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Saturday, July 18, 2009


By:- John Holuran

Looking through an old-time stamp collection, we shall find that it contains many stamps (or labels that look like stamps) which are not mentioned in our modern stamp catalogues or collected by most present day philatelists.

The collectors of earlier days, like many juniors nowadays, placed in their albums everything they came across which bore the least resemblance to a postage stamp, and, in consequence we find there many labels which have little or no connexion with the post at all. Such items are usually classified under the generic title Cinderella stamps.

Since the early years of this century, there has been a progressive reduction in the size of the filed which the ordinary collector attempts to cover. This curtailment of the scope of a stamp collection has been due to the vast increase which has taken place in the number of stamps issued by all countries. As the number of adhesive stamps grew from year, collectors and dealers, finding their album and shelf space overtaxed, tended to discard non-adhesive and non-governmentally issued stamps. More recently Cinderella items have become more popular although their appeal is tiny compared to conventional stamp collection. We look at the main types of stamps issued by postal administrations for postal duty.

Before attempting to divide postage stamps into sub-groups, according to their various functions, the reader should note three terms, which are applicable to the whole group-definitive, commemorative and provisional. Definitives are the ordinary, everyday stamps in permanent use. Often these are used for long periods of time-for example the Wilding Definitives of Great Britain introduced in 1952-54 continued in use until 1967-68. The current “Machin” design has been in use since 1967. Commemorative stamp issued for a particular event or purposes are normally on sale for a relatively short period of time-sometimes only a few weeks and rarely for longer than one year. When, for any reason, a postal emergency arises, and stamps for a temporary use have to be produced in a hurry, the collector calls them provisional.

Such stamps are frequently produced by overprinting or surcharging stamps already in existence, to make them suitable for the situation which has arisen.

Postage stamps proper are usually considered to be those which are used for franking ordinary correspondence. In many countries there is only one series of postage stamps, which serves for paying fees in connection with every available postal service, and which can also be used on telegrams, or for revenue requirements. In other countries some of these functions will be dissociated from the general issue of postage stamps, and in such cases special stamps may be provided.

As ordinary postage stamps, which indicate that postage has prepaid, are naturally the most numerous group we are not surprised to find that the next most important section is one which pays tribute to the innate forgetfulness or carelessness of the human race, and indicates that postage has not been paid. Such stamps, referred to as postage due or unpaid letter stamps, are affixed to under stamped or unstamped correspondence by the postal authorities, to indicate to the postman and to the addressee the amount which is to be collected on delivery. In most countries the addressee is charged an additional small sum, for the cost of collecting the deficiency in postage so that a postage due stamp represents not only the payment of a charge for carriage but also this extra fee.

In countries where special stamps are not provided for this purpose, the intial “T” will often be found stamped on letters accompanied by figures showing the amount sue to be paid by the addressee. This letter stands for the French word tax which is in international use in connexion with insufficiently stamped correspondence.

Human frailty is catered for more kindly by another class of stamps, the too late fee stamp. This represents an extra sun payable in order to catch a certain mail, after it been closed down for correspondence posted in the normal course.

Another useful stamp is the Advice of Delivery stamp, which if bought, and attached to correspondence, ensures that the will receive, through the post office a formal advice that the missive has reached its destination. Such stamps have not been very widely issued, the majority being found among the issues of some of the South and Central American states (Colombia, Chile, El Salvador and Montenegro, 1865-1917). They often have the initials “AR” as a prominent feature of their design, these standing for the Spanish words aviso de reception (advice of receipt).

A service with which all are familiar is the registration of correspondence. An additional fee is paid, which ensures that extra care is taken in transit, and also entitles the correspondent, under specified circumstances, to compensation in the contents of letter going astray. Some countries have special stamps to indicate that the registration fee has been duly prepaid. They are often not unlike our own registration labels in Great Britain, except that hay has theappearauce of an obloug postage stamp with a rather more elaborate design than is usually associated with a label. In some countries a space is left on the registration stamp, in which the reference number of the letter it franks is written in ink by the postal clerk.

In most countries it is possible to secure more speedy delivery of correspondence on payment of a special fee. Many countries have, at one time or another, provided special delivery or express letter stamps for this purpose, and in some cases the design of such stamps have been selected to typify the rapidity (often fictitious) with which delivery could be made, such as a running postman, a motor-cycle, a van, or an aero plane.

