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Postal History

Postal History Commission


Klerman Wanderley Lopes


What is Postal History

In an old definition, Historia Postal is the study of the postal system and its functioning, or even the use of postage stamps, letters and other postal artifacts that illustrate historical aspects in the development of the postal system.

For competitive purposes, Postal History collections are divided into three subclasses:

A) Postal History, containing material transported or related to official or private post offices. Here, routes, franchises, postal marks, etc. are studied. related to the development of postal services.

B) Marcofilia, displaying the classifications or studies of the postal marks on stamps, letters or other postal items related to official, local or private post offices.

C) Historical, Social or Special Studies, which examines Postal History comprehensively, studying the interaction of commerce and society with the postal system.

In addition to these subclasses, Postal History collections are subdivided into three time periods, considering most of their content:

1 - Until 1875 (Creation of the Universal Postal Union - UPU).
2 - From 1875 to 1945 (End of World War II). 3 - After 1945.


The collections presented in the Postal History and Marcofilia subclasses must use material effectively circulated through the postal system, such as stamps, letters, postal letters, etc. The collection can be illustrated with maps, printed matter, decrees, etc. The material presented must necessarily be related to the topic to be developed.

As examples of themes in Historia Postal or Marcofilia, we have:

a) Pre-philatelic postal services.
b) The development of local, regional, national and international postal services.
c) Postal rates.
d) Mail routes.
e) Postal marks.
f) Military mail and related topics.
g) Maritime, river or lacustrine mail.
h) Rail or street mail of any kind.
i) Mail in accidents.
j) Disinfected mail.
k) Postal censorship.
l) Charged letters.
m) Automation of courier services.
n) Performance of forwarding agents (Forwarders).
o) Official mail and letters free of postage.


As examples of Historical, Social or Special Studies, we have:

- Telegraphic services.
- Greeting cards and Valentines.
- Advertising or illustrated letters.
- Studies on the effect of the postal system on commerce, industry and society.
- Local or regional historical studies.
- Studies related to events or ephemeris.


Organizing a Postal History Collection

Like any story, the presentation should have a beginning, middle and end, with all parts well balanced. For a better understanding and evaluation of a Postal History collection, it is necessary to correctly describe what is presented, in a concise and clear way, using different font sizes or types for titles, descriptions of the pieces and important notes. Postal rates for the same period must be explained in tables, avoiding their repetition in the description of the pieces. The inclusion of non-philatelic or non-postal material should be used sparingly to improve understanding of the topic, making the presentation more attractive.

The Postal History exhibitor should give the utmost importance and attention to the introduction sheet of their collection. The title chosen must be in absolute agreement with its text, which must clearly inform the most relevant aspects of what is intended to be shown and in what time period. It is very important to present a plan that accurately reflects the development of the topic, dividing it into chapters or sections of historical and postal relevance. Important investigations and contributions made by the exhibitor must be cited, as well as their main references and sources for consultation. It is important to note that the introduction sheet is sent to all judges well before the start of the exhibition, serving as a guide during the “in loco” evaluation of the collection.

How Postal History collections are judged

In judging a Postal History collection, the maximum points awarded for each item are as follows:


- 20 points for treatment, where the development of the theme and the presence of materials that illustrate it in its fullness are evaluated, considering the scope proposed in the introduction sheet. The historical and philatelic relevance of the theme and the difficulty of duplicating the exposed subject are considered. The collector must stick to what is indicated in the title and avoid placing unrelated material, as well as avoiding the repetition of pieces that do not contribute to its harmonious development. The collector must avoid "demonstrations of power". The exaggerated presence of pieces of the same species, even if rare, is not well evaluated in this regard.


- 10 points for philatelic importance. This will be compared to the postal history of the country in general, area or subject, and to philately in general. The study of a capital or large city will be more important than a city in the interior, just as the study of postal agreements between two countries will be more important than the study of the internal tariffs of a single nation, in the same period. The material displayed must be relevant to the theme of the collection. In general, unused postage stamps and postage stamps are unimportant in Postal History and their presence in the collection must be justified.


- 35 points for personal knowledge, studies and research. Here, the exhibitor must show, in a concise manner, using their material, what is known about the topic, emphasizing its most significant aspects, avoiding placing too much emphasis on less important aspects. It will be evaluated how the exhibitor makes use of the exhibited pieces. Where applicable, postage, routes and postal marks must be explained. Personal research that leads to the knowledge of new facts or the elucidation of controversial matters is highly appreciated and takes precedence over the correct presentation of facts that have already been thoroughly studied. Careful preparation of the introduction sheet can help to avoid long and repeated descriptions of the pieces presented.


- 10 points for material status. The exhibitor must place pieces in the best possible condition in relation to their rarity. The quality of the most common pieces must be impeccable, otherwise points will be lost. Postal marks must be perfectly legible and stamps presented in good condition. The use of inferior quality items is only justifiable when they are unique or extremely rare pieces.


- 20 points for rarity, which will assess the scarcity of exhibits in relation to the country or area in question, always related and having importance for the topic presented. The use of expressions such as “unique” or equivalent should be used sparingly and only when proven.

- 5 points for the presentation. This item is complementary to the treatment and influences the first impression of the judges and, if this is unfavorable, it may discredit the judgment. Reproductions of postal marks should only be used when the originals on the pieces are not clear to the viewer. Reproductions of the back of letters are permitted with a 25% reduction in size, as well as reproduction in original size, where relevant, of special stamps or part of the letters. The care in the preparation of the texts, in the placement of the images and in the distribution of the pieces must be carefully considered.

The considerations presented here represent a summary of what must be observed by the exhibitor in the Postal History class.

More detailed explanations can be found on the website of the International Federation of Philately, in the item SREV (Postal History), at the electronic address:












We are often in doubt whether a particular piece would be more suitable to appear in a Postal History collection or in a Traditional Philately collection. In this letter from Bahia, on January 18, 1882 (light blue stamp often used), to Belfast, Prince Edward Island, British North America (Canada), arriving (back) on February 25, there are two possible situations: 1) In terms of Traditional Philately, although it features a 200 réis stamp with a beautiful English subtitle, it is a piece with a very common franchise, the 1st UPU port. Therefore, it is an item to compose a set, without much prominence. 2) In terms of Postal History it would be a more important piece, as it is a very rare destination for a Brazilian letter during the Imperial period in Brazil.

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