In the late 1970s a fascinating series of articles written by Mr. K. Kouwenberg about the history of Stamp Collecting, appeared in the Dutch magazine Philatelie. This series has been the source of inspiration for PostBeeld owner Rob Smit to rewrite the history of stamp collecting in instalments. This is Part 21.
The year 1863 began well. Across Europe, philately – or timbromanie as it was also known – was immensely popular.
In England there was so much demand for ‘The Stamp Collector’s Magazine’ that the first four editions were reprinted. In the first issue there is an article entitled “Postal Chit-Chat”, a brief description of the outdoor exhibition on Cheapside in London. “Twelve months ago, there was in London not a single shop where one could buy stamps. Now there are a dozen or more reputable dealers and additionally a lot of people able to make a profit from the items created by Rowland Hill”, the article were not ustated.
Elsewhere in Europe, stamp shops were shooting up from the ground like mushrooms. It was clear that quite a few people were only interested in making quick money from this boom and were not seriously interested in philately. They often fell by the wayside, as knowledge among collectors quickly rose via information gleaned from the increasing amount of magazines on the subject. There was now real competition. Not only between traders but also between magazine publishers.
This is why, from April 1863, “Stamp Collector’s Magazine” gave away a free stamp every month. These were low value, unused stamps which could be bought cheaply in large quantities. That they were unused was important because they were simply
stuck in the magazine. For collectors at that time the gum having been previously used was not an item. They were happy to simply pluck the free stamp from the magazine and repaste it into their own albums. Despite the fact that the stamps were low-value, the gimmick was popular.
In the Stamp Collector’s Magazine 1863 editions were a one Lepton brown from Greece, a 3 Silb.Gr. green from Thurn and Taxis, a 1c Boyd’s City Express, a 3pf green Saksen 1863, a 2c yellow Italy 1862, a 4c Italy 1863, a 3 ore brown from Sweden and a 2c blue on yellow from Spain from July 1862. A nice collection from a subscription, and the system continued for years.
The offer of free stamps had a great effect and the number of readers increased rapidly. Other magazines copied this tactic although some didn’t give away original stamps, just reprints or facsimiles.
The brothers Senf years later gave away facsimiles with their ‘Illustrirten Briefmarken Journal’. The market became flooded with these offers, eventually triggering strong protests from collector organisations. The Senf company therefore decided to discontinue their free stamp promotion. By the turn of the century giveaway stamps had almost completely disappeared from the scene.
But in recent years the phenomenon has reappeared, especially when buying catalogues. The Belgian ‘Belgische Bond Postzegelcatalogus’ offers a special stamp sheet, the NVPH (official society for Dutch stamp dealers) gives away blueprints with its Special catalogue and specially crafted personalized sheets in its ‘Personal Stamps’ catalogue.
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