A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Portugal - Bud's Big Blue

Scott #s 1s30-1s35, 1931, porte franco overprint
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Jim’s summary of Portugal’s postal history appears here. The following post focuses mainly on Portugal’s charity stamps.

Almost from their beginning, adhesive stamps have been involved with (maybe better, stuck together with) charities. To make money for their causes, volunteers amass used stamps, soak them off envelopes, and sort them into bundles for collectors and stamp dealers to buy in bulk (1). The charities also produce their own labels, stamp-look-alikes sometimes called Cinderellas or poster stamps, for their supporters to affix next to government issued postage. 

Crux Vermelha (Red Cross) poster stamps, 1941

Governments issue commemoratives to celebrate charity founders and the on-going work of their followers. Some stamps are meant to collect funds for various causes by adding a premium – the semi-postals for which Big Blue (BB) has designated pages. Patrons can choose to buy the semi-postals to contribute to the charity, or not, their choice making no difference in the postal service provided.

Portugal’s postal authorities chose two other strategies for supporting causes – charity tax stamps and franchise stamps (they authorized no semi-postals).  From 1911 to 1928, charity tax stamps were issued and sold by the government post offices, the proceeds going to support civic celebrations and/or general public welfare.

Scott #s RA1-RA2 

Charity tax stamps were obligatory. On certain days of the year, patrons had to affix them to envelopes in addition to regular postage if they wanted their mail delivered on those days. If these stamps were not used, double payment was required, as indicated by the postal tax due stamps. The government administered the collection and distribution of the resulting proceeds. 

Two cent telegraph stamp and Scott #RA6

BB provides spaces for all 14 Portuguese postal tax stamps, as well as for the 5 postal tax postage dues. Telegraph charity stamps were also issued – same designs, different colors. (For reason I can’t recall, I put one of the telegraph charity stamps in a space BB provides for a postal stamp. See scans below.)

Scott #s RAJ2-RAJ4 

Franchise stamps (aka: frank stamps or “free ones”) differ in important ways from charity tax stamps. Franchise stamps are given outright to the charities – free postage for the charity to use for its own mail or to sell to dealers and collectors. Although a few other countries issued franchise stamps, Portugal produced the most, 104 in all beginning in 1889 and continuing until 1936. Most of these were given to the Portuguese Red Cross (Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa) but, to a lesser extent, other organizations also benefitted – a rifle club, a geographical society, and a charity for tuberculosis victims. Today, although relatively inexpensive, used franchise stamps command prices equal to or greater than mint; covers are much more costly, especially those connected to benefitting charities.

Rifle Club, Scott #2S12, blue and brown on pink

Lisbon Geographical Society, Scott #s 3S14, 3S10, 3S11, 2S12

In other countries, Switzerland for example, generic franchise stamps were issued and given to multiple charities. Soldiers sometimes received franchise stamps during wartime, or they were allowed, as in the United States, to write “free” on envelopes where stamps would have been placed.

US Navy free post with censor mark, circa 1940

Scott uses the letter “S” for cataloging franchise stamps. BB provides spaces for only six Portuguese examples, all issued before 1926. Ninety-eight get left out. Of these, a complete run of the Red Cross stamps appears on the supplement pages (below).All are all regular Portuguese issues of 1924 overprinted with porte franco (free post) and year dates. Portuguese postal authorities, it would seem, decided it was more economical to get rid of surplus stamps than to make new designs every year for the charities. In 1936 Portugal stopped issuing franchise stamps altogether; in 1938 Crux Vermelha responded by issuing poster stamps not valid for postage. The supplement pages also show these through 1946.

Two further notes:

(1) Collectors owe a debt of gratitude to the charity volunteers who clip and sort used stamps. The picture of Sister Miriam Ann at a stamp party (below) tells the story. For 25 years, she and her friends did their work to benefit the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth ministries, and for us who collect. Sister, now 96 years old, has laid aside her scissors and, as of November 22, 2022, no longer accepts stamp contributions. Kiloware dealers will suffer.

Stamp clipping party

(2) For ultra-specialists, Simone C.R. Ferreira and his associates have conducted a chemical analysis of early Portuguese stamps – pigments, fillers and binders – using non-destructive techniques. They offer a new way to detect forgeries. Their report is online and quite interesting reading, but too technical for me to abstract. See: Dyes and Pigments. Volume 205, September 2022. Or:


Census: 465 in BB spaces, six tip-ins, 290 on supplement page.

Jim's Observations

The 2011 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Portugal 1853-1941, 1031 major descriptive numbers. Of those, 479 are CV <$1-$1+, or 46%. The first 96 catalogue numbers (1853-1893) are considerably more expensive. Obviously, Portugal is a European country, and therefore commands more expense for the WW classical collector. And, as one of the imperialistic colonial powers, Portugal has a high profile in the WW classical stamp collecting world.

Some of the highlights for Portuguese collectors include the famous (infamous?) 1912-31 "Ceres" issue, the 1926- 1928 bi-color engraved independence issues, and the interesting unusual category "Franchise" issues. Alas, I will say nothing about these, as I have elected to concentrate on the 19th century stamp issues for the blog post (link below). Fortunately, Bud's essay (above) covers "Franchise" stamps.

In general, Portuguese designs are familiar to WW classical collectors, because of their use in the many Portuguese colonies. Some would argue that their stamp issues do not measure up to the designs and production methods of the other colonial powers: - perhaps because Portugal was a poorer country. But that is a judgement call, and there is much that will intrigue a WW classical era collector.

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Comments appreciated!

1 comment:

  1. I ocasionally find incorrect placements of stamps in my “complete” Big Blue Part I. Such is the case with what purports to be Scott #J1 (1898) on Portuguese scans 13 and 13c. It’s not. At the very top of the stamp, the overprint blocks out “multa” and, just below, a partly obscured “republica” appears. The overprint indicates it is #193 (1911) rather than #J1. Sorry. I’m in the market for #J1

    #J1 and its subsequent overprints are part of Portugal’s commemoration of Vasco da Gama’s voyage around the cape of South Africa to India and back. These common design stamps must have been printed initially in vast quantities because they were overprinted several times and put to multiple uses. And they’re still rather inexpensive.

    Help in identifying missplacements is greatly appreciated.