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James Negus

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Souvenir items are of very great diversity, extending far beyond simple labels and souvenir sheets. To bring some coherence into this large field it seemed useful to have a record of everything produced for a given event, leaving the collector to make his own choice of how he will then narrow it to manageable proportions as he wishes. To this end I attempted, while collecting souvenir material, to compile a catalogue of everything I had traced, classifying it and numbering the items. The results are set out on this disc in the eight sections headed “British Souvenir Mail”.

Limited solely to Great Britain, the principle adopted was that if the purpose of an occasion was philatelic, its souvenirs are decidedly so and merit listing. This therefore excludes such general events as the Wembley Exhibition 1924-25 or the Festival of Britain 1951, which were not organised to promote philately. Items from philatelic events in postally independent Channel Islands and Isle of Man are included.

Philatelists speak of their collecting interest as “exhibitions”, a readily understood shorthand, and philatelic exhibitions are naturally a prime source of souvenir material. But many events take place in the world of stamps where no formal exhibition is mounted as such, yet some memento is produced to mark the occasion. As no one appears to have embarked systematically on keeping track of the material, new finds are always to be expected, adding to the pleasure of souvenir collecting.

Some listed items worth extra mention are of the Postal History Society holding a number of its annual Conferences abroad and the fondness of the active collectors of Lundy locals in issuing souvenirs. The Polish community in Britain and their philatelic societies have also staged numerous exhibitions in postwar days, notable for their attention to souvenir production.

The theme of philately is taken to include events and individuals celebrated in postal history, such as Chalmers, Witherings, Archer and especially the ever-popular Rowland Hill. Present-day designers and printers of postage stamps are occasionally recognised with special postmarks, worthy of inclusion. Philatelic magazines as far back as the 1920s have been active in sponsoring various cards, sheets and postmarks.

All kinds of events where mail is specially transported by unusual means (other than mailcoaches) have been considered as “philatelic”, too. These have featured such things as mail on horseback, by parachute, by submarine, and so on: but for philately they would not be produced at all, nor would such amateur efforts as a cycle post honouring a Society Jubilee. However, the whole large group of Christmas charity posts involving local deliveries by Scouts, etc., are omitted (they have been well documented elsewhere by Annand and Holman).

Attitudes to Souvenir Collecting  
Souvenir material is not particularly popular among ordinary collectors, other than some of those already interested in Cinderellas. The items commonly strike people as rather artificial and scarcely worth studying in any detail. Perhaps the most collected part of the field remains the philatelic exhibitions and annual Congress up to 1950, sought after by enthusiasts and where prices are quite high. The major celebration of the Penny Postage Jubilee in 1890 – the start of British souvenirs – produced an abundance of items: they were highly popular at the time and this is still the case. Now antiques, these are the stars of a “golden age”, with even non-Cinderella collectors well disposed towards them.

The attraction of early souvenirs stemmed from their being infrequently issued and then (with some few exceptions) in modest quantities measured in hundreds rather than thousands. Passage of time since those far-off days has ensured the scarcity which fuels demand from collectors. In addition, many of the items were in themselves beautiful examples of printing techniques or (like labels from Congress and the pre-war exhibitions) imaginatively designed. Some of this is broadly paralleled in the similar collecting fields of (picture) postcards and poster stamps, both of which look back with fondness on a “golden age” and have less of a following for “moderns”.

What has followed the “golden age”, say from about 1950, determined stamp collectors’ attitudes by and large. The first of the ten-yearly International Exhibitions in Britain, held that year, set the seal of respectability on the souvenir sheet, considered then a radical, but welcome, innovation. This situation began its slow process of change when an annual Stampex was inaugurated in 1953. Souvenirs of various sorts accompanied the exhibition, culminating also in a souvenir sheet and several elaborations. Initial enthusiasm from ordinary collectors waned as the novelty of Stampex sheets wore off and the ritual of addressing covers to themselves for the special postmarks became tedious. They began to wonder what was the point as all the souvenirs were so common they were never going to become valuable.

By the 1950s philatelic societies were well recovered from the wartime interruption, new ones were being formed and specialist societies were multiplying. Local exhibitions and specialist meetings were more frequent, with commemoration by way of a souvenir considered important. New County federations were springing up, holding regular Conventions and Stamp Days, where souvenir material could be a useful source of revenue, as was the case with the small local societies. With all this activity, however, prior publicity and follow-up reporting was often patchy. The period 1945-59 is particularly suitable for research into what philatelic events took place and whether or not any kind of souvenir material was issued. The new finds, alluded to above, are likely to occur during those years.

