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Thursday, 1 September 2011

An Introduction to the Wonderful World of Salvation Army Postal History by Alex de Langen

According to the Universal Postal Union, stamp collecting is the world's most popular hobby, with 30 million collectors and retail sales of $10 billion per year. So it is not surprising that among these collectors a number specialize in Salvation Army philately.

With the start of a new organization, the SA Historical and Philatelic Association (SA1HPA) and a new journal, it was deemed helpful to write a series of articles that would provide useful information about the broad scope of Salvation Army (SA) philately and in doing so, would encourage general collectors and history writers to become more flaniliar with our particular area of interest. The overview will benefit the beginner as well as the advanced collector by giving more structure to this topic. This introduction will then be the first article in the series. You will also find mentioned throughout the text a number of potential projects that may benefit our hobby in the future.

I must admit that SA postal history collecting as a thematic subject can be at times frustrating, confusing and overwhelming for the newcomer in this field, because only a few publications, handbooks and guidelines have been developed up to this time. It may be even difficult to define the scope and contents of a "complete" collection, since new discoveries are always possible.

Despite these drawbacks, this is just what makes SA philately interesting and exciting. Let me say up front, that you don't have to be a philatelist, a salvationist or a history buff to get interested in this wonderfully diverse topic, but for a somewhat advanced collector a little or a lot of each sure can be of help!

The SA, well known as an international religious and charitable movement, has been in existence since 1865 and is currently at work in 111 countries around the world. For its organizational and communications needs, it has over the years relied on the Postal Administrations of many countries to deliver a staggering amount of letters, cards and magazines. Also, its activities have resulted in the issuing of postage stamps, honoring the SA and its work around the globe.

1 would like to begin with an overview of the general categories that could make up a comprehensive collection of SA Postal History materials (See Table 1). Each category is subdivided into topics that could be chosen and made into individual collections. Each of these may require different efforts, information and resources. A detailed description of the categories and the various topics will now follow which gives the reader an idea of the popularity and the difficulties to be encountered.

Category 1 -Postage Stamps

1.1 New collectors of Salvation Army Philately would probably start with readily available SA Postage Stamps. You could begin with inexpensive used stamps, but mint singles and multiples are also readily available from collectors, dealers or the eBay and other auctions. There are currently over a 100 stamps issued by 40 countries. Pre-printed SA stamp album pages have been offered for sale by a few collectors. You can also design your own pages suited to your own collecting needs.
Currently an SA stamp catalogue is not available (Future Project No.1). General information for all postage stamps can be found in the appropriate sections of the Scott's and Gibbons Stamp Catalogues, that may be available in most libraries. For your convenience I have added a current SA stamp index as Table II. The advanced collector could add varieties, such as flaws, proofs and related ephemera to his collection. I will write more about this in a future article.

1.2 There are also a number of so-called SA Related Stamps, that may tie in with your Army collection, but have not specifically been issued for an Army occasion or person. A good example is the 1984 Singapore 10c stamp from the National Monuments series, depicting the House of Tan Yeok Nee, which was an Army property used as the Region's Command Headquarters. Currently recognized SA related stamps in my collection are also shown in Table II with a number and a letter. Note that designation of these related stamps is subject to the collector's own interpretation. Reasonable caution and conservatism should be used when adding such stamps to your collection.

1.3 Official Post Office Items released by the Postal Authorities, such as promotional Black Prints, Presentation Packs, P.O. Bulletins and Posters, may contain detailed stamp and printing information and can be added to enhance a collection.

1.4 Specialist collectors may also add the more elusive so-called "Back-of-the-Book" stamps. These would include the various British QV - QEII "Perfin" (Perforated Initials) stamps that were used from the 1880's to the 1950's at IHQ, the Publishing & Supplies Department and the SA Assurance Society to prevent pilferage? Another example will be the recently discovered Swiss non-profit "Franchise Stamps" used for free postage in the 1920's and 1930's by the SA Social Work Institutions in that country. More about this in a future article.

