonding Company of America, which are subsidiaries of CNA Surety.