In the Untied States, stamps inscribed Special Postal Delivery (later Special Delivery) were introduced in 1885 and continued until 1969. Stamps worded Special Handling was issued in 1925, the purpose of these was to give first class priority to fourth class mail. In Denmark, stamps overprinted or inscribed “Gebyr”, were issued in 1923 and 1926 to indicate that certain fees had been paid, among which was one for the registration of letter too late to catch the normal registered post.

The rapid growth of mail-carrying by air in the 1920s brought into being another class of special service stamp, known to collectors as air stamps. They are not, in most countries, exclusively used on correspondence carried by air, but can also be used on ordinary correspondence, just as ordinary stamps can be used for airmail letters.

A set of six stamps and a miniature sheet (S.G. 857a & MS 857g) were issued in 1938 by the republican side during the Spanish civil war for a submarine postal service between Barcelona and Menorca. Subterranean mail is represented in the stamp album by the special issues for the pneumatic post in Italy.

Stamps of distinctive designs are sometimes appropriated to specific classes of mail matter. Newspaper stamps are sometimes met with, and Austria has special stamps for newspaper carried at express rates. The earlier newspaper stamps of Austria and Hungary, however, really represent a tax, collected by the post office, on foreign newspapers, but as the newspapers would not have been delivered without the appropriate tax stamps the latter can be regarded, in one sense, as postage stamps.

Parcels, too, have their own stamps in some countries, and in 1929 Uruguay issued a series of triangular stamps for use on farmer’s parcels. The United States in 1912 issued a set of 12 attractive “Parcel Post” stamps and carried multiplicity of special stamps a stage further by also issuing distinct stamps for payment of postage due on under stamped parcels.

It may be asked why these different stamps are issued by various countries, when other nations seem to get on very well with a single series for general use. It is, of course, a convenience for the postal clerk, who has to handle large quantities of mail very rapidly, to be able to tell, by a glance at the postage stamp, whether the item of mail is to be dealt with in any special way. This is why many of the stamps we have been discussing are issued in distinctive designs of colours, or, sometimes, in striking shapes or sizes.

In the days when practically all stamps were used for legitimate postal purposes, and only very small numbers were taken by collectors, the use of special stamps was helpful for accountancy purposes in connexion with the cost of and receipts from various services. Now, however, collectors take so many stamps of every kind that may be issued, that the number of stamps sold for a particular service may be no indication at all of the number actually used for that service. Attempts have been made from time to time to maintain the principle, by refusing to sell stamps of certain classes to the public, but demand from collectors is usually so great that leakages nearly always occur. However, the issues for the International Court of Justice at The Hague (1934-77) and the O.H.M.S overprints of Montserrat (1976-80) are examples of stamps which were not officially sold to the public in unused condition.

The stamps issued by many countries, particularly in earlier days, for use by government departments (as for example, the official stamps of Great Britain and the departmental stamps of the U.S.A.) were for a similar purpose that of checking the use made of the postal service by the various State offices. Overprinting of the ordinary postage stamps of a country with the name or initials of the department was often resorted to in this connexion, but some countries have issued stamps especially for the purpose and others use stamps punctured with initials. They are known to collectors colloquially as officials, departmental, or service stamps according to their function.

In Britain official stamps were introduced for the Inland Revenue in 1882 followed by the Office of Works and the Army in 1896, the Board of Education and the Royal Household in 1902 and the admiralty in 1903. Stamps for use on Government Parcels were issued in 1883; all were taken out of use in 1904. Many are now very scarce, even rare; some have catalogue prices running into thousands of pounds.

Departmental stamps for nine branches of the U.S. government-Agriculture, Executive, Interior, Justice, Navy, Office, State, Treasury and War-were in use between 1873 and 1879. Official stamps for use in government departments were issued in 1983; these bear the warning “Penalty for private use $300.”

Stamps “O.H.M.S” or “G” (Government) were in use in Canada from 1949 to 1963. Stamps overprinted “O.P.S.O.” (On Public Service Only) were introduced in New Zealand in 1892; from 1907 until 1954 stamps were overprinted “Official”. Seven stamps inscribed “OFFICIAL” wer issued in 1954 and remained in use until official stamps were discontinued in 1965. Distinctive stamps have been provided by he New Zealand P.O. for the use of the Government Life Insurance Department since 1891; these all feature lighthouses.