As in so many things, the 1960s wrought changes even in such a minor area as philatelic souvenirs. Printing techniques began modernising in earnest and economics spelled the virtual end of things like the elaborate engraved label. Security printers themselves became more active in promoting themselves and soon saw an ideal vehicle in the stamp exhibition. Producers other than amateur philatelists began sensing commercial possibilities and the special postmark really took off as a commemorative item. The Post Office’s attitude to philately underwent a sea-change: hitherto dismissed as an irrelevant nuisance, the collector was now actively courted. A new regular national exhibition opened its doors in 1966, the BPE (British Philatelic Exhibition), settling soon into an event to add to the now familiar Stampex. Set up originally to be non-trade, this was quickly found to be non-practicable and was abandoned in favour of a more-or-less autumn version of spring’s Stampex. Also, wary of souvenirs at first it had, by 1971, begun issuing some of the most satisfactory souvenir sheets of all, well worth acquiring for their high philatelic content by collectors disdainful of such productions in the past. A third fixture in the philatelic year came on the scene in 1972 with Showpex, inevitably adding (though modestly) its own souvenir sheets.

The quantity and variety of souvenirs, the mass-produced standards of many, mark the turning point. Productions from about 1960 are far less collected or studied even among the specialists. Just as with postage stamps, an era of over-production now began to gather pace and popularity waned accordingly. The trend accelerated markedly throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In my collecting days I thought output had reached its peak with the Stamp World International of 1990, which produced the biggest number of items for a single event in the whole of my catalogue listing. With even souvenirs from spring and autumn Stampexes and the Philatelic Congress tailing off and expiring by then, I imagined the 1990 exhibition heralded a finale. Certainly things became relatively quiet for a few years, but two new sources halted the decline. Stanley Gibbons was a prime mover in setting up a new exhibition at Wembley, Stamp 95, bringing varied souvenirs and staged regularly; meanwhile the Association of Friends of the National Postal Museum became more committed to regular commemoration of their many activities through souvenir cards, covers, postmarks and cachets. Philatelic souvenirs were clearly not defunct.

Boundary Problems  
With such an abundance of collectable items stretching from 1890 to 2000 I had to make up my mind just what constituted a philatelic event. I thought originally that there was a simple criterion: were the organisers amateur or official – in other words pure collectors rather than the Post Office? I soon found this crude division unworkable and undesirable. The two classes of people overlap and the distinction is too arbitrary. Take a simple example, the hundreds of special postmarks produced for philatelic exhibitions. These may well have been thought up and paid for by amateurs, like a local stamp society, to commemorate their event; but it needs the officials, the Post Office, before the idea becomes reality. The finished handstamp, often from vague and impractical amateur designs; the manufacture and use of the handstamp; the transport and delivery of all the covers posted on or for exhibition day – without the Post Office no souvenir item of this sort would see the light of day. Then again, in 1987-91, it was Royal Mail itself that issued Exhibition Cards for no other purpose than to receive exhibition cachets, so were these to be ignored on that account?

Souvenir collecting is essentially thematic. Anyone who has studied the decades of effort spent by thematic collectors in trying to lay down precise regulations for competitive exhibiting will know how difficult a task it is. The body of rules painfully evolved is now so complicated as to prompt the thought: is all this hair-splitting really necessary? Best to be broadly consistent, yes; but why not simply collect the items that appeal to you personally? That became my own watchword and I included in my thematic of “philatelic exhibitions and events” many things I found relevant to philately and postal history, sometimes as a matter of taste. It also reflected the way certain parts of the field became more attractive than others as the collection grew.

However, I never tried to list the abundance of printed ephemera associated with exhibitions: programmes, catalogues, magazines, reports, pamphlets, yearbooks, prospectuses, Palmares, entrance tickets and invitation cards. The subject is so big it would clearly need separate treatment. Most menus of dinners and award ceremonies are likewise disregarded.

There was a particular personal factor with me. When I started souvenir collecting in 1987 the only catalogue was Rosen and that with inadequate coverage of souvenir sheets alone. Though happily two excellent catalogues were published in the 1990s, Chatfield’s pre-1950s Commemorative Labels and Morgan’s British Stamp Exhibitions, they were not intended to give comprehensive coverage of the whole thematic. I had the aspiration to attempt just that. I also knew that this meant buying as much of the modern material as I could find while it was still extant. Fortunately quite a bit of it was cheap, because of its unpopularity, a great help when compared with the expensive “golden age”.

Fairly clear about what was philatelic, there were nevertheless several awkward cases to resolve. They arise from the grey area, where the activities of the Post Office overlap into philately. Several unsatisfactory attempts at a unified listing finally persuaded me that the best solution was simply to make a separate list for what I termed postal souvenirs, using the same classifications and numbering system that I had evolved for philatelic souvenirs. Some of the allocations between philatelic and postal can be mentioned.

