Refresher Course

Postal stationery: letter, parcel, pneumatic cards

By Rick Miller

This installment of the Refresher Course continues the discussion of postal stationery begun in the Jan. 14 Linn's. Postal stationery is large-size postal paper such as envelope stock or card stock, with the stamp design impressed or printed directly on it.

Figure 1. Hawaiian 2¢ black View of Diamond Head postal card, Scott PC2. This example was mailed May 5, 1892, from Honolulu to Santa Monica, Calif. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 2. Reply side of Costa Rican 4-centavo + 0c black President Fernandez postal reply card, Higgins and Gage A2. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 3. A United States 40¢ Yankee Clipper airmail postal card, Scott UXC25, mailed April 28, 1993, from Waurika, Okla., to Brawdy, Wales, United Kingdom. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 4. Bavarian 10-pfennig carmine letter card, Michel K2, mailed May 30, 1898, from Pasing to Bremen. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 5. Bermuda unused 1-farthing brown-on-buff King George VI newspaper wrapper, Higgins and Gage E7. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 6. Yugoslavian (Slovenian) 10-vinar black Emblem parcel post card, Michel AP5, mailed March 30, 1920, from Celje, Slovenia, to Kragujevac, Serbia. Click on image to enlarge.
 
Figure 7. An invitation to lunch. This French 30-centime black seated Liberty pneumatic postal card, Michel RP19, was posted June 26, 1900, from the Rue Lafayette station. Click on image to enlarge.

Postal cards are postal stationery items printed on card stock. The address side of the card usually bears the stamp design, and the message is written on the back.

Postal cards differ from postcards, which are commercially produced and require the application of a postage stamp or a postage imprint for mailing. Postal cards are ideal for posting a short message or notice and cost less to mail than a letter. Postal cards are always collected as entires because many of the designs are incomplete or meaningless if cut from the card.

Austria issued the world's first postal card in 1869. The United States issued its first postal card in 1874.

Many postal history collectors enjoy saving postal cards because, unlike letters mailed in envelopes, the correspondence is inseparable from the conveyance.

A Kingdom of Hawaii 2¢ black View of Diamond Head postal card, Scott PC2, mailed May 5, 1892, from Honolulu to Santa Monica, Calif., is shown in Figure 1.

Some countries have issued double postal cards with paid reply portions to enable the recipient to answer at the sender's expense.

Universal Postal Union regulations allowed paid-reply postal cards mailed to foreign countries to be posted without additional postage when franked with the correct foreign rate amount in their country of origin.

Properly used paid-reply cards returned from their foreign destinations can be legitimate examples of one country's cancellations on another country's postage. However, postal clerks ignorant of this provision often assessed postage due on the reply portion of the foreign cards.

The reply side of an unused Costa Rican 4-centavo + 0c black President Fernandez reply postal card, Higgins and Gage A2, is shown in Figure 2.

Most countries with a designated airmail service have produced airmail postal cards. A United States 40¢ Yankee Clipper airmail postal card, Scott UXC25, mailed April 28, 1993, from Waurika, Okla., to Brawdy, Wales, is shown in Figure 3.

Letter cards, as the name implies, are cards that could be sealed after writing to provide the privacy of a sealed letter. The message could be written on the back and both sides of the bottom flap, which, when folded, became the inside of the letter card.

Most letter cards were equipped with gummed, perforated edges. The sender moistened the gum and folded the card to seal it. The recipient normally tore off the sealed edges along the perforations to open the card. Used letter cards that were opened without tearing away the perforated edges usually sell for two to four times as much as those from which the edges have been removed.

A Bavarian 10-pfennig carmine letter card, Michel K2, mailed May 30, 1898, from Pasing to Bremen is shown in Figure 4. Note the perforations at the sides where the edges were removed.

Wrappers are similar to letter sheets in that they were sold open, but they lack side flaps for sealing. Rather than writing on the inside of them, they were designed to be wrapped around what was to be mailed, such as magazines, newspapers or sheets of printed matter. Some wrappers had gummed flaps, but most had to be tied, taped or otherwise bundled around their contents.

Wrappers often included explanatory notes printed on their fronts that detail the limits of their use.

An unused 1-farthing brown-on-buff King George VI newspaper wrapper from Bermuda, Higgins and Gage E7, is shown folded as sold in Figure 5. An explanatory note on proper usage and prohibitions is printed above the stamp design.

Postally used wrappers are often more valuable than unused examples because most of them were quickly thrown away as soon as they had performed their postal duty.

Parcel cards were issued by several countries. Initially many countries only offered parcel delivery between post offices, rather than to individual addresses.

When a patron mailed a parcel, he was required to fill out the parcel card at the sending post office. The parcel cards came in common parcel rate denominations. Additional stamps could be added for heavier parcels.

Like Italian parcel post stamps, parcel cards usually came in two sections. One section was retained by the post office, and the other was delivered to the recipient to notify him to pick up his parcel at the post office.

A Yugoslavian (Slovenian issue) 10-vinar black Emblem parcel card, Michel AP5, mailed March 30, 1920, from Celje, Slovenia, to a soldier stationed at Kragujevac, Serbia, is shown in Figure 6. The form declares that the parcel contained food.

The left part of this card containing the stamp design has not been detached, although it usually was detached. The card was uprated by the addition of 5.4 krone in postage stamps.

Pneumatic tube stationery was issued by three nations: France, Germany and Austria. Italy also had a pneumatic post system and was the only nation to issue stamps for that purpose, but Italy did not issue pneumatic post stationery.

Pneumatic tube service constituted a class of special handling service.

Envelopes and cards placed in canisters moved through underground tube systems propelled from station to station by forced air.

In the United States, pneumatic tube stations were in use in New York City and Chicago. No extra charge was assessed for this service, and no special postal stationery was issued.

Pneumatic tube service provided same-day delivery within the city, often within an hour or two of posting.

Austria and France provided postal stationery cards, envelopes and letter sheets, and Germany provided cards and envelopes for mail that was carried by their pneumatic tube systems that ran beneath Paris, Berlin and Vienna.

A French 30-centime black Seated Liberty pneumatic postal card, Michel RP19 posted June 26, 1900, from the Rue Lafayette station is shown in Figure 7.

The message on the reverse (not shown) invites the recipient to lunch at the restaurant in the aquarium of the Paris Exposition. One wonders if it was a fish dinner.

If you seem to have arrived at a blank wall in your collecting interests, expanding into the fascinating world of postal stationery may relieve the weariness and add zest to your hobby enjoyment.