Official stamps were first issued in Indian and Pakistan in 1866 and continue in use until the present with over printing service.

A very interesting, though not very numerous, class of stamps consists of those which, instead of indicating that postage has been paid, show that no postage is payable. These are known as frank stamps. They are found among the early issues of Spain, where we have two stamps which franked through the post copiex of books which were considered of such public value that they were granted free transit. Similarly, Portugal has granted franking privileges at various times to the Red Cross Society, To civilian rifle clubs, and to the geographical Society of Lisbon, each having its special stamps, while among the issues of France and other countries we find stamps specially overprinted or inscribed for use on soldiers letters which were carried free.

In the Dominican Republic, in 1935, a special 25c stamp was issued, which had to be added on letter addressed to the President, which in 1937 Czechoslovakia introduced personal delivery stamps, which ensured delivery to the addressee only, a useful innovation for sweethearts!

Another novelty, this time from Argentina, was a service for delivery of vocally recorded messages. In order that the public might have facilities for making these records, special mobile recording vans were employed. Special stamps were issued in 1939 in connexion with this service; a gramophone record figures in the design of each. Other countries, including the U.K. Ireland and Taiwan, have operated similar services and used distinctive postmarks and stationery, but have not issued special stamps.

The U.S. Post Office introduced a Greeting inscribed “Love” in January 1973 for use on valentine’s cards; various similar issues have followed. The Irish P.O. issued its first Greetings stamps in 1984; the British P.O. issued a book containing ten Greetings stamps in 1989.

Some stamps have a dual-purpose in that they can be used to prepay postage and can be used for the payment of a non-postal duty to the government. A stamp whose sole function is to pay a tax on a receipt, to frank a customs document, or to represent the stamp duty on a counteract, dose not come within the purview of the conventional collector, to whom it is known as a fiscal or revenue.

Where postage stamps can also be used for revenue purposes, the collector will try find out by means of the postmark or some other feature, in which way the particular specimen before him has been used, and will exclude from his album stamps which (though also available for postal use) can be proved to have served a fiscal purpose.

A sub-group of postage stamps which is excluded from most European catalogues consists of stamps issued for use on telegrams. Why this group should now be disregarded it is a little hard to say, as the conveyance of a message by telegraph is not very different from its transmission by letter, and the stamp performs the same office in relation to a on its Journey. Telegraph stamps have, on occasion, been used, with authority, for payment of postage, and when such use can be proved, they are collectable as postage stamps, under the mane of postal-telegraphs.

Looking at the group of postage stamps themselves it will be noticed that these fall into two main sections: the adhestive stamps, which are printed separately from the postal packet which they are intended to frank, and the impressed stamps, which are printed or embossed on envelopes, postcards or wrappers before they are sold to the public. These impressed stamps, though of great interest and in many cases surpassing the adhesive stamps in beauty, are usually only collected by specialists and postal historians. Envelopes and other postal stationery bearing such impressed stamps are know colloquially to collectors as entire, to distinguish them from the impressed stamps cut from such stationery, which are called cut-outs.

The collector who comes across stamps of this class, either cut out, or in the complete piece of stationery, might well keep them, not in his main collection, but in a spare album. They may, on occasion, serve to elucidate problems in connexion with the adhesive stamps to which he is more particularly devoting his attention. Telegraph stamps may, for the same reason, find a place in this supplementary collection, and as fiscal stamps are often printed by the same firms as the postage stamps, and by the same processes, they also have a claim to be included.

Finally there is one other type of stamp which should be mentioned here-the local postage stamp-stamps whose validity is limited to a town, district, or route in a country or between particular seaports. Such as Bahawalpur Sarkari stamps which were only to be used to the official cowroopondeuce with in the State only. Some representatives of this group have retained their places in the standard catalogues for a number of reasons of reasons-but the vast majority of old-time locals never come the way of the average stamp collector.

Local stamps are historically interesting, as they often preceded the official government issues of their particular sphere. The fact that they were the product of more or less private individuals was the cause of their falling into disfavors with stamps collectors, for when stocks were exhausted and collector demand continued, the temptation to make reprints of them was, in many cases, too great to be resisted. The forger also took a hand in the game. Locals have a comparatively small, but dedicated, band of followers who have studied them intently and provided the necessary data for distinguishing between originals, reprints and forgeries.