The Nottinghamshire Philatelic Society
Between 1885 and 1897, newspaper stamps paid periodical postage in the US. The process was to walk with the mailing into a US Post Office where it would be weighed and the proper newspaper stamps affixed, not to the mailing but rather in a post office book to record the transaction. When full, the post office book was sent to Washington DC, accounted for and destroyed. The whole transaction occurred on the post office premises. Newspaper stamps never left there. They were illegal for the public to own. You could not buy one for a collection. In 1897, US newspaper stamps were discontinued and remaining mint ones made available for purchases, but no used stamps should exist. Nevertheless, some used stamps did ‘escape’, but genuinely used newspaper stamps are extremely rare.
So here is the mystery. How has a set of four used 1885 newspaper stamps, each bearing a genuine AO5 postmark, come to be in existence!
The Bahamas postmarks are genuine. There were two Bahamas AO5 obliterators, K1 and K2. K1 has a narrowing almost to a point on the top serif to the 5, which is more square on K2. Both were sent to Bahamas on 21.4.1858. K1 was first used in 14.12.1858 and withdrawn on 1.1.1885, when it was replaced by a circular postmark. K2 was first used on 4.9.1894 and withdrawn on 11.12.1897. A closer inspection of the set of four newspaper stamps show that all the postmarks appeared to be applied in a similar inverted position on the stamps and that all cancellations had been made by using a similar pressure of the handstamps. I would have expected to see a change of some sort if the postmark-cancelled newspaper stamps had been collected randomly over time. The three lower values have no gum. The 96 cent high value has full gum. I conclude that this set was cancelled to order at the same time. So how does a newspaper stamp first issued in 1885 (exact date unknown) come to be cancelled by a postmark withdrawn on 1.1.85?
Further research revealed that from 1879 to 1894 five sets of newspaper stamps as ‘proofs on card’ were printed and listed in the Scott stamp catalogue. The scan below shows an 1882 specimen newspaper stamp card set, with an accompanying UPU SPECIMEN overprint on a postcard.
Careful inspection shows that the specimen overprints on the newspaper stamps differ from the specimen overprint on the postcard. (Look at the ‘N’ in ‘SPECIMEN’.) I doubt that it was the intention to send card sets to UPU countries. I suspect that the printers of newspaper stamps issued card sets for their own monetary purposes rather than as proofs, especially as each set came in its own little envelope.
American newspaper reporters would have been in Nassau, Bahamas during the 1861-65 American Civil War. President Lincoln’s blockade of the southern ports of America meant that the Confederates could not export cotton to fund their war chest, nor could they import weapons. The Royal Victoria Hotel, Nassau became the new HQ for the blockade runners and newspaper reporters would spend much time at the Nassau Post Office when sending reports of the blockade runners’ activities in the port of Nassau. It is inevitable that a bond of friendship between the reporters and postmaster would be formed. The financial boom in Nassau ended in1865 and, thereafter, there was a financial depression. In every depression, whether 19th century, WW1, the American depression or Post WW2, stamps have been manipulated and then sold to raise finances. Examples are the numerous overprints (some legally authorised, some not), the Cayman Islands scandal, Bahamas special delivery stamps manipulated by the Nassau postmaster, the 1935 American scandal-‘Farley’s Follies’and the printing of high-value stamps which had little postage use. It is my opinion, that someone with connections to the newspaper industry arranged for the four labels to be cancelled to order by the Nassau postmaster for a ‘back-handed’ fee and so that the man with the newspaper connections could make a tax-free profit. The manipulation of stamps for a tax-free profit was not uncommon in the 19th and first part of the 20th century. Anyone out there with a better explanation?
How could I resist this item, that I recently rediscovered in a box of my usual junk: “Please keep the stamp, it could become quite a collectors’ piece.” ?
I’d kept it for over 50 years; had my ship finally come in? Sadly not! A quick glance in SG confirmed the stamp was worth no more than a 10p handling charge and that was probably grossly overvalued!
The card is a publicity card for Walsall Lithographic Co. Ltd, sent to businesses (in this case Joseph Lucas, where my brother worked at the time) on 10 February 1964, the issue date of ‘the world’s first ever free-form self- adhesive postage stamps’. (See the stamp and special postmark below left.)
