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Thematic Philately

Comissário FEBRAF - Rogério Dedivitis (


1 - Thematic Philately: a good option!


Each one collects stamps and other philatelic pieces in the way they like and feel the greatest pleasure. Often, the beginning of the collection is not bound by rules. Everything is collected and the material that is accumulated ends up being classified, generally by countries and, within each country, in chronological order of issue. This initial phase makes it possible for the collector to obtain a lot of knowledge and makes him have the habit of handling stamps, keeping them in the classifiers, and gaining a taste for the collection.

Over time there is a natural tendency towards specialization. In fact, some people restrict their collections from the start. Most collect stamps from their own country. The main motivation for this is the cultural affinity with the collected material. Nowadays, you can’t even justify the ease of buying new items, because the Internet makes it possible to acquire everything (or almost everything) without leaving your home and according to each person’s pocket.

The collection by countries is the typical so-called Traditional collection. The country, the date of issue, and the technical data of the seal are considered, such as indentation (perforation), watermark of the paper, type and thickness of the paper, etc. Other philatelic materials can be collected within this focus: stamps, postcards, letters, etc. See illustrations in Image 1 and Image 2.
























Classic stamps do not offer many options for the thematic collector.



Image 2

Letter from Germany from the time of inflation between wars (1921 to 1923), in which a study of sizes can be developed. High inflation led to almost daily postage adjustments!


However, the stamp and the other philatelic pieces offer other attractions for the collector, such as the design and the reason for the issue. The possibility of using different types of pieces allows a very special presentation to the thematic collection. All postal material can be used, as long as it is related to the chosen theme. See Image 3.



Image 3

The Brazilian broadcasts of D. Pedro II are highly sought after by traditional collectors in Brazil. However, they go very well in a thematic collection on the History of Brazil, for example.


The choice of the theme depends on the taste of each collector. Several factors can interfere in this choice, such as the philatelist's profession (collection on medicine, mathematics, bridges, etc.) or a hobby, preference, or personal taste (collection on wines, dogs, orchids, Greek mythology, football, paintings, etc.).


Every thematic collection must contain a plan or script that must be present at the beginning of the collection. The plan is a kind of index or guide that divides the collection into chapters and sub-chapters, within a logic. Therefore, to make a thematic collection, it is important to have knowledge about the chosen theme, in addition, of course, to philatelic knowledge.




Figure 4

Another letter circulated, from Germany, at the time of high inflation.

2 - Research in the thematic collection


In developing a thematic collection, the philatelist has two fundamental types of research to perform: thematic and philatelic. If done well, they will result in a good collection.


The thematic research consists of a detailed study of the chosen theme. Often, the collector chooses a theme that relates to his professional activity or leisure. In this case, the search is facilitated, as he already has knowledge about what he chose. The studies of the theme must be in-depth, in the sense of finding unusual and original aspects, which greatly value ​​the collection from the thematic point of view. Even after assembling the collection, thematic research must continue, as it is very dynamic and must always be updated.


Whoever collects, for example, the theme "birds", will not only search for morphological and functional aspects of the animal but will look for other animals to participate, together with birds, in the ecological chain, as well as researchers, institutes, events and related symbolism the birds. All of these last aspects may be represented on stamps and other philatelic materials, giving the collection a touch of originality.


Philatelic research is related to the search for philatelic material so that the collection can be assembled. First of all, the thematic is a philatelist and must know the existence of the pieces of his theme. This is easier for stamps, just having the patience to browse (or change the computer screen) a universal catalog, country by country.


The wide availability of browsers and portals facilitates the search for other philatelic materials. Even so, stamps, letters, postcards can still be found on auction lists, monographs, and, above all, in other collections, hence the importance of the constant visit to the main philatelic exhibitions. Knowing the existing philatelic material, one must adapt its acquisition to the size of the will and the pocket. In this sense, Thematic Philately is quite democratic, making it possible to assemble a beautiful set without necessarily spending a lot.


These two types of research go hand in hand and must be developed together, in a dynamic and continuous way, aiming at a progressive improvement of the collection.

3 - Where to assemble the thematic collection?


For beginners

Where to store the stamps and philatelic pieces that are part of the thematic collection? This is a common question among debutants. For stamps, the option falls, as a rule, on the classifiers, in whose acetate strips can be freely manipulated and changed position, as the collection increases. If new chapters emerge over time, it is also easy to mobilize the stamps.


For the advanced


For the philatelist whose collection is already reasonably advanced, with a good accumulation of material, the question is another: to exhibit or not to exhibit? The fact is that, when the collection reaches a certain level, there is the option to participate in exhibitions, be it exhibitions or competitive ones, from regional to national or international. It is a chance to show our work to a much larger number of people, whose suggestions may be useful for future improvements. We can learn a lot from other earlier collections. We can also purchase interesting items from the merchants and, also, from the postal administrations present at these events.


