History of the Society

This is adapted from an article written by the late Dave Philcox which was published in the Society’s journal “Precancels” (Volume 40 No. 1 - 10, January - October 1996)


PART ONE (1947 to 1956)

As you will already have learned, this year, 1996 we are celebrating our Fiftieth Anniversary. As an introduction to this year, I felt it would not be inappropriate to have a look over those years and see how things have changed. To this end, I hope, over the next 6 issues of Precancels, to have a look at such things as the growth of the Society, the hopes and aspirations of the members, success and or failures of their collections and anything pertaining to the members and the various aspects of the hobby. All of this as seen through the pages of the Society's various publications spanning the years.

Interest in a society devoted to the collection and study of precancels started in 1946, when several English people, already members of the American Stamp Society, the Precancel Stamp Society Inc and others, replied favourably to a letter sent out by a certain lady enthusiast who suggested the formation of such a body. This information is given in the very first publication of the Society, entitled the Precancelist which was published as Vol 1. No 1 in February 1947. This was a small 4 page publication and contained a message from the President elect, a report from the Honorary Secretary and a welcoming message from the Honorary Treasurer, these in addition to several letters from members. To give you a better idea of the start of the Society, I shall quote extracts from these various reports and messages verbatim.

Firstly we will look at the Secretarys report, the Secretary being the lady who initiated the whole thing, one Kathleen Hoult.

"In answer to my letters suggesting the formation of a Precancel Stamp Society in Britain, I received most encouraging replies...... It was proposed that Mr Stones should be asked to be the first President, but he felt that we should have a more active Precancel collector and our second in seniority fulfilled that requirement to perfection...... Mr Croker answered the SOS for the post of Treasurer. Feeling that I have the most time to spare, I offered myself as Secretary. Having a good friend, a printer, I was able to get stationery and so on printed quickly. "she wrote round to many other societies advertising the PSS with considerable success. " We are pleased to know that there are many collectors in this country who regard themselves as "lone wolves", it is our job to bring them into the pack and I shall be so grateful for any ideas how to reach them and make them welcome".

Miss Hoult stated her hopes that the Precancelist would survive and that the membership would grow enough to justify carrying on. She made an appeal for approval books for the start of an Exchange Packet and appealed for members not to delay in passing the packet on. She initiated a 'Wants' column with a charge of one shilling (5p) for precancel ads and two shillings (10p) for others. She closed with a plea for members to introduce others to the Society.

This report was preceded by a message from the President, Mr Kenneth Rymer-Young of which the last paragraph is very worthy of note:

“It may never be my good fortune as President to present the Society's millionth member with a l1/2 cent bureau coil from Liberty Mo, but surely it ought not to be too long before we can celebrate the advent of the hundredth member. Do not let us forget that the greater the membership the greater the benefit to the members. For this brave new Society "may good digestion wait on appetite and health or both."

Seven months later saw the second copy of the Precancelist and from hereon it was clear the Society was going to go places. It opened with a resume of the then current Belgian Types from 1938 to 1947 and also welcomed onto the precancel scene the newly formed Belgian Precancel Society. It is interesting to note that a member was discussing his views on mounting stamp collections, which brings home the fact that at that time collecting loosely in stockbooks was virtually unknown. Here, for the first time, was a question posed by the Secretary and I quote: WHAT IS TO BE THE ACCEPTED VALUE IN CASH OF A PRECANCELLED STAMP IN THIS COUNTRY? How many times has this question been repeated over the past 50 years?

January 1948 was the date of the third Precancelist, and there it is recorded that within the first year of its life, the Society could boast 43 members. It also gave the first mention to any large degree, of Canadian precancels with a potted clarification of the various main types. A mention was made of a collector who was an inspiration to early precancel collectors but who died before the formation of the Society. He was a certain Keith Macdonald, a stamp dealer who was known nationally for yet another reason, being one of the BBC 'Uncles' to the listeners to Childrens Hour on the radio.

It was decided in the 4th copy of the Precancelist to try and issue 4 copies per year, and in this copy was included a balance sheet of the Society's finances for the previous year. It was interesting to see that over the previous 3 months the membership had risen to 57 of which 26 were foreign members. Unannounced other than a new member, was a certain R.D.Lee, a name which, after that date of April 1948, was to figure largely and importantly in the future of the Society.

One-upmanship, the likes of which I guess can never be traced in the annals of any other precancel society, was contained in the next copy of the publication. Firstly it welcomed 2 new members from overseas into the Society and then, believe it or not greeted the overall membership of the Society in English, French, German, Dutch and Czechoslovak. (if Polish had been included, I may have thought that His Holiness the Pope was a founder member!) Another member who was to become well known in our circles contributed another letter. This was H.G.Walburn of Canadian Catalogue fame and currently a correspondent with, and friend of, a number of us. In this copy it is also recorded the first article of any importance on French cancels. It is very important to note in this issue, in addition to the Editorial and the multilingual greeting which covered two of the 12 pages, there were contributions from 19, repeat 19, other members plus the Secretary's report.

