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::: UPU Philatelic Covers :::

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Whether one chooses to collect philatelic covers is a matter of personal taste, but it is important to recognize world stamp collectors at the end of the 19th Century put Hawaii at the top of the list of favorite countries to collect and kept it there throughout the 1890's and into the first decade of the 20th Century. Interest in collecting Hawaii was so intense stamps were being stolen from covers in transit. Covers addressed to virtually every notable stamp dealer in the world can be found in this Period. For me, philatelic covers represent the zenith of philatelic interest in Hawaii and make an interesting topical collection.

Several things about a cover may suggest - or even proclaim - it is a philatelic cover. One important factor is whether it pays a real rate. If it grossly overpays any reasonable rate interpretation, it must be considered philatelic. Another sign is whether the combination of stamps is contrived, even if it appears to pay a reasonable rate. Some covers are franked with overprinted stamps sold at the Honolulu post office only in sets to collectors or dealers' agents. Covers bearing these stamps must be considered philatelic. Even normal covers can fall under the heading of philatelic if the addressee or sender is a recognized stamp dealer or collector. Certain values if found on cover in this period will give away the philatelic character of a cover. The 25¢ stamp is the highest value I have seen on a commercial cover. There are 18¢ stamps on commercial covers from the Convention Period, but from the UPU Period the 18¢ covers I have seen are philatelic. In this Period, we see 12¢ covers in the Australasian Mail during the UPU Period but most other 12¢ covers in the UPU Period are philatelic. Registered mail offered a means to create philatelic covers for high value stamps with less risk of having them stolen from the cover while in transit so a relatively high percentage of philatelic covers are registered covers.

Pricing philatelic covers is a challenge for collectors and dealers alike. Combinations of stamps on philatelic covers are too varied for traditional price catalogues to include. Results of recent auction sales of philatelic covers offer some clues to how these covers can or should get priced. See the discussion following the prices realized from a recent Siegel auction at Auction News Archive.

Hono 6Feb90 cover reg

This cover was ordered by a collector in Germany who specified (by written instruction hidden by the stamps) it was to be franked with two 18¢ stamps and registered. It is postmarked February 6, 1890. There was no 36¢ rate for registered mail. Conceivably the cover cost 35¢ (20¢ for a double weight letter, 10¢ for the registry fee and 5¢ for a return receipt.)

Hono 2Oct95 UX5
Hono 2Oct95 UX7

A pair of covers, one the fairly common postal card UX4 (top image), franked with an added ordinary 1¢ green overprinted stamp, Scott No. 55, and the other the uncommon 3¢ UX7 (bottom image). A 2¢ UX6 is known to fill in the complete set. All three are addressed to the same addressee at Bombay, India, postmarked on October 2, 1895, and sent via San Francisco to Bombay, picking up the Bombay Sea Post Office mark. The postal card rate to India at the time was 2¢.

Hono 14Aug93 cover Reg

This combination of stamps to pay a 25¢ rate is contrived. It was postmarked at Honolulu on August 14, 1893. Only 20,000 of the 15¢ stamps were overprinted so it must be considered scarce, considering the demand from collectors, dealers and speculators. The cover could have been franked with the more common 10¢ brown (100,000 printed by the time this cover was sent) or five of the ordinary 5¢ ultramarine Scott No. 59. Based on the combination of stamps, I suspect the cover was sent to a collector.

Hono 24May93 cover reg
This philatelic cover is franked with a wonderful variety of overprinted stamps, some commonly found on commercial covers and others found only on philatelic covers. The Honolulu Post Office sold such stamps as Scott No. 56, 58, 65 and 69 only in sets or in complete sheets for collectors. This registered cover was postmarked at Honolulu on May 24, 1893, just four days after the overprinted stamps went on sale.

Hono 25Apr94 cover reg
Postmarked April 25, 1894 and franked with the 2¢ Scott No. 57, 5¢ Scott No. 74 and $1 Scott No. 73 shows a philatelic use for the $1 stamp. The other two stamps are commonly found on commercial covers.

Hono 23May93 64
Postmarked May 23, 1893, three days after the overprinted stamps went on sale, this cover is certainly philatelic. The 25¢ stamps were sold out to collectors and the cover just does not seem to be a quintuple rate cover.

Hono 16Nov97 32,37,52 + 53,55
Here we have a complex arrangement of Bank Note stamps, including two left over 5¢ Scott No. 32 stamps, and overprinted stamps. The sender wrote "Registered" on it, but failed to get it registered. It is postmarked On November 16, 1897. The last day of sale for remainders of the overprinted stamps was December 31, 1896 and the remainders left in stock were destroyed in January, 1897. This cover thus is franked entirely with obsolete stamps, still valid for postage. Also interesting is the absence of any transit or receiving mark. One must therefore wonder whether it went anywhere or whether it was canceled and handed back to a collector.

