Casey Jones Rail Road Unit of the ATA


Danish Parcel Stamps

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The railway parcel stamps of Denmark are appealing to casual collectors such as me, who prefer colorful items that depict a train or locomotive. They are readily available, as many reached collectors hands, and one can buy them relatively cheaply. Moreover, there are a large number of different designs, plus a comprehensive illustrated catalog (though it's in Danish), so one can have the satisfaction of a moderate challenge, with the realistic hope of a complete collection. Below is just a random assortment of my favorites, sorted alphabetically by name of railroad.

Most of the items above are part of sets, all with the same design, differing in denomination and color. By my count there were at least 75 entities that issued over 350 different designs, most in multiple denominations, plus design types and varieties. A complete collection would number at least 3,000 items.

Below are two package labels, showing how the Danish stamps were used. It is my understanding that they are neither issued nor used any more, and while many of the small private railways have died, some do survive, and may offer package services - they just use other methods of showing payment for parcels. Here is a link to an excellent website that lists all the railways of Denmark.

A conversation I had via e-mail with Tony Goodbody about these issues:

Am I correct that all of these are parcel stamps?

Yes but there are various categories, indicated by letters before the catalogue numbers.
A (Avisporto) newspaper stamp (LFJS and NKJ)
B (Bandmaerker) stamps for wrappers (DSB and LNJ)
F (frankeringsmaerker) fiscal stamps (which I take to mean tax stamps)
G (Gebyrmaerker) late fee stamps
P (Efterkravprovisionsmaerker) Cash on Delivery provisional stamps (ROHJ)
R (Rutebilmaerker) bus stamps.
[Unsure about the purpose of 'Cash on Delivery' stamps. I have read all through the introduction to the catalogue (for which I have a translation) but it sheds no light on the matter.]

Am I correct that all the private railroad stamps of Denmark pay for only the transport of an item by rail, and one must deliver the item to a train  station, and collect it at one?  In other words all of the items with these stamps travel outside the mails?

I am pretty sure you are right as far as Denmark is concerned. I certainly have evidence (in the shape of freight arrival cards) that goods had to be removed from the railway station, and I have no evidence that railway parcels were ever delivered to one's home.

Do any of those services still operate today, and still issue stamps?  I have been assuming that the ones in Denmark are still active, but just noticed the stamps seem to stop in the late 1970's.

Since the 1970s Denmark used 'stamps' which resembled till receipts for a time. I have no idea whether they still use them. Such items strike me as being most uninteresting.

Why so many?

It was not the policy in Denmark to nationalise the minor railways and many of them remained free from state control. Therefore there were many railway companies to issue the stamps. I believe the minor lines which issued large numbers of stamps did so not for the benefit of philatelists but to impress the general public with their supposed importance.

Can you explain briefly how/why the situation in Denmark differs so dramatically from other countries?

The answer is partly to do with the number of separate railway companies and the number of different categories of stamps as I have explained above.  Remember that Sweden too issued a very large number of railway parcel stamps (the catalogue is much larger, although it may not contain more stamps). The difference here is that the Swedish stamps are almost impossible to get hold of. Many of the Danish stamps (but not all) were actually affixed to the parcels and could therefore be retained by the recipients. In Sweden and in most other countries the stamps were fixed to bills of lading and could therefore be retained by the Railway Companies and subsequently destroyed. I suspect in Sweden this is what happened and that only relatively few escaped.

My thanks to Tony for being so patient with my endless questions and slow understanding, and for allowing me to reproduce his remarks here.


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All text Copyright © 2002, William M. Senkus

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Revised -- 12/10/2004