Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Comment on Post-WWII Airmail Covers to Asia

Airmail covers from Luxembourg to Asian and Oceanian destinations during the early post-WWII period are remarkably scarce. They are a delight for the rate enthusiast as until May 1, 1996, rates were calculated by adding a country-specific airmail surcharge to the UPU letter rate. Thereafter, the airmail surcharge was simplified by splitting it into just two categories: one for airmail to Africa, the Near and Middle East, Central Asia, and North and Central America; another for South America, the Far East, Australia, New Zealand and Oceania.

The cover shown here was sent from Luxembourg-Ville, March 29, 1958, to Bangkok, Thailand [routed in pencil Via Amsterdam 7-4-58] . At the time, the 20 g UPU letter rate was 4 francs and the airmail supplement per 5 g was 5 francs. Thus, the franking with 6-franc and 3-franc Vianden Castle airmails exactly pays the total charge of 9 francs.

From 1945 through the 1960s, the UPU 20 g letter rate increased from 3.50 francs to 6 francs in three steps; the 5 g airmail supplement to Siam [later referred to in the postal tariffs as Thailand] first increased from 5 to 7 francs, dropped down to 6 francs, again increased to 7 francs, and then levelled out at 5 francs until July 1, 1971, when it decreased to 3 francs. An extended correspondence over this 25-year period would be sure to include many interesting combinations of UPU rates and the airmail supplements specific to Thailand.

Luxembourg's airmail rates were meticulously researched by Fernand Hoffkamp and have been compiled, along with other rates, in Tarife der Briefpost in Luxemburg 1852-2002, co-authored by Hoffkamp with Dieter Basien. This fine rate book is an indispensible research tool and still available from the Luxembourg P&T.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Philatelic Love Story

From the extract, we learn that Jean-Pierre Schmit was a 29-year-old farmer from Hillsboro, Oregon, who was staying in Hostert, and that his war bride was a 21-year-old woman named Marie Beving from the Commune of Troisvierges, who was living in Hollerich.

Since December 1918, Jean-Pierre had been in Luxembourg as a solider with the World War I American Expeditionary Force (AEF) (a "soldat de l’armée américain"). This is not surprising since two divisions of the AEF under Gen. Pershing began entering Luxembourg on November 21, 1918, just ten days after Germany signed the armistice. Along with French troops under Marshall Foch, they remained there well into the next year, throughout a turbulent period during which Luxembourg's political future was decided.

While stationed in Luxembourg, the AEF soldiers (often referred to as "doughboys") gave concerts and put on shows for the public and participated in dances and other social events. Perhaps these provided the occasion for Jean-Pierre and Marie's romance! An account of the life of Paul B. Hendrickson, a typical AEF soldier in Luxembourg, can be found on the Internet at based on his diary entries and some 130 letters and postcards he sent back to the United States between December 1918 and April 1919. Typical is this diary entry on January 9, 1919, the day that a republican revolution had broken out in earnest in Luxembourg-Ville and on which G.D. Marie-Adélaïde announced she would abdicate:

Jan 9 Thur confined today all of company. Haney & chief were in Lux. and saw a great demonstration as today the princess gives up her throne. [Luxembourg is] to be either a republic or annexed to France. So princess and Grande Dutchess Adelaide is now a private person with 150 000 000 marks.

Attached to the extract is a certificate from the American Consular Agency in Luxembourg dated June 26, 1919, which recites:

I, Desire Derulle, American Consular Agent in Luxemburg, G.D. of Luxemburg, do hereby certify that the signature of Mr. NICKELS, Counsellor to the Grand Ducal Government, at the foot of the document hereto annexed is his true and genuine signature.

The United States consular stamp is tied to the certificate by a manuscript signature and the embossed seal of the U.S. Consular Agency in Luxemburg ties the certificate to the extract. According to an article in the Luxembourg News of America (August 1970), Desire Derulle (1876-1926) was a Luxembourger who served as the U.S. Consular Agent in Luxembourg from 1913 to his death in 1926. He was the nephew of Ernest Derulle (1851-1912), who preceded him as the U.S. Consular Agent.

The combined use of revenue stamps from Luxembourg and the United States on a single document provides us with an unusual two-country mixed franking, one which should give jaded postal historians a shot of philatelic viagra, stimulating them to venture into the exciting and unexplored world of fiscal philatelic history!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Centilux "Airmails"

A lot of classic philatelic ground already has been tilled, but the post-WWII era has hardly been touched. In building a comprehensive collection of Luxembourg postal history, postal historians particularly should not overlook commercial uses of the definitive, postage due, commemorative, and semi-postal issues during the period from 1945 up to 1960, when the fifth Charlotte definitive issue appeared. These can be just as challenging as collecting the classics.

