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
 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:




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.



Updated Postal Stationery Master List (Excel spreadsheet)






STAMP ON STAMP POSTAL STATIONERY: envelopes, air letter sheets, postal cards, etc, that in addition to have government imprinted or embossed stamps, show on the design or cachet a recognizable or pseudo stamp


DATES given (Year / Month / Day) are the first day or year of issue




A Aerogramme

AL Air Letter Card/Sheet

APC Air Postal Card

APPC Air Picture Postal Card

E Envelope

E/CD Envelope with Card

LC Letter Card/Sheet

OA Official Aerogramme

OE Official Envelope

OL Official Letter

PC Postal Card

PPC Picture Postal Card

RE Registered Envelope

RL Registered Letter




The face value of the item ,or

ppd Prepaid (item that does not show a denomination)




SD Imprinted Stamp Design (Indicium): usually on upper right corner of item

C Cachet (left corner of item). Reverse (verso) of item in some cases




Numbers and types are from Scott Catalogue if not otherwise mentionned

H & G Higgins & Gage World Postal Stationery Catalogue Numbers

Mi Michel catalogue

(d)                                      Modified design of recognizable stamp such as no denomination, changed denomination or other changes that still make identification possible

(h) Hologram