Sunday, January 29, 2006

Precursor to the 1915 G.D. Marie-Adélaïde Officials!

Grand Duke William IV’s reign ended upon his death on February 25, 1912. The crown passed to then-princess Marie-Adélaïde, the eldest of his six daughters, who acceded to the throne when she came of age on her eighteenth birthday, June 14, 1912. During the intervening period, her mother, Marie-Anne, continued to serve as regent, as she had since November 13, 1908, when G.D. William IV became incapacitated.

The G.D. William IV official definitives, which had been surcharged officiel in 1908 for government use [Prifix No. 102-113], continued to be used until 1915, when the similarly-surcharged Marie-Adélaïde definitives [Prifix No. 114-128] were issued.

The G.D. William IV definitives, however, remained valid until March 31, 1921. Covers using the G.D. William IV officials during the reign of G.D. Marie-Adélaïde provide a special challenge for the collector of Luxembourg postal history. (A mixed father-daughter franking would be even more scintillating!) 

The registered cover shown here, endorsed in violet Service de la Grande Duchesse and franked with the 15-centime and 30-centime G.D. William IV officials, was sent by the Grande Duchesse’s chamberlain. It is sealed with the chamberlain’s official embossed seal (inscribed “DER DIENSTTH. KAMMERHERR J.K.H. DER GROSSHERZOGIN VON LUXEMBURG”).

Posted from Luxembourg-Ville on February 28, 1913, the cover is addressed to Monius Pouret, Commissaire Spécial, in Paris, France. From Paris, it was forwarded to the commissioner who was on a mission in Cap-Martin near Menton in the French Department of Alpes-Maritimes.

The backstamp is that of Cabbé-Roquebrune (today the village of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin).

The 45-centime franking pays 20-centime postage for a letter weighing 20 to 40 grams plus the 25-centime registration fee.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

First Day Use of the 17 1/2c Marie-Adélaïde Definitive

To pay new letter and parcel post rates to Germany that had gone into effect in 1916, Luxembourg added 17½-centime and 87½-centime denominations to the Marie-Adélaïde definitive issue on March 1, 1917. The cover shown here was posted on the first day of issue of the 17½-centime Marie-Adélaïde definitive, long before cacheted first day covers came into vogue. It’s addressed to “der firma gebrüder Senf” [the brothers Senf], a well known stamp dealership in Leipzig, Germany, and was censored and passed free at Trier. Sent by Victor Hoffman, 6 rue de l’Arsenal, Luxembourg, the cover is backstamped at Leipzig, March 3, 1917. The 17½-centime definitive pays the 20 g letter rate to Germany that had taken effect on August 1, 1916; the 25-centime definitive pays the registration fee. 

Sometimes what at first glance appears to be a mundane cover with a common franking turns out to be a treasure.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

By Airmail from Cherbourg

Early airmail covers to and from Luxembourg are an interesting field of study, especially for rate afficionados. It was sometimes possible for a letter to travel by air only within the country of origin or only from a foreign point to the destination, or both.

The registered cover shown above originated in New York, NY, June 19, 1937, and was sent to Europe by surface transportation. However, since it was endorsed Via AIR-MAIL from Cherbourg, when it reached the French port of Cherbourg (probably by ferry from Portsmouth, England), it was transported by air to Luxembourg-Ville (or perhaps Paris or Brussels, as regular airmail service from Luxembourg had not yet been established), and was received in Luxembourg on June 28, 1937. 

Assuming a letter of not more than ½ oz., the 23 cents postage paid the following charges:
  • .05 Surface letter to Europe

  • .15 International registry fee

  • .03 Airmail surcharge within Europe (per 1/2 oz.)

Avis de Reception Documentation

We occasionally see registered international mail endorsed “A.R.” or “Avis de Réception,” indicating the sender’s request that the delivery office return a receipt documenting delivery of the item. This service became available from the inception of the Treaty of Berne in 1875. What we seldom see, however, is the card with which delivery of the item was documented, and what we almost never see is the related receipt the sender received for the registered item. Here are examples of both.

