by Gaston Barrette

Gaston Barrette is retired from the Quebec Department of Education. He has been collecting stamps on stamps issues since 1992. For the last few years he has been interested in postal stationery related to the stamp on stamp topic. Gaston has been collecting Canadian stamps for most of his life. He can be reached at 403-2765 Chemin Sainte-Foy, Quebec GIV 4S4, Canada.

This article is based on the following:
  1. Barrett, Gaston. 1989. "Postal Stationery: A Worthy Collectible." SOS SIGNAL, (3):3-5.

  2. Barrett, Gaston. 1999. "The Search for Postal Stationery." SOS SIGNAL, (6):4.

What is Postal Stationery? When the postal authority of a country produces stationery (envelopes, postal cards, aerogrammes, etc.) with a printed stamps (indicia) designed to indicate payment the appropriate postage, those items fall into the category of "postal stationery." These stationery items are absolutely suitable for philatelic collecting purposes. The indicia and anything printed on the items by the government are appropriately collectible.

There are many difference between postal stationery and stamps, the most important difference being size. An envelope, postal card, or an aerogramme are each larger than stamps, although some souvenir sheets may sometimes be bigger. The second difference is the indicium which is an integral part of the item whereas an adhesive stamp on a cover or a post card is not. The third is that most of the postal stationery space is provided for written messages. Finally, the item of postal stationery can be used on both sides which is hardly the case for stamps.

As for similarities between postal stationery and stamps the following can be mentioned. Items are collected mint and used. Condition is an important part of determining value. Varieties and errors are possible. They can be collected by the topic they illustrate: art, automobiles, flags, movies, stamps on stamps (SOS), etc. Finally, they are issued by postal authorities, often with first day ceremonies.

A Brief History of Postal Stationery
Postal Stationery is older than the adhesive stamp. The Venetian "A-Q" letter sheets date from 1608; the Sardinia sheets from 1818; the revenue devices on British newspapers provided free postage after 1821; and the Sidney, New South Wales letter sheets were issued in 1838. We all know that the first adhesive stamps were not issued until 1840. Stamp catalogues included postal stationery up to about 1920 when the publishers decided there was not enough interest in postal stationery to continue to list it. The stamps had gained so much popularity and issues became so numerous that stamp collectors lost interest in postal stationery. This happened after the First World War, but beginning in 1945 there has been a marked revival of interest. Postal stationery is now perhaps the fastest growing branch of philately.

Catalogues of Postal Stationery
The Higgins and Gage: World Postage Stationery Catalog remains the universal reference work even though it has not been updated for decades. There are some updates, but these are merely price changes and they are well out of date. The complete set consists of 19 volumes and sells for about $230. There are other catalogues of postal stationery. Some of them cover postal stationery for a country, some for a topic, and one catalogue is devoted to a particular type of stationery; this is Kessler's Catalogue of Aerograms. One can also find new issues in World Postal Stationery New Issue Report published three times a year by Classic Philatelics. The latter report serves as a basis for a regular feature in Topical Time. However, no complete list of postal stationery is available as compared to the Scott, Gibbons and Michel catalogues of adhesive stamps, although some specialized catalogues include postal stationery.

Postal Stationery and The Stamps on Stamps Topic
Postal stationery related to the topic of stamps on stamps is a relatively small part of SOS collecting, but a fascinating part nevertheless. An example of an SOS postal stationery item is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Hungarian postal card issued in 1994 for Budapest '94.
The indicium features Indonesia #359, while Hungary #1539 is featured in the cachet.

Figure 2 illustrates an Australian envelope also featuring SOS in the indicium and stamps in the cachet.

Figure 2. An Australian envelope issued in 1988 for SYDPEX '88.
The indicum features New South Wales #77, while the cachet features #77-82 and #85-86. .

A look at the items of postal stationery the ATA Handbook #122 shows that postal stationery items number about 30 as compared to a few thousands for stamps. However, this aspect of the topic is not to be neglected. To overlook it means that something important is missed. Most designs and executions of postal cards and envelopes are superb, many are steel engravings. More recent issues, especially aerogrammes, appeal to a topical collector through their artistic designs and the numerous colors employed.

