Thursday, December 29, 2011

Diekirch to Serang in 1900; Luxembourg-Gare to Matadi in 1901; Vianden to Puerto Principe (Cuba) in 1896



Serang, Indonesia (47 miles west of Jakarta)

The G.D. Adolphe postal stationery provides a rich range of uses, much to the postal historian’s delight. 

The first of the three Adolphe postal stationery issues was valid from May 4, 1895 until the end of 1908.  During this period, postcard and postal card use reached its zenith, providing a popular economical medium for personal and business communication. 

Happily, the Adolphe cards, now over 100 years old, remain plentiful.  There are no records of how many were printed.  You’ll find a few with scarce cancels, others with interesting uprated uses, and some to exotic destinations, as shown by the three cards below, occasionally for only a few dollars or euros (depending on the seller’s acumen!). 

So keep your eyes open at the bourses and on the web.  Luxembourg’s neo-classical postal stationery is still underpriced and underappreciated, but that might change!


5c Adolphe stationery (1st series)
Uprated UPU use from Diekirch in 1900
to Serang, Indonesia


Diekirch, 21 Aug 1900

Luxembourg-Gare, 21 Aug 1900

Postagent Penang [Malaya], 17 Sep 1900

Singapore, 19 Sep 1900

Weltevreden, Netherlands East Indies, 24 Sep 1900

Serang, Netherlands East Indies, 24 Sep 1900



*   *   *



Matadi, near the mouth of the Congo river,
just upstream from Banana and Boma

5c Adolphe stationery (1st series)
Uprated UPU use in 1901 to
Matadi, Belgian Congo


Luxembourg-Gare, 3 Jul 1901
Written at Mamer, showing the cachet of
Bois-J.B. Pl

Matadi, Belgian Congo, 26 (?) Aug 1901



*   *   *


Camagüey [formerly Puerto Principe], in central Cuba

10c Adolphe stationery (1st series) 

UPU use from Vianden in 1896
to Puerto Principe [now: Camagüey], Cuba


Vianden, 20 Aug 1896

Havana, Cuba [b/s], 2 Sep 1896



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Luxembourg airmail within Europe: May 1, 1939 to the October 1, 1940 required use of Reichmark franking


Effective May 1, 1939, foreign (Belgian, French or German) franking was no longer required to pay international airmail supplements on airmail originating from Luxembourg. 

And, according to the Basien-Hoffkamp rate book at p. 173, from that date forward there were only two rates for airmail to other European countries:

  • 50c per 20g for letters to Germany, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland
  • 75c per 20g for letters to all other European countries

The first two covers illustrate these rates.  The rating of the third is a mystery.

Airmail to France
24 Jul 1939

50c airmail supplement



Luxembourg-Ville, July 24, 1939, to Nice, France, July 26, 1939, properly rated at the 20g letter rate to France (1.25F) plus a 50c airmail supplement.

Censored Airmail to Finland
31 Jan 1940

75c airmail supplement



Luxembourg-Ville, January 31, 1940, routed via the Netherlands and Sweden, from the Finnish consulate in Luxembourg, censored in Finland, with February 1, 1940 Brussels transit and February 6, 1940 Helsinki backstamps.

The cover is properly rated at the 20g UPU letter rate (1.75F) plus a 75c airmail supplement.

Officially Resealed Airmail to Italy
13 May 1939

Rate ???



Luxembourg-Gare, May 13, 1939 (less than two weeks since the abolition of the foreign-stamp surcharges), routed in manuscript “Via Cologne,” to Merano, Italy, May 17, 1939, with a strip of four official seals reading “Amministrazione delle Regie Poste,” each dated May 17th [Drummond Type OS2].

Here the franking totals 3.75F.  As a 20g UPU letter, 2.50F would have paid postage and the airmail supplement, with the letter overfranked by 1.25F.  As a 20-40g UPU letter, 4.25F franking would have been required [1.75F + 1F + 75c + 75c], leaving the letter underpaid by 50c. 

Is the letter incorrectly franked?  Somebody must know, and I hate to describe a lovely cover as “misfranked.”

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A heavy registered 1901 mourning cover (and a more frugal example), an official registered mourning cover, a registered incoming mourning cover, and one with insufficient postage


Mourning cover collectors have never agreed on the significance, if any, of the width of the covers’ black borders, but they all agree that registered mourning covers are unusual and scarce.

