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Author’s surprising discovery


The first country to allow commercial printing of advertisements on the back of its stamps was New Zealand. The year was 1893 and almost 100 ads for everything from pills, pickles, tobacco and coal to chocolates and soap, were printed on the gummed side of seven definitives featuring a portrait of Queen Victoria. Among the fascinating product offerings on the sheet below is an ad for a Christchurch dentist, S. Myers, proffering the use of nitrous oxide for painless extractions!

The overprint was applied to stamps prior to gumming, but the public objected to the stamps on the grounds that they would be able to lick off the ink.
Either way, advertisers didn’t like having their solicitations on the backs of stamps. Once the stamps were affixed to letters, the ads were never seen again. Within two years the advertising campaign was cancelled. However, ‘Adsons’, as these stamps were nicknamed, would make an interesting addition to one’s collection.

Then, in 1964, Sierra Leone issued definitives, one of which is shown above, with advertising on the reverse side. In composing this article, I discovered, much to my amazement, a personal link to this stamp.

My father had worked for the company, Samuel Jones, in the 1950s at its factory in Camberwell, South London and our family had lived for a while about 500 metres from his workplace. And, lo and behold, that company’s logo appears on the back of the 1964 Sierra Leone stamp. In 1905 Samuel Jones started producing non-curling gummed paper. This enabled the firm to produce blank paper with a gummed back, as opposed to putting the gummed adhesive on printed sheets (the gummed paper was predominately used for posters but also used on stamps). The paper was mass produced and distributed to printers to use as they wished.

In 1912 the company adopted the Camberwell Beauty butterfly emblem as its logo (two specimens were first caught in England in 1748, in Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell, South London). They chose the logo to demonstrate the possibility of printing several different colours on one piece of paper.

The Samuel Jones factory in Camberwell, 1960s.

– the Camberwell Beauty, see below.

Nymphalis antiopa


And, see below, PostBeeld also has this 1993 stamp set from Sweden, featuring the Camberwell Beauty (second from top).

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