The sender’s receipt documents registry of Article No. 842 at the Evanston, Illinois post office on August 25, 1926, payment of the 15-cent registry fee, and that the sender requested a return receipt (purple single line endorsement: AVIS DE RECEPTION).

The back of the return receipt card shows the letter’s arrival at Luxembourg-Ville, September 4, 1926, and its arrival at the delivery office, Dommeldange [Eich], on the ensuing Monday, September 6, 1926. On the same day, the addressee signed the card, acknowledging receipt of the registered letter. The front of the card shows that it was returned that same day from Dommeldange back to Chicago, Illinois. 

Friday, January 20, 2006

Special Post-WWII Rates to the Belgian Congo

Following WWII, special treaty rates continued to be applied to mail to the Belgian Congo. They were discontinued when Belgian Congo gained independence on July 1, 1960, after which the general UPU rates applied to mail to the former Belgian Congo. The post-WWII rates provide a special challenge for the collector of modern-era postal history--a field that is yet to be fully exploited. 

This five-gram airmail cover posted in 1945 from Luxembourg-Ville to Leopoldville-Kalina illustrates the six-franc, five-gram airmail surcharge (April 6, 1945 to January 4, 1947) and the three-franc, 20-gram letter rate (October 1, 1945 to January 1, 1946), with postage paid by a five-franc 1944 Charlotte definitive and the 1.50 and 2.50 franc 1945 Lion definitives.

The four-gram airmail cover shown here illustrates the three-franc, five-gram airmail surcharge (July 1, 1953 to July 1, 1960) and the three-franc, 20-gram letter rate (January 1, 1949 to July 15, 1958), with postage paid by the 6 franc 1946 airmail [Prifix 12]. The cover was posted at the Luxembourg Telegraph Office, April 7, 1955, to Nya-Lukemba, Kivu, Belgian Congo. Backstamps document its arrived at Bukavu, capital of South Kiva, on April 11th and Nya-Lukemba the next day.

Mixed Franking: Treaty to Non-Treaty States

In my last posting, I presented examples of mixed (two-country) frankings that resulted when international reply cards were uprated upon being returned to the country of origin. Mixed frankings also occur when mail to a country enjoying a special treaty rate is forwarded to a non-treaty rate country. The example shown here illustrates this type of mixed franking.

On October 1, 1902, a special five-centime treaty rate for postcards sent from Luxembourg to Germany took effect, while the ten-centime UPU rate remained in effect for postcards sent to France. This privately printed commercial postcard was posted from Wecker, Luxembourg, on November 5, 1903, properly franked with a five-centime Adolphe definitive. However, upon arrival at Inglange [post Diesdorf] in the then-German Lorraine, it was forwarded to Bellac in the Haute Vienna Department of France. Since the rate from Luxembourg to France was 10 centimes, the deficiency was made up with a five-pfennig Germania definitive. The backstamp shows that the card was received on November 8, 1903 in Bellac, Haute Vienne, France. Forwarding within the UPU was free only if the initial franking satisfied the UPU rate, as this card nicely illustrates

Thursday, January 19, 2006

International Reply Cards Returned With Mixed Franking

Postal cards with a paid reply were introduced to the international mails by the UPU Congress held in Lisbon in 1885. Sometimes called “double” or “message-reply” cards, they are the bete noire of postal stationery collectors, especially those who aspire to exhibit internationally.

UPU members were not obligated to issue reply-paid postal cards, but they were required to return reply-paid cards received from other UPU countries. The reply card of a message-reply card could only be returned to its country of origin. Privately printed reply-paid cards were also permitted, provided that the country of origin allowed them and they conformed in shape and thickness with the postal cards issued by the country of origin. In practically every case, the reply-paid card cost double the price of the corresponding single card. Where a reduced or treaty rate existed between two countries, the reply-paid card rate was similarly reduced. Both the message card and reply card were to be fully prepaid at the time of mailing; otherwise, they were not to be dispatched. Printing of text by the sender on the back of the reply card, such as a questionnaire to be filled out by the addressee, was permitted. International reply-paid postal card service was discontinued by the Tokyo UPU Congress in November, 1969, effective July 1, 1971.