However, each one collects as they wish. However, in order to exhibit and compete, it is necessary to adapt to certain rules, adopted by consensus or enshrined in use. The norms in the assembly of the collections aim to control certain excesses and allow comparisons so that the jury can carry out its work of judging the exposed collections.


The leaf


One of the aspects to consider is that of the collection sheet. Contrary to what one might imagine, there is a certain dynamism and the concepts change through use.




Most exhibitors use thicker paper than usual sulfite - above

30 or 40 grams. Thin paper is unsuitable for supporting heavy parts and for keeping in position when using windows and drawers to show part of an un-circulated envelope, for example. There are collectors who manage to do this, but then, in addition to the traditional protective plastic bag that surrounds the sheet, they use cardboard behind the thin sheet, to give it more firmness. Already very thick papers (over 60 grams, for example) may not be able to pass through a conventional printer, which would make printing difficult.




There is no discussion here: it must be smooth. Checkered sheets are no longer used in exhibitions, which would inevitably give the assembly a "heavy" appearance.




Whoever wears white never makes a mistake. The only disadvantage is that, over time and with exposure to light, the white turns yellow and this gives an appearance of an old and poorly maintained collection. Many collectors use a light beige, pastel tone. IT'S


discreet and avoids the visual effect of paper aging. Papers have already been seen in a very light gray, also with harmonic effect. Anything that escapes this can be bold. Some boldness calls attention to the good, but others have seen a "scandal". When in doubt, avoid it!




Traditionally, the sheet was in the portrait format, that is, with the height greater than the width. The basic measure was 29.7 x 21.0 cm (A4 format), suitable for display boards and for all printers for home or office use. In recent years, and in order to receive larger pieces, sheets of 29.7 x 42.0 cm (A3 format), have gained the preference of some of the high-level collections. It is necessary to invest in a printer that is suitable, as well as to order plastic bags of sufficient size to store each sheet.

4 - Only Brazil in thematic?


Still in some collections, especially among juvenile philatelists, there is a habit of collecting themes restricted to the country, such as "History of Brazil", "Fauna of Brazil" and others. What's more, these collections are basically or exclusively made up of Brazilian philatelic stamps and pieces.


Of course, the collector is free, but some considerations about this cannot be neglected.


First, such a theme is very restricted, both for the thematic development of the collection and for philatelic research, that is, about the philatelic material that will constitute the collection. This problem increases when it is restricted only to Brazilian philatelic material.


In fact, a Brazilian thematic collection could include foreign pieces, for example, Portuguese stamps depicting Pedro Álvares Cabral, D. Pedro I or José Bonifácio would fit into a hypothetical collection of "História do Brasil".


On the other hand, any issue about zoos that illustrates Brazilian animals would enter a "Fauna of Brazil".


Even so, the field of action is limited and this gives the philatelist little chance of showing his philatelic knowledge.

5 - Philatelic Research


Philatelic research consists of studying, searching, selecting, and using stamps and various postal documents. The sources are general and specialized catalogs, sales lists of philatelic material (some are divided by themes), chronicles of news, and, without a doubt, philatelic exhibitions.


The relationship between certain pieces and the chosen theme is obvious. However, we must also bear in mind the secondary issues. They are details or details of the stamp design or philatelic piece, often of great thematic importance, despite being "hidden" in the corner or bottom of the design. They are still matters related to said drawing, but that does not appear directly.


An example of the latter situation occurs in a collection on Medicine, in which there is no material about a certain disease, but rather illustrating people who were carriers of the disease. Here is an example: to illustrate cardiac arrhythmia, materials about German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer can be used (see Image 1).


Image 1

Commemorative stamp and stamp in honor of “Konrad Adenauer”.

Famous politician, Adenauer was the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (1949-1963). He had a cardiac arrhythmia and died in April 1967, aged 91, the victim of a heart attack.

Philatelic knowledge consists of the presence and variety of the different pieces. Non-postal and therefore non-philatelic material is not welcome in a collection to be displayed in competitions.


All themes have their main pieces well known. A collection on Scouting, for example, must contain philatelic material about the “Mafeking camp” (see Image 2).




Image 2

1900 stamp and stamp, related to the MAFEKING theme.


Some themes are particularly fond of certain types of pieces. Thus, a Christmas collection that does not have some "American V-mails" or "British Airgraphs" (microfilmed letters during World War II) is not allowed. See example in Image 3.




















Image 3

Example of V-MAIL with Christmas message.


The connection between the piece used and the chapter of the collection being illustrated is fundamental. The best quality pieces in good condition must be selected to compose the collection. Recent parts must be impeccable. Very old parts that are not available on the market should be in the best possible condition.