Category II - Covers. Cards and Letters

2.1 In addition to the SA Stamps, the collecting of First Day Covers has been popular for a longer time. Maxi cards and.First Day Sheets, both with the First Day of Issue Postmarks, have also been produced for some issues and belong to this category. Plain First Day Covers of the early SA stamps have been seen, but these will remain elusive and expensive when offered on the open market. For a comprehensive description of known officially and privately printed First Day Items, you can consult the Illustrated SA FDC Catalogue, that is advertised on the UK SA Collectables Website (see reference materials) or you can order your copy directly from the Author.

2.2 Many SA Events, such as Congresses, High Councils, Corps and Social Work Anniversaries have been honoured in a number of countries by the printing of special Commemorative Covers and Cards. Most of these items may have an applicable illustration (cachet) which can vary between professionally produced colour prints and homemade computer generated designs. Many of these covers have also uniquely designed official postmarks for the occasion. Quantities of covers produced could vary between 5 and 500. Obviously, the limited quantity covers do not seem to have the interest of SA collectors in mind. A comprehensive master listing of these covers will take considerable work, but may be desired by many collectors (Future Study Project #2).

2.3 The collecting of worldwide SA Correspondence can be an interesting and valuable part of our hobby. Many cards and letters could complement or update the written history of SA books. Possibilities in this field are unlimited, but good material is scarce. It would be a major challenge to describe the variety of these postal items, which may also include magazine wrappers, meeting advertisements, etc. To my knowledge, no attempts have been made to systematically catalogue this field (Future Study Project # 3)

2.4 Another significant chapter of SA philately can be called the Military Mail. The SA Red Shield War Services have supplied writing paper and envelopes as part of care packages for members of the military forces, starting with the Boer War, during World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and other LIN peace keeping efforts. The Red Shield Huts and Reading Rooms, Soldiers' Hostels and USO Clubs at home and close to the front lines allowed the soldiers to stay in touch with their loved ones most of the time. Series of picture post cards were also made available for the same purpose. We do know about some partial studies in this area, but more work needs to be done to produce a more comprehensive description of SA related stationery (Future Project # 4).

Category III - Picture Post Cards

The collecting of SA Picture Post Cards (PPC's) in general has been highly popular late in the IT' and in the 20 century. It was an inexpensive means to keep in touch and to gather souvenir pictures of people and places. The early day SA postcards, as advertised in the War Cry and other magazines or books, provide a valuable link to the Army's history and make SA happenings come to life, when mixed into our collections. Sorting and cataloguing the many and various PPC series published over time, may seem to be a monk's work and may require easy access to miscellaneous SA Archives. The listing could be subdivided into people, events, departments, and facilities (See Table I). I am reminded, that there should be also a miscellaneous topic (3.5) for the various humorous cards, Sunday school and birthday cards, etc. (Future Study Project # 5).

Category IV - Postmarks and Ephemera

4.1 Quite often the Postal Authorities of several countries have allowed the creation of Special Event Postmarks for SA happenings, that do not warrant the more elaborate issuing of postage stamps. These postmarks can be found on plain or specially designed covers, that carry a cachet (pictorial logo) or text of the event to be celebrated. The earliest postmarks date back to the 1930's and the country that issued the first SA stamps, the Netherlands East Indies.

I do remember from my own experience, that SA Scouting has been for many years an important part of our youth work, through which many young people were linked to the Army. Especially in the Scandinavian countries, the Territorial Scout Camps often set up their own post office, where a specially designed postmark was applied to all outgoing mail. Here is another opportunity for a study project. It would be very useful for the SA collector to have an Illustrated Catalogue of all these postmarks (Future Study Project # 6).

4.2 In addition to the special event postmarks, there have been in use a large number of advertising Slogan Postmarks. Examples of these can be found mostly on regular mail or commercial envelopes. Again, the earliest known slogans are from the 1930's to promote the sale of the first SA postage stamps. A long running slogan example is the advertising of the National Salvation Army Week in the USA, first started in 1956 and still being used. Other countries, such as the Netherlands, the UK and Canada, have used slogan cancels to advertise and celebrate anniversaries.

4.3 A fairly new area is the collecting of Postal Meter Marks. These are added to outgoing mail by numbered and licensed cancelling machines, fabricated by Pitney Bowes and other manufacturers. They combine the printing of postage stamp and postmark and are frequently used as a convenience in such SA Facilities as Headquarters, Institutions and Corps in many countries. Some of these machines have also space for advertising messages and the first came into broader use after World War. II. A listing of worldwide meter marks would be useful for collectors in this field (Future Project # 7).

