The website created by James Bendon is the precursor of this website. The catalog UPU Specimen Stamps was written and published by James Bendon, 1988 ISBN 9963-7624-1-7, and edited by James Negus. That work, limited to adhesive stamps, included Bendon’s extensive research at the International Bureau of the UPU, Musée de La Poste in Paris, of the Postmuseum in Stockholm, and of the Post Museum in Berne, the Manager of the National Postal Museum in London, the Philatelic Collections at The British Library, and the Post Office Archives in London. He was given assistance and permission to publish information abstracted from their records.

The stamps listed in the book only include those confirmed as having been distributed by the UPU, using two criteria:

  • Examples should be found in several collections known to have been formed from UPU distributions and not subsequently adulterated by additions from other sources. In the case of stamps, this presented little difficulty, as there were several suitable collections available for examination. However, none of these included any postal stationery.
  • Each adhesive stamp should be recorded and adequately described in the International Bureau Circular that covered the distribution. In nearly all cases, he was able to do so.
  • In the case of postal stationery, however, the descriptions were frequently insufficient in detail for the individual items to be identified with certainty. An extreme example is the 1886 distribution of United States of America envelopes that are described as “46 stamped envelopes which differ in their value and format.” Over the past three decades, James Bendon has compiled a listing of postal stationery of the world that was distributed by the UPU with some form of protection (overprinting, handstamping, perforating, etc.) with the word Specimen (or the equivalent, such as Muestra, Muster, etc.).

    English names of countries are listed in alphabetic order. For political changes and postal regroupings, the main country heading follows that used by Stanley Gibbons Catalogue. Thus Nyasaland Protectorate includes the earlier British Central Africa; Orange Free State includes the Orange River Colony, etc. Countries are generally treated as separate geographical entities. Thus Cuba, Philippines and Puerto Rico have separate catalog entries. The various colonial and independent administrations found in each are treated as sub-divisions. Where the same type of protective marking was used among several territories (such as during the Spanish period of these three), information is cross-referenced for clarity and common type numbers are used for the protective markings. Some territories are grouped when it corresponds to the normal way in which their stationery is collected, e.g., all the Malaysian States, Johore to Trengganu, are listed in one sequence. Also, in cases where a lengthy introduction applies to a number of territories, these too are grouped together. Examples are the German Colonies and Post Offices Abroad. For a full list of countries, their UPU join dates, and other similar information, see the button UPU Members.

    Columns vary in number for each country, and the following are examples that may be used:

    Protective markings applied to demonetize the postal stationery are standardized, as follows:

    1. Markings known to have been applied by British security printers to stationery of the British Crown Colonies are classified by printer.
    2. Any marking specific to an individual territory, or closely related group of territories, which has not been allocated to a firm of printers is identified with a country prefix followed by a sequential number;
    3. The protective markings used by non-British territories, and also those used by some Australian States, are given type numbers in square brackets, e.g. for Australia, type “CTO-1”.
    4. The dimensions of handstamped and overprinted markings are shown as: width x depth in millimeters, e.g. 17 x 3.25 and are given to the nearest 0.25mm. This applies to the usual case where the lettering is all in upper case. Sometimes the initial letter is a large capital and the remainder of the word smaller capitals; or the initial letter may be in upper case and the remainder in lower case. The two sizes of depth dimension are then shown separated by a stroke, e.g. 12.75 x 3.5/2.5: the capital 'S' = 3.5mm high, the remainder 2.5mm.
    5. The width includes the full stop if any, but the depth excludes upper and lower extensions to lower case letters (so-called ascenders and descenders).
    6. Nearly all protective markings are illustrated. It should be noted that handstamped markings, especially those produced with a rubber handstamp, will often appear far less clear than the illustration, which has retouched to show the original intention. The illustrations should be used only as an aid to identification and should not be used for expertizing.

    Receiving Authority Specimens
    Some stamps and postal stationery received from the UPU (or very occasionally from other sources) have been given a protective marking by the receiving postal administration or other official department (regardless of whether they had already been protected by the issuing postal authority). This was done either to provide further security against theft or, more usually, to simplify audit procedures.

    Receiving authority specimens are of philatelic importance. They provide confirmation that the items were in fact distributed by the UPU, even in those cases where the distribution was of examples in normal unused condition. A number of types are known, and these are described below.

    Portugal and Portuguese Colonies: The best known receiving authority specimen is the 'ULTRAMAR' handstamp applied either in violet or blue to UPU distributions sent to the Portuguese Ministry for the Colonies during the period 1895 to 1910. The Ministry received as many as 35 collections, the great majority of which were retained in Lisbon since only single, rather than quintuple or triple, collections appear to have been forwarded to each Colony. In 1982 an incomplete world-wide collection of specimens which had been distributed by the UPU between 1899 and 1942 was sold. Many items are as distributed by the International Bureau, but all those that had been circulated in normal unused condition and a few others bear a variety of protective markings. The earliest issues are handstamped “ULTRAMAR”, in 1925 “COLONIAS”, in 1927-31 “Especimen”, in 1932 “SPECIMEN”, in 1934-39 “SPECIMEN”, and in 1939-42 “AMOSTRA “. There is no doubt that this collection had been formed in a Portuguese Colony, almost certainly Angola.