The opening of philatelic counters in the 1980s was frequently commemorated with a special postmark. In turn it leads to trying to find an example of postmarks from each of the counters that existed, as most have now closed. The British Postmark Society’s Pearson and successors document everything in their publications and for me philatelic counters are “postal”. In similar vein, the Post Office Regions issued an extensive range of postcards in the 1970s and 1980s, another enterprise since killed off. These postcards are a large collecting area in their own right. Roberts’s Regus Collectors' Guide catalogues them and they clearly do not need the listing repeated in my own. But I include with “postal” any special postmark commemorating the first day of issue of the cards.

Royal Mail has re-run mailcoaches over historic routes, sometimes with stamp dealers as sponsors, and items from these events are also in “postal”. I found the cacheted covers produced especially attractive.

The Post Office is an active promoter of its own services, but the catalogue mostly ignores the resulting material. No entries are therefore made for modern items like inauguration of Postbus services, visits to post offices, and propaganda campaigns for postcodes or “Collect British Stamps” through slogans. Some special postmarks relating to early postal history find a place in “postal”, however, such as revival of old postboxes or anniversaries of ancient postal buildings.

The National Postal Museum, as part of the Post Office, issued a great many postcards of its own, as well as the occasional cover, before abandoning the exercise. They are not listed as such (the Regus Catalogue includes them), only where they are thematically relevant. Such instances are the celebration of National Stamp Day with special postmarks beginning in 1981; cards that include inset postmarks in the design; postmarks and cachets marking postal history anniversaries or the Museum's attendance at British stamp exhibitions. The Friends of the Museum have produced cachets as souvenirs of their Stands and both Post Office Archives and the (Edinburgh) Philatelic Bureau have recorded their presence at exhibitions by cachet, Archives having a series of postcards for a few years. All the material has merited listing as “philatelic”.

With the 1970 Philympia the Post Office intensified its financial and publicity support of the international exhibitions held each decade in London. It issued special postage stamps, booklets and premium-priced miniature sheets, playing a major role in the success of the 1970, 1980 and 1990 shows and providing funds to set up the British Philatelic Trust. Everything produced is highly relevant to the “philately” theme but not, of course, as souvenir material because the items prepaid postage. This also applies to the series of illustrated booklet covers for Postal History (1981-85), resumed in 1993, well worth collecting (in parallel) for the interesting information contained, and the various special postmarks used on First Day of Issue.

Foreign postal administrations have provided special cards and cachets when they have been present at British exhibitions. My listing of them under “philatelic” is not extensive: it is a particularly poorly documented area which I never tackled seriously. For the parallel collection, too, there are many postage stamps and sheets issued by foreign countries to commemorate our exhibitions.

Collecting the Material  
The field of philatelic and postal souvenirs is so large that there is certainly a case for specialising. It could be to concentrate on a particular series of exhibitions, like Stampex, BPE or Showpex or annual events such as the British and Scottish Congresses. As with conventional stamp collecting, the limiting factor might be date, so that (say) only material issued prior to 1950 is sought. Another possibility is to collect only certain types of souvenir, such as all labels or all covers. My own original intention, for example, had been to acquire souvenir sheets only and nothing else. The subject became so interesting that I quite soon broadened out. I also gradually realised what souvenirs were my special favourites. They were: cachets, private booklets and, above all, postcards illustrated with postmarks – “postmark postcards”.

For someone considering starting a collection of souvenirs, mention of my own experience may be of some interest. The main drawback is its sheer size if approached in the all-embracing way I favoured. It brings problems, because different kinds of albums and stockbooks, backed up with envelopes and boxes, will be needed just for storage and they can take up a lot of space. Some souvenir folders, sheets, postcards and covers come in an awkwardly large format, difficult to know how to mount or store, too. Without some kind of methodical approach the accumulation can remain just that, shoe boxes crammed with unorganised and unfindable items, not really a collection at all. Elementary things like putting items away in chronological order of event while they await proper attention and labelling the envelope holding them can reduce unnecessary work. Souvenirs en masse lack the orderly neatness of traditional stamp collections: they are straggling, but full of their own fascination for all that.

My own disposition was to keep an updated checklist of the material as I acquired it. It is harder to remember just what covers and postmarks are already in stock than with ordinary stamp collections. I coupled this with buying things as soon as they were announced as available. Royal Mail’s British Postmark Bulletin was essential in knowing what special postmarks were imminent and I made much use of the reposting facility it offers. This failed on one occasion only in the scores of times I used it, when a self-addressed cover was lost in transit. The service from Royal Mail’s Special Handstamp Centres was impeccable. In connection with my bibliographic work I received all the current British stamp magazines and always kept an eye out for mentions of souvenirs accompanying philatelic events. The advertisements likewise gave occasional pointers to which small dealers handled this type of material, often through regular lists of offers.