For example, consider the five-denomination stamps-on-stamps set shown above, which was issued on May 24, 1952, in a quantity of only 37,416 sets for the Centilux Philatelic Exhibition.. These stamps were only valid for postal use until December 31, 1953—a period of just 586 days. The 8-franc and 10-franc denominations were sold at the Exhibition for an additional 20 francs as part of the admission price. Commercial covers using the two high values are seldom seen, which is not suprising given how contrived their sale was. The three lower values (80¢, 2.50 fr. and 4 fr.), however, were sold at face value and did see some limited commercial use, as shown below. Technically, these are airmail stamps (they are inscribed POSTE AÉRIENNE) and Prifix lists them as such, although they were routinely accepted for and seem designed to serve the then-current surface rates. In addition to covers, Prifix lists five plate varieties for this set, which you also might want to include in your collection.

The five-stamp set posted from the Centilux Exhibition on May 30, 1952, by registered airmail to Bourbon-l'Archambault, France, and received there on June 3, 1952.

Picture postcards, both posted to Germany on
May 29, 1952, from individuals who attended the exhibition. The card on the left shows the 29th of May exhibition cancel; the card below shows the Luxembourg-Ville [J] postcancel on that date. The 2.50-franc Centilux airmail pays the postcard rate.

A 22 g cover charged at the UPU rate of 4 francs for the first 20 g and an additional 2.50 francs for the second 20 g or fraction thereof, posted on August 26, 1952 from the Clervaux [tourist cancel] to Rome, Italy, August 28, 1952, with the 6.50-franc postage paid by a combination of Centilux airmails and Charlotte definitives.

A domestic cover from Luxembourg-Gare, May 18, 1953, to Clausen, franked with a pair of the 80-centime Centilux airmail and a 40-centime Charlotte definitive to pay the two-franc domestic letter rate.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

UPU C.O.D. Service to Hungary (1895) & France (1897)

Collect on Delivery (C.O.D.) service (Nachnahme in German, but properly designated under UPU regulations as Remboursement in French) between the members of the Universal Postal Union was approved at the Vienna UPU Convention in July 1891 and took effect on July 1, 1892. Nineteenth century UPU COD uses from Luxembourg are scarce, even to neighboring Germany with which there was a postal treaty containing special Nachnahme rates.

The example seen above shows an 1895 G.D. Adolphe postal card used for COD service from Luxembourg-Ville to Budapest, Hungary, then part of the Austria-Hungary Empire which was a charter member of the UPU. The five-centime domestic-rate card is uprated with a five-centime definitive to pay the ten-centime UPU postcard rate and a pair of the 12½-centime definitive to pay the 25-centime registry fee. During this era, the recipient was required to pay the ten-centime COD fee.

The seven cancels, two labels, and manuscript indicia tell the story of Luxembourger J.N. Peffer’s efforts to collect a debt of 40 francs from Wilhelm Zanandreo in Budapest, Hungary, thus:

· Luxembourg-Ville V, October 4, 1895 (1:00-2:00 a.m.) [initial postmark]
· Purple Nachnahme label and registry handstamp applied
· Luxembourg-Ville VI, October 4, 1895 (3:00-4:00 p.m.) [second postmark]
· Budapest receiver, October 9, 1895 [third postmark]
· 40 francs converted to 19.23 marks in manuscript
· Budapest Kézbesitö, October 10, 1895 [fourth postmark]
· Nem fogadia el./Refusé sticker [delivery attempted; payment refused]
· Red manscript notation returning card to Luxembourg-Ville
· Budapest departure, October 12, 1895 [fifth postmark]
· Luxembourg-Ville I receiver, November 1895 [sixth postmark]

The example below shows another 1895 G.D. Adolphe postal card used for COD service from Luxembourg-Ville, December 13, 1897, to Valenciennes, France, December 14, 1897, transiting at Givet [small single-circle Givet a Paris 13 Dec 97 cancel]. The five-centime domestic card is uprated with five adhesives. The old 20-centime and four-centime Allegory definitives combine with a four-centime and two one-centime Adolphe definitives to pay the 10-centime postage and 25-centime registry fee. The sum of 5.80 francs was collected from the addressee and is itemized on the card's printed back.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Luxembourg's 1945-46 Provisional Postal Stationery