4.4 Letters all over the world have been "decorated" with colourful labels and seals of many kinds. SA related correspondence was no exception. Sometimes called "Cinderellas", these labels were often perforated and gummed and could be easily mistaken for postage stamps. They promoted various causes, such as the Tuberculosis and Christmas stickers from the early 1900's, but were also used to advertise special events, such as exhibitions, anniversaries, etc. Good examples of these are the rare letter seals of the Scandanavian countries to commemorate the 50 Anniversary of SA work in Sweden (1932), Denmark (1937) and Norway (1938). Again, we do not know of any published studies in this collecting field. An illustrated handbook or catalogue of the various decals and seals would probably take some time to develop (Future Project #8).

Category V - Reference Materials

The fifth and final category of our hobby would contain any published materials that are currently available to collectors in our area of interest. Unfortunately, those of you who have, been involved in our hobby for any length of time have found that in the past, little time was spent by collectors in specific research of the gray areas already highlighted by the potentially "Future Projects". Some of this can be explained by our Salvationist life style, which does not leave much spare time to pursue hobbies of any kind. Come to think of it, I do know a few golfers.... Often we have to fall back on non-philatelic literature, such as the Official History of the SA, other history books, magazines and SA Yearbooks to provide a more complete picture.

5.1 Some ten years ago Harry Hayes had an excellent idea and has made a significant input by using the SAPC Journal to educate us about our hobby. He put together quarterly articles that now form the only Specialized SA Philatelic Handbook available. It is believed, that copies of these Journals can be reprinted for interested collectors. David and Adele Miller created the SA Collectables Website (http://www.sacollectables.com/), which includes a number of useful philatelic topics, among others. SAstamp information, that could be reworked into a future SA stamp catalogue. In 1996 appeared an attractive and well illustrated booklet by Ken Daws, titled "The World of Salvation Army Stamps". This is based on his stamp articles, written for other SA publications. The book should still be available from Egon Publishers Ltd. Let's not forget that a veritable treasure of SA historical data will be available to peruse if you have easy access to one of the various Heritage Museums and National or Territorial Archives in a number of countries.

5.2 After the retirement of its editor and the demise of the SAPC Journal, we trust that the new association's Journal will allow room for articles and studies of a philatelic nature, as well as ongoing news in this field. I have been asked to function as your philatelic focal point and editor and am now asking for your continued support. Please keep the news and proposed articles coming. You can reach me quickest by e-mail or by airmail to my postal address.

5.3 It is our hope that many members will actively participate and make contributions to our hobby. This is why in different places in this article several potential "Future Projects" have been mentioned. Often the combined efforts of several members are required to gather data and produce useful results. Please advise me of your current interests and if you would be willing to support one or more of these projects? The currently available Illustrated SA FDC Catalogue is an example of a completed project.

5.4 Although economic gain is not one of the hobbyist's goals, it nevertheless may be good to keep track of object prices, where available. This requires us to note auction results and dealer prices. The rarity of items can be gauged somewhat by the frequency of appearance in sales and auctions. In the latest FDC Catalogue revision (2006) a table has been added to do just that and give the collector an idea of the commonality and value of SA FDC's.
Finally, I can well imagine that despite the length of this article, I may have overlooked other important aspects of SA postal history. Since this is a great opportunity to learn from each other's experiments and expertise, there are no dumb questions that can be asked! I would like to invite your comments, questions and responses and will try to provide answers in the next Journal or Newsletter.

(Editor's Note: The latest stamps and FDC is from Papua New Guinea. Orders for these can be placed by writing to Lt.-Col. J. Cordon, Salvation Army. P.O. Box 1323. Boroko. N.C.D. Papua New Guinea. To ensure acquisition of all new stamps and FDCs, members are advised to Contact: Benham. Stamp Club. Unit K Concept Court. Shearway Business Park. Folkestone. CT19 4RG Tel: 08708 500654 ext. 6010 or email benham@benham.co.uk).

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