By Rick Miller
The dictionary defines a franchise as "freedom or immunity from some burden or restriction vested in a person or group."
Franchise stamps are stamps that relieve authorized users of the burden of paying postage for their mail.
Franchise stamps differ from Official stamps and military stamps in that they are issued to nongovernmental organizations and sometimes to private citizens to allow them to mail their correspondence without paying postage.
In the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, franchise stamp catalog numbers begin with the letter "S" or include the letter "S."
Although some franchise stamps bear denominations, many do not.
In 1889, Portugal issued franchise stamps for the Red Cross Society.
The nondenominated rose and black Emblem franchise stamp, Scott 1Sl, shown in Figure 1, is the first stamp to have the Red Cross as its subject.
Portugal continued to issue franchise stamps for the Red Cross periodically through 1936.
From 1899 to 1910, Portugal issued nondenominated franchise stamps for civilian rifle clubs. The stamp design was the same over the years, a rifle club emblem, but each year the stamps were printed in different colors.
The Portuguese government supported the rifle clubs as an adjunct to military training and defense preparedness.
A nondenominated blue-green and carmine franchise stamp issued for use by the Union of Civilian Rifleman is shown in Figure 2. The stamp was for use between Nov. 1, 1899, and June 30, 1900.
Portugal issued franchise stamps for the Geographical Society of Lisbon at intervals from 1903 to 1927 and annually from 1929 through 1938.
The stamps were nondenominated and printed in different colors according to the year of issue. A nondenominated black, rose, blue and red Coat of Arms franchise stamp issued for the Geographical Society of Lisbon, Scott 3S1, is shown in Figure 3.
A note in the Scott catalog says that "No. 3S12 with three-line overprint 'C.I.C.I. Portugal 1933' was not valid for postage and was only sold to collectors." However, the Portuguese-language Specialized Postage Stamps of Portugal catalog published by the Afinsa Group lists the stamps as having been issued for the Colonial Institute International Congress, and it values the stamps both unused and used without comment.
On July 6, 1904, Portugal issued two franchise stamps of the same design in different colors for the National Consumptives Aid Society. The brown and green Emblem franchise stamp, Scott 4S1, is shown in Figure 4.
The franchise stamps of Spain are unusual in that they were issued to individuals rather than to organizations or societies.
In 1869, Spain issued the world's first franchise stamp, the nondenominated blue Envelope franchise stamp, Scott S1, shown in Figure 5, to Diego Castel for his use in distributing his booklet on Spanish postal history. Today's postal historians no doubt are envious of Castel.
Spain issued a second franchise stamp for a similar purpose in 1881, this time to Antonio Fernandez Duro, for distribution of his book on the history of Spanish postage stamps. The nondenominated black on buff paper Open Book franchise stamp, Scott S2, is shown in Figure 6.
In 1880, a Spanish author, Mariano Pardo de Figueroa, who wrote under the pen name "Dr. Thebussem," was made an honorary postman and given the privilege of sending and receiving his mail free for the rest of his life. Figueroa designed and produced five different stamps (not shown with this article) for use on his mail, but because they are of private design and production, most catalogs do not list them.
Figueroa's franchise expired with his last breath, drawn Feb. 11, 1918. In 1944, Spain issued in his honor the 5-peseta bright ultramarine airmail stamp, Scott C117, shown in Figure 7.
Two other sets of Spanish franchise stamps are listed in the Edifil Specialized Unified Catalog of Spanish Stamps, Vol. III.
In 1931, a set of four nondenominated franchise stamps was issued for use by delegates to the republican constituent assembly that abolished the monarchy and wrote the new Spanish constitution.
A nondenominated orange Spanish Cortes franchise stamp, Edifil franchise stamp No. 19, is shown in Figure 8.
In 1938, a set of five nondenominated franchise stamps was issued for use by the Spanish Official Philatelic Agency. The stamps all feature the same design, a winged wheel and a helmeted Mercury, but they were printed in different colors.
The nondenominated green Winged Wheel and Mercury franchise stamp, Edifil franchise stamp No. 25, is shown in Figure 9.
This set of stamps is also listed in the German-language Michel catalog, although the Constituent Assembly set is not.
It is likely that these two sets of stamps are not listed by Scott because its editors believe that the stamps were not required to frank mail.
Switzerland began issuing franchise stamps in 1911. The first Swiss franchise stamps are quite similar in design to the Swiss postage due stamps showing snow covered mountains behind a Swiss national cross surrounded by ornate vegetation. A 2-centime olive-green and red Mountains franchise stamp, Scott S1, is shown in Figure 10.
The Swiss franchise stamps were issued to literally hundreds of organizations. The small "552" control number overprinted on the stamp shown in Figure 10 indicates that it was for use by the Solothurn Women's League to Combat Tuberculosis.
The German-language Zumstein Specialized Catalog of Swiss Postage Stampscontains a multipage listing of the control numbers, the names of the organizations and the years the stamps were used.
The cover shown in Figure 11 is franked with a 3c franchise stamp, Scott S2, overprinted with the number "27," which was assigned to the Cropettes Cooking School in Geneva.
In 1935, Switzerland issued a new set of franchise stamps with new designs. The 5c turquoise-green stamp, Scott S13, pictures a nurse; the 10c light violet stamp, Scott S14, shows a nun; and the 20c scarlet stamp, Scott S15, portrays J.H. Dunant. All three stamps are shown in Figure 12.
In 1939, France overprinted an "F" on the 90-centime ultramarine Peace With Olive Branch stamp to create its only franchise stamp, Scott S1. The stamps were used by Spanish refugees.
Nazi Germany issued two sets of franchise stamps, both for the National Socialist German Workers' Party, known to history as the Nazi Party.
An 11-stamp set showing the Nazi Party Emblem on swastika-watermarked paper was issued in 1938.
Eleven stamps of the same design in slightly different colors and on unwatermarked paper were issued in 1942.
A German 40-pfennig red violet Party Emblem watermarked franchise stamp, Scott S11, is shown in Figure 13.