My in-depth article on and entitled "Luxembourg's 1945-46 Provisional Postal Stationery" recently appeared in Castellum (Volume 9, No. 4 [March 2006]), the quarterly journal of the Luxembourg Collectors Club. The Club's web presence is at:

Other articles I've contributed to Castellum include:
  • "Covers in the Handwriting of Marie-Adélaïde and Charlotte," (co-authored with Gary Little) (Volume 5, No. 1 [June 2001])
  • "Use of the Oval Déboursé Marking on Mail with Postage Due that the Addressee Refused or that was Otherwise Undeliverable," (Volume 7, No. 1 [June 2003])
  • "UPU Use of Luxembourg's 19th Century Domestic Postal Cards Without Supplemental Franking," (Volume 7, No. 2 [September 2003])
  • "The Relative Scarcity of Luxembourg's Commercial Perfins," (Volume 8, No. 1 [June 2004])
  • "Luxembourg's 1878 Surcharged Postal Stationery: A Typology," (Volume 9, No. 3 [December 2005])

Monday, March 20, 2006

Philatelic Diversity

These days we hear a lot from enlightened managers about the benefits of diversity in the workplace. So too with philately--our collections can become so highly specialized that we overlook and don't learn from philatelists with interests that differ from ours. In respect of philatelic diversity, therefore, I want to share with you two postal cards that arrived today, neither of which has any connection with Luxembourgian philately. They are illustrative of the diversity I seek when I have (temporarily) exhausted my appetite for Luxembourg material.

Shown above is a common 3-centavo Guatemalan postal card [PC 6] issued in 1890 in a quantity of 200,000 and used into the 20th century. The four bold, different-colored cancels, nicely struck on the card's face, imbue this card with philatelic character and enable the postal historian to trace its journey from an obscure Guatemalan hamlet to Berlin, Germany, in 1893, thus:

  • "El Porvenir", November 20, 1893 [violet]
  • San Marcos, November 21, 1893 [green transit]
  • Guatemala City, November 25, 1893 [blue transit]
  • Berlin, Germany, December 25, 1893 [black receiver]

Quite a contrast to Luxembourg's single and double circle cancels of the same era, which we might characterize as a bit boring!

The other new arrival is a postal card from Curaçao--an interesting use of the 7½-cent William III card [G8], which was issued in a quantity of only 20,609 on April 1, 1886, and was demonetized on April 15, 1893. As with the Guatemalan card, we see four cancels on the face of the card. The blue cancellation is that of Curaçao, June 14, 1886. The card is addressed to a midshipman (adelborst 1e klasse in Dutch) in Batavia "of elders" (= or elsewhere), Dutch East Indies. It shows a Weltevreden [near Batavia] receiver, August 1, 1886, (not quite as fast as e-mail!); however, the midshipman was at that time in Ternate (in the Moluccas), so we see a handwritten note in pencil "Tromp" (the name of the ship) and "Ternate" (the new destination). There is a Soerabaja transit cancel, August 4, 1886, and finally the Ternate arrival cancel, August 23, 1886, documenting a journey of 70 days--a lot of postal history on the face of a scarce Curaçao postal card!

And the backside reminds us of the frugality of that era--crosswriting!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Revenue Consciousness

From January 1, 1874 to July 1, 1918—nearly a 44-year period—Luxembourg’s domestic postal card rate was five centimes. On July 1, 1918, the rate was increased to 7½ centimes. The five-centime Écusson postal card shown here was posted a day later, on July 2, 1918, from Diekirch to Wiltz, where a revenue conscious postal clerk indicated the deficiency with a handstamped “T” [meaning taxe]. Received at Wiltz the same day, a postal clerk collected the prescribed taxe or penalty—twice the 2½-centime deficiency. Payment of the penalty is evidenced by the five-centime taxe (postage due) stamp that was affixed.

The card to the left shows a similar underfranking nearly two months later. Posted from Remich in the Moselle Valley wine country on August 26, 1918 to Kayl, a small southern village in the iron mining region, where it was received the following day, the underfranked card has been correctly taxed twice the 2½-centime deficiency as evidenced by the five-centime taxe stamp.

Luxembourg did not issue a 7½-centime postal card until April 8, 1919. Consequently, for domestic use users had to uprate the five-centime cards with a 2½-centime adhesive. An uprated example is shown above. Used locally within Luxembourg-Ville on June 3, 1919, the card was uprated with a five-centime adhesive surcharged to 2½ centimes.