Consider this big guy:



The cover measures 140x218 mm.; the front borders are a robust 25 mm. wide! 

Endorsed “75 gr,” the cover pays the 5th step letter rate to Germany (25c/15g x 5 = 1.25F) plus a 25c registry, with the 1.50F total charge nicely paid with the 50c and 1F Adolphe definitives.

But putting those details aside, the interesting question this cover raises is why the sender—J. Bunsen-Knaff—sent it by registered mail, replete with four wax seals.  Perhaps because the addressee--Philipp Bunsen--in Hannover, Germany, probably was a relative?  Posted from Luxembourg-Ville, October 28, 1901, it arrived the next day, as shown by the backstamp.

Mourning covers offer a lot of postal history and genealogical appeal.  You can learn much more about mourning covers at , which web address will take you to the website of the Mourning Stamp and Cover Club.

Another Example of Wide Borders

Here is another mourning cover with even slightly wider borders.  But it is of especial interest for another reason--because it unfolds to reveal the identity of the person being mourned.



Posted from Luxembourg-Ville, March 27, 1933, to Göppingen, Germany, the cover mourns Benjamin Bonn, an attorney who died on March 25, 1933, and who was interred in the Jewish Cemetery at Luxembourg Belle-Vue on March 28, 1933. 

Unlike the registered cover, this cover was sent at the frugal 35c rate for printed matter to Germany not exceeding 50g!






Registered Mourning Cover from the Royal Residence at Colmar-Berg in 1912 sent to Bavarian royalty in Munich






Registered official mail from the royal residence at Colmar-Berg franked with the 50c William IV official, posted June 24, 1912 to Munich, Germany, and is backstamped Munchen, June 25, 1912.

The addressee is Nelly von Schmidt, who was the maid of honor to Countess Mathilde Trani (as indicated in the second line of the address).  Nelly von Schmidt died in 1919; Mathilde Trani in 1925.  They were buried in the same crypt at Waldfried in Munich.

The cover is also interesting because it was sent just 12 days after Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde became of age on her 18th birthday.  It is endorsed in purple:  “Service de la Grand Duchesse.”

In whose hand was the letter addressed?  And who was being mourning?



Registered incoming mourning cover
from Bavaria in 1919




Ruchheim, Bavaria, October 14, 1919, with backstamps of Bad Dürkheim, October 15th, and Luxembourg-Ville, October 17th, addressed to Luxembourg-Limpertsberg.

A 1912 Mourning Cover from Luxembourg
to Germany with postage due!




This mourning cover, franked only with a 10c G.D. William IV definitive, was posted from Luxembourg-Ville, September 26, 1912, to Osnabrück, Germany, short-paid by 2½ centimes (the 20g letter rate to Germany at the time being 12½c).  The cover is marked “T” in blue crayon, has been handstamped “PORTO” (probably in Germany), and has the deficiency indicated in pencil.

Mourning covers with postage due assessed are even scarcer than registered mourning covers.  This might partly be explained by the reluctance of postal clerks to tax covers bringing bad news!  But that wasn’t the case in this instance.



Friday, December 09, 2011

Is this scarce 5-franc stamp in your collection?



See my December 8, 2011, post on “The 1925 5-franc ‘Police des Estrangers’ (Foreign Registration) stamp” at .

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Echternach’s Postbox Cancels—the Consdorf ‘W’ on a postal card written at Breidweiler in 1883 (post updated)




Most of Luxembourg’s neo-classical postal stationery—beginning with Enschede’s mass printing of the 5c and 10c twelfth Arms issue in 1880 [Prifix 39 & 40]—is very common.   Yet, dealers often price it at five or ten dollars a card, apparently thinking that anything from Luxembourg is or must be scarce.  Nonetheless, I always inspect these offerings, hoping against hope to find something unusual and interesting. 

