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Got a philatelic problem? Why not Ask the Sage?

Discover some Strange Philatelic Facts.

Get advice from the Sage on Valuing and Selling Stamps.

Get advice from the Sage on Expertising Philatelic Material
and Certificates of Genuineness.


This is where you can ask those vexing and unresolved philatelic questions, and perhaps get a helpful answer! Email The Sage with your philatelic problems and he will try to solve them - or if he can't he will put them on this page and ask for help from all collectors visiting this site.

And of course if you have any answers to contribute please let The Sage know.

Attention Yorkshire Postal Historians. Can you help? (Posted on 6 April 2010)

The Sage has received a question from a collector and needs help in answering it:

A collector who is researching the mail routes to Ireland from early times to about 1850 asks for help about one of the routes - that from London to Portpatrick via the eastern route and Carlisle. He says he is having difficulties in determing the detailed routes used and appeals for information.

He says that according to books and newspaper adverts at the time, when mail coches were introduced, a route was set up from London to Carlisle via Leeds on 10 October 1785. However, unlike the parallel route that was set up via Manchester, he has not found any firm evidence that it was actually set up. However, he has found a newspaper entry and a comment in the Thomas Hasker letters to the PMG that suggests that it may have been set up, and is aware that there was a route via Leeds between 1825 and 1832.

If you have evidence that this route was set up in 1785, or if you have any knowledge of this route and can shed any light on this matter, please email The Sage with any information. Answers will be posted on this page with due acknowledgement.

Question: Why are some supplementary handstamps in French on non-French covers?
The Sage says: When the Universal Postal Union was set up they decreed that French would be the universal language for use by all member postal authorities. The following are the handstamps and inscriptions most commonly found in French with their English meanings, usually on covers or post cards carried between two or more postal authorities:

"AR" or AVIS DE RECEPTION - Return Receipt Requested (found on registered mail)
DECEDE - Deceased
EN ROUTE - In Transit
EXPRES - Special Delivery
INCONNU - Unknown
NAVIRE - Posted at Sea (a rare equivalent of Paquebot)
NON-ADMIS - Refused Admittance to Country of Address (typically for political reasons or suspicion of criminal activity)
NON-RECLAME - Unclaimed
PAQUEBOT - Posted at Sea
PAR AVION - By Air Mail
PARTI - Gone Away; no longer at this address

Cover showing 'PARTI' & 'RETOUR'.

PARTI (SANS LAISSER D'ADRESSE) - No longer at this Address (No forwarding address)
PAS DE SERVICE VIA ISRAEL - No Service Via Israel (Used during an Arab economic boycott of Israel involving different Arab and/or Islamic countries at different times. Many variations of this marking have been used.)
POSTE PAYE - Postage Paid
POSTE RESTANTE - Hold Mail (for collection at the office addressed)
REBUTS - Returned ; Not Deliverable
"R" RECOMMANDE - Registered
REFUSE - Refused
REMBOURSEMENT - Payment Due on Delivery (COD)
RETOUR - Return
RETOUR A L'ENVOYER - Return to Sender
RETOUR A L'ENVOYER, RELATIONS POSTAL INTERROMPUES - Return to Sender, Postal Relations Suspended
TAXE PERCUE - Postage Collected

Question: When were post codes introduced in the United Kingdom?
The Sage says: In 1857 and 1858 London was divided into ten postal districts, the forerunners of modern postcodes. These were EC (the City), WC (the West End), and eight outer districts of N, NW, NE, S, SW, SE, W and E. The first modern postcodes were announced by the Postmaster General on 28 July 1959 for Norwich. By October of that year some 150,000 private and business addresses in Norwich had been allocated postcodes. The remainder of the United Kindom was allocated postcodes over the next 15 years until the whole of the country was postcoded by 1974.

Question: I'm confused with all these countries that keep changing their names - have you got a list of their old and new names?
The Sage says: The following list may help. If any reader knows of any I've missed perhaps he or she would kindly email details to me and I will add them to the list.

Aden changed its name to South Arabian Federation in 1965
Basutoland has been Lesotho since 1966
Bechuanaland changed to Botswana in 1966
British East Africa became Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika in 1903
(See also under Tanganyika below)
British Guiana became Guyana in 1966
British Honduras has been called Belize since 1973
Burma has been Myanmar since 1991
Cambodia became Kampuchea in 1980
Ceylon has been called Sri Lanka since 1972
Congo became Zaire in 1971
Ellice Islands have been Tuvalu since 1976
Gilbert Islands changed to Kiribati in 1979
Gold Coast has been known as Ghana since 1957
New Hebrides became Vanuatu in 1980
North Borneo has been Sabah since 1964
Nyasaland changed to Malawi in 1964
Persia has been called Iran since 1935
Rhodesia (Northern) has been known as Zambia since 1964
Rhodesia (Southern) has been Zimbabwe since 1978
Part of Ruanda-Urundi became Burundi in 1962
Siam was renamed Thailand in 1949
South West Africa became Namibia in 1990
Tanganyika and Zanzibar combined to become Tanzania in 1965
Upper Volta became Burkina Faso in 1984

There are also many territories and colonies that issued stamps before they combined to make larger countries. For example you will find stamps issued by Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, which are now parts of Canada, and by Tasmania, and Victoria that are parts of Australia. In Europe, Germany and Italy were divided into smaller states before they united to become larger countries.

A good knowledge of geography will help you identify the countries from which these earlier 'territorial' stamps came from.

You will also find it interesting to discover the history behind the way countries have developed. Alaska, was originally part of Russia, but in 1867 the United States purchased it for $7,200,000 - about 2 cents an acre! Since then large gold and oil deposits have been discovered in Alaska, making it one of the best land deals of all time.


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