Current material from local-society events was thus picked up from the philatelic press and, again, the service was exemplary. Enquiring to local societies for things they had produced years before could not be expected always to produce results, however. Though the correspondence from them was invariably as helpful as possible, stocks could long since have run out or been lost sight of. It was quite rare for the courteous enquiry to be totally ignored. The voluntary workers running a society are normally gratified that someone living in another part of the country is taking an interest in their efforts.

There are the usual possibilities for tracking down older material: specialist societies, stamp dealers, the smaller auctions, stamp fairs and the exhibitions themselves. I was a member of the Cinderella Stamp Club, the British Postmark Society and the Alba Stamp Group (Scotland), and these are dealt with separately, below. One’s own local society sometimes yields items if they run an auction and I was not unaccustomed to fellow-members giving me stray labels or covers they never quite knew what to do with. They were only too pleased to pass them on to someone who would appreciate them.

Of dealers’ regular lists of offers, I found the most fruitful over many years to be those published by Roger Hudson of Coventry, a specialist in GB postal history, and Arthur Roberts of Marple (Rejun Covercards) for current souvenir material, but who held extensive stocks of older items and ran postal auctions. The Lyndhurst dealers, Allan Grant’s Rushstamps, supplied me with many unusual items of all periods, too, and the frequent auctions by Sandafayre of Knutsford sometimes had material of relevance. Service from all those named was faultless and rapid. Gradually, as I got to hear of them, I was perusing lists from several other mail order dealers with gratifying results.

What stamp and postcard fairs I visited usually led to more purchases, as did the boxes of covers on the dealers’ stands at exhibitions. When I lived in London it was easy to go to all the regular exhibitions, which I did. After I had moved to the country, I was extremely fortunate: a valued friend and fellow-enthusiast appointed himself honorary “agent” and meticulously made the rounds on my behalf. Through his kindness I had an example of each new souvenir issued at a London exhibition, often unknown to me otherwise.

My own experience as a collector of souvenir material was altogether very pleasurable. Being ongoing, the thematic maintains the interest daily, but hunting for older elusive items has exactly the same attraction as with conventional philately. As it provided an opportunity for my particular specialisations in philatelic history and cataloguing too, I consider all the time and effort I devoted to it well worthwhile.

Study Groups  
Souvenir material is one of the many areas covered by the Cinderella Stamp Club and this is the relevant study circle for the theme. Since 1961 the Club has produced a leading specialist journal, The Cinderella Philatelist and numerous other publications; its packets and auctions are specially important as sources for souvenirs.

The Exhibition Study Group is concerned with researching the history and background of exhibitions worldwide and was formed in 1981. Philatelic exhibitions are but one part of the story, though of definite interest to some of the members and occasionally featuring in the Group’s publications. It is a focal point for exhibition ephemera and collectables, which have been produced in astonishing diversity over the years and do not consist solely of the thousands of known postcards. My index to its Journal (formerly Newsletter) has been published by the Group and will lead to its philatelic articles.

Philately has always been strong in Scotland and numerous events have been staged in the country. It is the source of many interesting souvenirs, inclusive of the annual Congress. I found it worthwhile to become a member of the Alba Stamp Group, the body devoted to all aspects of Scotland as reflected in stamps and postal history. The Group’s regular postal sales usually yielded some new material for me.

I benefited greatly from membership of the British Postmark Society, which had been founded in 1958. The thoroughness of its documentation of current and past developments, coupled with the high quality of its publications and members’ researches, was most impressive. The section of its circulating packet for special postmarks was a prime source of this type of cover for me for a long time while building up the collection.

The quest for recognising unambiguously each of the known kinds of souvenir led eventually to 49 separate descriptive terms and I list these in the notes on classification in section 3. (A few of the less-used terms could probably be merged with others, though.) Some of the terms were evolved to contain keywords to take advantage of the database’s facilities of “finding” or “filtering”. I also explain in that section that to determine an order of listing for the catalogue I set out the items for a given event in broad groups. Order is not a problem for postage stamp catalogues because stamps have denominations; but, of course, souvenirs do not, hence the decision to use the following sequence:
Souvenir sheets and souvenir cards
Postage stamps and booklets
Covers, postcards and postal stationery
Postmarks and cachets
Forgeries and facsimiles.
Examination of the database catalogue will quickly show how this works in practice. The commentary below may help give a taste of what sorts of item are met with in collecting souvenir material. The remarks there are very roughly in the same sequence, but with interrelated subjects kept together.