Such was the case recently when I viewed a dealer’s web offerings of mostly valueless neoclassics.  There, along with three other cards in a small lot, was the card shown below, written at Breidweiler, February 2, 1883, with the ‘W’ postbox cancel associated with Echternach, postmarked at Echternach that day:




Francis Rhein, writing in The Postal History of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (1941), refers to this type of cancel as a “majuscule.”  He notes that these majuscules were rural control marks used by mail carriers who collected mail from small communities that did not have a post office.  According to Rhein, the canceller was attached to the interior of the rural mail box.     Thus, I prefer calling Rhein’s majuscules “post box” cancels.  He  depicts Echternach’s ‘W’ at page 114 of his book. 

Presumably the function of the post box cancels was to document the origin of mail deposited in rural post boxes although I’ve never been entirely clear on that point.

N. Poos, writing in Die Post des Groβherzogtums Luxemburg (1950) at p. 418, also refers to these cancels as “majuscules” and offers this historical note:

A partir de 1836 (date de l’introduction des tournées rurales sous le régime belge), les facteurs ruraux devaient prendre sur leur part comptable l’empreinte de la dite letter, qui servait donc à controller la levee régulière des boîtes. C’est au moyen de la meme empreinte qu’ils pouvaient oblitérer les timbres-poste appliqués sur des correspondances qu’ils avaient retirees de la boîte et qui étaient encore à distribuer dans la meme tournée.

And he provides a list of these rare control marks authored and published by A. Ungeheuer in 1946.  In that list, ‘W’ is associated with Tuntange, Ansembourg, and Echternach. 



Breidweiler in the Echternach Canton,
Consdorf Commune 

Although I’ve searched relentlessly since the 1950s for unusual markings on the neo-classical postal stationery, I’ve only discovered two other cards with a post box cancel.  But that’s the challenge factor of Luxembourg philately.  When you stop looking at common (but often overpriced) Luxembourg postal cards from the 1880s, that’s when you might be missing a chance to make a memorable discovery! 


The extraordinarily knowledgeable Luxembourg philatelist, Dieter Basien, has kindly provided a map showing the venues at which post box mail was collected and routed to the Echternach post office and the post box cancels for each postbox:


Source:  ECHTERNACH 698-1998, Cercle Philatélique Echternach, 57. Journée du Timbre 1998.

The map shows that the ‘W’ post box cancel was assigned to the Consdorf post box.  This is consistent with the fact that the postal card was written at Breidweiler, which is located in the Consdorf commune.  

Dieter also provides this chart:



Certainly these post box cancels are among the most exotic Luxembourg postal markings.  So be vigilant; one might be reposing in that box of common postal stationery that you never look at or bother to organize!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Double Invalidity


An exhibit of invalid Luxembourg frankings would leave most philatelic judges stupefied.  How would they assess the philatelic significance of such material?  Would they consider all such uses to be “philatelically contrived?” And what criteria would they apply to the “challenge factor?” 

Consider that finding invalid Luxembourg frankings is much more difficult than finding multiples of Luxembourg #1 on cover, and philatelic knowledge is more useful than a plump bank account.  But as we should know, philatelic judging is subjective; the equal interval point scale used at the FIP level is illusory.  It makes a mockery of the logic of measurement.  So don’t necessarily expect to be rewarded with medals when you discover these rarities!  Sadly, they are elusive but little appreciated.

After more than 50 years of sniffing through dealers’ junk boxes, my album of invalid uses is still pretty thin.  Here is the only example I’ve found of double invalidity:



20c Luxembourg Arms postal card used with a
5+5-pf German Württemberg Arms semipostal,
posted within Germany, July 15, 1927

Luxembourg postal stationery, regardless of validity, of course could not be used within another country.  Even the reply cards from double cards had to be returned to their country of origin.  But what about the German semipostal stamp?  It was issued on December 1, 1926; however, it was only valid until June 30, 1927.  Here it is used 15 days too late, on July 15, 1927.  Thus, both the Luxembourg postal stationery imprint and the German semipostal stamp are invalid, albeit for different reasons. 

Kudos to the sharp-eyed German postal clerk in Karlsruhe who taxed the card double the German domestic postcard rate and marked off both the stamp and the stationery imprint as invalid!


Friday, October 14, 2011

Mysterious Green Labels on WWI Official Mail to the International Red Cross Prisoners-of-War Agency from the Luxembourg Red Cross Society





Mail to the Red Cross Prisoners-of-War Agency in Geneva

Registered letter from the Luxembourg Government Information Office [the “Renseignements” or “Amtliche Auskunftsstelle”], Luxembourg Red Cross Society, to the Agence des Prisonniers de Guerre of the Comité International de la Croix Rouge (the “AIPG”), in Geneva, Switzerland, with Luxembourg-Ville IV cds, August 17, 1915, and Trier censorship, backstamped at Geneva, August 21, 1915. 