SOSCU and Postal Stationery
In an effort to list the known SOS postal stationery, I have started with the items of postal stationery recorded in ATA Handbook #122 and arranged the listing according to dates of issue. Secondly, SOS postal stationery items classified under the topics "Philately and Postal Service" and "Stamp on Stamp" in the regular feature of Topical Time have been assembled for the period 1992-96. Since only a fraction of these items meet the criteria of the stamps on stamps topic, I am seeking collaborative agents to provide the information to complete the definitive list. A list of issues for 1989-1996 is given in the following list.


     Abbreviations: A = Aerogramme; AC = Air Postal Card, AE = Air Envelope;
            E = Envelope; PC = Postal Card; PCC = Picture Postal Card

      Yr Mo Dy  Country    Type  Values  Stamp Shown/Reason 
      ========  ========   ====  ========================================== 

      89 08 14  Russia      PC    4k    Stylized Stamps, Magnifying Glass
      89 12 20  Russia      PC    4k    Stylized Stamps, Letters

      90 02 14  Russia      E-2   5k    (1) Letter, (2) Stamp  
                                            325 Anniv. Regular Russian Mail

      90 03 01  Russia      PC    4k     Stamp Perforation

      90 11 23  Hungary     PPC   5ft    Old Stamp 7 of Crown

      91 12 07  Hungary     PPC   7ft    1933 Stamp, 1931 PPC

      92 01 10  Canada      E     42c    Vancouver Island #1
                                           CANADA '92

      92 01 10  Canada      E      42c   British Columbia #1
                                           CANADA '92

      92 04 15  Pakistan    E      1re   Cover with Magnifying Glass
                                           National Seminar on Philately

      92 05 01  P.R.China   EE     20f   1/2f "Soviet Post" Stamp
                                          60th Anniv. Director General Posts
      92 05 07  Germany     PC     60pf  Cover from Mautitus
                                           Essen Stamp Show

      92 05 24  Bulgaria    E      95+5c  Stamp
                                            Donau Phil. Exhib. (Silistra)

      92 08 01  Liechenstein PC  50,70rp  1817 Pre-stamp Cover, Wax Seal
                                            LIBA '92

      92 08 07  Solomon Ils. E      50c    Solomon Islands #98

      92 08 07  Solomon Ils. E      $1.50  Solomon Islands #174
                                             Solomon Post Logo

      92 09 25 Hungary       PC     10ft   Envelopes of Phil. Sci. Soc.
                                             MAFITE SZALAN '92

      92 10 13 P.R. China    PC     15f    Tongs, Magnifying Glass, Stamps
                                             10th Anniv. All China Phil. Fed. 

      92 10 15 Ireland       PC     32p    1st Definitive Stamp
                                             70 Years of Irish Postage Stamps

      92 10 15 Ireland       PC     32p    1st Commemorative Stamp
                                              70 Years of Irish Postage Stamps

      92 10 15 Ireland       PC     32p    Children's Art on Stamps
                                             70 Years of Irish Postage Stamps

      92 10 15 Ireland       PC     32p    Europa '92 Stamp
                                             70 Years of Irish Postage Stamps

      93 ?? ?? Pakistan      A      5rs    Old Stamp
                                             PRESHPEX Logo

      93 02 01 Armenia       PC     $6     Stamp Outling
                                             YEREVAN '93

      93 07 02 Hungary       AE-2   50ft   Hungary #C1
                                             First Airplane Route Budapest and Vienna
      93 11 01 P. R. China   PC     15f    Stamp showing Mao Zedung
                                             CHINPEX '93

      91 ?? ?? Armenia       AC     $20    Magnifying Glass, Stylized Stamp
                                             Union of Philatelists

      94 02 15 Hong Kong     PPC    ppd    96c Victoria (1865) 
                                             HONG KONG'94

      94 02 15 Hong Kong     PPC    ppd    Current $1 Q. E. II
                                              HONG KONG '94

      94 03 28 Korea         A      350w   6 stamps
                                             PHILAKOREA Logo

      94 05 06 Hungary       PPC    12ft   Magnifying Glass, 10 stamps
                                             TEMAFILA '94

      94 05 10 Botswana      A      15ft   Trains on Stamps
                                             Botswana Railways Deluxe

     94 05 17 Switzerland   PPC    60f     Money Order Card (H&G #2)
                                             GABRA '94

     94 05 27 Hungary       PC     12ft    2kr Hungarian Stamp (1874)
                                             M. Gervoy, Post Director

     94 06 14 Great Britain A      11d     Cover from Allock and Brown Flight
                                             First Non-Stop Atlantic Flight

