The Little Stamp Books and the Reply Stamp

It is known that, with the object of facilitating the sale of its postal values and permitting the public to always carry about a certain number of postage stamps in good condition, the United States of America, about 1897, issued little books containing twelve 2-cent stamps, in two horizontal rows of six; these little books were sold at 25 cents. A short time afterwards, books containing 24 and 48 stamps were put on sale at the price of 49 cents and 98 cents respectively.

The importance which the sale of these books attained in a short time attracted the attention of other countries, which were not long in adopting the innovation, and which is in operation today in most of the offices of the Universal Postal Union. Thus, in the Netherlands there exist books containing 24 stamps of 1, 3, 5 and 12-1/2 cents. At the Hague, the Post Office has placed on sale books each containing six stamps of each of the values indicated, and sheets of tissue paper placed behind each sheet of stamps prevent them from sticking one to the other.

In Hungary, books have been in use since 1901; each book contains four little sheets of six stamps of the values of 5, 10, 25 and 35 fillers, gummed and perforated, and the sale is made with an additional charge of 2 fillers (2 centimes) per book.

In 1902, on the occasion of the introduction of the penny postage into the interior relations of New Zealand, the Administration issued little books of 12 and of 30 of the new 1-penny stamp bearing the inscription “Universal Postage.” Over and above the value of the books, which bore on the cover in addition to the postal rates various bits of information useful to the public, there was charged 1⁄2 penny for the cost of binding and printing.

The Egyptian postal administration in 1903 issued books of 3 and 5 millieme stamps. Each book contained 24 stamps in four sheets of six stamps each, separated one from the other by strips of wax paper. In addition to the value of the stamps, there is also charged a rate of 1 millieme per book, to cover its cost.

There exist also books of 1⁄2, 1 penny and 2 pence in the Post Offices of Victoria; of 1⁄2 and 1 anna in the British Indies. Finally, Switzerland issued, in July 1904, without charging anything for the manufacture, books of twenty-four stamps of 5 and 10 centimes.

We may add that Canada alone so far has issued books containing several values of stamps, and that, in 1902, a special printing was made in England for the manufacture of the books of twenty-four 1-penny stamps divided into four pages separated by sheets of vegetable paper. The plate which served for the impression of the stamps was formed of four groups of sixty stamps, each having a margin right and left. On the six columns of each group half of the stamps were tête-bêche with regard to the three others, so that on a complete plate of 180 stamps 90 had the watermark reversed.

The postage stamps contained in these various little books offer to collectors a real mine of varieties still little known and which will soon be much sought after. These varieties arise especially from the mode of manufacture, which has required, in most countries, the creation of new printing plates; and result has been special printings, which have produced notably the varieties which may be classed in three categories: First, stamps with margins and without perforation on one or more than one side; second, tête-bêche stamps; third, stamps with inverted watermark. The stamps of these last two categories have been noticed principally in the books of 1-penny stamps issued as a trial in England in 1902.

Besides the advantages which the public, and collectors in particular, have found in the use of these little books for prepayment of postage, there is another of great importance, which has not been thought of so far: that is the adoption by all the countries of the Universal Postal Union of the said books for the bringing into use of a universal postage stamp or of a double stamp with reply.

As has been already said, the creation of a universal postage stamp, which would be valid in all countries for the prepayment of correspondence, is a thing impossible on account of the question of exchange, of the diversity of the monetary systems, of the existence of rates for transit expenses, dangers of counterfeiting, important losses which the business in stamps might cause to certain countries, in short, a thousand and one other administrative details which it would take too long to enumerate, but which the postal administrations known sufficiently well to cause them to reject this scheme which they consider contrary to their interests. The use of these little stamp books, however, seems destined to furnish a solution of the problem. In effect, if each of the postal administrations of the Union which have adhered to the agreement for the exchange of postal orders were to put on sale books containing one and the same number of postage stamps at a price to be determined on the basis of the rate of conversion adopted in each country of the Union for postal money orders, the so-much-desired solution would be obtained, for all the objections raised hitherto against the creation of the universal postage stamp would disappear.

Let us suppose that the postal administrations which might decide to enter into an arrangement on this point should decree that each of the countries shall place on sale, in the present situation, books of stamps of 25 centimes (5 cents American money) with reply, containing each twelve double stamps with reply worth, consequently, six francs in French money. Inasmuch as the rates of conversion for the countries of the Union which have not the franc for their monetary unit are notably the following:


Germany, 1 mark = 100 pfennigs 1fr 24c.

Netherlands, 1 florin = 100 cents 2fr 9c.

Denmark, 1 crown = 100 öre 1fr 40c.

Great Britain, 1 pound = 20 shillings 25fr 25c.

United States, 1 dollar = 100 cents 5fr 22c.

Argentine Republic, 1 peso = 100 centavos 5fr 10c.

The books of postage stamps sold for 6 francs in countries having the franc for their monetary unit would be sold: In Germany, 4 marks 84 pfennigs; in the Netherlands, 2 florin 87 cents; in Denmark, 4 crowns 22 öre; in Great Britain, 6 shillings 9 pence; in the United States, $1.15, and in the Argentine Republic 1 peso 18 centavos, all sums equivalent to 6 francs French money. Instead of creating a single universal postage stamp for all countries, it seems preferable, taking into consideration what precedes, to adopt a double stamp, with reply, of a special type which would be available for the prepayment of a single-rate letter going to and of a single-letter returning from countries where this stamp had been adopted. This double stamp would be formed of two parts: the first, to be used for the prepayment of the letter on its departure, would be nothing else than the stamp of 25 centimes or its equivalent of the type in use in each of the countries of the Union. The second part would constitute the reply stamp, which would be separated from the first by the ordinary perforation and which the sender would insert in his letter. Its form and design would be decided on by common accord by the contracting countries. According to the preceding data, these stamps, sold only in little books, and not allowed to be sold one by one, would give to the postal administration every guarantee against speculation, for the public would find itself forced to buy the stamps by books and to obtain the ordinary stamp necessary to prepay the letter on its departure, as well as the reply stamp.

It goes without saying that, without following the example of Switzerland, the postal administration might charge a minimum rate of one percent in addition to the value of the books for the cost of manufacture.

In view of the eventual examination of the question of the international stamp with reply, a matter to which it seems desirable to draw the attention of the members of the coming Congress at Rome, we think we should also reproduce here the considerations suggested by the author of this project:

  1. The books for prepayment, composed of double stamps with reply, should contain, in each country, one and the same number of stamps, to be determined by the convention.
  2. The selling price of each book should be paid in the money of the country of issue and in accordance with the rate and exchange adopted for the international postal money orders.
  3. The price of the book should be indicated in letters and in figures very distinctly on the cover; on the cover might be printed, also, extracts from the tariffs and other information useful to the public.
  4. The reply stamp should serve for the prepayment of letters only, and it should represent, on the same shipment, only the rate of a single letter of 15 grams or equivalent weight.
  5. Every reply stamp applied to a letter for a country where the stamp did not originate, as also any supplementary reply stamp attached to the same shipment, would not be valid for the prepayment of that shipment, and no account would be taken of them.
  6. The international reply stamp would not be available for the prepayment of shipments in the internal service of the countries of the Union.
  7. Any letter prepaid with an international reply stamp addressed in the country where the stamp originated and re-shipped into another country of the Union would be subject to the ordinary rate of a single letter.