The 12½c, 15c, and 37½c GD William IV official stamps pay 40c UPU postage for a 20-40g letter plus the 25c registry fee.

But what additional meaning does the mysterious green label provide?  Was it applied by the AIPG in Geneva?  For what purpose?  Without answers to these questions, the cover’s postal history will remain incomplete.

The label is perforated on the left hand side.  The number ‘38,’ the letter “B,” and the name ‘Melle Ch. Lachenae’ have been added in manuscript.

The International Prisoners of War Agency

Wikipedia tells us that the AIPG was a service of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and was founded in 1914. During World War I, the AIPG established an office in Geneva at the Rath museum for a finding prisoners and displaced people of all nationalities (even though there was no convention protecting civilians at the time). It allowed them to contact their families and send mail and parcels, bypassing barriers between warring countries.



AIPG at the Rath Museum

The images below show the AIPG’s typing and file rooms, which employed about 100 persons around 1918.  Notice the extensive card files in the second image. During the war, according to Wikipedia, the war the Agency prepared 4,805,000 index cards and dispatched 1,854,914 parcels and consignments of collective relief.






Another Example




Here the green label appears with the letters ‘E F/E’ added in typescript.  This triple-weight (40-60 g) cover was posted on May 19, 1915.  The 5c Arms and 50c GD William IV officials correctly pay the 55c postage.

Surely those of you familiar with the International Red Cross can explain the use of these distinctive green labels!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The ‘Paderborn Puzzler’



in East Westphalia, Germany

Although I’ve collected Luxembourg postal stationery for more than a half century, I’m amazed at how frequently I still find new material that belies easy explanation.  Consider this card:



Yes, it’s the August 1879 10-centime German treaty rate and UPU-rate card from the 10th Arms Issue, which appeared in August 1879 and is easily identified by the elongated P of POSTALE and POSTKARTE in the third text line[Prifix & FSPL Handbook No. 35] .  But here it has been commercially used from  Paderborn, a university town in East Westphalia, Germany.  The Paderborn cds is dated September 11, 1882.  The card is addressed to the Breisdoff bookstore in Luxembourg-Ville (a business that saved many fine incoming postal stationery cards!), and backstamped at Luxembourg, 
September 13, 1882.

I suppose I should attribute this unusual use simply to postal clerk compliance and be done with it.  But the German postal clerks of this era seldom failed to tax improper uses of stamps or stationery. 

Therefore, an alternate explanation might be that the postal clerk mistook this card for the reply card of the double card from this issue [Prifix & FSPL Handbook No. 36].  The design is similar, featuring the distinctive elongated P’s, as seen in the example below.




Le Havre, France, November 24, 1886,
to Luxembourg-Ville the next day

Saturday, September 24, 2011

1919 Money Letter to Germany – Why was it inadmissible?





Wecker, 6 Jun 1919, to Trier, Germany

The postal history of Luxembourg during and shortly after World
War I is still poorly understood by many collectors, largely because it has been inadequately documented.  It could easily be the subject of an award-winning tome.  Here is an illustrative example.

This is a front from a 10,000-franc money letter posted from Wecker to Germany in June of 1919.  It was returned with a rectangular ‘Retour/Zurück’ handstamp and ‘non-admis’ in purple manscript.  Why?

Nicely franked with the 5c, 40c, 1F, and 2½F definitives, the rate presumably is 30c for a 20-250g letter to Germany, 25c registry fee, and 10c/300F money letter fee (10,000F/300F = 34 x 10c = 3.40 F), totaling 3.95 F.  (The Basien-Hoffkamp rate book shows the 5c/300F fee still in effect; either the ratebook is wrong or the Wecker postal clerk mis-rated this money letter.)

Duchscher & Company in Wecker has provided us with many well-franked commercial covers.  Some of the early Duchscher air mail covers are truly spectacular.   But this 1919 money letter front needs further explanation before it can take an honored place in my WWI postal history collection.  Can you help?