31 May 2015

The last of its kind - the UPU-colouring principle

UPU colours and its consequences on the Gustaf VI Adolf type I series

UPU, the Universal Post Union, was founded in 1874 in Bern Switzerland. Among other things they established uniform flat postal rates for the most common internationally sent items; letter (first weight class), postcard and printed matter; to be sent anywhere in the world. That was quite an achievement and made things much easier for the postal administrations. Some years later, in 1897, UPU decided that the stamps used for these international flat postal rates should each have a distinct and uniform colour. Blue was choosen for letter, red for postcard and green for printed matter. In order to make things even easier for the postal administrations. That seemed like a pretty good idea.

There was also another rule connected to the rules of colours and that stated no other colours were allowed for the stamps with the these particular denominations (for letter, postcard and printed matter). The implication was when ever those postal rates were changed, often raised, the existent stamps have to be cancelled and new ones issued in the right colours.

An interesting matrix of Gustaf VI Adolf type I. From top left . . .

1951, 1 June, 10 öre green Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty:      7,900,000
1954, 12 April. 10 öre brown Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty:320,000,000
1951, 1 June. 20 öre red Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty:     70,100,000
1952,25 July. 20 öre grey Gustaf  VI Adolf type I. Qty:231,000,000
1951, 1 June. 25 öre grey Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty:      161,000,000
1952, 25 July. 25 öre red Gustaf VI Adolf type I.  Qty:      286,000,000
1954, 4 February. 25 öre blue Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty: 456,000,000
1951, 1 June. 30 öre blue Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty: 21,800,000
1952, 1 July. 30 öre brown Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty:   9,300,000
1954, 15 March. 30 öre red Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty: 14,900,000
1952, 1 July. 40 öre blue Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty:          12,600,000
1954, 20 January. 40 öre green Gustaf VI Adolf type I. Qty: 24,300,000

In June 1951 the new definitive series of the new king Gustaf VI Adolf was issued. Sweden still tried to be compliant to the UPU-colours and the 10 öre had to be green, the 20 öre had to be red and the 30 öre had to be blue.

International postal rates affected by the UPU-colours in June 1951:
Postcard Letter
- 20 g
20 öre  30 öre 10 öre

As a comparison some domestic postal rates effective from 1 June 1951:
- 20 g
15 öre* 25 öre10 öre
* since 1948

Swedish post was UPU compliant in 1951, still in 1952, but they had gave up in 1954.

The rates for international postcard and letter  - 20 g was raised in June 1952, but the rate for printed matter was untouched.

International postal rates from June 1952:
- 20 g
25 öre 40 öre10 öre

UPU-colour consequences after June 1952.

The  biggest change in the Gustaf VI Adolf series were caused by the raise of the postcard rate. First the old 20 öre red had to be cancelled and since a 20 öre denomination still was needed a new 20 öre stamp had to be issued, it became grey. Since there already existed a  grey 25 öre stamp and grey now was the wrong colour it had to be cancelled. It was replaced with the new 25 öre red - right colour for postcard. The new 40 öre blue was a new denomination in the series. Therefore the old 30 öre blue had only to be replaced by the new 30 öre brown. This time seven stamps were affected.

This was the problem with the UPU-colours. The changes "consumed" a lot of stamps if the old rate's denomination was going to be kept and if there already existed a denomination of the new rate, which of course was of the wrong colour. In addition a new stamp in the right colour had to be issued, just in the case with the 20 to 25 öre raise above. In worst case four stamps were affected by each raise.

Up to four stamps were affected by the UPU-colouring principles.

Further back, especially before the first world war when the rates were changed after many years, sometimes after over a decade, this was not a big deal. However the postal rates were changed quite often in most countries during the first years after the first world war which caused quite a few countries to choose to be not complaint anymore. Sweden hanged on to the UPU-colours and issued compliant stamps until 1953*. Swedish Post was one of the last postal administrations that tried to be compliant.

No more UPU colours for the Gustaf VI Adolf series.

Even if Swedish Post could have kept the UPU-coloured stamps and not issue new ones in 1954 they choose to change the colours. The major reason was not to make a clean break with the UPU rule, instead the Swedish Post was not pleased with the colouring of the Gustaf VI Adolf type I series, they thought the background was not coloured enough. It was believed to to be too light. The next raise of the postal rates occurred in June 1957 and that brought the updated Gustaf VI Adolf type II series with a better background.

* The last stamps that complied to the UPU-colours were from the commemorative series 50th Anniversary of the National Athletic Federation in May 1953.

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