Monday, December 31, 2012

A WWI Cover with Many Interesting Markings





25c Marie-Adélaïde
Official Franking

Luxembourg-Ville, 28 Aug 1918,

to Geneva, Switzerland




An official letter from the Luxembourg government Service Officiel Renseignements [Information Agency] posted shortly before World War I ended. It was sent to the Red Cross Agency in Geneva, Switzerland, after having been opened and censored by the German military censor in Trier, Germany.

The many markings and notations document the diligent work by the Red Cross to provide information on victims of war.   For more about the Red Cross in World War I, see my post here.

Here are scans of some of the markings:




Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sole Use of the 2½-Fr Marie-Adélaïde Definitive on an International Money Order in 1921!


I never tire of Ferdinand Schirnbock’s master engraving of the vignette of Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde on her 1914 definitives.   So you can imagine my pleasure when I discovered a sole use of the second highest denomination of the set—the 2½ F value, in a South American dealer’s stock.


In 1921, a money order not exceeding 500 francs could be sent to France for a fee of 25 centimes per 50 francs (or fraction thereof) of value.  Thus, this money order for 471.81 francs cost 10 times 25 centimes, the sum exactly equaling  2.50 francs, which was nicely paid by the 2½ F Marie-Adélaïde definitive.  


The French 25-centime service charge to cash the money order is paid by a 25c French Sower definitive.  The box at the lower left indicates that this was just the second money order entered in the Romilly sur Andelle post’s register (presumably for 1921).

Acquiring this gem was fraught with a couple unusual setbacks.

When the money order ostensibly arrived by registered mail, my local post office failed to leave a pickup notice in my post box.  Only several months later when I interrogated the postal clerks did they discover that they had failed to prepare a pickup notice for the letter.

However, that was not the end of the story.  When I opened the registered letter that had been languishing in the Bangkok post office, I found that the South American dealer from whom I had purchased the item had mistakenly sent a set of Austrian proofs, not the international money order!

Happily, after a telephone call to the dealer, the item was found still to be in the dealer’s stock.  I was glad eventually to receive it, and presumably the dealer was happy to have his Austrian proofs back.
Sometimes we sweat bullets waiting for rare items to arrive in the mails.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Unique Specimen Postal Stationery from the Madagascar UPU Archive



Luxembourg postal stationery from the middle period (the Allegory, Adolphe, and modern Arms issues) lacks the printing varieties found on the classic stationery.  However, it is rich in postal history, providing an abundance of rates and markings.  And specimen stationery like that seen below will ensure that your middle-period stationery collection doesn’t become boring.

Madagascar Specimen Stationery


Beginning in the mid-1890s and continuing into the 1920s, the Director of Posts in Madagascar maintained a reference collection of UPU-distributed specimen stamps and postal stationery.  The stationery was glued to folio pages in pairs, which were then tied with a 42 mm. red handstamp reading:

Postes et Telegraphes
Collection de

Each folio page from Madagascar’s archival postal stationery is unique.

Here we see that Madagascar archived five copies each of the 5c single and 5c+5c double Arms issue and three copies each of the 10c single and 10c+10c double Arms issue.

What other Luxembourg postal stationery exists from the Madagascar archive?  And what exists from other archives, such as the Mauritius archive from which material is now on the market? 

Items like this keep philatelic judges awake, even those with diminished vision, but they are not for the budget-minded.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Airmail Immediately After the Mixed-franking Era Up to the May 10, 1940 Occupation


As of May 1, 1939, mixed franking was no longer required on international airmail from Luxembourg.  Covers from that date until the May 10, 1940 German occupation are surprisingly scarce. 

Here are a few of my favorites:

5g Registered Airmail Letter
Via Strasbourg to the USA in 1939


Mersch, 25 Aug 1939
Strasbourg A Belfort TPO, France, 26 Aug 1939
New York, NY USA, 1 Sep 1939
Kew Gardens, NY USA, 2 Sep 1939

 UPU 20g letter rate = 1.75 F
UPU registry fee = 1.75 F.
Airmail supplement per 5g = 3.50 F



3g Airmail Letter
Via Brussels to USA in January 1940


Mersch, 30 Jan 1940
Bruxelles, Belgium, 30 Jan 1940
To New York, NY USA
Forwarded to Goshen, NY USA

UPU 20g letter rate = 1.75 F
Airmail supplement per 5g = 3.50 F




Censored Consular Airmail Letter
Via Brussels to Finland in January 1940


Luxembourg-Ville, 31 Jan 1940
Bruxelles, Belgium [b/s], 1 Feb 1940
Censored in Finland [green rectangle]
Helsinki, Finland [b/s], 6 Feb 1940
Endorsed:  “poste militaire”
Endorsed:  “Via Pay Bas – Suède”
Cachet of the Finnish consulate in Luxembourg