On September 3rd 1948 the first official meeting of any sort of the Society was held in Bridlington at the invitation of the local society. Even in those days it was recorded that only 1 non-committee member attended and where the decision was made to hold the next meeting in London the following year. The formation of the German Precancel Society was also recorded.

The front cover of the February 1949 issue caused me some amusement as it reads "this is the last issue of the Precancelist unless....". Fortunately this was an enrolment gimmick which ended at the foot of the page "Precancels and the Precancelist are here to stay". The first article on Luxembourg cancels appeared as a continuation of a series entitled European Precancels by W. Engelhardt. In the September 1949 issue, Reg Lee initiated his Bureau new issue service, a line which he continued without ceasing until the winding down of regular Bureau issues following the last of the 8.4 cent stamps on the Americana issue. At last! March 1950 saw the 100th member in the Society or rather number 100 as there was then no number 13 due to the Secretary's superstitions. The 100th member in fact was our late friend Ted Coles. Also interesting is the fact that the cash balance of the Society rose from ten shillings and fourpence (about 52p) in 1947/48 to almost £l5 in 1949/50. By then the Library and the Exchange Packet had been established. By May 1950 Reg Lee was appointed to his first of many offices within the Society, that of Promotional Secretary: also agreement was made that we should consider becoming affiliated to the American PSS Inc.

During the 1951 AGM, Reg Lee was appointed as Secretary to succeed Kathleen Hoult. He soon made an impression by publishing a column entitled Lees Summit, which was soon to cover many points of value and interest to the members. Not least of all, he called for someone to organise a Burochart, to list all the members and the various levels of their Bureau collections. As of July 1951, no volunteer had come forward for the Burochart. On a lighter note, following his appointment as Secretary, Reg Lee defied his predecessors superstitions and reallocated membership number 13 to himself, a move which, over the years has not been seen to have caused him any problems! By August, the Secretary had taken on the task of collating the Burochart entries himself and listed 4 members data. At the time 5863 Buros were listed in the official catalogue, and within our Society, the President topped the list with 5033 different.

The Precancelist continued in its original state, but sadly lacking were the numerous articles and letters from the enthusiastic early membership. The fort however was ably manned by the redoubtable Secretary, Reg Lee, who carried on producing his Lees Summit column in addition to popular chit-chat. Several major articles did appear on such topics as precancels of Canada, Tunisia, Argentina, Netherlands and Belgium. It was therefore very surprising when the Precancelist suddenly failed to appear after No 32 in Jan/Feb 1954. However, within 2 months, Lee had come along again to save the day and retain continuity of some sort of publication, with the first copy of a news sheet entitled not surprisingly "Lees Summit". This carried much of the Society's news as before, plus one or two interesting papers including an exceptional one on Canal Zone cancels, along with others of Canadian (including printing methods) and Belgium, the latter in the last of its 6 copies in September 1954.

October 1954 saw Precancels arrive on the philatelic scene, in the shape of a foolscap size, duplicated 6 page publication. In content it followed very closely to its forerunners and was edited by, as one may expect, the Secretary, Reg Lee. In this and subseguent copies, Reg provided a column called The Magpies Nest which contained a wealth of information on all aspects of the hobby, about stamps, catalogues, people related to precancels, new issues, etc. By the second issue yet another countries precancels had been surveyed, this time Hungary. By now the Burochart was in full swing with 14 members participating and he with the highest number was only 24 short of the then total of 6378, which must have included the rare 1 1/2 cent Liberty MO and all of the experimentals.

Success followed success, and as such Precancels went from strength to strength. Articles still continued to appear adding much to the information already imparted, but even better was the continuing addition of information about cancels of countries such as Danzig and Turkey. Illustrated articles appeared covering the whole Dutch precancel issues which included virtually a copy of the current Dutch Precancel Catalogue. Even Great Britain and the Philippine Island cancels were the subject of articles over this period.

By the end of the 10 year period under consideration, we were to see Reg Lee begging for 2 other members to relieve him of his posts as Secretary and Editor. In the end his hand was forced and he resigned both offices late in the year. Our next period of review will see the Society under 2 new Committee members in these posts.

So to recap, over the 10 year period just covered, great things happened to the Society as it entered the second period with a participating membership of some 113 persons. These members were lucky insofar as they were with the Society at the time of the issue of the Presidential series and at the start of the Liberty issue. The growth of US Bureaus alone over the 10 years was from a total of 5863 in 1946 to 6500 in 1956.

PART TWO (1957 TO 1966)

This second ten-year period in the life of the Society, as mentioned at the end of the last part of the article, started with more than a little upheaval within the Committee itself. Reg Lee had done a great job in holding the Society together, resurrected a Society publication, albeit at his own expense and then organised the running of the new newsletter Precancels. Much was clearly needed for the two new Committee members, to continue in Reg's strong and progressive manner and to have the Society running smoothly again. As the new Secretary put it only a month after her succession to office, usually when changes take place within most societies, some repercussions at least are noticed. To her surprise, there were none such with the changes of Editorship and Secretaryship, and her concern was that the apathy which was one of the bases of disquiet within the Society would continue and the Society would be unable to rise above it. From what we read in subsequent copies of Precancels, these fears came to nothing and the Society continued to thrive.

