Home Culture The History of Stamp Collecting Part 29 – Assay Mania

The History of Stamp Collecting Part 29 – Assay Mania


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 29.

Apart from commercially-issued stamps, there have been many postage stamps of various designs that were not approved for official release. They are often prints from designs submitted to postal administrations for future stamp issues. From 1863 there arose a mania to collect trial stamps, or as they were then commonly called; ‘Assays’. In addition, there was a lot of interest in the stamps of private postal services, which were especially common in the USA.


So, in 1863, the issuance of postage stamps was not very well regulated. Consequently, it was almost impossible to know whether certain stamps were official postal authority issues. In retrospect, it is amazing how men such as Pemberton (see Part 13 of The History of Stamp Collecting) and Hanciau (see Part 16 – J.B. Moens’s Publications) could often make a correct judgement.

Of course, there were several clever – but not totally honest – people who benefited from the demand for these kinds of products by collaborating to extract money from honest collectors. This meant that many unofficial or fake items came on the market. Therefore, as stamp collecting was still in its infancy and the philatelic knowledge of the general public was limited, the then inadequate means of communication naturally helped dishonest traders to bring large quantities onto the market without any suspicion. Among many examples from that time are ‘fantasy’ stamps from Buenos Aires, Dutch Guiana, The Mormons, Greece, Blockade Postage, Bell’s Dispatch, Kerr’s City Post, Amoy and many others.

And this has occurred throughout the history of stamp collecting, and still happens today – some known fakes also have value.


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