What Does a Notary Stamp Look Like?

By Linda Johnson

  • Overview

    What Does a Notary Stamp Look Like?
    In the past, the only acceptable notary stamps looked a bit like staplers, except that when pressed together, the two parts left an embossed impression on a document, known as the notary seal. The idea was that this three-dimensional seal could not be duplicated unlawfully with a photocopier. Now, with the advent of newer technology, the old embossing stamp is still legal, but new alternatives have been developed.
  • Rubber Stamp

    Rubber stamps are now acceptable as notary stamps. Some have to be inked by being stamped on an ink pad; others are self inking. They make an ink impression of a state seal plus the notary's name, his or her commission number and the date the commission expires.
    Notary ink stamp
  • Electronic stamp

    In modern circumstances, documents that need to be witnessed and authenticated may arrive over the internet, attached to emails. They can still be legally notarized with an electronic notary signature. Basically, this is software approved by the state for a notary public who has been certified and trained. Electronic notarization processes, procedures and systems may not be used or are not yet established in every state. In Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and West Virginia, electronic notarization has not been established.

  • The Notary Kit

    Despite the growth of electronic notarization, notary publics still need kits that may include the embossing stamp, a self-inking rubber stamp, a booklet of do's and don'ts, round notary public stickers and even inkless thumbprint pads. In some states, including California, the document signer's thumbprint is required, in addition to the notary seal, for the document to be legal.
    A New York notary seal
  • Significance

    Whether electronic, ink or embossed, the notary stamp signifies authentication. Notary publics have the authority to administer oaths or statutory declarations. They can witness and authenticate legal documents. The stamp does not signify that the notary can offer legal advice (unless he or she is also an attorney), prepare a document (except in Louisiana) and may not be allowed to authenticate a copy (rather than the original) of a document to be a true and legal copy.
  • History

    In ancient Roman times, most of the populace was illiterate. Perhaps they could sign their names, but they may not have known what they were signing. The practice of the notary public dates back to then, when a "notarius" was made a public official so he could create written documents such as agreements or wills, have them signed and hold them for safekeeping. Ribbons were once woven into margins of such documents, and wax seals were placed over the knots so that pages could not be removed or added. This was the beginning of the notary seal, which was used to prove that the notary deemed the document official and binding.
  • Location

    You will find a notary stamp wherever there is a notary public, such as at the bank, the title company, state offices, United States courts and elsewhere. You can be sure there will be some form of notary stamp at your attorney's office. Most banks will notarize your document for free.
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