As. noted previously, right from the start of the Society the membership more than did their bit regularly subscribing information of various sorts for inclusion in Precancels. This information covered all aspects of Precancels and their collecting. In addition to the very regular issues, varieties and errors, new issues of all the countries then currently using Precancels were listed as they appeared, catalogue alteration were noted and novelties recorded for future inclusion. More importantly than all these in my estimation, were the frequent and short notes by the general membership which showed that they had the overall interest of the Society at heart. Of especial interest in the February 1957 copy was part of the new Secretary's report where she states that this copy was published exactly ten years after Vol.1 No.1 and that she could report the one hundred and 96th member had joined. That number in ten years was very good, but she regretted that of that number, many had left but there were still seventy-five of the original 196 left on the List of Members. (of this total two are still members in 1996 - Reg Lee and Geoff Walburn).

Currently, and for some time, Precancels was being issued monthly. At least at the start of this period, great accent was placed on precancelled stamps of Europe with several very lengthy papers written on the early French issues and the Postes Paris 1921-22 issues. One very interesting one was on the identification of the various styles of forgeries of the last cancels applied to the Sower issues, an article which could easily be reprinted here at a later date. One member from Germany, Dr Englhardt, provided numerous articles on precancels of the German States such as Hamburg, Brunswick, Thurn & Taxis, Oldenburg and so on. Soon it became clear that due to the rising cost of printing, publication would have to be restricted to bimonthly, with the hope that it would soon revert to 12 copies per year. September 1957 saw the enrolment of the 200th member and by the AGM that month, Reg Lee was once again elected into office, this time as Superintendent to try and rescue a somewhat flagging Exchange Packet.

It was around this time that short notes and articles began to filter into Precancels on two subjects which eventually were to become accepted off shoots of precancels per se, these being what we now know as Commercial Overprints and Perfins. Also by the end of 1958, in addition to these countries already mentioned, articles had been published on precancels from Finland, Danzig, Venezuela, Romania, Vatican, Austria and Great Britain. Liberty issue Bureau cancels by now were well into their stride and were also being given much coverage.

The end of 1958 saw a change in the format of Precancels, this time to a size similar to that of today, typewritten and bound in a soft cover, this being Volume 5 No 1. It was with the following issue that illustrations appeared for the first time and it was the Editors intention to include at least one page in every issue. The 13th AGM was reported on, and it is of interest to see the balance of cash in hand at that time was the grand sum of about £26.00. At this meeting it was suggested by the Secretary that the annual subscription be increased to one guinea (£l.05 in todays money), but the meeting disagreed and settled for an increase to seven shillings and sixpence (37 1/2 pence). It was also a momentous occasion (in retrospect) as member 208 was enrolled - none other than a certain Rev. D S T Izzett.

In August 1958, the first European Precancel Congress was held with Brussels being the host city. Three of our members displayed there, a Rev West with a display of Austrian Newspaper Wrappers, Mr Higby showed French Precancels and Dr Englhardt with rare precancels of German, Roman State and Finland. Strangely enough though, only 12 members were present but despite this a wide range of displays were exhibited. The first set of illustrations in Precancels were to support a paper by member Ted Coles on the Stamford Mercury precancels of Great Britain. This article was specially notable as it marked a very long run of informative papers by the then Editor.

Over most of this period under review, each copy of Precancels kept members up to date with new Bureau issues as they appeared and of course, this was the time of the Liberty issue. The wide range of topics continued to be presented and by the Spring of 1958, such subjects as Canadian Precancel perfins, French Postage Dues and the United Nations 1 1/2 cent Bureau forgery. A mouthwatering collection of some 376 Dutch precancels were offered for sale! Further into the year Ted Coles presented a fine article on the London Newswrapper Precancels which, with its ten pages almost filled one copy of Precancels. Of the 81 members listed at the 14th AGM, 37 were from overseas, mostly US and Canada.

An excellent article on US Bureau Errors was reprinted from the Forum, and covered several issues. This explained the reasons for such errors as the Milwaukee Wis, Springfield Ill and the Ventura Cal reversed town and state. About this time too, David Izzett published his first notes on finding new and unlisted types and varieties of Canadian precancels, a subject the Society was to see and hear much of from David over the years. New towns by the dozen continued to appear from the US, and in late 1960, Precancels carried an appendix showing some additional 500 or more added to Nobles 3rd Edition of his Town List.

Volume 8 No 1 saw yet another change in the appearance of Precancels, this time to a printed, not a typed format, and printed in blue ink on cream paper. Nothing else changed, and still there never seemed to be a shortage of articles and topics of discussion. The knowledge and the keenness of members, and subscribers never ceases to amaze. The range of subjects seemed to be endless and such fringe topics as the GPO Training stamps, the Cave and Cargills overprints of Ceylon, Argentine Precancels, British Revenue overprints and the like, nothing slipped through the net and got away. Geoff Walburn contributed a very good series of articles on the identification of difficult Canadian types.

