ABOUT SPECIMENS By DAVID PLUMMER
Local philatelic history has been made by the appearance of three
Australian high values overprinted "Specimen". These were issued (to
quote the inscription on the pack) to offer "collectors a rare opportunity to
add official 'Specimen* items to their collections," and to "enable Australia
Post to assist the Australian International Philatelic Exhibition, Ausipex
The second of these objectives is the historic development mentioned. The
first is an echo of early Commonwealth philatelic history, and one wonders
that it was not a continuing practice. The overprinting of high values to
supply Australian collectors with samples of such stamps at a reduced cost
followed the introduction of the first Commonwealth adhesives, the
Specimen stamps had appeared elsewhere in the world long before 1913. In
a way, their initial provision was a misunderstanding of an official
instruction issued by the Universal Postal Union in 1878. Part of the
agreement reached by member-nations provided for documents relating to
their postal arrangements to be sent to the central Bureau for general
distribution. This was, quite reasonably, taken to mean that copies of each
current stamp should be so forwarded, for archival purposes and also to
show what postmasters might expect to see on international mail.
From the beginning, some countries overprinted stamps before sending
them to the Bureau, others sent mint or lightly postmarked copies. The
early requirements were not large, but as the U.P.U. grew in strength, and
as stamps of higher value were issued, it became obvious that there was
some possibility of trafficking; light postmarks could be easily removed.
While, for example, up to 1867 the top value in British stamps reached
only 2/-that increased to 5/- in that year, and IO/-, £1 and £5 stamps were
on the way.
Till 1882, 92 copies of each stamp issued were sent to the Bureau. This
figure became 300 by 1886. By the end of the century there were 730, and
the U.P.U. was returning some of them to the senders because of storage
problems. (Why, if distribution was being undertaken as arranged?) In
1907 the quantity to be sent was reduced to 448, and later to 400.
A long set of stamps showing various works by
Goya was issued by Spain in 1930. To make sure
that they gained attention, specimen sets were
sent to major newspapers throughout the world.
"Muestra", reading upwards, may be noticed at
the lady's feet.
The customary overprint on British Colonial
stamps found a solution, and perforating the word "Specimen" in each
stamp was introduced.
Before returning to the history of Australian specimen stamps, certain
points about these stamps should be mentioned.
First, not all stamps so overprinted by other countries were prepared as
copies for U.P.U. files or for overseas postal authorities. The specimen
stamps just issued through our own philatelic sales counters may be quoted
as examples of this. Important visitors from other countries, stamp
designers and artists, politicians, and similar people may become recipients
of copies so overprinted. In certain cases, copies were sold to philatelists.
Additional suppplies were likely to be printed when some later important
occasion involved a "mass" presentation of postal material. The
distribution of "Specimen" stamps as publicity for new issues is increasing.
A U.P.U. Congress is held every four to five years, and for the national
delegates who attend these meetings an issue of stamps is usually made by
the host country, a different venue being used for each Congress. These are
often specimen copies, but latterly ordinary stamps have been used for such
occasions, working on the theory that surely men of such eminence would
not stoop to using their mementos for personal gain.
In 1929 a five-stamp issue was made by Great Britain for the Congress held
in London that year; the values were '/id., Id., l'/2d. and 2d., and £1. The
story used to run that the £1 stamp was issued because it was belatedly
realised that, at 5!/2d., the total face value of the set appeared rather
niggardly. The story can be believed if "belatedly" is dropped from it. The
very poorly designed low values were typographed, whereas the £1 stamp
was well designed and beautiful.
The Australian Stamp Monthly, April, 1983
The worry about cleaning and trafficking continued, and then some
Two of the perforated types of "Specimens". The perforations, both on
stamps from Gilbert and Ellice Islands, are shown from the back (and
therefore reversed) for the sake of clarity.
U.P.U. CONGRESS, 1929
The £1 stamps, printed in black, were endorsed
"Specimen" in red for U.P.U. delegates. This
has been photographed from the souvenir sheet
issued for a philatelic Exhibition in 1972, on which
it was reproduced by lithography.
Rodney a écrit:
> Specimen stamps had appeared elsewhere in the world long before 1913.
Interesting article, here is my contribution
When postal authorities decided to open schools
for future Postmen, they though at stamps
for practical lessons : currently available stamps
were overprinted "ANNULE" (cancel), they
were even used on test letters (and mostly
for unusual tariffs).
Philatelists were interested in this "ANNULE" ;
some bought them to students, some were angry
because they couldn't find them or had to buy
them a good price, so it was decided to
stop producing "ANNULE"...
They were replaced by "SPECIMEN" overprint...
What happen next ? Well, the SPECIMEN were
as much researched as the previous ANNULE !
So were introduced "Fictif" or "Simili" stamps
(just a border, a face value and a mention
"Sans Valeur" No Value), but even if
the design isn't appealing, they have
There is a Specimen
on the "Arc de Triomphe" stamps printed in USA,
it's a large manual overprint that go on 6 or 8
stamps, and is quite rare.
Other France Specimen were overprinted for
display at Post Office (well, only a 4 stamps
batch in 1936, as well as several stationaries in the
past 10 years), the purpose (and sometimes authenticity)
of other SPECIMEN is unknown.
Another story is about a special airplane journey
(First Fly ?). The letter could be posted anywhere
in France, but the stamps were normally canceled
only at a central site with a special postmark.
Some stamps were canceled with the normal
postmark... It was decided to cancel this
stamps (ANNULE), then put other stamps to
be canceled with the special postmark...
Timbres-poste d'usage couranthttp://amisdemarianne.free.fr/
Cercle des Amis de Marianne
US specimen's are mainly sought by specialists. The first 'specimen'
overprints appeared on the US 1861 Issue. Prior to that a control number
used on stamps exchanged with European governments as a way of
Then, in 1875 the US Post Office wanted a complete sets of all US stamps
sell to the public at the Centennial fair in Philadelphia. The back of the
book material was overprinted, but postage stamps were not because the
dealers &etc. wanted the option to use them for postage. So we have
stamps and state department stamps etc. with the specimen 'D' overprint.
Certain of these overprints are quite rare, but catalog values have lagged
severely. I purchased an unlisted Eagle Carrier with specimen 'D' overprint
from a dealer in Seattle a while back for $20. The imperforate stamp, with
full original gum, evidently came from a sampling of first day's production
for government approval way back in 1851. I don't know of an earlier issue
with specimen overprint!
Send Replies to:firstname.lastname@example.org
> wrote in message
> Sounds very much like supply and demand.
> I do believe "Specimens" were caustically snubbed
> here in Australia till perhaps the mid fifties, now they
> attract spirited bidding whenever they appear at our Auctions.
> How else is one to have a 2 pound Roo?
> I was surprised to learn of the large volume one has to send to the UPU.
> It would be nice to read an article on the machinery and daily
> goings on of the UPU, one very rarely comes across commentary on this.
> | Well, In 1936, the South African Postal Authorities overprinted a
> | batch of left-over booklet panes of the hapenny Springboks and the
> | penny Ships with "JIPEX and sold them at the Jo'burg International
> | Philatelic Exhibition at face values of 3d and 6d respectively. They
> | are now trading at around 4GBP and 2.50GBP. It is, I think, unusual
> | for what is essentially a commemorative item to increase so much in
> | value.
> | [snip]
> | Franz