PUBLICITY LABELS for circulation in advance of the exhibition are collectable souvenirs. Their debut can be a very early indeed: my first sightings of labels for two big shows (Stamp Show 2000 and Glasgow 2000) were over two years before the exhibitions were due to open (and by which time I had retired). Over the years publicity labels have become much less elaborate in production, since 1960 usually self-adhesive stickers on a backing sheet. Some collectors dislike these because the adhesive can deteriorate.

The SOUVENIR LABEL is not an ephemeral item but something designed to commemorate the event and be kept as a memento. There is often no very clear distinction between publicity and souvenir labels, but having the two terms can sometimes be useful. At the 1934 APEX, for example, there was a simple inscribed publicity label, lithographed in bluish grey; but in addition the exhibition produced a handsome engraved souvenir label of an aeroplane above Tower Bridge, which could be had in six different colours.

Labels are very desirable when found on exhibition mail and will add a pound or two to the value of a cover; but be careful the label was not simply added to deceive long after the event. From their inception in the earliest days, labels have been deliberately printed in a series of colours. The Viking ship publicity label for the 1899 Manchester International Exhibition was produced in six pairs of colours; beginning in 1910 the Philatelic Congress regularly had a souvenir label in anything up to six different colours.

Publicity and souvenir labels can be collected as complete SHEETS. The number of labels in a sheet has been quoted whenever it could be found and is commonly between 12 and 24. Traditionally rectangular, Stamp 95 at Wembley issued “See us at” publicity labels in circular format instead. Labels in uniform design have occasionally been issued in very large (printers’) sheets, meant for use in providing singles or blocks of four. Examples are the 1912 Ideal Stamp (sheet of 240), the 1923 Mercury Airmail labels (100) and the 1955 De La Rue Centenary labels (32 and 50). These sheets, rarely surviving complete, have an added interest: any marginal markings, like printer's imprint and plate numbers, can still be found and collected as marginal blocks.

Souvenir Sheets and Souvenir Cards  
The familiar SOUVENIR SHEETS are like miniature sheets but without postal validity and reproduce one or more items together with appropriate decoration and inscription. They are meant to be collected as an entire item, not divided up, and are usually offered for sale as a complete unit accordingly. They are not always gummed and may bear a serial number. There was a brief vogue in the second half of the 1970s to print souvenir sheets on thick stock: these are best called “souvenir cards”. A short-lived complication earlier in the decade was also the “postally valid souvenir sheet”. Both these variants are mentioned later.

Souvenir sheets vary greatly in size. Perhaps the neatest series, those for BPE 1971-85 (90 x 65mm), can be contrasted with the superb Liechtenstein Study Circle sheets of 1961 (197 x 144mm) and the rare 1965 Schoolboys and Girls Exhibition sheet (171 x 220mm).

During the second half of the 1930s some sheets of souvenir labels underwent a change. Instead of featuring a single design, those from Congress depicted different designs across the sheet. As the wide sheet margins also had commemorative inscriptions, they have been regarded here as souvenir sheets, especially as they were offered for sale as a unit. (The sheet was, of course, usable broken up into individual labels, and singles are frequently found on cover.) The three sheets produced for the London Stamp Exhibitions of 1936 and 1937 were also of small size with commemorative inscriptions, so have been listed as souvenir sheets, though each featured labels of a single design in these cases.

Souvenir sheets may be housed or affixed in suitable FOLDERS or SOUVENIR FOLDERS and these can include informative notes.

The items reproduced on souvenir sheets are usually issued postage stamps, but essays, proofs or unadopted designs are sometimes featured instead. These latter are of special interest philatelically, as are the examples of great stamp rarities in reproduction that souvenir sheets offer. An unusual variant is seen for the 1963 Thematic Exhibition of the Polish PS, Manchester: the souvenir-sheet design was additionally printed on to a postal stationery postcard.

Souvenir sheets may be produced in more than one version, notably both on gummed paper and on self-adhesive backing. Sheets with altered paper or colour may be special PRESENTATION SHEETS, as occur in the BPE series. These were reserved for the helpers and given with the menus of the Exhibition Dinner. Bournemouth Philatex sheets occur on ordinary paper but also on glazed cards. This latter type of special printing is then listed as a “presentation sheet”.

A valuable adjunct to the BPE souvenir sheets was to include an INFORMATION SHEET, giving useful background data on the item illustrated and the method of printing. An INFORMATION CARD is the same thing, but card is used instead of a piece of paper and is found as an enclosure to a cover. These initiatives are of great benefit to the collector and, mounted alongside the item to which they relate, the sheet or card tells the full story of the item.