UPU 20g letter rate = 1.75 F
Airmail supplement within Europe = 75c




6g Airmail Letter to USA
May 2, 1940

Posted 8 days before the WWII German occupation;
Received 3 days after the occupation


Luxembourg-Ville, 2 May 1940
Bruxelles, Belgium, 3 May 1940
To Chicago, IL USA
Endorsed:  Par Avion Transatlantic Via Lisbon
Docketed on the back:  13 May 1940

UPU 20g letter rate = 1.75 F
Airmail supplement 3.50 F per 5g = 7.00 F




6g Airmail Letter to Venezuela
May 5, 1940

Posted 5 days before the WWII German occupation;
Received 4 days after the occupation


Luxembourg-Ville, 5 May 1940
Bruxelles, Belgium, 5 May 1940
Caracas, Venezuela, 14 May 1940

UPU 20g letter rate = 1.75 F
Airmail supplement 8.00 F per 5g = 16.00 F




4g Registered Airmail Letter to USA
May 8, 1940 [4:00-5:00 p.m.]

Awaiting dispatch on the morning of Friday, May 10, 1940, as the Third Reich overran Luxembourg.

Detained by the occupiers, censored at Frankfurt, and not delivered until November 9, 1940 – 213 days later!


Luxembourg-Gare, 8  May 1940
Censored at Frankfurt [code ‘e’ on censor tape]
New York, NY Registry Division, 8 Nov 1940

Chicago, IL Registry Division, 9 Nov 1940
Chicago, IL (Hyde Park Sta.), 9 Nov 1940

UPU 20g letter rate = 1.75 F
UPU registry fee = 1.75 F
Airmail supplement 3.50 F per 5g = 3.50 F
Endorsed:  “Via Lisbonne”



Monday, December 24, 2012

The 1927 Postal Viewcards


Issued on April 15, 1927, Luxembourg’s first postal viewcards have not been much studied.  Thus, their nine Mondorf-les-Bains views provide a fertile field for philatelic research.   

Consider, for example, the 30c fountain view.  I’ve found three variations in the spacing between the stamp imprint and the four adjacent lines of text:


 No space between the stamp imprint and text.



1 mm. of space between the stamp imprint and text. 



4 mm. of space between the stamp imprint and text (normal?) 




Check your postal stationery collection.  Help me identify more of the varieties on these distinctive postal viewcards!

Friday, December 21, 2012

An Elusive Sole Use of the 2-Franc Postage Due






Sometimes a cover or card that at first glance appears especially ugly offers hidden philatelic beauty upon closer inspection.  Here is an example.

The 2.00 F and 3.00 F green-and-red postage dues are seldom found on either cover or card.  But here is the 2.00 F on a postcard almost “hidden” under the old Junglinster double-circle cancel!

This picture postcard from Vienna, Austria, was sent unfranked on August 13, 1935, to Junglinster, thus incurring double the
one-franc UPU postcard rate as postage due.

Knowing that I’ll likely never see another sole use of this stamp on a postcard, I can overlook the stains, heavy cancel, and undisciplined pencil handwriting.  Fortunately, I didn’t overlook the card itself! 

The stamp, off cover as a used single, catalogs nine euros in my 2007 Prifix catalog.  How many do you have in your collection on cover (or card)?


Christmas colors—incoming mail to Koerich!





Koerich’s church
with its distinctive onion-shaped spire




Incoming mail to Koerich in 1894 


Carroll, Iowa, 14 May 1894

Transit New York City, 16 May 1894

Transit Luxembourg-Gare, 24 May 1894

Koerich [post: Capellen], 25 May 1894




Incoming mail is under-appreciated and little collected.  There are no catalogs or pricelists of such mail.  But fortunately Luxembourg, being an uncommon destination, is often mentioned in web and auction sales descriptions, enabling the astute collector to find covers like the one I show here, which just arrived today from a seller in Belgium.

Three-color covers are always visually compelling.  Here we have the violet two-cent Columbian Exposition postal stationery envelope featuring Columbus and Liberty (with a printed Carroll, Iowa, corner card!), along with the then-current one-cent blue Franklin and two-cent red Washington definitives paying the 20g letter UPU rate.

Small Iowa communities like Carroll were favored by Luxembourg emigrants.  The Carroll post office was opened in 1883.  The town was named for Charles Carroll of Maryland, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.  You can accumulate a nice showing of 19th century incoming mail from these small towns, often sent to even smaller towns in Luxembourg.  Give it a try!

The cover also illustrates the efficiency with which mail was transported during that era.  Today it can take 10 days for a letter to travel across the town I live in!

Last, the hinge and glue remnants on the back flap remind me that the cover has been appreciated by others.  I hope someday I’ll be able to pass it along to others who will enjoy the Christmas colors!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Unusual officially opened and resealed returned mail


Kommission für Rückbriefe Augsburg





The two unusual brown official postal seals on this letter read:


In English, of course, the translation would be “Augsburg Commission for Returned Letters.”

