The existence of postal stationery dates back to the 17th. century, more specifically to 1608 (Venetian A-Q letter sheets).
The collecting of these philatelic documents is of rather recent days. This can be attributed to two factors: the lack of publications and, more importantly, the lack of a precise definition of what constitutes a postal stationery item.
As regards the first point, stationery catalogues do appear as early as the end of the 19th. century and stamp catalogues also included some information on postal stationery as reported by their country correspondents. Unfortunately, and lacking a precise definition, one is confronted with a report of what these sources considered postal stationery to be along with the stamps released at the time. Lacking a precise definition not much more could ve expected from either source.
It is not until 2012 that de International Philatelic Federation (FIP) comes up with a definition, which, although extensive and elaborate, does not meet with the criteria of many collectors and students of the subject. Rather than to satisfy existing differences, the Organization has opened up a hornets nest. The definition has created more question than provided answers.
|Ecuador 1939 view card send to Argentina (1950) Consular Mail Free. Is this stil postal stationery?|
This has been caused by the insistence of FIP members of their rightful position namely to provide a normative definition which is then applied to existing material.
What needed be done is to take into account specialized country studies and then proceed on a definition. Unfortunately, lacking such studies in many countries this was an impossible task. Given the fact that this is the only way to arrive at a meaningful definition and not being able to arrive at such FIP should not insist on clinging to a deficient definition. It should rather provide detractors to give their input and periodically amend its definition to include the suggestions of others whenever this seems appropriate.
At presente, there exists a difference of opinion on the inclusion of formula cards, what view cards can o cannot be included, telegraph forms, privately issued cards, demonetized cards, etc. These differences have to be resolved, hopefully soon, if we want to arrive at a meaningful definition.
At this point we would like to present a case study of the difficulty of establishing a definition of what constitutes a postal stationery item and the necessity for specialized country studies before arriving at a meaningful definition.
In 1939 the Ecuadorian post office issued two series of postal view cards, each in two different values to satisfy the international rates. The two issues circulated in the proper fashion until at one point, the Ministry of Foreign Relations and more specifically its Department of Tourism, decided to acquire an unspecified quantity of these cards. They were overprinted with propaganda and distributed free of charge to the public to be used much like the initial copies sold by the post office.
|Ecuador 1939 view card demonetized but send to USA in 1945. Is this stil postal stationery?|
Since this occured in 1939 when postal stationery lacked a definition, both types of cards were listed by existing catalogues without taking into regard that one type was sold over the counter and the other given away. The question remains should both be collected as all collectors of this material do or should the overprinted cards be excluded from a catalogues as the FIP definition would demand. Or, should the FIP definition be amended to included both types of cards?
This is by no means an isolated case. Such anomalies exist not only in Ecuador but in most of Latin America to this day. This is due to the ignorance of most issuing countries of what constitutes postal stationery. Certainly none have read the FIP definition.
There is an argument to be made for the elaboration of a living definition of postal stationery. Instead of insisting on an ill-conceived definition one should be provided to include the opinions of others. A permanent comission should be established to study the opinions of all concerned.
Collectors, particularly those interested in exhibiting need guidelines of what is acceptable or not. This discussion is not concerned about what should be included in an exhibit. Nevertheless collectors should not have to depend on the criteria of individual jufges or FIP directors.