UPU SPECIMEN STAMPS 1878-1961

Supplement 2021

from the reviews . . .



The American Philatelist December 2021
Gary Wayne Lowe

The Universal Postal Union (the UPU) is best known for replacing the endless hodgepodge of bilateral postal agreements with a uniform system of regulations to help worldwide postal authorities manage the movement of international mail. Originating in 1874, the UPU’s “Conventions” are used by postal historians to understand their covers’ rates, markings, and movements.

The UPU itself never issued its own postage stamps. Yet, the UPU is important to stamp collectors as well. The counterfeiting of postage stamps to rob postal authorities of revenues was a problem almost as soon as Great Britain issued the first Penny Black postage stamp in 1840. In the case of international mail, postal clerks had a very difficult time determining whether a letter bore a genuine postage stamp. To assist postal administrations with this challenge, the UPU developed a system of sharing genuine stamps among its members. In 1878, the UPU introduced a requirement that “specimen” stamps be distributed to the POs of member nations.

One of the early documenters of specimen stamps was Marcus Samuel. His seminal work, Specimen stamps of the crown colonies, 1857-1948, published in 1976, was the first thorough documentation of UPU specimen stamps. Samuel defined a specimen stamp as “a stamp or stamp proof that has been provided or preserved as a sample, for which no payment had been made to the revenue, and that has been defaced to prevent its postal (or fiscal) use.” While not a complete definition, it does explain the intent of such stamps.

The successor to Samuel’s work was UPU Specimen Stamps: The Distribution of Specimen Stamps by the International Bureau of the Universal Postal Union by James Bendon, published in 1988. Bendon returned with a complete revision and expansion of his earlier work in 2015, UPU Specimen Stamps 1878–1961. I published a review of this grand work in the Third Quarter 2016 issue of the Philatelic Literature Review (page 217). At that time, I thought that Bendon had just written the ultimate book on UPU specimens.

As is often the case, philatelic authors continue to discover new varieties and to uncover and document new information. Bendon, now in his mid-80s, apparently could not resist writing a supplement to his Crawford Medal-winning book. Philately is that much the better for his efforts. UPU Specimen Stamps 1878–1961 Supplement – 2021 is perfectly designed to work in concert with its predecessor work.

The 2015 tome was organized much like a catalog, with examples of specimen stamps organized alphabetically by stamp issuing entity. It was profusely illustrated and associated each example with an identifier for the type or variety of the word “SPECIMEN” that had been printed on or perfined into the stamp. The numerous appendices resulted in a book that was an explication of the how and the why of UPU specimens.

This supplement’s chapters largely track the organization of the earlier work. Bendon “resumes” page numbering beginning with page 600 to ensure differentiation between the paired publications. Moreover, each element of the supplement identifies the page in the previous book that is being added to or revised. In all, the catalog section of the supplement offers information on sixty of the 220 stamp issuing entities found in the original.

Many of the catalog entries are simply one line corrections, additions, or sometimes deletions. Checklist corrections to the original are handled in a very convenient way: an image of the erroneous text is reproduced, accompanied by the necessary correction. This is very convenient when using both books side-by-side. And that is precisely the way that these two references should be used.

Other entries are more substantial. The entry for the Falkland Islands, for example, consists of three pages. There is a full page of new text to be inserted after the original introductory text. Such entries are fully footnoted, as was the case with the original volume. There is a new half-page illustration of archival examples from the Royal Swedish Post Office’s collection. The appearance of the specimen stamps on this album page was used to confirm that this piece is from the archive of the Royal Swedish Post Office collection. Frequently, the archival source of specimen stamps can only be determined by the pages on which they are mounted. There is a full-page reproduction of an 1891 International Bureau Circular that describes distribution of certain Falkland stamps. There are many similar two and three page addenda.

Bendon also adds something that more supplements should contain: additions to the “Sources and Selected References” section. Six years have passed since the original 2015 volume. Several dozen specialized new publications have emerged. This supplement brings those all together, expanding the usefulness of the original section.

The first two appendices are helpful. Appendix E is a one line addendum to the prior edition’s “British Printers’ Standard Types.” It identifies additional varieties of the De La Rue “D12” overprint type. But Appendix F contains a reprint of the Andrew Norris 1997 article where these varieties were first introduced. Bendon has made very effective use of reprinting important (and sometimes challenging to obtain) publications in order to bring together a continuation of the compendium that populated his 2015 work.

As readers of The American Philatelist will see in the upcoming January 2022 issue, stamp catalogs are simply a necessity for philatelists. Of additional importance to specialists are auction catalogs of focused materials, in this case UPU specimens. Within auction catalogs we frequently see unique examples that may not have been seen publicly for a generation or more. Auction catalogs, also provide real-world transactional data that collectors can use when buying for their own collections, or when it is time to sell. Such data may age with time, but they provide a baseline for further research.

James Bendon has done a major service to collectors of UPU material by reprinting in their entirety two of the most important auction catalogs for the specimen genre: the 1976 Robson Lowe International auction of British, European, and overseas specimens; and the 1980 Sotheby Parke Bernet South Africa sale of worldwide specimen stamps. Together, these sales comprise a powerful source of pricing and expansive descriptions of both common and quite rare material.

The important new and revised material contained in UPU Specimen Stamps 1878–1961 Supplement – 2021 is reason enough to add this book to your philatelic library. But the intelligent way that James Bendon has constructed and assembled it produces that rare book: an intuitive and easy to use supplement to a comprehensive predecessor volume.



