(Seal Collecting)

1. Printers

To reduce shipping costs, and to prevent a strike in a single printing plant from destroying a whole year's fund-raising campaign, the TB Association (and now the ALA) has seals printed in several different locations by different printers, up to eight different in some years. Since 1936, most of these can be identified by a "printer's mark", usually a letter on the 6th stamp in the 6th row. You can use our check list to see what you have and what you need. Feel free to make more copies of it if you can use them. You can collect printer's marks as single seals, or pairs or blocks of four for the se-tenants, or blocks of nine with the printer's mark seal in the center, or whatever way you like. Or, of course, full sheets, as discussed below.

2. Union Labels

Since 1952, most sheets have included a union label on the selvage. If you use a magnifying glass, you can read "Scranton" on the Eureka sheets, "New York" on the USP&L sheets, etc. And also the union local number, which is particularly helpful in the case of Chicago, which has more than one printer. Many people collect these in blocks of four like plate number blocks of postage stamps. Or if you keep a full sheet, you will automatically have the union label as well as the printers mark. And the lack of a union label on some sheets constitutes a distinguishable variety for a few printers in 1952 and 1953. And there are even a few sheets which omit the printer's mark itself, and of course can only be identified when they remain as full sheets.

3. Plate Flaws

A big area, particularly for older years, is plate varieties. As you know, many collectors devote years to searching for, plating, and otherwise studying the minor varieties which make one position in a printing plate slightly different from others. Because Christmas Seals are not security paper, and because it is important to produce them inexpensively, plate flaws tend to be more frequent and more dramatic than is the case with postage stamps. Several examples are listed in Green's Christmas Seal Catalogue. For example, position 76 of all Edwards & Deutsch 1939 sheets shows a blue mark which looks like a double eyebrow. Other flaws, such as the "bird on mailbox" on position 22 of some 1935 Eureka sheets, occurred on only one of several sheets printed from the same printing plate. (Individual sheets are printed in large plates of up to 1600 for some years.)

Numerous other flaws are not documented in Green's, nor anywhere else to our knowledge. Many are only temporary, occurring after some sheets had been printed without the flaw, or being crudely repaired after they were noticed. If you're interested in such "fly-speck philately", you might have fun looking for and documenting them. Conceivably you could determine the order of when semi-constant flaws occurred and were corrected and end up with a dandy exhibit. Again, full sheets are great for this.

4. Errors, Freaks & Oddities

As mentioned above, security on Christmas Seals is less strict and printing is less careful than for stamps, so EFOs are easier to find. There are Christmas seals which are mis-perfed, have color mis-registrations and even colors missing and upside-down. By the way, most of the apparent imperforate "errors" were issued intentionally and are not especially scarce . . . an inexpensive way to dress up your collection.

5. Progressive Color Proofs

Since about 1927, these have been available to the public. These interesting sets illustrate how multicolor seals (or stamps) were printed. You can see that in the olden days, red was red and green was green. Recently with the advent of process colors, red has become magenta and green is yellow plus blue. PCPs usual consist of a set of 5 or 7 "seals". There is one "seal" printed in each color individually as well as composites building to the final and complete seal in all it's color.

6. Full Sheets.

This includes all the above types of collections. Christmas Seals are particularly handy to collect as full sheets because nearly all of them are smaller than 8« 11 inches. If you've ever tried to put a sheet of postage stamps into a normal sheet protector, you know the problem seals avoid.

7. Advertising Accessories.

In addition to the seals themselves, there are numerous props used to publicize each year's fund-raising campaign. Many of these include replicas of that year's seal in their designs, or have elements in common with the seal; others are more of a mystery. For example, there are bookmarks, blotters, napkins, placemats, cardboard standups, milk bottle caps and collars, metal pins, scarves, and "bonds" (certificates stating the amount of larger donations, from $5.00 to $1,000.00). As with plate flaws, there is lots of room for research and documentation here.

8. Experimentals.

You may have wondered what's behind the note in the Scott Specialized Catalogue which says:

"Beginning in 1979 there is no longer one national issue. Additional designs are issued on a limited basis to test seals to determine the designs to be used the following year."

Without the words "no longer" (our emphasis added) the statement would be correct. There still is a national seal which is sent to most of the ALA customers. However, there are also a few (usually 4-5) seals that are test marketed for the following year. A particularly interesting variety is the seal each year which "won the popularity contest" and became the national seal the following year. The two seals will have basically the same design but different dates, and the Experimental is usually without a printer's mark. And then there are all the "runners up" which may never be seen again.

9. Varieties

There are other varieties which seem to be a cross between regular issues and true experimentals. There are, for example, seals for use in Puerto Rico which have the same designs as the corresponding national seals but say "Feliz Navidad", etc. There have also been dull gum varieties to resist moisture in southern climates. And for many years there were "deluxe" seals printed on silver or even gold foil. Recently these were replaced by seals with borders printed in silver ink on normal paper; the foil was more expensive, and may also have been difficult to print on.

10. Spring/Summer Seals

The ALA is diversifying and has recently been issuing seals picturing flowers, animals, scenes, quilts, etc., which they distribute during Spring and Summer. Instead of "Merry Christmas", these seals read "LOVE" (or a similiar message), but most include the double-barred Lorraine cross in their designs.

11. Local Seals

Many local TB charities issued their own seals over the years. You might find it fun to try to collect these from your local area or state, in addition to the National Seals.

12. Foreign Christmas Seals.

Many if not most countries have also issued seals, generally around Christmas and New Years, and often showing the Lorraine cross.

** Thanks to Betsy and Chuck, 3606 S. Atherton Street, State College, PA 16801-8301 for providing this insight into Christmas Seal Collecting. Phone/Fax: 814-234-3737

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