     94 06 15 Hungary       PPC    12ft    Stamps Showing Kolsez & Erkel
                                             150th Anniversary Hungarian Anthem

     94 08 01 Hungary       PC     12ft    Stamps
                                             Eugene Harnghy, Artist's Palette

     94 09 05 Hungary       PC     12ft    Indonesian Stamp
                                             Indonesian Stamp Exhibit

     94 10 06 Belgium       PC     16fr    Boy and Stamp Album
                                             Youth Philately

     94 11 18 Australia     A      70c     Facsimile of Australia First Air Letter
                                           AEROPEX '94

     95 01 01 P. R. China   PC     15f     Stylized Magnifing Glass, Tongs, Stamp
                                             2nd Anniversary of "China Philately"

     95 07 15 Italy         PC     750l    Stylized Stamp
                                             ASIAGO 25th Internat. Philatelic Exhibit
     95 09 20 Czech. Rep.   AC       5k    Biplane Overprint and 24k on Czech #C2
     95 09 21 Russia        E       ppd    Olympic Stamp

     96 ?? ?? Romania       E       150l   Stamp, Cancel
                                             "5 ANI DE .. Ardeal Banat Bocovina" Cancel
     96 ?? ?? Romania       E       150l   Scout Stamp on Stamp

     96 02 01 Belgium       PC      16f    Postal Card
                                             Promotion of Philately

     96 02 07 Czech. Rep.   PC      3k     Stylized Stamps
                                             100th Anniv. of Publication "Filatelie"

     96 02 17 Belgium       PC      16f    Stamp Album
                                             Promotion of Philately

     96 07 04 Czech. Rep.   PC       3k    Churches on Stamp
                                             Bohmerwald Interphilica 1996 Somava

     96 08 30 Czech. Rep.   PC       3k    Stamps of Marco Polo Meeting Khan
                                           Riccione..Sale of Czech Stamps ... A. Burn

Missing Items
Because of the lack of a complete and therefore almost "official" list, it is near certain that there are items of postal stationery missing in ATA Handbook #122. 1 have in my collection five items from Romania that possibly belong to our topic but are absent from the handbook. Two of these items are described below:
  1. The first is a Romanian postal card of 30 Bani issued in 1973 commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the first Romanian postal card. An illustration of the first card is shown in the upper left part of the card.

  2. The second item is a Romanian envelope of 2 Lei. The indicium is a stamp on stamp. It is tete-beche pair Scott #18a (1862) and was issued in 1988 for the "Expositia Filatelica Nationala '88". The cachet is even more interesting: it shows three stamps, the two horizontal ones being adhesive stamps already issued (Scott 1254-5). The third is a vertical stamp of the type stamp on stamp showing Scott 41, 6 and 2. This printed stamp I suspect to be only an indicium, because it is not recorded in the Scott catalogue.
Another item of postal stationery not in the ATA Handbook #122, but illustrated in Topical Handbook #131, page 31, is a Russian air envelope (or aerogramme) of 6k commemorating in 1976 a 10th anniversary. The indicium is a stamp on stamp, probably type U. The cachet shows four Russian stamps that I could not identify.

An Invitation to Complete the List
It is hoped that very few items of postal stationery qualifying for inclusion in our stamp on stamp topic remain unrecorded. However, if you think that you possess such items or have seen them in publications or other sources, you are cordially invited to point them out to me by sending photocopies or indication of sources. This will greatly help in their preparation of the definitive list.

A little reminder of the characteristics of a stamp on stamp postal stationery item: an envelope, aerogramme, postal card, etc. with a printed stamp (indicium) which is an SOS type A, B or U; and/or an item with one or more stamps (SOS or not) on the cachet (usually on the left side of the stationery). The following table gives the four acceptable combinations of indicium and cachet:

                Indicium               Cachet
          1. Printed stamp SOS    Printed stamp SOS
          2. Printed stamp SOS    Printed stamp or other subject
          3. Printed stamp        Printed stamp SOS
          4. Printed stamp        Printed stamp akin to souvenir  
                                   sheet with stamp in the margin

Mott, Rodney L. No date. "What Do You Know About Postal Stationery?" The United States Postal Stationery Society, Inc., Redlands, California.

American Topical Association. 1996. Topical Handbook No. 131.

Topical Time, whole issues 1992 to 1997, particularly the regular feature "Topical Postal Stationery" by David A. Dietrich, American Topical Association.

The Guiness Book of Stamps. 1982. Scriveners Superlatives, London.

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