The Collectors Club Philatelist November/December 2021
James Peter Gough, RDP

James Bendon has made a lifetime study of the specimen stamps of the world. He first published a book on the subject in 1988. Over time, James became the clearing house of information on all new discoveries of specimen stamps and postal stationery as well as questions pertaining to all aspects of the specimens’ characteristics. His unchallenged role as the doyen of specimens was well-earned from his diligent studies, especially those at the archives of the UPU in Berne. Philatelists who collect UPU related material have a high regard for James Bendon and his contributory work in the UPU aspect of specimens.

Here Mr. Bendon is at it again … also proving that philatelic fields of study are almost endless. Many new finds have come to the surface of specimens that James found justification to publish a Supplement with even more information. There is enough additional information in this Supplement that James gives a table on page xxvi which cross-references the new information on the pages of the Supplement to the pages in the original book [publ. 2015] where they are related.

As with the previous book, this one is scholarly and handy to use. Anyone who collects a country that has issued specimen stamps needs to have a copy of this book on their shelf for ready access. But even for those countries that supplied un-defaced stamps to the UPU, collectors can obtain “specimens” for their collections because of the application of distinctive receiving marks on those stamps upon arrival in some identifiable UPU member reference collections.

For philatelic judges, both the original book and this Supplement are de rigor. When I am judging, I find many specialists (of certain issues and certain countries in the late 1800s and early 1900s) are unaware that the specimen stamps in their collections are not actually “UPU” specimens but commercial ones. Not all countries overprinted their stamps before sending them to the UPU.

What many collectors will find interesting is that the creation of defaced stamps as specimens predates the UPU, when post offices wished to put examples on announcements for new stamp issues as well as when the various printers of stamps wished to show other postal administrations the quality of their work.

Many collectors will also find interesting the different means by which post offices (and printers) would deface specimens for their various purposes of distribution and even sale. There are quite a number of stamps and postal stationery that appear to be ‘canceled to order’ (“CTO”) but were actually specimens sent to the UPU in Berne for distribution to other members of that organization.

Another aspect that enthralled me were the number of stamps that were printed but not ever issued, or stamps that were quickly withdrawn, but which are available to collectors as specimens in a number of cases. Who would have thought? There are also the cases of stamps having to be reprinted for UPU distribution (because when they were created someone forgot to send a shipment to Berne from the original printing) and which are different from the actual issues in nuanced ways (very often paper differences but also inks and perforations).

This book is not just a compendium of the various stamps with some form of specimen marking, but is full of stories of interest that bring some animated flavor to reading such a book. In that way, it is not just your typical reference book. Even though James and I have been collecting the field of the UPU individually, in parallel, for about 50 years each, I found the book enthralling.

Because of James’s passionate dedication to the details of specimen stamps and postal stationery, this book is his Magnum Opus, and his continuing gift to philately.



Linns Stamp News November 2021

This supplement to Bendon’s 2015 UPU Specimen Stamps 1878-1961 (reviewed in the March 14, 2016, issue of Linn’s Stamp News) incorporates a wealth of new information that has come to light during the past six years, including research by Bendon that has generated important new findings.

“This Supplement is far more than a list of corrections and new discoveries,” Frank Walton wrote in the foreword.

“The appendices cover in great detail wider aspects of specimen material, as well as providing a historic setting for some of the key collections over the years.”

The supplement introduces specimen stamps for two new territories (Bechuanaland and Natal) and presents new or revised information for more than 60 of the 220 territories included in the 2015 edition.

On his website, www.jamesbendon.com, Bendon provides additional details about the supplement: “Numerous new illustrations are included, many of which provide visual confirmation of information already recorded in the 2015 edition. Careful attention has been paid to the checklists, with revisions marked in a way that will enable them to be understood without constant reference to the originals.”

“To help readers quickly connect information in this Supplement with that in the 2015 edition, cross-references are marked in the left margin, and all new material is headed by a note indicating its placement in the 2015 edition,” Bendon explained.

Specimen specialists will want to read the detailed article by Andrew Norris on the myriad varieties of the De La Rue type D12 specimen overprint that is included as an appendix.



Gibbons Stamp Monthly October 2021 and Philatelic Exporter October 2021
David Rennie

The original volume was published in 2015 (see my review in GSM July 2016) and was awarded the prestigious Crawford Medal by the Royal Philatelic Society London in 2017. Subsequently two free short supplements were issued and were available to download from the publisher's website. Whilst James expected some additional information to come to light, he made the rash statement in the original Preface that 'a further edition is unlikely to be published for many years and certainly not written by me'. How wrong can you be?

There is much additional information, corrections and newly available illustrations for more than 60 territories in this supplement. They are clearly presented in the same format as the original and incorporate in bold font textual changes, deletions, etc. The page numbering is cross referenced to the original page for each entry, but to avoid confusion the pages in the supplement are deliberately numbered up from 600 and the new appendices lettered F, G, and H. Similarly, the notes are numbered commencing from 21 for the chapters 1-6 and 201 for the catalogue section. The fully detailed Territory Index provides pages for both volumes and includes two new territories - French Congo and German Area - not in the original volume.

Appendix E is an extensive article by Andrew F Norris about the De La Rue Specimen type Dl2.

Appendix G reproduces the complete Robson Lowe 27 October 1976 Basle auction catalogues, where British Empire and Foreign countries specimens from a major collection and those received by the Bechuanaland Post Office archive were sold together with prices realised. Appendix H is a similar extensive World collection sold by Sotheby's, South Africa, also with prices realised. These are fully illustrated in black and white, but most other new illustrations throughout the volume are in colour.

More than 150 pages bound in library buckram, with gold tooling matching the red binding of the earlier hardcover volume and including additional illustrated advertisements from major dealers and auction companies make this volume special. It has a Foreword by Frank Walton, RDP, FRPSL. A superb and comprehensive book of reference.