Errors of printing do not seem frequent with souvenir sheets. What few I acquired were usually missing colours and are duly listed.

Souvenir sheets occur as SPECIMENS and the practice appears to have been initiated at the 1935 Philatelic Congress. Well known is the “Sample Not for Sale” overprinted on to the sheet issued for the 1950 International in London. Sheets may well be distributed for publicity ahead of an exhibition and the “specimen” or other marking mimics the practice used for new issues of postage stamps. But such overprinting is also an easy way of creating extra collectable items and this is undoubtedly the reason for numbers of modern instances. Some specimen overprints are of doubtful provenance, too: a handstamp that is absolutely identical on three separate sheets (1972 Showpex, 1972 Runcorn, 1973 Liverpool Collectors' Fair) could well have been applied posthumously to remainders, for example.

Cases are known of the conventional use of specimen overprints, namely on souvenir sheets submitted to exhibition organisers by the printers. By their nature they will normally be preserved in archives and not be available on the market, but they do exist.

A further legitimate use has been made of specimens for purposes of presentation. Stampex sheets overprinted specimen were issued in souvenir folders, suitably inscribed; BPE in 1984 and 1985 affixed a specimen sheet to a PRESENTATION CARD. In both cases the sheets are tied with the exhibition cachet.

About 20 instances are known from 1965 onward where souvenir sheets have been given overprints of thematic nature (Europa, Kennedy, Royal Wedding, etc.). Until provenance can be established, they are listed as PRIVATE OVERPRINTS applied to remainder sheets. Some scarce private overprints, produced unofficially at the 1911 Congress, made use of locals and even forgeries as the basic material.

Postage Stamps and Booklets  
COMMEMORATIVE OVERPRINTS, on the other hand, are well attested. The most celebrated (and expensive) are the “L.P.E. 1890” overprints on two unissued postage stamps of Mauritius for the London Philatelic Exhibition of that year. But they have occurred sporadically since, sometimes on postage stamps and hopefully then with permission.

The earliest Philatelic Congresses before the First World War were keenly interested in producing souvenir material. An unusual innovation was to modify the souvenir label as an IMPRESSED DIE printed on some other item. The Birmingham Congress of 1911, for example, did this with an invitation card and a menu. In modern times impressive souvenir material for the Royal Philatelic Society’s Presidents’ Dinner in 1994 used an actual postage stamp die, the 1867 South Australia 2s. The stamp in ultramarine was impressed on the menu, dinner ticket and a plain card, then in carmine on an information card.

Much more extensive are privately produced BOOKLETS, panes for which usually come from dismembered sheets of postage stamps. An innovative series for the Northeast Philatelic Weekends has been issued annually since 1982; it seems likely more booklets remain to be recorded and this is another area recommended for research.

Printers’ SAMPLES have been made or presented at philatelic exhibitions. These are a class of publicity label, sometimes intended to demonstrate particular printing processes and the quality of workmanship. One by Harrison showing a ship and mounted on a card was available at Stampex in 1957, for example. Instead of specially printed labels, printers have also mounted postage stamps they have produced on advertising cards, as at the 1956 Gibbons Centenary Exhibition.

The modern invention of the PRESENTATION PACK was introduced at the 1974 Festival of Stamps as an adjunct to a postally valid souvenir sheet. Apart from a couple of Society souvenirs in 1981 and an attempt at a pop-up version for the 1982 Covent Garden Stamp Festival, packs do not appear to have caught on. The PERFIN has also been pressed into service occasionally, such as for National Stamp Day in 1976-78. Perfins serve the same purpose as commemorative overprints; since 1980 their chief proponents have been the organisers of Polish events in Britain. For the 1975 Festival of Stamps a PERFIN BOOKLET was even produced where perfinned “Heritage” postage stamps were presented in booklet form.

TRIALS of souvenir sheets show some differences from the issued versions. An interesting case for 1972 Philatex has four sheets in unissued colours that show unwanted coloured borders to the reproduced £1 PUC postage stamp. The postcard for the Merseyside PS Anniversary in 1981 had a poster reproduced in full colour: there were six trial printings in small quantities for the colours and these were subsequently made available to members. Genuine PROOFS, such as occur with early Philatelic Congress material, are another part of the more offbeat items to be found among souvenirs. And once again it is 1890 that provides an example of a PROOF POSTCARD.

Covers, Postcards and Postal Stationery  
POSTCARDS of a commemorative nature date back to the earliest days, the 1899 International Philatelic Exhibition at Manchester producing one with the Viking ship motif and four views of the city. The idea was taken up when Congress was founded in 1909, its very first souvenir being a postcard in attractive Art Nouveau style. There is at least a theoretical intention of a postcard seeing passage through the post, though often it is not inscribed “postcard”.