At the 17th AGM, following his earlier resignation from his post as Packet Superintendent, Reg Lee was elected President of the Society, succeeding Kenneth Rymer-Young who had held the office since its inception, a total of about 15 years. At the same time Kathleen Hoult resigned as Secretary and was succeeded by Claude Seggins. It is interesting to see that at this time, only one other Society meeting was held each year other than the AGM, and even these were not well attended. The year 1962 was thought to be something of a milestone in the Society’s history as this year the actual membership exceeded 100 for the first time, or so it was thought. The next issue of Precancels corrected this, reminding members that this total was originally reached way back in 1955! Many articles continued to be produced on precancels especially from the 4 major countries viz US, Canada, France and Belgium. This of course was not too difficult as these countries were regularly issuing new cancels and these often made with new and hitherto unknown devices, all of which was to the delight of the members.

The first issue in 1964 opened with an In Memoriam notice on the death of the then American President, John F Kennedy. Each copy of the publication still carried a page of illustrations as had been promised at the beginning of the smaller format copies. Many subjects such as Austrian and French Newspaper Tax Stamps, Dutch Roller and earlier Cancels, the US style chart and so on. All very noteworthy. In one copy, a note appeared advertising the sale by a member of his precancel collection due to his poor health. It comprised 2 albums housing 5534 different, from 1890 to 1938, plus a Hoover Catalogue and the complete run of the Society publications to 1962, Price £20.00. (Nuff said).

The opening article of 1965 started with a short article on the worlds first precancel - the famous 5 cent blue Hale & Co local. This was illustrated by a photo of a cover from the collection of Robson Lowe, bearing the stamp dated 1844 and sent from Boston to New York. In those days the Society seemed to be very much in favour of In Memoriam notices on the deaths of famous people, this being borne out by the issue opening one in honour of Winston Churchill. Once again Precancels reverted to a typewritten format, this time due to Kathleen Hoult who had been printing it for so long, moving home and being unable to carry on. Nevertheless, both the Society and Precancels continued through the rest of the decade, thriving as they went, as did Reg Lee and Claude Seggins still in their respective offices.

The year 1966 went out with the institution of one new idea, that of the publication of the first PSS-GB Newsletter with the intention of using it in conjunction with Precancels and solely to give news of members, meetings and other information of an ephemeral nature. Now we must wait to see how far it carried on into the next decade.

PART THREE (1967 to 1976)

As a forerunner to the third decade in the history of the Society, the 21st Annual General Meeting opened with news from the Secretary that, despite a general "lull in the recruiting of new members", the membership stood at a very good total of 140. The euphoria from that news was soon shattered by the Treasurer when he reported that, of that total, 40 had still to pay their current subscriptions. Sales from the Packet amounted to only 25-30% of the total, and pleas were issued for more material. Most astounding of all though was the news that, due to no interest being shown in the Library for some years, if there was no change shown in the following six months, it was decided to sell it to the highest bidder. The same issue of Precancels included three illustrations of Japanese Precancelled New Year Postcards, along with a short note by Ted Coles on Argentine precancels.

The next copy contained a very long and comprehensive article on Canal Zone Precancels totalling some 6 pages. Shortly after this, British Overprinted Receipt stamps again found their way into Precancels with an article by the Ex President, Kenneth Rymer-Young and this was followed by Ted Coles notes on British Fiscal Precancels. There followed early news of a new publication which was to eventually prove to be the most valuable possession of many precancel collectors. About to go into preparation was the first edition of a catalogue covering US Towns and Types, this news came with the announcement of the publication of the 49th edition of the Nobel Bureau Precancel Catalogue. The next Precancels saw the publication of an interesting illustrated article on Postage Due Precancels of the USA by member Adolph Gunesch. Also illustrated were the six different Canal Zone types mentioned in the earlier article.

Hitherto, very few, if any, articles which had previously appeared in Precancels had been reprinted. Apparently the first such appeared when a write-up on Hungarian precancels appeared for a second time, the first having been in the second part of the first volume. This time however, some of the types mentioned there were illustrated. Six months after the first announcement of the proposed Town and Type Catalogue, Precancels gave the news that the Governors of the PSS of America had considered the proposition and found that 1) the cost would be to high, 2) the list would have little use, 3) the pricing of items would be an impossible task, etc.

Precancels, as it had right from the beginning, continued to carry articles on all possible aspects of precancels and other fringe interests. We were soon to see some excellent notes by Gunesch on such topics as US Parcel Post Precancels, US City Type Precancel Errors and then one on Playing Card Bureaus.

1969 saw a further change in the format of Precancels, this time reverting to the earlier blue type for the start of Volume 13 BUT….. this is where Precancels stopped for six months. Due to lack of support and help in producing the publication, nothing further appeared until December 1969 when an issue of two sides of foolscap paper came off the press and contained only mention of the AGM, the Sales Packet and notes of individual members. Also attached was the current Membership List showing only 67 paid up members. Clearly the Society was going through a very bad period, apparently the worst since its foundation.