Shown above is an example of the 7½-centime postal card issued in 1919 properly used from Luxembourg-Ville to Grevenmacher on March 22, 1920.

The 7½-centime domestic postal card rate remained in effect until April 12, 1920, when it was increased to ten centimes. The 7½-centime card above was used from Pétange to Luxembourg-Gare 12 days later on April 24, 1920. As the rate had increased, it was taxed five centimes (the penalty being double the 2½-centime deficiency), with payment of the taxe shown by a five-centime taxe stamp.

The card above, posted from Grevenmacher, January 14, 1920, to Wickrange [post: Dippach] the following day, was also marked with a "T" to be taxed on arrival. However, no taxe or postage due was collected (as shown by the absence of a postage due stamp) because the increase had not yet gone into effect. So how would we explain the erroneous taxe mark? Perhaps the postal clerk in Grevenmacher, seeing the German spelling of Wickrange [Wickringen], thought the card was addressed to a town in Germany, for which the rate at the time would have been ten centimes.

The card above, which was posted from Luxembourg-Ville to Mondorf-les-Bains on April 13, 1920, was used one day after the rate increase took effect and was properly uprated with a 2½-centime adhesive surcharged to five centimes!


During the first half of the 20th century, Luxembourg issued nearly 200 face different postal cards, all of which bear an imprint of the country's Coat of Arms or Écusson. Most can still be obtained at very modest prices, although some of the surcharged viewcards are scarce. In addition to cards showing the postal rates, you will find these cards used to pay special fees (registry, insurance, COD, and special delivery). Of course, as with all Luxembourg postal cards, finding uses to interesting destinations will be challenging. Uses beyond Europe (even to the USA) are uncommon. You will also find varieties--shades, papers and offsets, for example. These cards will also enable you to collect a broad range of cancels and auxiliary marks--single and double circles, bridges with and without bars, AEF and other censor marks, etc. And last, you may even find examples that were chemically painted by censors looking for invisible writing, as the example below shows!

This five-centime card was posted from Luxembourg-Ville, October 31, 1918, to Pozsany, Hungary, just days before the American and French troops liberated Luxembourg. It's uprated with a pair of five-centime adhesives surcharged to 2½ centimes to pay the ten-centime UPU rate. The German censor at Trier [purple circular censor mark] has used a chemical solution to test the card for the presence of invisible writing.

Some would say these Écusson cards are boring or too common to bother with. These collectors lack philatelic knowledge. A fine showing of these cards will enable you to garner a nice award at a local, regional or even a national stamp exhibition!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Esch-sur-Alzette to Singapore in 1879!

Postal cards used from Luxembourg to destinations outside Western Europe prior to 1880 are especially scarce. And cards to Asia and Oceania, in particular, are great rarities, often realizing high prices at auctions. You should keep in mind that Luxembourg's population did not reach 200,000 until 1880, and at that time the population of the capital, Luxembourg-Ville, was only about 20,000. At the same time, Belgium (which is often characterized as a "small" country) had a population of 5,500,000--making it over 27 times more populous than Luxembourg in 1880.
Thus, I was delighted recently to acquire this 1879 ten-centime card [Prifix 32] paying the UPU rate to Singapore, then part of the Straits Settlements, as there surely was little commercial correspondence between Luxembourg and the Straits Settlements in 1879.

Posted from Esch-sur-Alzette, October 5, 1879, the card also bears a November 9, 1879, PENANG AND SINGAPORE arrival cancel on the front and an October 8th Brindisi transit cancel on the back.

This postal card (part of the Ninth Coat of Arms issue) was issued on February 19, 1879, to pay the ten-centime UPU rate that took effect on April 1, 1879. Kaufmann's study identifies five major types and 21 minor types of this card, of which this is Type 1.1, which is identified by the length of the bar under UNIVERSELLE (8 mm.) and a grave instead of an acute accent over the last e of réservè.

Although 56,528 of these cards were issued, uses to interesting destinations are seldom seen. If you can find 100 unpicked used examples of this card, I'd venture that 90 to 95% will turn out to be uses to Germany, and most of the others to Belgium or France. Even uses to other major European countries such as England, Switzerland, Italy or The Netherlands are difficult to find.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

O.A.T. Mail from Luxembourg? Yes, indeed!

