League of Nations (SdN) Album
5. First Issues 1922-31
(part 5 of a series)
In 1922, the League of Nations commenced using Swiss definitive stamps overprinted ‘Société des Nations’. Intended solely for the League’s official business, they could not be sold or given away and were unavailable to the philatelic market in mint condition except by unusual, often illicit means. Collectors had to content themselves with used or cancelled-to-order examples, the latter ordinarily struck in the center of a block of four with a Geneva 1 cancel. Beginning 1 February 1944, the remainder stock of mint stamps was sold publicly[i].
Authorities differ on how many varieties were issued overall, depending whether or not stamps with grilled gum, errors, color changes, plate flaws or redrawn designs are counted. Scott’s Catalog[ii] lists 90 major numbers and 21 minor variations, a total of 111, but, as is made clear by stamps throughout this album, there are many additional minor differences. Nevertheless, Scott numbers and dates of issue are used to identify the stamps; the quantities printed listed under each stamp shown below follow an accounting published by Charles Misteli.[iii]
Scott #s 2o1-2o30
Only one of the stamps showing above, #2o30, is in mint condition. It was either a part of the sets sent to the Universal Postal Union (UPU) for their archives, part of a set awarded to a dignitary, or stolen. Maybe the cancelling device failed to strike this one. In any case, all the others have the Geneva 1 or Geneva 10 cancellations.
Four additional stamps, Scott #s 2o31a-2o34a, complete the issues in use from 1922 through 1930. These bear the Switzerland Coat of Arms emblazed over the Matterhorn (apparently on a partly cloudy day). A more detailed examination of these four and their variations appears in Post #9 of this series (not currently on-line).
Although mint stamps with SdN overprints could not be purchase by the public, the League did provide carnivalesque pages with favor cancels -- cotton candy for collectors. The one showing below, the earliest in my collection, features all League stamps issued in 1922, each bearing a Geneva 1 cancel struck on 25-1-1923. It is the first of many such pages commemorating League-sponsored events and congresses.
Favor page, 25 i 1923
Full sheets of the older SdN stamps are scarce. My earliest example, Scott #2o10 (1931), was not cancelled until 1937 when rules regarding the sale of League stamps were beginning to relax. It’s missing the top selvage.
Scott #2o10 (1931)
Two varieties of cancels are commonly found in early usage, the first being more frequent than the latter.
6 x 1922, three days after
the release of the first issue
5 vi 1923
The Table of Contents for the League of Nations posts is here.
[i] Felix Ganz. “False Overprints of League of Nations and International Labor Office Stamps of Switzerland.” American Philatelist. (August 1983), p. 699.
[ii] Scott Publishing Co. 2013 Classic Specialized Catalog of Stamps and Covers. Sidney, Ohio (2012).
[iii] Charles Misteli. Etude sur les timbres poste et obliterations de la Société des Nations…. Club Philatelique et Aeropostal de Geneva (1943, sup. 1984), pp. 11-20.