The Company was founded in 1894 by John Aspinall, a printer specialising in the lithographic printing process, whilst continuing with letterpress printing as well. The Company soon moved to larger premises, on Midland Road, Walsall. (photograph above). As well as printing postage stamps for Sierra Leone, Tonga etc, it produced end-seals for biscuit packaging. A subsidiary company, Walsall Security Printers, was set up in 1966 and all stamp production was carried out by them. In 1987, they began printing British stamps and the rest is history. The parent company, however, closed down in the early 2000s due to foreign competition and the building was later demolished. (Source of company facts:Steveparkes2blogspot…)
At the end of a Society meeting, things floating around on the top table get scooped up in the frenzy of leaving. Our President, Brian Clayton recently had a sort-out and asked me if he should keep anything. The order forms below were in the pile. (If anyone recognises them as theirs, let me know and I will return them!) One is dated 27 February 1935 and it is interesting to see how things have changed since then, way before we had the internet and online auctions. The language is quaint and the inflation we’ve had since then, although well-known, is still interesting. Postage at that time was 1½d (or of a shilling) compared to 58p today. 58p in 1935 was a bit more than 11/- so at 8 stamps per shilling that would have paid for 88 letters! The stamps offered seem to be aimed more at the general collector than the specialist. Discount of 25% is offered on sales of 1/- and upwards. But can you imagine (form on right) calling on Boy Scouts today to act as your messengers with a free packet of stamps as payment! I googled the name without any expectations and up came the Great Britain Philatelic Society website. Would you believe -well of course you would- that someone had done a 13-frame display on overseas mail sent to and from early dealers? HC Watkins of Barnet appeared on frame 11, with mail from India and South.Africa. (Non-members can only access the index, not display.)
When I first started collecting seriously in 2006, I was given several pieces of advice.
1. Only buy mint never hinged
2. Always buy complete sets
3. Get the best quality you can afford
4. Only buy commercially used covers
All this advice was well meant and I tended to stick to it, at first. Until, that is, I started collecting postal history.
There is very little correspondence from some of the islands I collect. Tristan da Cunha, for example, has never had a population of more than 350, and its supply ships were random and sporadic. Ascension is a military base with no tourism, which limits the amount of mail available, but it has more than Tristan da Cunha. British Antarctic Territory has never had an indigenous or permanent population. Its scientists have a limited period of time when mail can be sent home, so again not a lot of mail there. Tristan da Cunha lists stamps as one of its exports, and stamps are found on mail, so covers are also sold from the Island.
A lot of philatelists look down on philatelic covers. In fact, after one of my first displays, I was criticised for including so much philatelic mail. At this point I did consider not doing any more displays, but being stubborn and pig-headed, I prevailed.
I recently purchased an excellent book, ‘Operation Tabarin 1943-5 And Its Postal History’ by Gerry Pearce, 2018. Operation Tabarin was set up to occupy bases in Antarctica during World War II to stop the Germans using the Antarctic as a base for their ships and also to show Argentina and Chile we were still serious about our possessions in Antarctica. In the book there are details of how overprinted stamps were to be used to establish proof of our occupation. Letters were written in London to be cancelled in the bases and sent to addresses in the UK, the Commonwealth and the Americas. The instructions clearly stated that these letters were to be posted over a period of months, not sent in one batch. In this way, the British Government could show a long-term commitment and occupancy in the Antarctic. The instructions also make it clear that mail addressed to the UK and Commonwealth should be sent on to London after it had been received at its intended address.
Operation Tabarin Mail attracts high prices for dealers and at auction. There was a finite amount of it produced during the two years and collectors value it highly. There are two types of mail available: mail sent by members to family and friends, and mail prepared in London before the Operation set off. The latter is the more abundant, but surely this is philatelic material? Though the vast majority of the letters will have the correct postage and look like commercial mail, it was made up for other purposes. I have several pieces of mail from the Tabarin period, all of which are definitely philatelic as per Figures 1 to 3. The great thing about advice is that you can take it or leave it, whichever suits you best.
Fig 2 Fig 3
There were just 33 designs of illustrated telegrams, each by a different artist. The telegrams were in use from 21 July 1925 to 30 April 1984. As they were produced in Belgium’s two different languages or combinations of the languages and there were frequent reprints, producing possible varieties, there is scope for building up a much larger collection. I have no such aspirations, but what attracted me to this particular telegram, was the fact that the artist, Mark Fernand Severin, was well-known for his bookplates and other works, including engraved stamps.
Below are just a few of the stamps engraved by Severin:
Notts Scout and Guide Christmas Posts Update- Sandra Poole Our nearest Notts-run Christmas posts have been operating as usual this season, although profits from the one in Bingham were down again this Christmas, to £172.55 from £206.40 the year before. It seems that there are plenty of young boys wanting to join the Scouts there, but not enough volunteers coming forward. The Bingham stamp design shown here has been in use since 2015.I don’t know what happened to my copy- it looks pretty worn out, although it was probably fine when affixed to the envelope. The Keyworth stamp was issued in 2016 and leftover copies have been put into use again this year. There was another new stamp in 2017 and it will be interesting to see if there are leftovers of that in use next year. The Radcliffe stamp has been in use since 2012.
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