Luxembourg aerophilately is a fascinating field full of unsolved mysteries. And one in particular—the scarcity of O.A.T. mail from Luxembourg—continues to evoke my curiosity. Surely somebody in Cyberland will be able to suggest an answer.

O.A.T. is the abbreviation for Onward Air Transmission. Various OAT postal markings are found on airmail that transited through the London foreign section and was to be carried onward by air through a series of intermediate points. According to Murray Heifetz (OAT and AV2 Markings, 2d ed., 2002), OAT markings were used from 1938 to 1974, although most are found on airmail posted during or in the aftermath of WWII.

The cover shown here would be sufficiently interesting simply because it shows a commercial use of the 1945 Thanks to the Allies semi-postal issue (valid only from March 1, 1945 to June 1, 1946), including the 2.50+3.50 fr. and 4.20+4.80 fr. high values. Commercial use of any of these semi-postals is seldom seen. However, what is even more intriguing about this cover is the bold boxed red oval O.A.T. marking, of which I’ve only seen one other example on airmail from Luxembourg.

The cover was posted from Luxembourg-Ville, October 19, 1945, to New York City, New York, USA, with the OAT marking presumably applied as the airmail letter transited through London en route to New York City. In addition to the four 1945 semi-postals, part of the postage is paid by a 10-franc 1944 Charlotte definitive (the high value of that series). At the time, the UPU letter rate was 3.50 fr. for the first 20 g plus an airmail surcharge to the United States of 7.00 fr. per 5 g. Thus the total postage for this six-gram letter amounted to 17.50 fr. The franking, which totals 18.50 fr., overpays that amount by one franc. The address and return address show that the letter was correspondence between members of the Salomon family, who were active in Luxembourg affairs, both in Luxembourg and the United States at the time.

As we frequently see airmail covers emanating from Luxembourg during the post-WWII era, why have I seen only a scant two with an OAT marking?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Almost to Andorra--A tiny cover's three-country journey

Here’s a tiny cover measuring only 3.5 x 2 inches sent unsealed at the five-centime printed matter rate. Initially, it was solely franked with a five-centime Adolphe definitive and posted from Redange-sur-Attert in Luxembourg’s Ardennes on June 22, 1901 to the French Consul, Monsieur le Costé, in Nuremberg, Bavaria. The little envelope probably contained a business or calling card. Its diminutive size, however, belies its substantial postal history content.

At the time (and until mid-1920), Bavaria retained its postal autonomy, even though it had joined the German Confederation in 1870. So when the cover arrived in Nuremburg after Consul le Costé had already moved on, it was forwarded by the Bavarian postal authorities on June 26, 1901, to 7 rue du Puits Chatel in the town of Blois on the lower Loire river in the French Département of Loir-et-Cher in north-central France. (A conscientious Bavarian postal clerk has even noted neatly in German Bitte Rückseite zu beobachten!, admonishing other postal clerks to look at the back side of the cover where the details of the forwarding address had been written.)

Forwarding from Bavaria to France apparently was not free, perhaps because Bavaria had never joined the Universal Postal Union despite retaining its postal autonomy until mid-1920, and long after having joined the German Confederation in 1870. Accordingly, a ten-pfennig and five-pfennig definitive were applied (presumably by the Nuremberg post office) so that the cover could enter the French postal system tax free, after which it went on its way again—with the Bavarian stamps postmarked Nuremberg, June 26, 1901.

The cover arrived in Blois on June 28, 1901, a historic town famous as a favorite residence of French kings and the venue from which Joan of Arc set out to raise siege of Orléans. But the peripatetic French consul had already continued on his journey, no doubt having enjoyed a few glasses of fine Loire Valley wine during his sojourn in historic Blois.

Now the little cover followed the French Consul to the Département of Ariège in the far South of France where the Pyrénées mountains form the border with Andorra and Spain. The transit postmark shows that the cover arrived at Foix, the capital of the Département, on June 29, 1901, en route to the forwarding address—the Chateau de Pevet in tiny La Bastide-de-Sérou—where it arrived later on the same day, finally to be (presumably) united with the addressee, Consul le Costé, about whom I unfortunately have been unable to find any biographic information.

The cover illustrates the richness of postal history, especially at the turn of the 19th century when postal clerks faithfully forwarded mail and mail carriers diligently sought out the recipients. This cover even bears the numerical majuscules of the French delivery clerks who first tried to deliver it in Blois and later delivered it in La Bastide-de-Sérou. Off cover, the three definitives would be valueless; on cover, however, they help us understand and enjoy the sort of journey that delights postal historians!