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Private and Personalized Stamps
A New Collecting Area

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In recent years, during the global wave of privatizations, a lot of alternative companies for postal delivery have been established for regional and/or city-deliveries of the post. Some of such companies have also been authorized to issue their own stamps, which are valid for postage within "their" delivery-area, but not elsewhere. Such stamps are defined as "private stamps", or sometimes as "city post". An example of this is the German Biber Post. 

Countries with alternative companies using their own stamps are e.g. The Netherlands and New Zealand. Alternative companies' minimum rate for delivery of standard letters of the first domestic weight-class are often lower than the postal entities' rate for the same service. 

Germany 2005. Private Stamp. Biber Post. Magdeburg Castle

  • Germany 2005. Private stamp issued by Biber Post. Germany. The stamp is sold in panes of two, and shows the Green Castle [De Grüne Zitadelle], in  Magdeburg, created by the Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. 

Post Sweden has chosen another path to compete with the alternative companies' lower rate for delivery of domestic standard letters. Since 1997, when the Post Office raised the domestic postal fee with 35%, while the deflation was 0,2%, they have issued NVI-stamps [No Value Indicated]. Such stamps have no value indicated by numerals, but the text föreningsbrev (societies), ekonomibrev (2nd class mail), and brev inrikes (1st class domestic mail). The stamps are valid forever, no matter how much the Post will raise the fees in the future. At latest, in January 2004, Sweden issued a set of three such stamps, clearly marked as indicated above. They depict "Practical Woodworking Tools". 

However, Sweden still issues "standard" stamps, valid for actually current rates, which will surely be more satisfactory for collectors, whichever topic or series they might collect :-) 
 
Sweden 2004. Practical Woodworking Tools. Föreningsbrev -  Brace Sweden 2004. Practical Woodworking Tools. Ekonomibrev - Saw Sweden 2004. Practical Woodworking Tools. Brev Inrikes - Plane

  • Sweden 2004. Practical Woodworking Tools. 

    • Föreningsbrev - Brace 

    • Ekonomibrev - Saw

    • Brev Inrikes - Plane

Personalized stamps -- sometimes referred to as Greeting Stamps -- are of a different nature. In order to compete with the private companies, such stamps are issued by the postal entities upon request from an individual. Stamp designs may depict for instance still living celebrities of one's own choice, like the Beatles, Arnold Schwarzenegger, family celebrations like a new-born baby, your favourite holiday photograph, your pet animal etc., the only limitation being that the customized stamp must follow the general layout regulations of the issuing postal entity (background-colour, self-adhesives or normal, perforation, postage value etc.). A very illustrative example of this are the Canadian Greeting Stamps issued 2001. 

Canada 2001. Personalized stamp-frame intended for announcing a new baby Canada 2001. Personalized stamp-frame intended for the customer's personal Christmas-photograph
  • Canada 2001. Two Canadian frames for customizing stamps. The one on the left is intended for the announcement of a new baby, and the one on the right for the customer's favourite photograph to be inserted by Canada Post in the empty space. They are valid for domestic letter mail. For further information, please see Canadian Postal Archives

When first appearing on the market, ordering personalized stamps was reserved for a small in-crowd of some stamp dealers and stamp magazine publishers, but the option is now open to anyone on condition that the customer purchases a minimum number of stamps (such as determined by the postal entity), because they are most often printed in panes of 10, or sheets of 25 stamps. 

Lately, also Spain has joined the increasing number of postal entities who issue fully personalized stamps. Here is a very nice sample,  depicting the world famous stamp engraver Czeslaw Slania. 

The stamp is clearly marked "Tu Sello", literally meaning "your stamp", "Correos" and the character "A" to denominate that it is an NVI-stamp (no value indicated). The stamp is self-adhesive. 

For further information, please see the highly awarded website about Czeslaw Slania's Engraved Stamps and Bank Notes

Spain 2007. Personalized stamp with Czeslaw Slania's portrait

  • Spain 2007. Personalized stamp issued by Philatelic Club Slania, Valencia. The portrait of Slania is identical with the one decorating the first day cover, issued by the United Nations on 4 February 2005

Although the national postal entities set up the rules as to the overall design, such stamps are kept out of the regular year issuing program and are thus not listed in official catalogues or websites. For this reason they are sometimes referred to as "backdoor stamps" (not to be confused with back-of-book stamps). 

Personalized stamps may in many respects be compared with home-designed first day covers, submitted to the postal authorities by dealers or individuals for being cancelled on the first day of issue of the stamp used for franking. 

Since personalized stamps are not listed in the official catalogues, there is naturally very little -- if any at all -- literature about this collecting area, leaving collectors of such items absolutely to themselves, and to rely on their own knowledge. However, collectors and philatelic journalists are currently working on private websites about the subject, intended to offer in the least some guidelines for their categorization and systematization. An initial such page on Austrian personalized stamps is available here, with the explicit permission of its author. The page is in partly in Dutch, partly in English. 

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Sources and links: 

Many thanks to Jose Angel Arbizu (Spain), and Mr. R.C. Bakhuizen v.d. Brink (The Netherlands), for all help and inspiration with setting up this page. 


Revised 18 jul 2007 
Copyright © by Ann Mette Heindorff
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