Thursday, January 05, 2006

Brazil money order stamps

From Jan 1, 1913 to Dec. 31 1941, Brazil used special "money order stamps", {"depositos" in Brazilian Portuguese)on postal money order forms in denominations matching the amount of money being sent. These stamps were available in 14 denominations, the lowest being 100 reis and the highest being 1,000,000 reis.
They are rectangular, in horizontal format, about twice the area of definitive postage stamps, and all of them say "Brazil Correio Deposito" (first design) or "Brasil Correio Deposito" (second design) with, of course, the denomination; the two designs are immediately distinguishable not only by the different spelling of the country name, but also by the word "Correio" being curved on stamps of the first design and straight on stamps of the second design. In adition to the money order stamps, each money order (except certain official money orders) bore postage stamps in the amount of the postal fee for the money order. The postage stamps were canceled normally, but the money order stamps were canceled in manuscript by the sending postal clerk. Various other printed, manuscript and handstamped inscriptions are on the front and back of these money orders. Money order stamps are often mistaken for revenues, but they are not; they are postal, used as an accounting control for the rather large amounts of money transmitted by postal money orders. These stamps, on and off money orders, can be a fascinating subject of study and collecting.

Unused copies were not ordinarily sold to the public, and genuine unused copies are quite rare; if you encounter what seems to be an unused copy, it is most likely a stamp that was used and later had the pen cancel chemically removed.

The stamps of the first design were produced by the American Bank Note Company, and there was only one printing. All the denominations of this first issue are common except the 500,000 and 1,000,000 reis, and all are inexpensive. As stocks of the various denominations of this set ran low, Brazil's Mint (Casa da Moeda) produced corresponding stamps of the second design. Because the ABNCo order had specified quantities that turned out in practice to last much longer for the hghest and lowest denominations than for the ones in between, stamps of the second design were put into use at various different dates: 1920 for the 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 and 100,000 reis, 1924 for the 200,000 and 500,000 reis, 1930 for the 500 reis, 1935 for the 1,000,000 reis, 1936 for the 100 and 200 reis. There are more than 80 watermark, perfotation and paper varieties of the money order stamps of the second design, interesting to specialists.

Of the 28 face-different designs, only the 100 reis of the second design is rare and pricey; it wasn't issued until 1936, when the volume of money orders was already declining and 100 reis was a very small amount of money (roughly equivalent in purchasing power to US 2 cents at that time), so it got little use, and of course was not sold to collectors unused. One is unlikeely to find a VF copy for less than US$100.00, and I won't guess how much a copy still on money order would be worth.

These money order stamps can form a fascinating specialized collection, whether as detached stmaps or on the original money orders. Especially on money orders, one finds every imaginable shortcut of the "official" regulations for how money orders were to be prepared and accounted for, and several different forms of use. Generally speaking, individual money orders with both the money orders and the postage stamps attached can be bought for US$2.00 to $5.00 apiece, but especially interesting ones may sell for many times that. Some sellers have an inflated idea of the value of money orders; ignore those. But it's worth looking in particular for money orders from small towns, money orders where the postal fees were paid with commemoratives or with obsolete postage stamps, money orders sent "by telegram" like Western Union money orders, and other interesting and unusual uses.

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