An essential concept is that of “postalization”. The ideal philatelic piece is the one that circulated or “traveled”, taking priority over those who traveled "in favor" (usually manufactured by a philatelist) and, above all, those who did not travel and received a "favor" stamp. The registration label and, in some cases, the electronic sorting marks prove the circulation.


Eventual illustrations in the body of envelopes and those made without authorization from the post office, by individuals in the body of postcards, have nothing to do with their postal part. In this case, one should use the "windows" or "drawers", which will show only what matters. Another option, in the case of parts of lower value and easier to purchase, is to cut the part that matters.


As a guideline, the following are some sites of interest, where important material (both didactic and philatelic) for all topics can be found (I declare to have no conflict of interest with any of them):



A) Clubs, Associations, and Federations websites:










B) Sites of merchants specialized in Thematic Philately:










Maximum Postcards in Thematic Collections

by Agnaldo de Souza Gabriel (


For the collector who has maximum postcards, there are two philatelic classes recognized by the FIP in which he can use them: Maximafilia and Thematic Philately, as well as their limited versions, in the “Um Quadro” class. The exhibition of one or another class depends on the type of exhibition and, generally, in national exhibitions, we have collections of both classes.


An exhibition collection of Maximaphilia is formed only by postal maximums, that is, this collection should not have stamps, blocks, or other philatelic elements placed next to the postal maximums. In this type of collection, we will always have two maximum postcards per sheet, accompanied by texts referring to philatelic and thematic knowledge.


A collection of Thematic Philately, in turn, admits the use of several philatelic items, from stamps and blocks to stamps and mechanical deductibles, passing through entire postcards and circulated envelopes. Everything that has a postal purpose and that, as a consequence, is also considered philatelic, can be included in a thematic collection.


The origins of Thematic Philately and Maximaphilia


At the beginning of Philately, we only had Traditional Philately, with stamps being collected by countries and in chronological order of release. The other philatelic classes have emerged over the years, with the profusion of postage stamps.


Maximafilia emerged between the 1920s and 1930s, in France, from the popularization of postcards from 1900, originating in postcards circulated with the stamp pasted on the obverse (front) of the postcard, indicated by the handwritten acronym TCV (from French Timbre Côte Vue) on the back. Understanding that this practice contradicted the norms of postal administrations, the Universal Postal Union (UPU) prohibited this procedure in 1934. Even so, collectors continued to elaborate their pieces privately and, in 1974, Maximafilia was recognized as a philatelic class by FIP, with the creation of its own rules.


Thematic Philately emerged in the early 1930s, in Germany, given the significant number of thematic stamps that were being issued, becoming popular with the end of the Second World War. In the beginning, this type of collection was frowned upon by traditional philatelists, but today Thematic Philately is one of the philatelic classes with the most exhibitors and, consequently, its rules are well established and well known among philatelists.


Basic recommendations


Despite having origins at about the same time, the delay in defining the rules of Maximaphilia, in part, meant that the maximum cards were little used in thematic collections. It is common to see well-developed thematic collections with only a single postcard maximum in the entire collection or even without the use of postcard maximums. Even so, to use maximum postcards in thematic collections, we must keep in mind two basic recommendations:


  • Make sure that the maximum postage is in accordance with the FIP Maximaphilia rules: in this case, try to purchase the maximum postage from maximaphilists or Maximaphily Clubs. It is not because a collector calls his piece the maximum postcard that he can be considered as such. For example, postcards with multiple images and/or that are merely reproductions of the stamps are forbidden in the FIP Maximaphilia rules. When in doubt look for a specialist.


  • Use postal maximums with great care in relation to other philatelic pieces: in this case, an excess of postal maximums at the expense of other pieces may show a lack of material and cause a negative evaluation of the collection. The maximum postage, due to its size and characteristics (it is usually a non-circulated piece, with a favor stamp), needs to have its use in the collection well justified, in order to enhance the collection, that is, the maximum postage must be the best ask among all available philatelic options.


Maximum postcards in the FIP Thematic Philately rules


In article 3.3 of the Guidelines for the Evaluation of Thematic Participations in FIP Exhibitions, which deals with the “Qualification of philatelic material”, we have to: “When selecting the material for participation, preference should be given and greater importance to: (. ..) commercial mail effectively transported, with relevant postal marks, as opposed to mere souvenir documents and similar items produced to satisfy collectors, such as decorated first-day issue envelopes (FDCs) decorated (even when issued by the postal service), and maximum postcards ”.