From the beginning of 1970, Precancels continued really only as a monthly newsletter. Gone was the wealth of interesting articles and scant bitsy news of incidentals and instead were included brief notes on members, frequently of a semi-personal nature, for example regarding their health, subsequent hospitalisation and at times recording their demise. Others had their holidays mentioned and also their removal to a new address accompanied, at times, by graphic descriptions of their new abode. One can only suppose that these were just space fillers and marking time till the more interesting articles started rolling in again. True to form, they gradually did. Before the end of the year, once again we were to read notes on such topics as Christmas Precancels, Commemorative Precancels, Ghost Towns and a letter from George Klein on "Why I collect Precancels”. At this time it was the 25th Anniversary of the Society so we are half way there. Of particular interest, at this time David Izzett’s Canadian Precancel collection totalled some 1788 stamps.

As a light hearted side to precancel collecting, George Hawse disclosed his several specialised collections. These were firstly of towns with a number in their name, such as Three Rivers CA, Twentynine Palms CA, and Ninetysix SC. Secondly a collection of towns with names of three letters such as Ajo AZ, Lee IL and Ida MI, while the third comprised a much larger list of some 174 different towns with three or more words in their names, such as National Stock Yards IL, Hot Springs National Park AR, Truth or Consequence NM. More seriously, nothing appears to have been done about the earlier threat to sell off the Library and eventually we were to read of a Librarian giving a report at the 1970 AGM. In his report however, notice was given of the very poor use still made of this facility. New topics at this time were very few and far between, so it was good to see a further small article on the Manila and Heacocks cancels of the Philippines.

At last - the first Library List was issued and consisted of 42 items, all in the care of the Secretary, Claude Seggins. On the subject of books, at last it happened in a small way, and the first part of a Town and Type List, which proved to be the forerunner of the now well known Catalogue, saw the light of day. In this form it covered all states from Alabama to Florida and comprised some 72 pages. It is of interest to note here that at the end of Volume 15, the Editor remarked that over the whole year (1971) the general standard of Precancels had dropped and laid the blame for this at the door of the members who by now, were failing to keep up the original flow of articles.

The following issues did not really show very much difference in content. However, small but interesting notes were included on such as the precancels of Luxembourg along with one of exceptional interest on the late 'misuse' of early Belgian handrollers. These had been illegally applied to the 1929-1932 Lions issue. Admittedly these made a very attractive addition to ones collection, but the shame was that the rollers used were mainly of the more difficult towns, devices which should have been scrapped years before. Shangai featured in another short note on the precancel look-alikes from that 'country', while Carl Bibo from New Mexico added yet another of his interesting articles, this time on Austrian cancels. The British Stamford Mercury precancel was also covered as was a quite lengthy note on US Precancelled Envelopes.

Despite the apparent lack of lengthy material, there seemed to be no lessening in the range of topics which seemed to be as diverse as they ever were. Notes appeared regularly on the new additions to the lists of new issues, which of course were still being regularly issued from all the major countries including Canada. Members were then, as now, kept well abreast of the news of that country's precancels by those stalwarts Geoff Walburn and his young sidekick, Dave Izzett. The collection of the latter, it is noted, had risen to 2050 by early 1972! One hears excuses for many things, but how about blaming the strike of coal miners causing power cuts which in turn led to the many errors in one of the copies of Precancels.

Members were still coming and joining the Society and by mid 1972, member no 350 was enrolled. (no 349 was an interesting addition!). Fifty-two countries appeared in a list published of those issuing or having issued precancels. Wonder what the current feeling on that list would be now?! The 25th AGM showed that the membership had risen slightly to 79, an increase of eight over the year, more people attending the AGM and with 35 members taking the Exchange Packet, sales had risen to 75% of the total offered. The death of Adolph Gunesch, an old member of the society was recorded at the meeting and a Memoriam notice was included in Precancels. (It is currently good to see that Steve, his son who survived him, is still carrying on the family business). December 1972 saw a note from David Izzett reporting a new find among his Canadian precancels, and this apparently started a sudden run of articles on Canada. This to the extent that in the next 16 pages of Precancels, 7 were devoted to that country.

The new Town and Type Catalogue appeared at last to a veritable fanfare of applause (how’s that for a mixed metaphor?) and from then on all members knew what they were about! Or did they? Reg Lee revived the Magpies Nest and things were really taking off again. Of interest is the fact that during this decade, members had ventured away from the annual AGM as the only meeting and had braved one or two more during the year, these still being held in rooms in London. Several parts of Precancels were devoted to corrections, alterations and criticism of the new Town and Type Catalogue. This decade also saw the start of the long spell of decimal issues with the advent of the 6.3 cent Bureau with Washington DC being the leader with the first issue.

At this stage one gets the impression that the mainstay of Precancels was the advent of three things, the new Catalogue, Magpies Nest and new US devices. Three cheers from the Magpies Nest which was the saving grace as the other two topics must have bored the pants off non-US collectors. Reg certainly kept things moving with this column.

And so it continued to the end of the decade, still moving ahead, still thriving and by the amount of advertising by members in Precancels, members interests had broadened beyond measure. At the end of Volume 20 we come to the conclusion of the third decade - who knew what the future would hold.

PART FOUR (1977 TO 1986)

The fourth decade commenced with the publication of Volume 21 of Precancels, still holding to the same format of foolscap size, double sided typescript as for several years previously, and still finding enough enthusiasm and copy to produce one part per month. A particularly good article graced this part, an article on the local issues from Seattle, Washington which was originally published in a 1942 copy of The Precancel Optimist. Regrettably, this was the last really major article to be seen for some time.

