The Four Categories of Korean Souvenir Sheets

Articles Stamp Sheets

(Originally from KP double number November 2012 / February 2013, Vol. 54 Nr. 4 / Vol. 55 Nr. 1) Korean souvenir sheets fall into various categories depending on how it is used and then a value is put on that category. Most of us put the SS into two groups; it is either mint or used, and then we jump to the conclusion that, because it has been used, it’s not worth as much as an unused one. We could take the attitude there are only say half a million of a given SS, so it doesn’t matter what group they fall into. 

(Please note that all original graphics are in B/W because the pages of the KP are in B/W.)

Figure 1: The mint souvenir sheet

Figure 1 is an example of what I call the first and largest category of SSs. The mint SS is the most common because, by its nature, it is not to be used but kept as an example or an illustration of the real stamp. Of course, some SSs do get used for real postage for various reasons. The size of the SSs does not lend themselves to be easily used for mail, especially when it might be double the usual SS size.

Figure 2: Cacheted First Day Cover
Figure 3: Cacheted First Day Cover

Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5 show the second category of SSs, and that is making a first day cover with an SS. This group of FDC SSs is the second most common category of SS but in quantity falls far below the number of mint SSs. The number of FDC SSs made depends mostly on how many customers are expected and then to have some extras on hand, or the other pathway is to make exactly the number of FDC SSs ordered. One could even venture to say that SSs are for keeping and not for FDC production, but stamp lovers would never allow the loss or elimination of FDC SSs. A cached FDC or SS FDC could be called a truly philatelic production conceived by the philatelist for the philatelist.

Figure 4: Actually mailed FDC

Figures 2 and 3 are examples of cacheted FDCs that we are happy to accept, but notice that neither one has really been sent through the mail. These fall into the category of being chopped with a special cancel in the P.O. and then walking out the door on two legs, which is the common way in Korea. Figures 4 and 5 are examples of SS covers that have actually gone thru the mail and have also been struck by the day of use of the special cancel and so are truly FDCs, even though there is no cachet.

Figure 5: Actually mailed FDC

The large envelope is the special post office envelope that is used for valuables, such as money, checks, or bonds, and for which two seals are used, and the seals are also supposed to be cancelled by the sender’s personal seal (Koreans call it a “Toejang”).

Figure 6: Used, random cancellation

The third category of SSs is where the souvenir sheet actually and truly got used for mail. This group is the rarest and most desirable of the four SS groups, if scarcity is to be considered. Their production usually follows two pathways. Postal clerks having SSs left over after selling them to SS collectors and to get rid of them might have customers use the SS on their envelopes. Then there are that group of stamp lovers who have extra SSs who wish to dress up some of the envelopes they send out by using a new or old SS. A truly used SS does not get cancelled carefully across a corner but gets whacked like any other stamp that goes through regular mail. Figures 6 and 7 are SSs that have been truly used for mail; one randomly whacked and the other roller cancelled. If one sees a roller cancellation, it usually means that there were multiple stamps or a SS on the envelope or package, and a roller cancellation was used because it is a lot faster than multiple whacks with a handled hammer chop.

Figure 7: Used, roller cancellation

Then there is the SS that ends up looking like an imperf stamp because all of the extra paper of the SS has been cut away and then pasted down on the envelope; a new phase of the used SS!

The fourth category is the so-called CTO (cancelled to order) group but is similar to the”cancelled to get of” rid group. 

Figure 8: Cancelled to Order

(Figures 8 and 9) The Central Post Office in Seoul had kept saving a little of this stamp and a little of that until one day there was the realization that “we need that space. Let’s get rid of all those stamps.” So rubber chops were used instead of metal ones to cancel all the leftovers. The last two SSs illustrated have different cancellation dates in the chops but count on seeing the same dates over and over again. In one chop the “Korea” at the bottom follows the curve of the circle, and, in the other, it is in a straight line. CTO SSs still have glue, of course, if they have not been altered. Then, there is the problem of how to get rid of all these “cancelled” stamps. Some are sold at the Central Post Office in Seoul itself, but an outside buyer is desired for the bulk of the cancelled material. Here comes the interesting problem. How scarce are the now so called CTO stamps and SSs? There is absolutely no record as to how many of these were cancelled. Many of us joyful stamp collectors who think or consider that a CTO stamp is in a rather tainted or low class position might change our minds a little if we found out that some CTO items were really scarce.

Figure 9: Cancelled to Order

So, if we price SSs (and, of course, other stamps, too) on what category and amount of scarcity they are in, then we have some urgent decisional problems.

Lyman Hale
Lyman L. Hale Jr., M.D. (1921-2019) was a longtime KSS member, also editor of KP. Lived in Korea between 1958 and 1986.

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