Given these parameters, how then would it have been possible for cards to be returned with mixed franking (i.e., franking of the both the origin and destination countries)? The examples below demonstrate that such mixed franking indeed did occur and that when it did, no penalty was assessed.

Example 1: Luxembourg-France-Luxembourg (1900)

The 6-centime reply card seen here from Luxembourg’s Second Arms Issue 6-centime+6-centime message-reply card [Prifix No. 6] paid the special treaty rate to Germany when it was issued in 1874, 11 years before international reply-paid postal cards were introduced into the UPU. However, it was not used until August 22, 1900, when it was returned from Paris, France to Diekirch via Luxembourg-Gare on August 23rd. By that time, a uniform ten-centime UPU postal card rate had gone into effect. Consequently, the sender added a French four-centime Allegory stamp to up-rate the card to the then current ten-centime rate!

Example No. 2: Luxembourg-France-Luxembourg

Reply card from the five-centime G.D. William IV message-reply card [Prifix 55] up-rated to ten-centimes with a French five-centime Allegory adhesive and returned from Tours-Gare, France, March 18, 1898 to Luxembourg-Ville, March 19, 1898.

Example 3: Austria-Luxembourg-Austria (1909)

The five-heller Austrian reply card [Michel No. P198] seen here was returned from Wecker, Luxembourg, on May 18, 1909, when Austria’s UPU rate was ten hellers. To make up the deficiency, a five-centime Luxembourg Écusson definitive [Prifix No. 92] was added, and the card returned to Vienna, Austria, without penalty.

Example 4: Luxembourg-Germany-Luxembourg (1912)

The five-centime reply card seen here from Luxembourg’s 20th century Écusson issue [Prifix No. 64] was returned from Trier, Germany, September 17, 1912, to Mondorf-les-Bains, Luxembourg, the following day. Since a ten-centime treaty rate had been in effect since 1902 from Luxembourg to Germany, a five-pfenning German adhesive was added, and the card was returned without penalty.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Luxembourg at the 1876 US Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia


On May 10, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant, with Dom Pedro II, the Emperor of Brazil, in attendance, opened the great international exhibition held in Philadelphia to celebrate the centennial year of American independence. The exhibition halls and grounds encompassed 21 acres. The largest hall—the Main Exhibition Building—displayed new inventions, including the first typewriter, the electric light, and the telephone. Some 8,000,000 people visited the exhibition, which ran for six months during an era in which the population of the United States was only 40,000,000.

In 1874, at the direction of Congress and pursuant to a presidential proclamation, foreign nations were invited to participate in the exhibition. The exhibits of the 50 nations that participated, including Luxembourg, were housed in the Main Exhibition Building (seen above), where the average total exhibition staff numbered 10,000 workers. 


This cover from the Commission of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is one of only two reported examples of mail from Luxembourg’s commission. It presumably was written by F. Berger, the Grand Duchy’s commissioner.

The three-cent U.S. Centennial postal stationery envelope showing the Commission’s corner card is uprated by a two-cent Jackson banknote definitive to pay the 5-cent UPU 1 oz. letter rate. The cover was posted from Philadelphia, December 26, 1876 (the month after the exhibition closed) to Paris, France [blue double circle receiver, January 8, 1877. Another Philadelphia cancel ties the 2c stamp to the envelope indicia but is faint and unreadable.].

The 3c Plimpton Exposition envelopes were printed on the Exposition grounds for sale to visitors. The 5c red Exposition envelope (seen on the cover below) could be purchased at the Exposition, but they were not printed on the grounds.

Bomar’s treatise on United States exhibition postal history features a similar cover (shown below). It is in the same handwriting but on the 5c red Centennial envelope, addressed to Liége, Belgium, with the exhibition postmark dated November 23, 1876, and a red New York transit dated November 25th.


William J. Bomar’s Postal Markings and Postal History of United States Expositions, 3rd edition revised and updated by David Savadge, published in 2007 on CD-ROM. Bomar died in 1996.