Reg Lee's Magpies Nest was clearly well feathered and Reg kept this going with the same keen knowledge and enthusiasm which had been evident since its inception. By this time, most of the 6.3c Bureau issue had been made and Reg had kept his New Issue Service of these going, but now was the time to start with the new 7.9c. (Oh that there were new Bureaus issued with such regularity nowadays).

The 29th AGM was held that October and a total membership of 92 persons was recorded which was a drop of 10 from the previous year. As has always been apparent, complaints continued to be made on the apathy of the majority of members who were so keen to accept everything that the few stalwarts on the Committee did for them, but were not prepared to do much themselves for the Society. (How often has that been heard over the 50 years?) By now, the Society met three times each year in addition to the AGM, but all these were in hired halls, mostly in the London area.

One member reported on a Robson Lowe auction sale which included several lots of precancels. The member who did bid (remember this was 1976) on a collection of reportedly about 21,000 with a valuation of £55, the sum of £77.50 was horrified when the lot went for £160. Oh well how times change. Well, things changed very little within the Society, but Precancels altered tremendously. Gone now were the pages of unrivalled information, and the space once occupied by such knowledgeable articles was filled by page after page of new Town and Type Issues, descriptions of new typefaces being used in the printing of Bureaus and never-ending Members' Ads.

The Society certainly seemed to be going through a difficult period during which the packet Superintendent was "commuting between England and Israel" while the secretary appeared to be enjoying the highlife in Brazil and South Africa. (Good on ya' David and Claude). (Times don't really change do they? Seems we hear a lot about Sri Lanka and America these days!) As was to be expected by now, who held the fort in those days? Yes, thats right, Reg Lee.

At last, into the second year of the decade came the first seriously important article, this time by member Bob Cheshire, a renowned Canadian collector at that time. This article related to the identification of different types within the Admiral issues of Canadian cancels along with notes on wet and dry printings. Carl Bibo, a member from New Mexico and a mailman by profession provided a further article on the UN 11/4 c Bureau issue and the subsequent forgeries. The New Issue Service still going strong with the 7.9c mostly complete, well into the 7.7c and the start of the 8.4c Bureaus.

Continuing the interest in European precancels, a further article was published, this time on the French Coin issue. Also about that time and unbeknown by the Society, the then latest issue of a new Canadian cancel came to the notice of Reg Lee and he reported a 12c flower so cancelled which, as it turned out, was to be one of the last before precancellation stopped in Canada. The 31st AGM was, to some, of certain importance. It was at this meeting that we saw a considerable change in the composition of the Committee, having a new President, Secretary, and Librarian elected. It also saw for the first time, a general trend towards holding meetings, except for the AGM, away from rented venues and held instead in members homes - a trend Dave Philcox picked up in the States.

Another first was the offer by a member to hold the first Society postal auction, a proposal keenly accepted. About this time also, was the publication of the DLE catalogue, the first for 23 years. One of the earliest meetings to be held away from London was held at the office of Urch Harris in Bristol, which gave those who braved the journey the chance to see at least part of Bob Cheshire's Canadian Admiral precancels. In Precancels we were further regaled with information on French, and were introduced, albeit very briefly, to Austrian newspaper wrappers. For a short period of time, many articles were flowing in again on various new topics (to Precancels that is) and one which stood out at the time was an excellent one covering OS Precancelled Stationery. This consisted of some five pages, well illustrated with very concise lists of various types. Another promise was fulfilled when Reg Lee produced in several copies of Precancels, the shortly awaited notes on Austrian wrappers, clearly supplementing his earlier introduction to the subject; a most valuable addition to our knowledge. Another illustrated item was submitted by Doug Barfoot, our then President, showing modern Canadian Printed Postal Stationery.

The end of 1979 saw the virtual finish of the Bureau decimal issues, that is those with town, state abbreviation and two lines. In all the 6.3, 7.7, 7.9 and 8.4c issues totalled 541 stamps, some of which are now extremely rare and costly, while one other, the Richmond Va 7.7 Linotype, was issued later. To facilitate ease of collection, a complete list of these was compiled by Dilmond Postlewaite and published in Vol 24/1. Officially, the Bureau use of precancels bearing town and state names ceased at the end of 1978, and soon we were to see the 8.4c Americana issued with lines only, the forerunner of several similar issues and values so cancelled. These snippets of information on Americana Buros was soon followed by printed proof to those members who thought that all american precancels could be had for pennies. Lots from a recent Stateside auction were illustrated, coil pairs and strips of up to 4 stamps, all imperforate with prices which realised up to $650. The first Society auction came and went and the auctioneer gladly reported a small profit for the Society but regretted that there were only 5 vendors.

Replacing the lines only issues on the Americana Buros, came the first of the designated commercial uses as overprinted on the stamps, this being 'FIRST CLASS PRESORT' on the 9 and 13c values. Many more were to follow and be listed in Precancels as they were issued. A new series of Monaco cancels was illustrated, those of seasonal trees with the horse chestnut being the subject. Some 22 Japanese New Year cards were illustrated by Ted Coles, while Dave Philcox produced a tabulated summary of how prices of the top 27 Buros had risen in the 50 years from l926.