A special usage of the postcard has been to express thanks to exhibition helpers, as at Scotex 1986, so creating a PRESENTATION POSTCARD. A particular, widely adopted type of postcard uses an array of postmarks for the illustration – the POSTMARK POSTCARD. By thus summing up the postal history of the town or region where the philatelic event took place, this type can make an attractive collection approaching 200 different postcards. The elaborate set of postmark postcards issued for the 1947 Congress at Birmingham merited including a leaflet of lengthy descriptive notes as POSTMARK INFORMATION.

SOUVENIR CARDS differ from postcards only in that there is no intention of being posted, the items being produced as straightforward souvenirs of an event. They are sometimes glazed and with gold edging. As already stated, some souvenir sheets have been printed on stock heavier than the usual paper or parchment and are best regarded also as souvenir cards.

The noted postal historian, W.G.Stitt Dibden, has listed a TELEGRAPHIC CARD for the 1890 Guildhall event. I never found any further information about it and it was seemingly unknown to other authorities.

Souvenir COVERS exist in large numbers, frequently unrecorded, and research will undoubtedly unearth more. Two types are commonest: the inscribed and the illustrated. The inscribed usually give simple printed details of the event, though this may include a town coat of arms or a philatelic society logo too. Illustrated covers carry some picture relating to the event and this is the type most sought and collected nowadays. Several different colour printings of an illustrated cover are quite usual, particularly those from Congress, and it is interesting to establish the range of colours and to acquire an example of each.

 Covers are frequently posted unsealed, but if they are not it is advisable to slit them open with a paper knife to examine the FILLER or FILLER CARD. If not a collector’s makeshift stiffener it is most likely to have been specially printed for the event and contain useful information in amplification of the cover. For example, a 1982 Chalmers Bicentenary cover illustrated with a portrait supplements this with a filler outlining his place in postal history. When the Wiltshire Federation held its Convention in Bath in 1970, the cover showed the Bath Mailcoach but the filler card had a brief history of the Post Office building. A particular sort of filler is the POSTMARK FILLER. The illustration there is an array of postmarks of the locality in which the event took place. A cover inscribed for the Kendal Gathering in 1971 used this device. The Kendal PS staged an exhibition and used the filler to show Kendal postmarks. A postmark filler of Stroud postmarks appeared for the Three Counties Convention held in that town in 1983. This was my only knowledge of the event, as the cover mentioned as issued in the press never came my way.

Before the Post Office rationalised the numerous sorts of postal stationery out of existence, a great deal of use was made of them in devising exhibition souvenirs. The first souvenir of all was an item of postal stationery, the penny postcard issued at the 1890 Penny Postage Jubilee celebration at Guildhall. A similar event shortly afterwards at South Kensington saw an illustrated ENVELOPE, also impressed with a penny stamp.

Some of the postcards issued for annual Conferences of the Postal History Society are notable for appearing in two forms, with and without impressed franking. More esoteric sorts of stationery have figured on infrequent occasions from the very early days. The London Philatelic Exhibitions of 1890 and 1897 made use of Newspaper WRAPPERS franked at ½d. and given commemorative overprints. In modern times the first Convention of the Isle of Man Federation in 1976 overprinted an AEROGRAMME and favoured this unusual souvenir material several times later. National Stamp Day in London in 1977 made use of a LETTER-CARD in which to feature a black print from the Silver Jubilee postage stamp issue. The Association of Essex PSs had celebrated its own Silver Jubilee in 1969 with a Convention at Chelmsford notable for a wide variety of souvenirs for this milestone event. Specially designed LETTER-SHEETS were one such. The AEPS has been especially innovative in the souvenirs for its regular Conventions and Rallies and – as they have troubled to document these items – have added much to the interest of the thematic. Founded in 1944, their very first “Congress” at Southend in 1945 produced a postmark postcard, which is a rarity in used condition.

Until it withdrew the service in October 1973 the Post Office would impress stamps on private stationery and much philatelic use has been made of this. The Stamp Collecting Promotion Council at the 1974 Festival of Stamps made a special feature of POSTALLY VALID SOUVENIR SHEETS, though the idea had been used before then. The items resemble souvenir sheets, with suitable inscriptions and illustrations added alongside the impressed stamps. Very soon, as stamping-to-order was by then defunct, this type of souvenir sheet was manufactured from cut-down postal stationery envelopes. Because of the impressed stamps they could still be advertised as “postally valid”. Actual postal use on cover is more desirable for the collection than the more frequently seen mint examples.

A handful of exhibitions, starting with the 1934 APEX, have used the PIGEONGRAM, a quaint and attractive type of souvenir.