Posted from Augsburg, Bavaria, March 3, 1898, to Diekirch via Luxembourg-Gare, March 4, 1898, the incoming letter was underpaid and therefore marked ‘T’ for taxation in Luxembourg [blue crayon ‘25’ with m/s ‘12½’].   But apparently the addressee refused to pay the tax (or perhaps could not be found), so the tax was cancelled [red ‘Déboursé’ oval] and the letter redirected back to Augsburg, where it arrived on March 6, 1898.

In Augsburg, the letter had to be opened to ascertain the sender.  This was the task that the Kommission für Rückbriefe performed, dutifully opening and resealing the letter and returning it to the writer, this time taxed in blue crayon ‘20’ on front and back!

Other German cities used similar seals to reseal mail that had to be opened before it could be returned to the sender.

For more about officially sealed mail, see Todd Hirn’s website,  Officially Sealed Mails of the World, at .


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rückantwort in manuscript





Hall in Tirol, Austria, 27 Jun 1911, to Diekirch


Here a five-centime Arms postal card has been “converted” to a reply (Rückantwort) card, and has also been properly uprated to the UPU rate with a five-centime Arms definitive.

Years ago, we often enclosed an addressed return envelope or postal card as a courtesy to our correspondent.  Perhaps that is the explanation for this postal stationery curiosity.

I base my inference on the fact that the handwriting on the front and back does not match.  This suggests that the card was already addressed when the Austrian sender received it (presumably to post a reply).

Sadly, the card has been poorly preserved.  Nonetheless,  it’s a keeper, possibly unique.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Don’t Tax Me!



At least 98% of us would like to be taxed less; and if we were, some of us would put our tax savings back into the economy by patronizing our local stamp dealers, who also would like to be taxed less.  Well, it’s not likely to happen if you live in a country that engages in endless wars of choice that serve mainly to fuel the avarice of defense industry contractors.

Like the 98%, the advertising postcard below could not escape the tax collectors either:






Sent on January 9, 1925, from Molsheim in the Alsace to a hardware store in Ettelbrück, the printed advertisement on the back introduces the company’s representative and boasts of the gold medals it has earned.  Unfortunately, despite the gold medals, the card is underfranked five centimes, as the 10-centime Pasteur definitive is insufficient to pay the 15-centime postage rate for postcards sent as printed matter. 

Upon arrival the next day in Ettelbrück, the five-centime deficiency was rounded up to the 30-centime minimum charge then in effect.  The postman has written (in French) that the addressee refused the card because of the 30-centime tax.  So be it!  The tax was cancelled, as the nicely struck red oval déboursé mark indicates.

And then the underfranked card was returned to Molsheim [blue crayon:  “retour”], arriving on January 12, 1925, where the sender was required to pay the 30-centime tax that had gone uncollected in Ettelbrück. 

Little did the addressee know that their tax resistance would produce this wonderful multi-colored piece of postal history!

Here’s another nice multi-colored example:




Although the postcard rate to Luxembourg was 20c, this commercial postcard, sent from Brussels on January 15, 1924, was franked only with two Belgian definitives totaling 13c.  The 7c deficiency was doubled and rounded up to 15c tax with the first and second issue postage due stamps postmarked Luxembourg-Ville, January 17, 1924. 

However, the postman has indicated in manuscript that the addressee refused the card on January 16th.  Therefore the tax was cancelled [red oval “Débourse” mark”] and the card returned to Brussels [rectangle: “Retour”], where the 30c minimum tax was imposed on January 19th. 

Presumably Luxembourg should also have applied the minimum tax rather than 15c as the 30c minimum between the two countries was still in effect.  But in this instance, it didn’t matter. 


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

World War I Feldpost Message-Reply Card



K.D. Feldpoststation No. 1, June 30, 1915, addressed to Karl Hartmann, a German soldier, with auxiliary marks “Nicht zu ermitteln” [unknown], “Nicht” in a rectangle, and “Zurück” [return] cancelling the 10c Marie Adélaïde definitive.



Returned to the sender and charged postage due at the 5c domestic postcard rate at Luxembourg-Ville, 11 (?) July, 1915.


Where does this strange beast belong?  In a Marie Adélaïde collection, a World War I postal history collection, a Luxembourg postage due collection, or perhaps even a collection of privately printed postal stationery?  Or maybe just in a binder of curiosities?

PC 37 with Inverted Cliché: An Unheralded Rarity





PC 37 showing
the stamp imprint inverted


PC 37 was designed by Ludwig Kurz in Frankfurt and printed by Pierre Bruck in Luxembourg in a quantity of 30,300 cards.  Issued on November 17, 1879, two varieties are known:  on the first type, the distance from the Coat of Arms to the first address line is 8.75 mm; on the second type, it is 11.50 mm.

The example shown here with the cliché inverted is the first type.  There is no mention of it in the literature I’ve seen.  Who knows more about its origin?