A newcomer to the illustrated articles was a reproduction of one from the American Philatelist by a certain G.William Schall on Special US Postal Markings which showed and discussed the wide range of early lines, bars and more graphically designed types. In Vol 23/3 was published the (I think) first Library List showing some 86 Precancel items from catalogues, magazines, articles and the like, a valuable source of information readily available to all members. Colin Philip produced a listing of all the precancels of Monaco with illustrations, following this in the next issue by a complete illustrated listing of all known cancels from Algeria (23) and Tunisia (8).

Once again problems presented themselves over the editorship of Precancels. Poor Reg Lee, after years of holding the Society together, had pleaded to be given a break as his other commitments were suffering. As is usual in such cases, no other member was interested in obliging. Luckily it took a new member to volunteer his services and so a new era started. The general format of the publication was similar, but the front page displayed at the top, an irregular selection of various precancelled stamps. Unfortunately though, it was at this time the Society appeared to be passing through another period of apathy, and such very little copy was being provided to the new editor. A similar problem had been encountered in the past and had been overcome, so there was still hope in store. Luckily we still had members interested in seeing their names in the advertisement column, with excellent results it must be added, and we still had Mr PSS-GB himself. To this end, Magpies Nest was still running well, and now a new column appeared - Katalog Korner - in which Reg reviewed existing and projected catalogues.

Throughout this decade, the annual auction appeared to be doing very well with the Society benefiting from the sales every time. After many years of silence it was again decided to restart the various country and type counts, and Bob Eveleigh, offered his services in this matter. Also it was very sad news for collectors of Canadian precancels when use of them was stopped on 1/1/1982. An excellent article broke the monotony in mid 1983, when a Belgian member presented an article on the 1915 Albert Issue.

With the reintroduction of the counts, it was felt opportune to have an understanding of the various types covered by the title Double Line Electros, and to this end an illustrated article was included showing the differences. As forecast earlier, the Society appeared to recover from the period of quiescence, and once again a wide range of articles began appearing.

At the recent AGM it was agreed that a series of articles on the development of precancels originally presented in 'Foreign Stamps' would reappear in Precancels for the benefit of newer members. At the same time a continuation of the series on Austrian wrappers appeared and also the first by Gordon Rowe on Early US Bar Precancels. A further article followed a month later, again on Austria but this time on stamps and not on wrappers. Hungarian Precancels were the subject of an article by Fred Cutler. A subsequent issue saw Precancelled Battleships by Colin Blakebrough, British Precancelled Stamps (Training School Issues) by Geoff Longbottom and the first really technical one by Peter Attrill entitled 'Repair of Precancelling Printing Plates for USA Bureaus'.

And so into the last year of the decade with no apparent easing up on the reawakened flow of articles, we were to see such as Luxembourg Doubles by P.K.Stone, Canal Zone Precancels by Roy Osborne, Danzig by Colin Blakebrough, Current (then) US Postage Rates by Jim Callis, Listing of Belgian Towns by Dave Philcox and also Black Hardings by the same author. So it went on to the end of the decade, proof itself that the Society was still thriving and with a membership of enthusiasts.

PART FIVE (1987 to 1996)

Having survived, nay thrived, during the previous forty years, there was every good reason to suppose that the next 10 years would follow a similar pattern and the Society would reach its Fiftieth Anniversary with its head still held high and a big smile on its face.
The penultimate decade closed with the 39th Annual General Meeting, at which news was given that the membership totalled 100, the finances were in the black with a healthy surplus for the year of £l70 and the Exchange Packet had produced over £200 for the Society's coffers from sales commission. Good reason for the big smile!

The final decade was entered with the publication of Volume 31, No 1 of Precancels, this still in the A4 size paper and issued bi-monthly with the front page headed with its title surrounded by a random selection of precancel photographs. The contents of this were unusual to say the least, insofar as they were almost completely devoted to the AGM report, Pennsylvania Catalogue price changes and Belgium and Luxembourg counts accompanied by a summary chart of how the members had responded to the various counts over the previous 2 years.

The next copy gave us a wide range of articles starting with the further note by P.K.Stone on more New Zealand precancels, one by Roy Osborn on Stamford Mercury wrappers of Great Britain and two by Colin Blakebrough on Dutch and American wrappers; these were followed by the first of a series of articles by Colin Phillip charting the movement of Canadian precancel catalogue prices over the previous 40 years. This copy along with the Auction List of some 170 lots, was proof alone that the Society was not standing still and was boldly striding into the future.

In one of the following issues was an article by Jim Hirstein, the present Secretary of PSS Inc, on the familiar dated cancels used by Sears, Roebuck and Company (SRC-), while another came along with the little known topic of Precancels on Foreign Bill stamps. Probably most striking was an illustrated 3 page presentation of the development of the US Bureau from the early post Experimental issue to the Authorised Non-profit Organisation issue on the Transportation Coils.

