Report of the Meeting, January 12 2008
Twentieth Century Postal Rates
Report of the Meeting, January 12 2008

PRESENT: Nine members and one visitor attended. Apologies for absence were received from eight members.

The Deputy Chairman opened the meeting by welcoming those present, and wishing all members, whether present or not, a happy and prosperous New Year.

He then turned to a letter addressed to the Chairman recently received from Egypt, signed by 17 Egyptian members, commenting on the £5 increase in annual subscription rates agreed at last May's AGM and questioning the necessity for such an increase. The Secretary read out the letter, which occasioned much discussion, and eventually the meeting instructed the Secretary to reply, advising the correspondents that their views had been noted, but that in light of recent postage increases (and another coming on April 7), and to safeguard the Circle's future in the long term the increase was not only justified but necessary to our survival as an international group publishing a top-class journal to members the world over. It was noted that more than two-thirds of our members are now outside UK, where the postal increases have been greatest; and that it is hoped that no further increase in subscriptions will be necessary in the near future as a result of the action taken at the AGM.

The Secretary then mentioned the possibility of a further supply of 31 more Postal Bulletins coming from Egypt, eight of them new in European languages, 14 of them printed only in Arabic, and nine of them duplicates of those already purchased. In light of the duplicates and the Arabic editions, the meeting accepted the offer of two individual members to negotiate to purchase them, in order to preserve Circle funds.

Notice was received from Tony Chisholm (Antipodean Agent) of an international meeting tentatively being planned for New Zealand in February 2009. Previous meetings in NZ have been resounding successes, and Tony is keen to hear from members who might be willing to resurrect that freewheeling conviviality. Those interested should contact the Secretary or Tony direct at

The Secretary read out various correspondence, including a request from the Association of British Philatelic Societies to pay the increased capitation fee for 2008. Since our membership of the ABPS is already under review, it was decided that the question of withdrawing from the organisation be decided at the AGM. In the meantime, the Secretary would very much welcome members' views on the benefits (or otherwise) of membership. A request for financial support for the big international meeting London 2010 (from May 8-15), which is no longer backed by Royal Mail, will also be considered at the AGM.

An email from the fledgeling Indus Philatelic Society of Sujawal, Sindh, Pakistan, sought philatelic material of any sort - stamps, covers, literature, whatever. Members agreed to seek out surplus material to send: any such items should go to the Secretary for forwarding, please, and many thanks for your generosity.

Officers reported on ESC activities: Edmund Hall appealed for articles for the forthcoming QC 224; Brian Sedgley reported that 2008 subscriptions were rolling in well and that the experiment of attaching a Macarthur Award vote sheet to the subs reminder had been a success; John Sears expected a Circle profit of about £450 from Auction 44 and noted that lists of lots for Auction 45 should be with Mike Murphy by February 15; and John Davis reported on the purchase of literature including Peter Smith's Egypt from Robin Bertram's estate and said that the disposal of other books purchased with it should provide a boost for Circle funds.

Edmund Hall then embarked on the meeting proper, titled "Twentieth Century Postal Rates" - a straightforward title but a fascinating and varied afternoon, typically viewed from a different angle! His idea was to tell the story of changes in postal rates via the issue of definitive stamps which, after all, were designed to fulfil specific purposes within the postal system…. or were they?

Edmund showed an astonishing variety of covers, originally collected for all sorts of reasons including fine postmarks or the CDS of an out-of-the-way village or TPO, but now re-worked to illustrate specific rates each properly paid using (where possible) the single stamp designed for the role.

He was able to show that in many cases a change in postal rates was not catered for by a specific stamps - in other words, when the rate went up to, say, 13 millièmes, the 13 millième stamp to fulfil that rate was not issued until six or more months later. Because of this discrepancy, he proved that it is not always possible to define a postal rate by a single-stamp cover; and that it is not always safe to ascertain the rate for the day by examining only stamps on cover - they may be misleading.

Some of the lower-value definitives properly used to pay their appropriate rate, he said, were exceedingly rare, and a similar case applied to use of a single commemorative to fulfil a local small-value rate, bearing in mind that commemoratives often had a franking life of only seven days.

Much remains to be done, it is clear, in the area of defining specific dates for rate changes - Edmund was able to show how the internal rate and the Avis de Reception rate stayed the same when a Registration rate was increased; and how later the AR rate was lifted without any corresponding increase in Registration rate when clearly it would have been more logical to change both at the same time.

Particularly interesting was the Boy King issue, during which the local internal rate was increased twice, from the long-lived 5m rate to 6m in 1940 and then again to 10m in 1943, with consequent changes in all other rates, necessitating the printing of a long series of values and colour changes. There was, for instance, no 21m stamp to cover the foreign letter rate; and there was no 41m stamp, to cover local (6m) plus Registration (15m) plus AR (20m).

All that changed with the provision of the Marechal series, in which all issued stamps were related directly to specific postal rates, including the 17-millieme value concession letter rate to the UK. Air Mails, however, provided many tangled problems with different rates for each airline, and the meeting queried how the airlines were reimbursed for their specific duties.

One mystery - why the Nefertiti 100m stamp was surcharged with another odd value, 55 millièmes, was resolved when Edmund explained that 55m was the internal letter rate plus Registration plus AR. He was able to take us only a little further into the complex post-Revolution period before time ran out and the meeting had to close. It was agreed that he would show the remainder of his display at the Stampex meeting on March 1.

The Deputy Chairman described the meeting as "really amazing" and paid tribute to Edmund's "absolutely enormous" dedication to research of a fascinating area, and wondered how he managed to find time to do it, among all his other interests. The meeting showed its delight in time-honoured fashion.

1mil internal 13mil PC O/S 17mil to UK 20mil Reg.AR 35mil Reg 40mil Express 55mil Reg.AR

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