Casey Jones Rail Road Unit of the ATA

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(explanation courtesy of CJRRU member Yannick Delaey of Belgium)

The first "Publibels" were issued in 1933, and had a typical printing quantity of 500 copies each, while for recent issues the typical printing quantity is as many as 2 million. The first cards had no numbers printed on them. The current numbering system was started around number 209.

Any company can make a request to Belgium Post for such cards. The requester must provide text and pictures for the advertising wanted. Belgium Post assigns the unique Publibel number to each design.

The paper used to print the documents is the property of Belgium Post, which gives it to a specialized printing company working for the postal authorities. The printing company will print a limited number of copies of the advertisement for the requester to review and approve.

At this point there is no postal value on the cards, and while some are stamped with the word ANNULE or SPECIMEN (specimen=proof), others are not. Such cards occasionally reach the market and can be acquired through dealers and auctions. Both types of preliminary cards have equal status as proofs. Proofs of unissued designs are particularly scarce and desirable to collectors.

Once the advertiser approves the layout of the advertisement, the required quantity will be printed, still without postal value. The result is given to Belgium Post, which adds the indicium and other official text and markings, and distributes the cards to post offices for sale to the public.

Not all cards are sold at all Post Offices. The sponsor of each card may specify at which Post Offices it should be sold.

Through 1984, 2790 numbers were printed. If you count the printings in different languages, tourist issues for export, overprints and surcharges due to postal rate changes, you can count around 5000 issues through 2002.

Many cards have next to the Publibel number also the characters 'N', 'F', 'NF' or 'FN'. This means that the card is issued in Dutch (N = Nederlands), in French (F), or in both languages: 'NF' = Dutch at top, French at the bottom; 'FN' = French at top, Dutch at the bottom.

Another source adds:

...the surcharges were not added in one place but in several post offices that used different slugs that can be specifically identified and are listed in catalogs - so the number of collectible varieties is even larger.

PC - 193x - 50c blue

Publibel 18: streetcars and tracks

PC - 194x - 35c yellow green

Publibel 213: reproductions of early postal stationery, including H&G 1 (top left) and H&G N1 (bottom right), each with train in indicium

PC - 194x - 65c violet

Publibel 712: streetcar

PC - 1950 - 90c violet

TG - Publibel 883: Coal wagons, used 1950

PC - 1951 - 90c violet

TG - Publibel 961: Train at Quayside (French text, 90c., Circa 1951)

PC - 1952 - 90c blue

TG - Publibel 1094: Train at Quayside (French text; 90 c., Circa 1952)

PC - 1952 - 90c blue

TG - Publibel 1095: As No. 1094 but Flemish text

PC - 1953 - 1F.20 pale green

TG - Publibel 1196: As No. 1094 but 1F.20 value, Circa 1953.

PC - 1953 - 1F.20 pale green

TG - Publibel 1197: As No. 1196 but Flemish text

PC - 1953 - 1F.20 olive green

TG - Publibel 1430: Train at Quayside (Red Flemish text on blue background, 1F.20 value, Circa 1956)

PC - 195x - 1F.20 brown

Publibel 1520: Cable car

PC - 1973 - 2F.50 + 1F yellow green + violet

TG - Publibel 2503F: Advert for Half Price Ticket, French text first, 2F.50 value (uprated by Fr.1) used 1973


(scan courtesy of Yannick Delaey)

PC - 197x - PROOF (no indicium)

Tourist train tickets - Publibel 2571 N


Note same image on cards above and below - the difference is in the sequence of the languages, so we have two different numbers, 2571N and 2572N.

(image used with permission of Themabelga)

PC - 1973 - 3F.50 - red violet

Tourist train tickets - Publibel 2572 N


(scan courtesy of Yannick Delaey)

PC - 197? - PROOF (no indicium)

Half-price ticket - Publibel 2608N


Note same image on cards above and below - I can find no difference in the designs. Yet there are two different numbers, 2608N and 2609NF.
PC - 1977 - 4F violet

Half-price ticket - Publibel 2609NF - used, and proof (YD)

PC - 1974 - 4F violet

Publibel 2616F "Avec la carte T partout en Belgique en train pendant ? jours" (YD)

The word from an East-Coast authority on the subject is that there are only 9 rail- related designs on Publibels: 1 with a cable car, 2 with trams, and 6 with trains. All are illustrated above, plus the last one, with only a text connection. Counting all the variations of languages, colors, overprints, denominations and surcharges, the total number of items a purist would need to acquire might total a hundred.

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All maps courtesy of the CIA World Factbook.

All text Copyright © 2003, William M. Senkus

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Revised -- 01/10/2005