How Rare Are They, Really?
Davey and Bash (see references at Describing Postal Markings) listed all "rare" handstamped town postmarks as 1 on a scale of 1-10. Burns divided "rare" town postmarks into 1RRRR, 1RRR, 1RR and 1R, with 1RRRR being rarest. Collectors have since favored Burns's division of rare postmarks into four descending groups. Rarity lists must be used with caution to avoid assuming a high degree of accuracy. In March, 1989, Burns himself wrote saying he was confident the count of seven marks for Kaluaaha 238.02 was accurate (two more have been discovered since he wrote). He went on: "I have very little confidence as to the quantitative accuracy of many other rarity designations."
One purpose of this site is to improve the "quantitative accuracy" of the "rare" (category 1RRRR – 1R) and "scarce" (category 2 - 4) postmarks. So far, this effort has succeeded in uncovering new postmarks and improving the count of existing rare postmarks. As expected, some postmarks previously ranked in the rarest (1RRRR) category have moved downward and were replaced with newly discovered postmarks. If you have any of the "rare" or "scarce" postmarks, please attach an image to an e-mail and send it to (firstname.lastname@example.org) and complete the questionnaire at Town Postmarks Census Study.
Neither Davey and Bash nor Burns attempted to assess the rarity
of manuscript postmarks using the numerical scale. For the
benefit of collectors who are interested only in handstamped
postmarks, the manuscript marks should be listed separately. The
list of manuscript postmarks follows the list of handstamped
The following census represents the current confirmed count or estimated number of marks for each of the rare handstamped postmarks. A (-) following a listing means it is believed to fall within the range but the exact count is uncertain. Sixty-seven postmarks are included in the rare category. Six marks are listed in maroon color, indicating the postmark listing is TENTATIVE, pending further confirmation.
- Twenty-six postmarks are listed as 1RRRR, meaning no more than five marks of each are confirmed. All of the six tentative marks are assigned a 1RRRR rating (and one strike is attributed arbitrarily to each) so only twenty 1RRRR postmarks have been proven to my satisfaction. The latest additions to the 1RRRR group are the newly listed Kaupo 253.01, Honolulu 236.11 (IV), Lihue 253.01 (II) and Waimea (Kauai) 255.9a1. Also, Waipio 282.016, Hauula 272.02 and Pukoo 282.013 have been proven so their tentative labels have been removed. Four postmarks previously rated 1R are moved up to 1RRRR either because the listing is still tentative or because a confirmed count justifies the move. Those marks are: Naalehu 255.01; Kahului 281.02; Waiohinu 214; Hana 282.013; and Mana 255.9a1.
- Nineteen postmarks are in the 1RRR category, meaning six to ten marks are confirmed.
- Eight postmarks are rated 1RR, meaning eleven to twenty marks are confirmed or estimated.
- Fourteen postmarks are rated 1R, meaning twenty to thirty marks are confirmed or estimated.