Private overprint
Private overprints, in philately
Philately is the study of stamps and postal history and other related items. Philately involves more than just stamp collecting, which does not necessarily involve the study of stamps. It is possible to be a philatelist without owning any stamps...

, are overprint
An overprint is an additional layer of text or graphics added to the face of a postage stamp or banknote after it has been printed. Post offices most often use overprints for internal administrative purposes such as accounting but they are also employed in public mail...

s (pictures, text, or a combination of the two), usually rubberstamped though occasionally applied by some other method, to postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

s (or, occasionally, postal stationery
Postal stationery
A piece of postal stationery is a stationery item, such as a stamped envelope, letter sheet, postal card, lettercard, aerogram or wrapper, with an imprinted stamp or inscription indicating that a specific rate of postage or related service has been prepaid...

) used by some person or entity other than a government or other official stamp-issuing entity. It is important to distinguish between privately overprinted stamps and postal stationery thus intended, and attempts to counterfeit official overprints; it is also important to distinguish between private overprints and private cancellation
Private cancellation
Private cancellations are cancellations of postage stamps, or, in some cases, artistamps, applied by other than a government or other official stamp-issuing entity...


Private overprints have been used for a number of reasons. Generally they cannot be used as control marks, as the stamp or stamps are thus rendered invalid for prepayment of postage (though some such invalid stamps have successfully passed through the mails, presumably due to an oversight of postal employees). However, while in Britain
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

 privately overprinted stamps usually served as receipts for tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

 payments, in 1859, upon application of the Oxford Union Society, there was a unique instance of a private overprint being approved for application on the face of stamps. This is to be distinguished from the more or less frequent application of private overprints to the back of stamps as control marks.

Private overprints tend to be used to express political opinions, or to commemorate some event by creating collectors' items (in cases in which the overprinted stamps cannot be used). For instance, German sympathisers in the Sudetenland
Sudetenland is the German name used in English in the first half of the 20th century for the northern, southwest and western regions of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by ethnic Germans, specifically the border areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and those parts of Silesia being within Czechoslovakia.The...

 privately overprinted Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakia or Czecho-Slovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, until 1992...

n stamps with swastika
The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing form in counter clock motion or its mirrored left-facing form in clock motion. Earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient...

s before the annexation, and in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, after the fall of Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 and his establishment of the Italian Social Republic
Italian Social Republic
The Italian Social Republic was a puppet state of Nazi Germany led by the "Duce of the Nation" and "Minister of Foreign Affairs" Benito Mussolini and his Republican Fascist Party. The RSI exercised nominal sovereignty in northern Italy but was largely dependent on the Wehrmacht to maintain control...

, stamps of the King were overprinted with fasces by Fascist
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...


Private overprints have also been used in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, though the Domestic Mail Manual states that stamps "overprinted with an unauthorized design, message or other marking" are not valid for postage. A private overprint exists on the Florida commemorative
Commemorative may refer to:*Commemorative coin*United States Commemorative Coin*Commemorative issue - a special edition of a book, magazine, or other item released around, or in memory of, a special event or occurrence.*Commemorative stamp...

, and during the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

, a woman privately overprinted the stamps on her outgoing mail with the slogan "Pray for War" before postal authorities compelled her to move this stamping away from the stamps. There have been several American examples of postal card
Postal card
Postal cards are postal stationery with an imprinted stamp or indicium signifying the prepayment of postage. They are sold by postal authorities. In January, 1869 Emanuel Herrmann of Austria described the advantages of a Correspondenz Karte. By October, 1869 the world's first postal card was...

s being overprinted with a private overprint revaluation shortly after a rate change, including the Post Office Department's "authoriz[ation of] a special Pitney-Bowes Tickometer surcharge
An overprint is an additional layer of text or graphics added to the face of a postage stamp or banknote after it has been printed. Post offices most often use overprints for internal administrative purposes such as accounting but they are also employed in public mail...

 to be used to revalue [postal] cards [in the possession of General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

] when the post card rate went up to 3 cents in August of 1958. "The [USPS also authorised overprinting of the] 10¢ Tractor Trailer and 5¢ Canoe Transportation" coil stamps.

External links

  • Unidentified Philatelic Objects: 51-100
  • Rapaphilia: Raptors and Philatley: Marks and Overprints: A lists private overprint on Portuguese
    Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

     stamps to send Olympic
    Olympic Games
    The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

     athletes to Amsterdam
    Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

  • GB Victoria Protective Overprints and Underprints
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