Swiss Soldier's Stamps

German stamps, coins and paper money 1919-1945.

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Swiss Soldier's Stamps

Postby Arne » Sat Dec 04, 2004 6:30 am

Dear Feldgrau-philatelists,

because there is so low traffic in this forum, I think I can bother you with the story of a area of WW2 philately unknown to most collectors.
(And don’t even think about collecting these area, there are already enough guys on ebay bidding against me...)(':wink:')


This article is based on excerpts from the books:
Kurz/Massarotti/Sulzer
„Soldatenmarken als Erinnerung an die Aktivdienste“
and
Sulzer, H.
„Die Soldatenmarken der Schweiz“ (Catalogue)

THE HISTORY OF SWISS-SOLDIER STAMPS

They do look like stamps, where used on letters and postcards. But you will find them on fieldpost entires that where dilvered free of charge as in most european countrys.
So what are these items?

During WW1 the Swiss army was activated to full duty (Aktivdienst) for protecting the borders against anyone who might be trying to break them (the first time this happend was during the war of 1870/71).

In June 1915 Mr. Fred Bieri, illustrator from Bern, designd the first two Soldiers-Stamps. These where 2 motivs for Füs.Bat. 38 (Rifle-Bat,) and Füs.Kp. IV/38 of the 3. Divison. These first stamps where made as souvenirs for the soldiers of these units.
So far so good, but now it comes! These stamps where authorized for use on Fieldpost pices by the PTT (Swiss mail). A philatelistic category on ist own was born.

The high state of alert over an extendet period of time in the early 20. Century brought many soldiers families in Switzerland into a harsh financial crisis, with the bread-earner away. So in march 1916 the people of the readers-circle at Hottingen came up with the idea of charity soldiers-stamps to support the most needing families. They sold about 3000 of their design during a charity party. These where canceld on letters and cards by FPO 9 on 18.III. 16.

In combination of those ideas Dr. med. Stiner, regimental doctor of Inf.Reg.11 (Solothurn) came up with a regimental charity stamp for his unit.

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Now what do we have: A lable with a charity surcharge (to the zero posting cost for fieldpost) authorized for use on fieldpost by the swiss mail, with military motives and tied to a specific unit.
If you where a stamp dealer, what would you do? The swiss stamp dealers did, and the stamps sold extremly well.

To come a little closer to the topic of this forum we now move on to 1939.

From Sulzer Catlogue:

The soldier-stamps where not issued by the swiss-mail (PTT) but by the individual units. They where not alowed for non field-post pieces. But they where authorized by the PTT. The designs had to be presented to PTT general administartion at Bern for approval (Armyorder Nr.102 from 16.12.1939). They where classified as charity stamps.

After full mobilization in Sept. 1939 several units began instanly to issue soldiers-stamps. Some used stocks of WWI soldiers-stamps with overprints.
As you see the above mentioned armyorder Nr.102 (parts of it to follow) was not in effect for more than 2 month to come...
What would you do, as a philatelist, with the official approval to print your own stamps???

Especialy noticeable are the philiatlistic excesses of Füs.Kp. I/5, Ter.Füs.Kp.5 and Ter.Füs.Kp II/127. Each of them issued 6-8 stamps during this „wild issuing“ period. Ter.Füs.Kp. II/129 even manged to issue 13 stamps with each also available as a souvenir sheet and Ter.Mitr.Kp. IV/195 with 20 issues...
The stamp-dealers where severly alarmed by this inflatinary issuing practice.

The whole concept of soldiers-stamps got into trouble.

The Swiss-Army high command had to act. And so Armeebefehl Nr. 102 was issued:
„The amount of issued stamps and variations of them is reaching a volume on which even the most sincere colector of stamps will lose interrest because he has no chance to complete his collection. Thatfor the soldiers-stamps are getting discredited. And even the armed forces reputation is harmed by the behavior of some enterprising individual...
By this reasons I order:

1. Every unit may only issue one stamp until 1.9.1940, no variations and only one printrun!
2. All future designs shall be presented to the PTT directorate at Bern for approval.

Later on this order where supplemented with more rules to follow:

Armeebefehl Nr. 125 (26.4.40) changed the right of approval from PTT to the Generaladjutant of the Army’s office.
Most remarkable are the later paragraphs of this order:

4.The printers which are printing the stamps are to be bound by contract with penalty clause to take care that no stamps are sold from the printers-stock. All essais and printing error’s are to be destroyed at the spot and are forbidden to be brought into circulation.
5. printing plates shall be handed out to the commander of the issuing unit or be destroyed under personal observation of the units commander.

Armeebefehl Nr. 159 (28.1040)
Term definition for the no-variations rule from army order 102.


1. Each army unit down to Bat. and Abt. may issue one stamp per year of mobilization (timespan from 1.9. –31.8.). Only one single stamp in one printrun without any variations in colour, paper, perforation, text, picture (i.e. tête-bêche), gum, souvenier sheets, mini-sheets of 1,2,3,4 or more stamps or any other variation.
2. Only perforated blocks of 4 with plain white margin, without any aditional printings are not counted as a variation and are allowed even if singles of this stamps are issued .
3. Generaly overprints are not allowed. Only if a issuing unit has a large stock of last years stamps, it may be allowed by the Generaladjutant of the Army’s office to overprint them as the stamp for the new year.

But not only the high command issued orders on the soldiers-stamps.

Also the Fieldpostdirectorate had some important ruels on soldiers-stamps.

Order Nr. 10 (5.10.39)
The military charity stamps may be canceld with the troops standard cachet BUT NOT by the dated cancels of the fieldpost offices.

Oder Nr. 12 (24.10.39)
The military charity stamps are to be designed in size that a confusion with PTT stamps is not possible. Also no value is allowed to be printed on the stamps.
Collectors have to use an additional PTT franking on their letters.

Order Nr. 19 (18.12.39)
This order rules the liablity to contribute 2 of each issued stamps for archival reasons.


After the first hype was over in late 1940/early 1941 the issuing control proved succesfull but may collectors had already lost interrest in the soldiers stamps. So printrun numbers went down considerably.
After all even a smaller countrys army can generate a large amount of stamps even under harsh restrictions...
The Sulzer catalogue of swiss-soldier's stamps is 300 pages + seperate picture booklet + soldiers postal stationary catalogue.

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Arne
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