Bomar notes that advertising covers and corner cards from the 1876 Centennial Exhibition “are quite collectible” and “greatly enhance a collection of Centennial postal markings and postal history.”


In the 1920s saving a few centimes had meaning, as this advertising postcard that I recently acquired nicely illustrates.

Posted on January 9, 1925, from Molsheim, a town in the Alsace, the card was sent as printed matter (Imprimé) franked with a French 10-centime Pasteur definitive [Scott No. 185] and addressed to Ettelbrück in Luxembourg's Ardenne. Upon arrival on January 10, 1925, it was taxed 30 centimes for being underfranked (probably the printed matter postcard rate had recently increased to 15 centimes), and a 30-cent postage stamp was affixed and cancelled prior to delivery [Prifix No 14]. The amount of the deficiency is not indicated, but at the time UPU regulations provided that such a deficiency was to be doubled, with a minimum tax of 6 cents. When delivery was attempted, the recipient (perhaps noticing that it was just an advertisement) refused to pay the tax, as the postman has noted in manuscript at the upper left. Since the tax could not be collected, it was cancelled by application of the red oval DÉBOURSÉ marking (shown below), after which the card was returned to the sender as shown by the blue crayon notation "retour."

Upon its return to Molsheim on January 12, 1925, the French postal service reimposed the 30-centime tax as evidenced by the 30-centime French postage due adhesive [Scott No. J34], which it presumably collected from the sender when the card was returned. The card (shown below) has a visual appeal that complements the postal history it exudes. The red DÉBOURSÉ mark and the red French postage due stamp are seen at the top center "framed" by the green Luxembourg postage due stamp on the left and the green French definitive on the right.

More examples of the use of the DÉBOURSÉ marking are shown in an article I wrote for Castellum a couple years ago: "Use of the Oval Déboursé Marking on Mail with Postage Due that the Addressee Refused or that was Otherwise Undeliverable," Vol. 7, No. 1 (June 2003), pp. 2-6. Castellum is the quarterly journal of the Luxembourg Collectors Club (

Friday, January 13, 2006

Postal Cards Posted from Remich on March 15, 1881 to Bermuda and Madeira!

Today I was thinking about why there is a paucity of classic Luxembourg postal cards used to non-European destinations. Consider the following.

The classic period begins, of course, in September 1870 with the first formular card [Prifix I, Ia & Ib]. It ends, in my view, with the last of the twelve Coat of Arms issues [Prifix No. 39-42] in 1880 and 1881. In 1874, the government authorized Pierre Bruck, the local printer and newspaper editor, to print the Grand Duchy's first postal cards, a five-centime and a six-centime card [Prifix No. 1 & 2], each in a quantity of 3,000. Only six years later, after eleven successive Coat of Arms issues--all of which appeared in small printings and were produced using type hand-set in Bruck's printing shop--the government contracted with Enschede in Holland to print 430,000 five-centime cards and 380,000 ten-centime cards for a country whose population at the time was only about 200,000. The five-centime card paid the domestic postal card rate; the ten-centime card paid the UPU rate as well as the special rates to neighboring Belgium, France and Germany.

Uses of the first eleven Coat of Arms issues [Prifix No. 1-38] to non-European destinations are great rarities. Many of these cards were purchased by collectors and never used; most of the others were used domestically or to Luxembourg's three neighboring countries as the Grand Duchy had not yet become the cosmopolitan country it is today. In fact, Luxembourg-Ville, the capital and largest city, in 1880 had a population of only about 20,000. This situation changes dramatically, however, with Enschede's mass production of the ten-centime card for the twelth Coat of Arms issue [Prifix No. 40] and the concurrent increase in the use of postal stationery in Luxembourg and throughout Europe. (In contrast, Enschede printed only 2,000 of the 10c+10c double card [Prifix No. 42], making any postal use of the double card, which the UPU apparently required each country to issue, a rarity!)