Postmarks and Cachets  
There have been over 10,000 special POSTMARKS of which philatelic events have accounted for 1100 or so. The special postmark was initiated for souvenir material by the Post Office in 1890 as part of the celebration of the Penny Post Jubilee. As soon as Congress came into being in 1909, a postmark was the usual adjunct to a philatelic event and this continued for the rest of the century. Thanks to the comprehensive documentation produced by the British Postmark Society it is unlikely that any special postmarks for the philatelic theme remain to be discovered; however, the Society’s continuing researches do make refinements to the existing lists as new information comes to light. These may add such data as further code letters or time indicia to known postmarks. Very rarely does a POSTMARK PROOF become available to collectors and I was specially pleased to have one from the 1936 First London Stamp Exhibition.

In my database catalogue note especially the range of postmark dates for the Philatelic Congress; this annual event is listed at the day when the Formal Opening occurred, which is sometimes not the postmark first day. Likewise the Postal History Society Conferences' one-day postmark (shown with FD and date) often did not coincide with the Conference opening day.

Plain covers with a special postmark are not difficult to find, especially as much use has been (and is) made of the Post Office's reposting facility. Seen in quantity the covers present quite an interesting historical record of the changing face of the affixed definitives and the transformation when regular commemorative stamps began being produced in the 1960s.

By no means has every philatelic exhibition or event had a special postmark. Thus souvenir covers bearing simple operational postmarks continue to surface, signalling hitherto unrecorded shows and well worth looking out for. In some ways such covers are more attractive than souvenir material with well known special postmarks.

A specialised type of souvenir cover is the commercially produced first-day cover. Some collectors find a place for them when they have an exhibition tie-in, those from the Warwick series 1978-80 being notable examples. On several occasions the Post Office has timed a new issue of stamps for Stampex, providing their own (“commemorative”) covers and special new-issue postmarks. (Full details of fdc’s and their postmarks are in the Bradbury Collecting British First Day Covers catalogue.) Because handsomely produced and franked with complete sets, commercial fdc’s tend to be rather expensive. The collector may feel that, as they commemorate the postage stamps rather than the exhibition itself, they can be omitted in favour of the special postmark on plain cover.

Commercial FDC's, however, can be useful in finding SLOGANS. Exhibitions have made use of this form of postmark for advertising since the 1950 London International but, with the progressive deterioration in quality, the FDC may be the best method of acquiring a legible strike. As Royal Mail discontinued offering slogans in the late 1990s this type of souvenir is now obsolete.

One of the most attractive forms of souvenir is the exhibition CACHET. These are markings provided by the organisers to embellish covers and to cancel souvenir labels and sheets, often resembling postmarks or with pictorial or explanatory motif. Occasionally a defunct operational handstamp has been pressed back into service as a cachet. The BPE cachet has seen service in marking souvenir sheets distributed as trade samples. The 1934 APEX changed the colour of its biplane cachet daily, so there are six varieties to collect. For a while the National Postal Museum and Post Office Archives introduced cachets for postcards sold at Stampex and these were usually provided in more than one colour.

Souvenir mail impressed with METERS (meter stamps) dates back to the 1923 London International Stamp Exhibition, but has not seen much usage over the years. It was interesting that the 1937 Airmail Exhibition at Selfridge's employed meter franking for its postcard in preference to a special postmark.

Forgeries and Facsimiles  
Straightforward FORGERIES have so far been unusual in the souvenir field. The much sought after 1890 Penny Post Jubilee represents the exception, with both the Guildhall postcard and the 1890 Christmas Card having attracted the forger. The highly popular Furniss caricatures and Elliot plagiarisms arising from the Jubilee events are listed as PRIVATE ENVELOPES. A legitimate PRIVATE POSTCARD as a subscription reminder from the indefatigable Cinderella collector, Victor Short, also harks back to the great year of 1890. The same collector has produced a PRIVATE LABEL, a near-facsimile of the Ideal Stamp souvenir label of 1912, but reading “Ideal Stamp Albums”.

FACSIMILES of souvenir labels and sheets have been issued as such. The 1974 Festival of Stamps, for example, had available Rotaprint copies of the 1923 Mercury Airmail label, while the 1989 Congress reproduced in facsimile the souvenir sheets of the 1932 Congress, with advertising for the Cinderella Stamp Club added in the margins. The 1987 Tynemouth PS Diamond Jubilee imitated six Penny Post handstamps on mock entires. The Mulready letter-sheet was reproduced in facsimile for the 1990 London International and surely pleased many a collector not otherwise in philatelic souvenir material.

(Unpublished. Written July 1994 and revised during database construction 1996-97. Updated with additional text and transcribed October 2001.)