Encased Stamps and Postal Coins
Encased Stamps are regular postage stamps inserted into a small coin-size case with a transparent front or back of mica or cellophane. Such stamps were circulated as legal tender during periods when coins were scarce. The earliest known use of encased stamps in Denmark was in 1921. Due to scarcity of small change in Southern Jutland after the reunion of Northern Schleswig with Denmark in 1920, the Postal Directorate General decided to issue 10-øre and 25-øre stamp-coins to be used as postal coins.
The company A/S Postreklamen was commissioned to encase the stamps between a circular metal plate and a piece of circular cellophane. The production as such was paid by American Tobacco Company in Copenhagen, who in return was admitted to have their ads inserted on the reverse side of the coin. Ten different ads are known to exist: Capstan, Cora, Cremo, Encore, Flag, Melba, Moss Rose, Nebo, Omar, and Star.
In Denmark further four ordinary postage stamps are known as "encased stamps": the 1933-1939 issues (steel engravings) of 1 øre black (Scott #220, AFA #196), 2 øre scarlet (Scott #221, AFA #197), 5 øre rose lake (Scott #224, AFA #246), and 10 øre brown (Scott #228, AFA #235). The scans are slightly blurred because of the cellophane encasing.
These stamps were used as small change during World War II, when the Nazis confiscated most copper coins to be melted down for military purposes. For this reason small change was scarce, so the citizens (mainly companies) created their own small changes and added a bit of advertising to the back. The name of the company on the back of the stamp- coin might have given such change some authority - and at least the benefit of "free advertising" :-) Contrary to the postal coins issued in 1921 (see above), all of these were privately produced around 1941, and no-one was obliged to accept them as payment.
The last variety of such use of Danish stamps is unique and dates back to 1989. That year all current 1-, 2-, 5- and 10 øre coins were withdrawn, and the lowest value of Danish coins was from now on 25 øre. (At the same time the 50-øre coin was re-introduced, having been out of use since World War II). This change was vital for companies using franking-machines, where the last digit was permanently fixed to "0" (zero) -- and could not be changed voluntarily -- but the postage needed would end with the digit "5" (cfr. the lowest value of Danish coins being now 25 øre). Confronted with this problem the then Post Master General replied, that if a customer wanted to purchase a stamp at the post office with face value dkr 3,20 against payment of dkr 3,25, he would in addition receive a 5-øre stamp. He seemed to have forgotten that (although still valid for postage) the 5-øre stamp was no longer for sale at the post office.
To this end the 5-øre wavy line in orange colour was issued for two purposes: add-ups on the postage printed by a franking machine -- such add-ups were in use as late as 1993, see below -- and also to be used as "postal change" when purchasing for example a 20-øre stamp and pay it with a 25-øre coin. This stamp has never been legal tender in other contexts than postal use. All Danish postage stamps issued 1933 and later, are still valid for postage, no matter their denomination, but some are no longer for (public) sale.
Other than Denmark, encased stamps are known to have been used in the United States, France, Austria, Germany, and Italy. Below are shown a few samples. As these varieties of postage stamps are turned into "coins" by commercial companies, they may not be listed in the stamp catalogues, but in numismatic catalogues only, even if they are legal for their purpose. Any additional information about these specific stamps will be welcomed.
Upper row shows the obverse side, and lower row the reverse side of the encased stamps.
An interesting example of paper-money -- but not encased stamps -- comes from Russia 1915. The set to the right, issued 1913, are ordinary postage stamps, Scott # 93, 95 and 96, being part of a larger set issued in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty.
The outbreak of World War I caused immense damages to the Russian population, and because of the inflation the same stamps were re-issued in 1915, Scott # 105-107, and authorized as paper money. They were printed on thin cardboard paper and with no gum.
Sources and links:
Sieg's Møntkatalog 1977 and later.
Postal Coins (in Danish only)
Bibliographic listing (in Danish only)
Many thanks to Mr. Jørgen Sømod (Denmark) for contributing the facts about Danish postal coins and encased stamps, and to Mr. Zarmen Makarian (Russia), for contributing the historical facts about the Russian stamps.
Revised 02 nov 2006