First Firsts v.2

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Wood Guinness

This is Philately, by Kenneth A. Wood is an indispensable 3-volume encyclopaedia of stamps. Volume 3, Q-Z under stamps lists most the stamp types you can think of and, in many cases, identifies the first of each type.

The second key source of information is my favourite stamp book, James Mackay's Guinness Book of Stamps (origin of the Guinness Pages) which devotes a full chapter to covering similar ground in Kinds of Stamps.

On this page I will aim to combine both sources and then, of course, collect the stamps.

Common types:
definitive - commemorative - charity - post due - official - occupation - etc.

Country SG # Scott # Date Notes Value £ m/u  
Colombia AR169 H1 1893 Acknowledgement of Receipt
This is a fairly obscure type of stamp. Wood mentions Chile, Columbia and Montenegro as having issued them, and El Salvador as the first, on a pair of stamps in 1897, inscribed Aviso de Recepcion. Mackay favours Columbia in 1865 with another pair.
My Scott Classic 2001 dates the Columbia A/R H1 as 1893 and El Salvador as 1897.
£2/£2 Colombia SGAR169 ScH1
Italy 102 C1 1917 Airmail
The first government-issue airmails are from Italy, two stamps issued in May and June 1917, both overprints of existing Express Delivery stamps. Mackay (as one might expect from the author of a book on the subject) goes into rather more detail, mentioning:
  • Samuel King's 1877 Buffalo balloon post;
  • W Fricker's 1898 pigeon post;
  • Labels for various early aviation meetings, starting with 1909 at Bar-sur-Aube;
  • German semi-official stamps for Grade's flights between Bork and Brück;
then agrees with Wood on Italy's 1917 for the first government airmail stamp.
In the Guinness Pages, I also look for the first real airmail for each country, that is the first stamp designed for the purpose - usually with an aeroplane on it - not an overprint of an existing stamp. I will have to find the first real airmail of all.
£4/£6 Italy SG102 ScC1
Geneva G1 2L1   Bipartite stamps
Stamps which can be split and used separately. Mackay identifies the earliest example as the 1843 Double Geneva. These are distinct from Bisect stamps which have been divided in half and used for half their face value (etc.).
£35k/£26k Geneva SG-G1 Sc-2L1
Mackay notes that the idea was first suggested in Britain in 1878, but not implemented until 1904. First, then is Luxembourg in 1895. Wood identifies the US as second in 1900. Having consulted the Gibbons Benelux Specialised in my local library - there were two Luxembourg booklets issued in 1895, numbers SB1 and SB2, containing 4 panes of 6xSG155 and 2 panes of 6xSG128 respectively and priced at £1,200 and £2,000. They sold at 5c over face value and I think they were both illustrated with the Grand Duke Adolf.
[Illus Stamp Magazine June 2004]
        Braille stamp
The first ever braille stamp might be this March 2003 issue from Switzerland, mentioned in unfavourable terms in the August '03 Gibbons Monthly as unnecessary, given that registered blind Swiss can post for free.
Illustration from the Swiss Federation for the Blind, who state 'Swiss Post is one of the first postal organisations in the world to issue a Braille stamp' so this might need more research.
        Bus Parcel Stamps
This is a Finnish speciality and mentioned in Mackay, but I could not find a reference in Wood. First issued in 1949 by the Finnish Post Office for the carriage of parcels on coach services, including private company services.
The only image I have found so far is from Netshop and shows the first set, complete with a 'watermark' from the dealer.
        Christmas Stamp
There is some controversy over this one. Although it is the first stamp to have "Xmas" on it, it is really nothing to do with Christmas and therefore better claimants may be advanced following further investigation. There's an article on the subject here. Other suggestions include Austria 1937, Brazil 1939, Hungary 1941 and Netherlands 1926 and 1933 semi-postals.
There are several claims to this title. Wood lists:
  • The first stamp with a specific commemorative inscription is the 1888 New South Wales issue for the centenary of the first colony in Australia.
  • An 1871 stamp from Peru is said to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first South American railway;
  • Some local German commemoratives were issued in 1887, but Wood discounts these as they were not a government issue;
Mackay mentions and dismisses:
  • Baden and Württenburg, both in 1851 issuing stamps with a 'tiny inscription signifying the German-Austrian Postal Union';
  • two New Brunswick issues of 1860, relating to the railways and the Prince of Wales;
  • a French reissue in 1863 with a laurel crown added to the image of Napoleon III;
  • the Peru 1871 as above;
  • the US 1876 stamped envelopes for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition;
  • the German locals above;
before arriving at the 1888 NSW issue as the first 'adhesive commemorative stamps produced by a government postal administration'.
        Charity - see semi-postal    
        Composite stamps
Defined by Mackay as 'where the design is spread over two or more stamps'. The first is a Poland 1957 issue featuring two fencers. I'm not sure what term Wood uses for this feature and so cannot yet list his corresponding entry.
Here's half to go on with (April 2004). See also Se-tenant



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original page, July 2003, first rewrite attempted March 2011, this re write June 2013