And yet, in the same article 3.3, we have to: “The use of maximum cards must be limited to a few significant pieces, mainly to make the thematic information contained on the stamp more evident. In addition to the necessary agreement between motive, time and date, defined in the principles of Maximaphilia, these items must contain an obliteration stamp related to the theme ”.


The rules, although very restrictive to the use of maximum postal cards, should be understood as an incentive to the search for a maximum quality postal card that really makes a difference in the collection.




In our first example, the maximum postcard depicts the Russian Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut in the world, that is, a common figure on stamps, mainly from the Soviet Union and the countries of the communist era. However, this postal maximum stands out among the other pieces, as it is the first postal maximum created beyond the limits of the Earth, on the 19th / 20th base expedition of the International Space Station (ISS). There are only 52 of these maximum cards, which was awarded in the 2009 FIP Best World Maximum competition, obtaining third place.


How to choose the maximum postcards for a thematic collection?


In addition to the basic recommendations, there are other criteria that we can follow for choosing maximum postcards for a thematic collection, taking advantage of the knowledge of the FIP Thematic Philately and Maximaphilia regulations. When using a maximum postcard in a thematic collection, give preference to:


  • Maximum “accidental” postcards: we consider an “accidental” maximum postage to be that which was done without the person knowing that he was making a maximum postage. Postcards in these conditions are generally very old, from the beginning of the popularization of postcards, around 1900 and, therefore, are rarer and more difficult to obtain.


  • Maximum postcards circulated before 1934: the UPU's ban on the circulation of postcards with the stamp on the obverse (front) of the postcard, made in 1934, restricted this type of material. If using a circulated maximum, it is best that it be circulated before this prohibition.


  • Maximum postal age "A": the age of a postal maximum is defined in the article

4.4 of the Guidelines for the Evaluation of Maximaphilia Participations in FIP Exhibitions and brings the classification "A" for maximum postcards made "before 1946, date of the first publication of the definition of maximum postage".




In this second example, we have a postcard maximum depicting João Pessoa, then president (equivalent to the current governors) of Paraíba. The set is formed by the stamp of the Revolution of 1930 (RHM C-28, issued on 04/29/1931), by the postcard issued by Photo Iris portraying the then governor and by the stamp of the city of João Pessoa, dated 28 / 07/1931.


Note: There are many pieces with different base seals and with the stamp of Paraíba from that time. Most of them, however, are not a postal maximum due to the lack of agreement on the location of the stamp.


  • Maximum postcards with rare postcards, stamps and / or stamps: still in article 4.4 of the Maximaphilia Guidelines, we have that “the rarity of a maximum postcard depends: on the relative rarity of the three elements (stamp, stamp and postcard), each in their own area of ​​interest ”. Thus, a rare postcard, seal or stamp, presented in a maximum postcard, will further enhance the ensemble. Take into account, for example, the age and circulation of the postcard, the circulation of the seal, the period of use of the seal and the seal.


  • Triple postal maximum: a triple postal maximum means that the stamp, the postcard and the stamp have similar images, highlighting the concordances that exist in a maximum postal. Article 4.3 of the Maximaphilia Guidelines provides: “the obliteration is much more interesting when it is done in a place of close connection with the theme, harmoniously complementing the stamp / postcard set through its illustration or text, and if it was used for a greater or lesser period of time ”.




In this third example, we have a postcard maximum depicting the imperial palms of the Botanical Garden of Rio de Janeiro, in an example of a triple postcard maximum. The set is formed by the seal of the 150 years of the Botanical Garden (RHM C-412, issued on 06/13/1958), by the postcard issued by Cromocart nº 49 depicting the imperial palm trees and by the illustrated stamp of the 1st day of circulation, depicting an imperial palm tree, from the city of Rio de Janeiro.


  • Maximum postcards with stamps of the stamp launch date: the closer the stamp date to the stamp launch day, the better the maximum postcard. For older postcards, especially those made before the special 1st day of circulation stamps appeared, a shipping stamp with the date of the first day of circulation of the stamp will also enhance the set.


  • Maximum postcards with a theme closer to the development of the collection plan: according to article 3.2.2 of the Thematic Philately Guidelines, we must have a "balanced use of the pieces according to the importance of the thematic detail to which they refer". In this respect, the maximum postcards can better highlight the theme present on the stamp.




According to article 4.2.2 of the Special Regulation for the Evaluation of Thematic Participations of the FIP, the thematic philatelist will have his collection evaluated for “the presence of the widest possible range of postal-philatelic material and its balanced use”. This means that we should not leave out the maximum postcards, but rather, according to article 3.3 of the FIP's Thematic Philately Guidelines, use them sparingly, “to make the thematic information contained on the stamp more evident”.


In summary, the philatelist, when using a maximum postcard in a thematic collection, must do so with the aim of improving his collection and not just to occupy the empty space!


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