So, as I was perusing a new acquisition, No. 40 used to Madeira, I noticed that it had been posted from Remich, a small wine-making town on the Luxembourgish Moselle, on March 15, 1881. Something seemed faintly familiar about this card. First, I thought it was the destination, but when I checked my collection, my only other use to Madeira was on a later-issued Allegory card. Then, upon reviewing the examples in my classic postal stationery exhibit, I discovered that I had a much-prized use to Bermuda (purchased many years ago) that had been posted on the same date from Remich! And upon examining the messages on these cards, I immediately noticed that they had been written by the same writer.

Here is the card to Bermuda that I acquired many years ago.

It's addressed to the General Postmaster of Bermuda Islands, Esq., at Hamilton, Bermuda Islands America via Southhampton from Remich on March 15, 1881, and on the back shows a London transit, March 17th, and a Hamilton, Bermuda, receiver on April 13, 1881. The message, written in English, reads:

Metz, Germany, Europe
Place de Chambre 15
March 9th, 1881


You would do me a great favour, if you had the friendship, to give this post-card to an officer of the post or any other gentleman having a collection of post-stamps.

This gentlemen would oblige me very much by sending me in exchange a post-card of Bermuda Islands. In case, that he should like to exchange post-stamps of Germany, Barvaria, Wurtemburg, Luxemburg, France or other European states against the stamps of his country or the neighbourhood, I beg him to note on the card those stamps he likes to have.

Believing German post-cards not rare at Hamilton I took a post-card of the neighbouring Grand Duche of Luxemburg.

With the greatest respect 

F. Enneicevus
Captain of the 29th Regiment of Infantry

The newly arrived card seen below was sent by the same writer to the Postmaster at Funchal, Madeira, Africa via Lissabon, from Remich on March 15, 1881, transited at Avricourt in Paris and thereafter in Lisbon on March 21st, arriving in Funchal on April 25, 1881 [backstamp]. The message, this time written in Portuguese, is similar in content to the message on the card to Bermuda.

What we do not know is whether the German army captain wrote cards on that March day in 1881 in Remich to postmasters general in any other countries. Are there still surviving out there cards to St. Pierre & Miquelon or, perhaps, Guatemala? Gee, if only these cards could talk!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Special Rate to the Saarland: 1949-1958

3-Franc Rate to the Saarland

This seemingly unspectacular cover, franked with the very attractive and scarce 3-franc United Europe stamp [Prifix 447] and posted from Rumelange, April 25, 1952, to Mettlach in the Saarland, arrived in today's mail from an eBay seller in Coventry in the UK. It illustrates an often overlooked special rate.

After WWII, the Saarland came under French Administration. And from 1949 to 1958, 20-g letter post from Luxembourg to the Saarland was charged the letter post rate to France (3 francs) rather than the higher, 4-franc letter post rate to Germany. So if you collect (as I do) sole frankings of this issue (or of other issues during this period), you'll want to include in your modern postal history collection a properly rated cover from Luxembourg to the Saarland. 

The Saarland rejoined Germany on January 1, 1957, but the French franc remained the Saarland's currency, and the 3-franc letter post rate from Luxembourg remained in effect, for one more year, until January 1, 1958.

The cover shown below was posted on November 5, 1957, from Remich to Saarbrucken, shortly before the special 3-franc rate ended.  It is nicely franked with the scarce 3-franc 1956 Europa stamp [Prifix 515]. The Remich tourist cancel reads "Le Soleil se Met en Bouteille ala Moselle" [The Sun on the Moselle is Put in the Bottle], reminding the collector of the fine Riesling wines produced by the Luxembourgian vintners along the Moselle. 

Welcome to Luxembourgian Philately


Welcome to what may be the first (and, sadly, just now the only) blog devoted to Luxembourgian philately---meaning philately of the Grand Duchy, its cantons and communes (yes, they've issued stamps, too, albeit revenue stamps), the province of Luxembourg in Belgium, and anywhere or anything else to which the adjective Luxembourgian can be applied! 
Here you can, and I hope you will, unabashedly and informally share your thoughts, fantasies and experiences as a collector of things both Luxembourgian and philatelic.  Moien!