Hono 9May00 Reg
Another contrived combination of stamps is seen on this registered cover postmarked at Honolulu on May 9, 1900. If the cover genuinely required 50¢ in postage, then two of the 25¢ stamps would have been simpler.

Covers To or From Identified Stamp Dealers

Presumably all philatelic covers had a collector at one end or the other of the transmission. Cases are documented where collectors put philatelic covers into the mail with instructions to the recipient to place them in a larger envelope and return them so the collector would have a nice cover. Of special interest to me are those covers sent to or from stamp dealers or publishers I can identify. Some covers to dealers are commercial and they are philatelic only because of the presumed nature of the business being conducted by mail.

Hono 11Oct93 cover reg
Postmarked October 11, 1893 and franked with the overprinted 10¢ brown Scott No. 68 and the 25¢ Scott No. 64 and addressed the C. H. Mekeel, one of the founders of Mekeel's Stamps.

Hono 9Dec93 UPSS20
Another cover sent to Mekeel, this one on the UPSS 20 stamped envelope. The only philatelic part of this cover is the addressee.

Hono 4Dec95 cover reg
A registered cover sent to a well known pioneer stamp dealer in San Francisco and franked with the overprinted 18¢ Scott No. 71 as well as the 5¢ and 10¢ Republic Issue stamps. This cover originated at Waimea, Kauai and was postmarked at Honolulu on December 4, 1895. A 53¢ rate cannot be reconciled with normal rates. The registry fee with return receipt cost 15¢ and leaves 38¢ to explain. At letter rates, the letter is overpaid by 3¢. At the book or other matter rate, it must have weighed 4¾ pounds, but 12 ounces was the maximum allowed. The sender, Mr. Blacksted of Waimea, Kauai, originated an extensive correspondence, some commercial but many philatelic.

Hono 25Jun97 cover Reg
Postmarked June 25, 1897 this registered letter is franked with the overprinted 12¢ Scott No. 63 and the 50¢ Scott No. 72 for a 62¢ phantom rate (47¢ for letter postage after deducting the 15¢ charged for a registered return receipt letter. This cover was sent by the Hawaiian Stamp Company and bears its handstamped advertising corner card.

Hono 24Apr94 cover reg
Still another cover from the Hawaiian Stamp Company, this one franked with Scott Nos. 70 and 71 for an unheard of 33¢ rate (anticipating by 100 years the current United States first class rate). This cover was postmarked April 24, 1894 at Honolulu. A registered single weight letter cost 20¢ at that time. This cover is large, so make it a triple weight letter and still it only cost 30¢. Both of these stamps were sold out to speculators, collectors and dealers when the stamps first went on sale but an additional supply of 18¢ stamps was printed late in 1893. Still, finding either of these stamps on cover is a pretty sure sign the cover is philatelic.

Hono 4Sep93 cover reg
Postmarked at Honolulu on September 4, 1893, this cover is one of several sent in a tight time frame using the retired postmark device, type 273.01, and addressed to the Winch Brothers. The black 10¢ stamps were overprinted in a small supply of 37,500, although more were printed late in 1893, after this cover was sent. Finding it on cover suggests the cover is philatelic, but the case is strengthened for this cover because of other covers to the same addressee at the same time.

Hono 6Sep93 cover reg
E. W. Holdsworth sent this cover to Whitfield King, stamp dealers in England. The boxed REGISTERED appears only on covers he prepared so it is thought to be a private marking. This cover is postmarked at Honolulu on September 6, 1893 and is signed on the back by Holbrook who was an active collector and winner of the contest to design the Pictorial Issue stamps.

Hono 30Apr93 39 Scott S&C
A commercial cover, but sent to the Scott Stamp & Coin Co., so it gets a philatelic label because of the addressee. It is postmarked April 30, 1893.

Hono 8May99 55, 75,81 Gambs

E. F. Gambs was an active dealer in Hawaiian stamps in San Francisco in the 1890's. This combination of stamps looks contrived as well so the philatelic classification for this cover rests on more than just the identity of the addressee.


Sharbaugh, A. Harry, "Hawaii's White Elephants, Those 6¢, 12¢ and 18¢ Stamps", Po'Oleka O Hawaii, No. 32, p. 1-11, July, 1983. Focus is on distinction between "natural" uses and "philatelic" uses of Scott Nos. 33, 34, 36, 46 and 78.

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