World Stamps

By Charles Snee

New specialized catalog details obscure collecting area

August 29, 2016 07:00 AM

  • Jack and Carol Yao published Vol. 1 of Yao’s Catalogue of Worldwide Reply Coupons, which discusses Universal Postal Union coupons. The Yaos have collected and studied reply coupons for more than 40 years.

By Charles Snee

During the past few years, a number of specialty catalogs have been published for some of the more esoteric, back-of-the-book collecting areas.

We can now add to this list a catalog devoted to reply coupons: Yao’s Catalogue of Worldwide Reply Coupons.

Jack and Carol Yao published Vol. 1 of the catalog, which encompasses Universal Postal Union reply coupons, in July.

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The Yaos, whose collection contains more than 60,000 reply coupons, are recognized experts on the subject. Jack began collecting reply coupons in 1970 as a college student in Taiwan.

They intend to publish a second volume dealing with non-UPU coupons in early 2017.

Reply coupons were first developed in the early 20th century.

A brief history is provided in the preface to the catalog:

“Beginning in 1907, the UPU started printing and distributing International Reply Coupons (IRC’s or RC’s).

“Any UPU member country could order IRC’s from the UPU and sell them to its postal customers.

“Postal customers would send the IRCs to friends, relatives, or others in another country.

“The receiver of the coupon could then redeem the IRC for a postage stamp sufficient to send a return letter back to the original sender.”

Prior to the appearance of the Yaos’ catalog, most classification systems were based on collections of reply coupons from a single country.

The Yaos have labored intently to overcome this deficiency by developing a type classification system for both UPU and non-UPU coupons in their catalog.

To get the most from the catalog, the introduction should be carefully read and studied.

Here the Yaos provide an overview of reply coupons, along with descriptions and illustrations of the UPU coupons (five basic types) and the coupons produced by the seven non-UPU postal unions.

More detail about the UPU coupons is presented in part II, while part III provides a very useful overview of the listings and how to read them, along with a helpful summary of the abbreviations used in the listings.

Part IV, the heart of the catalog, provides the listings of the UPU coupons alphabetically by country.

Each listing shows the Yao catalog number, coupon type, coupon face value, coupon printing quantity, earliest-known use, latest-known use, and market value.

Note that the EKU and LKU dates are given in year-month-day format, with each number separated by a period.

The catalog defines market value as “the estimated current value of the coupon in the philatelic market.”

Hundreds of illustrations accompany the listings; many of them are close-ups of important distinguishing characteristics.

Part V, the appendix, provides a bibliography for further research and a table detailing the quantities of reply coupons “printed and distributed by [the] UPU between 1907 and 2000.”

If you collect reply coupons, this catalog will add immeasurably to your knowledge of these fascinating instruments for facilitating communication worldwide.

Vol.1 of Yao’s Catalogue of Worldwide Reply Coupons is available for $60 plus $6.45 shipping via priority mail in the United States.

Send a check payable to Jack Yao, Box 416, Hinsdale, IL 60522-0416. 

For more information, email collectrc@gmail.com.