    Gambia: The single-circle “RECEIVED GAMBIA” datestamp with a date of AU 12 88 has been seen on stamps and postal stationery of Japan which had been distributed in July 1888 with “Mihon” overprints. It may be that the Gambia Post Office did not appreciate the significance of the Japanese overprint.

    Madagascar. All stamps and stationery specimens received from other member sates were pasted into large ledgers, and handstamped with a red circular handstamp. The archive was obtained by a dealer, dismantled to form single country groups, and sold in the philatelic market.

    If there is collector interest, stationery with these receiving marks could be added to this catalog, as they do prove the items were originally sent to the UPU for exchange. The number of different items would be very large, though the quantity of examples of each type is small.

    Sources and Further Reading
    There are numerous references to specimen stamps and stationery in specialized handbooks and catalogs, but many do not distinguish which were given UPU circulation and which were produced for other purposes. In the past decades, a number of single-country specialized handbooks and catalogs have included extracts from official archives, including quantities printed of Specimens.

    1. Marcus Samuel: Specimen Stamps of the Crown Colonies 1857-1948. London, Royal Philatelic Society, 1976. A Supplement by James Bendon, Conrad Latto and Marcus Samuel was published by the RPSL in 1984.
    2. Marcus Samuel: “The. Distribution of Specimen Stamps by the Universal Postal Union”. An article, published in eight installments in Stamp Collecting Vol. 103, between 4 December 1964 and 5 February 1965.
    3. Marcus Samuel and Alan Huggins: Specimen Stamps and Stationery of Great Britain. Saffron Walden, Essex, GB Philatelic Publications, 1980.
    4. A. R. Butler: "Specimen Stamps of New South Wales”. An article published in four installments in The London Philatelist Vol. 76, between February and June 1967.
    5. A. R. Butler: Chapter XVI (“Specimen and Reprint Stamps”) in Stamps and Postal History of Tasmania .London, Royal Philatelic Society, 1986.
    6. John Easton: The De La Rue History of British & Foreign Postage Stamps 1855 to 1901. London, Faber & Faber, 1958.
    7. As previously explained, the Circulars and Bulletins issued by the International Bureau of the UPU are a major source of information.
    8. Robson Lowe auction catalogs of the sale of the Bechuanaland collection, 1976.
    9. Sotheby Parke Bernet catalog of the sale of the Natal collection, 1980.
    10. The standard detailed work in English on the UPU is George A. Codding Jr.: The Universal Postal Union -Coordinator of the International Mails. New York, University Press, 1964. A useful pamphlet (including a bibliography) is The Universal Postal Union -Its Creation and Development. Berne, International Bureau of the UPU, 1986.
    11. The official history is L'Union Postale -.sa Fondation et son Développement, published in Berne by the International Bureau of the UPU. This Memoire has been updated several times since its first publication in 1900. The 1949 edition has been particularly useful.
    12. A good philatelic handbook containing helpful background is M. William Tyrrell: The Universal Postal Union Members & Stamps 1874-1974. Albany, Oregon, Van Dahl Publications, 1974.
    Regarding membership, the International Bureau of the UPU regularly publishes lists and chronologies. Most information can be obtained on their website.

    A Cooperative Effort
    There are about 140 countries and postal territories that distributed some form of specimen postal stationery. Most of these are the former colonies of the European powers, predominantly of Great Britain, but also of Germany, The Netherlands, Spain and Belgium.

    Since there is a general lack of published information on this subject, the present state of this web-based catalog is due to the help of collectors to compile the information for their specialties. The List of Countries shows where specialist help is still principally needed. However, every collector of postal stationery of any country should be able to contribute by reading what has so far been recorded, by advising details of corrections and additions, and asking general and specific questions. Some entries in the lists are preceded by “???” to indicate that assistance would be particularly welcomed.

    The response from collectors and professional philatelists to assist James Bendon with this project was outstanding. He acknowledges the following for their contributions: David Beech, John Bell, Alan Berry, Roger Bower, Brian Cartwright, John DiBiase, John Dickson, David Druett, Alan Drysdall, Florian Eichhorn, Lars Engelbrecht, Charles Freeland, Alan Green, Keith Hanman, Stefan Heijtz, Eric Holmes, Peter Hørlyck, Alan Huggins, Alex Ioannides, George Krieger, Philip Levine, Ian Matheson, Wayne Menuz, Emil Minaar, Andrew Norris, Brian Pope, John Ray, Peter Rolfe, Mehrdad Sadri, Paul Skinner, Dingle Smith, Mike Smith, Ronald Strawser, Peter Thy, Greg Todd, Ross Towle, Brian Trotter, Peter van der Molen, Hadrian Wood and Eric Yendall.

    Interested collectors with information to share, are encouraged to contact the UPSS. Email can be sent to Wayne Menuz, upss-ed@pacbell.net, or mailed to 1659 Branham Lane, Suite F-307, San Jose, CA 95118-2291, USA.

    The UPSS intends to maintain the specimen postal stationery catalog in this website and make it accessible to members and non-members. It is our intention to provide an easy to use, reliable, central source of information for UPU distributed specimen postal stationery. It is not known at present if this project will be published as a printed book.