Refresher Course

It's not a stamp, but it looks a lot like one

By Michael Baadke

Stamp collectors often encounter unfamiliar items that bear some resemblance to postage stamps, but the things they find may not be listed in any traditional stamp-hobby catalog.

Figure 1. With a regal eagle and fine line-engraving, the EKKO verified reception stamp looks a lot like a genuine postage stamp. Instead it falls into the category of cinderellas.
 
Figure 2. Stamplike labels that try to look like real stamps from nonexistent countries are known as bogus or phantom issues.
 
Figure 3. Christmas seals are charity labels issued to encourage donations. Many charities' fund-raising programs use similar labels.
 
Figure 4. Etiquettes are labels created to request a specific mailing service. The most common are airmail etiquettes, such as this modern example from Austria.

Some of these items can be identified very quickly, while the collector has to do considerable digging to learn about others.

Collectors use the name "cinderella" to categorize many stamplike labels and other items that are not genuine postage stamps, but which, for one reason or another, have an appeal that makes them collectible.

The name "cinderella" comes from the fairy-tale character who looked like a princess though she was a poor neglected girl. Some cinderella stamp items look like genuine postage stamps, but they are really something else altogether.

Some of these items do have significant official functions, though they have no postal use.

An example is the EKKO verified reception stamp shown in Figure 1.

During the 1920s these labels were collected by radio listeners who would write to a distant radio station to let them know their broadcast was received in the collector's community.

To thank the listener for providing the useful broadcast area information, many stations would send the correspondent a verified reception stamp.

The stamps were sold by the EKKO Co. of Chicago, Ill. One of the four letters of the company's name appear in each corner of the illustrated stamp.

As a cinderella item, the EKKO verified reception stamp holds a particular attraction for stamp collectors, because the line-engraved design of the label was printed by American Bank Note Co. using the intaglio process.

Intaglio security printing was used extensively on U.S. postage stamps until the 1970s, and it is used to print U.S. currency as well.

Many collectors of cinderellas save these and other labels and stickers while they also maintain more traditional stamp collections.

A few cinderella collectors have no substantial interest in postage stamps, preferring instead to keep an eye out only for cinderella items that will be perfect additions to their very active collections.

There have been a few attempts to assemble cinderella catalogs and other reference works, but because the collecting field is so broad, it is virtually impossible to create a comprehensive listing.

Because preprinted album pages for most cinderella items don't exist, the collector may create his own pages, or save and organize items using stock books or other stamp-hobby supplies.

Many cinderella collectors concentrate their efforts within a specialty area.

Some prefer to seek out items that were officially released by a government agency, such as tax (revenue) stamps issued for a specific type of product, such as distilled spirits.

Others may go into a completely different direction, looking for items that are blatantly bogus or counterfeit. These collectors are often particularly wary of stamplike labels created by private manufacturers with the intent to deceive collectors.

Following are just a few of the most popular cinderella collecting areas. The list is by no means complete, and any collector can add to it by choosing any item that suits him.

Additional cinderella descriptions will appear in next week's Refresher Course.

Bogus or phantom issues. Labels that intentionally bear resemblance to genuine postage stamps but do not have any recognized postal validity are known as bogus or phantom issues.

Many of these are manufactured by private companies to sell to stamp collectors, despite the fact that the labels are not postage stamps.

The Universal Postal Union is an internationally recognized body to which most genuine stamp-issuing entities belong.

Labels from genuine locations that are not recognized as stamp issuers by the UPU are often bogus. Other phantoms may be from locations that are altogether fictitious.

One of the many bogus issues collectors may encounter is inscribed "Principality of Thomond," as shown in Figure 2.

A report titled "Nonexistent Cities, States, Territories or Countries for which 'Stamps' or Overprints Have Been Printed" was published two years ago by the Collectors Club of Chicago and the Arthur Salm Foundation.

Within that report, issues purporting to be from the "Principality of Thomond" are listed relating to the "Dalcassian claim to Irish territory that is part of Shannon Airport."

The term "fantasy label" is used to describe the Thomond issues in Linn's Stamp Identifier.

Some bogus issues look like stamps from areas that once legitimately issued stamps, but no longer do.

Charity labels. Among the most well-known charity labels are Christmas seals (Figure 3), which are distributed in the United States and many other countries to raise funds to combat respiratory diseases.

Similar labels are created by other charities to encourage donations. Specialist collectors of these labels catalog all of the known varieties and often communicate with one another to exchange information.

Christmas seals are sometimes listed in country-specific specialized catalogs, including the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps.

Customs and inspection labels. The United States and other governments often create special labels to indicate that imported items have undergone customs inspection. In some cases, a fee is paid for the customs service, and the labels in those cases qualify as revenue stamps.

Essays and proofs. During the process of creating a postage stamp, artists create essays, which are proposals or preliminary designs for postage stamps.

The essays may take the form of paintings, ink drawings, computer art or other renditions.

Proofs are impressions of actual stamp designs created before stamp production begins. Proofs are often created to check for quality and appearance before actual stamps are printed.

Essays and proofs for many stamps are not available to collectors. Many that are available are relatively costly.

Essays and proofs are studied to learn more about the history of postage stamps. Early U.S. essays and proofs are listed in the Scott U.S. specialized catalog.

Additional information about proofs was provided in the Refresher Course column of Nov. 24, 1997.

Etiquettes. The French word "etiquette" is related to the English word "ticket," which is defined as a notice attached to something.

Simple labels that indicate a requested mail service are known as etiquettes. Among the more common are airmail etiquettes, such as the Austrian example shown in Figure 4.

On most airmail etiquettes the word "airmail" appears in the native language of the country from which the label originates ("Flugpost" on the Austrian example), as well as in French ("Par Avion"). The label in the illustration also has the words in English.

Etiquettes have no postal value, but their great variety and common usage make them appealing to collectors.

Most of the labels also do not identify the country of origin. If the etiquette is used on cover, the origin of the label can usually be determined by examining the sender's address or the stamps used to frank the envelope.

Other forms of etiquettes include labels indicating first-class or priority mail handling.

A similar area of cinderella collecting interest includes the labels and stickers from many countries used to mark registered or certified mail.