Friday, January 10, 2014

Rare, Rarer, Rarest

International Reply Cards


At an exhibits critique in Fresno in the 1970s, Samuel Ray, an esteemed philatelic judge from Chicago, once referred to international reply cards as the bête noire of postal stationery exhibits.  If a particularly scarce reply card was absent from an exhibit, Judge Sam deducted a lot of points from your score.  So ever since hearing his admonition, I’ve been mindful to step up when reply cards returned to or from Luxembourg have appeared in the marketplace.

So-called message-reply (or simply “double-reply”) cards were included when formular postal stationery began to appear in the early 1870s, as I show with the first Luxembourg example below. 
And in February 1872, Württemberg issued the first stamp- imprinted reply-paid double card.  Later the same year, the Netherlands also issued a reply-paid double card.

These first stamp-imprinted reply-paid cards were used internally or to concession-rate countries, as seen in my second Luxembourg example.  More widespread international use of the pre-paid reply cards began in 1879, when 10 countries (Argentina, Belgium, the German Empire, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland) agreed to return the reply halves of one another’s double cards.

And at Lisbon in 1885, the Universal Postal Union passed a resolution requiring all member countries to accept reply paid cards issued by any other member country.  The requirement remained in effect until the Tokyo Conference of 1971.

Now, in preparing a single-frame exhibit of international reply cards returned to and from Luxembourg for an upcoming show in Bandung, I need to comment on the relative scarcity of Luxembourg’s reply cards.  You can help me by sharing your opinions.

Let’s begin by identifying the three rarest Luxembourg international reply cards!  Here are my three candidates:
Formular Message-Reply Card
Issued 1 February 1873


21 Mar 1873
to Luxemburg
Franking: Germany - Small Shield ¼ Groschen Pair
Rate effective 1 July 1872

Hansmichael Krug BDPH Certificate – 3 Jul 2013 
”Brustschildfrankaturen auf amtlichen luxemburgischen
Korrespondenz-Karenformularen sind sehr selten.”

Paragraph 4 on the card expressly authorizes international use (between Luxembourg and Germany):
Correspondenzkarten mit Rückantwort sind sowohl im innern Verkehr des Grossherzogthums, als auch im Verkehre mit Deutschland zulässig.
[English:  Correspondence cards with return will be accepted both in the Grand Duchy’s domestic commerce and in its intercourse with Germany.]
This formular card is known used unfranked, endorsed in manuscript “Z.S.” for zeitungssache, and addressed to the Luxemburger Wort newspaper.  The examples I’ve seen of such use were posted after Luxembourg’s first double card with a stamp imprint appeared in August of 1874.  I understand this was official use by various post offices to order newspaper subscription shipments from the Luxemburger Wort (and, perhaps, to use up the remaining supply of these cards after the first stamp-imprinted domestic double card had been issued).  

But except for this use, I have not seen any other use—domestic or international—with adhesive stamps.  Such uses might exist, but where are they?  Certainly not in exhibits, publications, or auction catalogs!  So unless I see one or more additional franked uses, I believe this card deserves to be rated as the rarest Luxembourg international reply card.  Let me know if you agree! 

Second Rarest
1878 Sixth Arms Issue
Message-Reply Card
Issued 30 April 1878


Frankfurt A/Main,
1 Feb 1879
to Luxembourg-Ville

As part of the Sixth Arms Issue, only 5000 message-reply cards were printed.  They served the short-lived 12½c foreign rate that ended a scant 11 months later, as the UPU and French and Germany treaty rates were all reduced to 10c on April 1, 1879.  The French Association du Collectionneurs des Entiers Postaux, in their catalog of Luxembourg postal stationery authored by the Belgian specialist, August Wery, consider this card, when properly used, to be the rarest of the Luxembourg cards with an imprinted stamp
These double cards were printed in a four-card setting.  This card is Type 4 – long bar = 14 mm. -- and was used during the eleven-month period that the 12½c German rate remained in effect.

I once purchased a collection of 5000 worldwide postal cards just to obtain a used 12½c message card from this issue that the collection contained.  When the card arrived, much to my disappointment, I discovered that it had been used a couple months after the 12½c rate had decreased to 10c.  Of course, I didn’t toss it into the trash bin.  Any commercial use of this card – message or, especially, reply – is rare!  After fifty years of collecting, I’ve not seen another used example of this reply card.

Third Rarest
1874 Second Arms Issue
Message-Reply Card
Issued 27 Aug and 16 Oct 1874


in the then-German Alsace-Lorraine
8 Dec 1874,
to Weyerskirch
b/s [post: Dommeldingen],
9 Dec 1874

The Second Arms Issue contained Luxembourg’s first double cards with an imprinted stamp.  The 6c+6c card was issued for the concession rate with Germany that was in effect from 27 August 1874 to 30 April 1878.

An example of the 6c Reply Card returned from Germany during the six-centime concession rate period eluded me for many years.  Then, while walking down rue Drouot in Paris one summer afternoon in search of color roulettes, I noticed this card in a dealer’s Luxembourg stock.  Fortunately, there was an ATM nearby.  I’ve not seen any other incoming use of this card.

The card is from the first printing.  It’s Type 1.1 (pale violet) and is easily identified as the top right corner of the Coat of Arms is cut off.  

With a printing of 10,003, there must be other incoming uses somewhere, but where?