About this time, Bob Eveleigh presented the first count starting the fifth year of such findings, and it is good to see that 2 of our American members had not only participated, but filled 2 of the top 3 places with their figures for US Bureaus.

By the middle of 1988, we saw the issue of precancels from an unexpected area, that of the Federated States of Micronesia with cancels from such unusual island place names as Yap, Truk, Kosrei and Pohnpei. At the same time, British Commercial overprints were rapidly becoming the trendiest stamps to be seen to collect, at least by many members of the British Society, and to this end a large introductory paper of some 4 pages was presented by David Lane, in this copy of Precancels. This was followed by a further 3 pages in the next issue and then 4 in the next.

Following the Secretary's visit to the Fall Roundup of the Eastern Pennsylvania PS, a report was given in this last copy of Precancels with an explanation of the then current prices charged for material in the States and the new prices to be expected in the catalogues of the future. A list of such price increases was included which tended to make frightening reading. At that meeting he managed to enrol 8 new Stateside members and it was pleasing to see included in that copy, two articles by one of our US members, Jim Callis.

Volume 33 (34 in error), No 3 saw a change of format of Precancels with the soft, computer dot-matrix printout cast aside for a much finer version produced by Colin Phillip. This contained a long review by David Izzett, of the Canada Precancel Handbook by Geoff Walburn and others as well as an article on Manila Precancels by Gordon Rowe. Attached to this copy of Precancels was the first publication from the newly formed British Commercial Overprint Study Circle, as part of our Society.

The next copy of Precancels continued to show the progress of our Society as it contained, in addition to the usual notices and reports, a complete catalogue by Tom Wardlow of the precancels of Pennsylvania (4 pages), the latest style descriptions for Group 5 of US Bureaus (3 pages with illustrations) and a further article on GB Precancels (2 pages illustrated).

Volume 34 saw the first of a completely new style of Precancels, this time a several paged edition of A5 size with the text in a very clear but reduced font. It now remained to be seen how the membership would accept this change and how articles would be illustrated when this was necessary. This first copy however carried all the usual items plus articles covering precancels from Turkey, Denmark as well as Great Britain, each with very clear illustrations. The following issue reported that the new format was acclaimed by members and as if to prove the value of clear illustrations, David Izzett presented a fully illustrated article entitled 'Belgium - Not a Precancel'. Other topics such as prices of France and Monaco cancels plus a lengthy article by Dave Philcox on how to use the Town and Type Catalogue.

As was usual, the regular publication of Precancels continued and such information unfolded on different aspects of the countries we all collect. Articles on such as Constant Varieties of the Canadian Admiral Issue by David Izzett, the 1969 US Christmas Precancel by Bob Eveleigh and a continued analysis of the US Bureau Issues by Colin Philip. It was also about this time that the Society was able to boast a publication of its own other than Precancels, the Illustrated Glossary Of Precancels written by Colin Philip and Dave Philcox.

Phil Cayford, wittingly one presumes, started a most interesting and at times amusing series of letters and notes by knocking the use of computers as a useful tool of philately. This literary banter came at a most opportune time as Precancels was momentarily suffering one of its quiescent periods. This however did not last for long, as before long, a series of articles on the precancels of the kingdom of Hanover by Wilhelm Engelhardt was started. This covered 3 issues of Precancels, and to the specialist must have been most useful, but regrettably it was not illustrated and many members, such as the author of these notes are still unaware of what a Hanover precancel looks like!

Variety continued to be the spice of life over the next issues with a wide range of topics presented including US precancelled envelopes, Japanese New Year Cards, Hungarian Wrappers, British precancelled Post Office Training stamps and many others along with brief notes on British Meter Cancellations, Cigarette Tube Stamps and US Parcel Post cancels. All the former were in addition to a very good series by Carl Bibo on Precancels of Europe. As one can have guessed, a number of articles published in Precancels had previously been seen in the Forum, but one small note, again copied from that publication, was a light hearted one on the Produce Seal Society's foundation in 1991. (This Society still exists and thrives to the extent that it even has space at the PSS Convention in America every year, and is far from a joke.)

And so it went on into the last few years of the decade, and to date the latest copy of Precancels, alone proves the Society is very much still alive and kicking. Articles are still appearing in Precancels, albeit not with quite the same volume and enthusiasm as pertained about twenty years ago, but the membership hovers regularly between eighty and one hundred, the Annual General Meeting is still what it says - Annual, bimonthly meetings are still held regularly, Precancels appears bimonthly, the various counts are still reported, Annual Auctions are held, the Library grows and thrives and all that is left now is to ponder about the success of the next fifty years.

One thing I feel certain about, and that is that Reg and I will not be around in 2046, or will we?

Note: The above article was written in 1996. Since then the Society has continued to thrive, in no small measure due to the enthusiasm and drive of Dave Philcox who served as Secretary for 24 years until his untimely death in 2003 aged 77. Dave joined the PSSGB in 1972 and his great interest in precancels made him without doubt the foremost authority on the subject in the UK.

The Society's membership still remains around 100, and under its current management of an active and forward-looking committee, will no doubt continue to bring together its devotees for another 50 years!