Revenue stamps: charity, posters, cinderellas
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  • It seems that this is the best article of author. It has been pablished in one of the most authoritative journal for collectors - "Antiquariat" and dedicated to the most colourful revenues - stamps of WWI  >>>
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USSR ENTERTAIMENT DUTY STAMPS: the main issue and specimens
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One of the most important topics in revenue/cinderella’s collecting is the area of WWI charity stamps. This is a very impressive page of the Russian charitable activity and it presented us many non postage stamps, posters, labels etc. issued at that far away years.

Development of that type of charitable activity is not a will of a case. It based on the traditions of Russian society. Besides, government paid great attention to the charity in the various forms. Look here – there were at least four official departments at the end of XIX century:
- Department of establishments in the name of Empress Maria
- Russian society of Red Cross
- Guardianship for public workshops
- Imperial Philantrophy society

Moreover there existed a lot of establishments, societies and companies under rule of other government departments from War ministry to Central administrative board of State horse breeding. The full number of charitable organizations can be estimated up to 7500.

Here we mentioned officially registered organizations only. But how much charitable organization was unofficial or private?

Church money gathering was very widespread. Point is that Russian people used to donate money in the churches, so the idea to collect money for war victims here was reasonable.

Church money gathering (mug donations) was convinient because donators decide how much money needs to donate by him. On the other hand this form of donation was very simple and didn’t need documentation on the contrast to donation by subscription. So it was possible to involve a lot of different people including kids.

Thus, there were the good charity traditions and experience in the Russian society to the beginning of WWI. Besides, issue of the small posters called “the mug donation stamps” was widespread. Dozens of printing houses had industrial manufacture of the stamps from paper, rags, and wires.

The beginning of WWI revealed great patriotic rise of spirit. BTW we called WWI Second Patriotic War at that time (First one was repulse of Napoleon intrusion in Russia). One of the cinderellas demonstrates the day of declaration of war (ill.1). Unfortunately it was impossible to win the war with the help of spirit rise. Russia had not enough stock of shells, regimentals for long war. 1915 was the year of deep retreat and heavy losses. Nigthmare of Russia-Japan war became very possible again.

Charity reaction on the first news about victims and military losses has been divided by two parts. This division found BTW the reflection in the best Russian catalogue of charity stamps – Nedaivodin’s catalogue [1]. Nedaivodin divides catalogue by the following parts:
- stamps for improvement of state defense in the peace time
- stamps of donations for soldiers in actions
- stamps of donations for war victims

Thus, part of donations was directed to fighting army, it helped to neglect the lack regimentals, amunitions, and medicines. Another part was directed to disabled soldiers, refugees, and orphans. It seems that the second type of charity was more widespread because great number of stamps for war victims.

Mug donations were very popular. It had place even in far away towns and villages. Any public organization could use this method of money gathering. For instance, newspaper “Evening Orienburg” said us: “Under presidency of L.A.Pushkin a session of local department of Great Duchess Tatiana’s committee took place in the local government building 3 Dec.1915. One of the participants wrote: First of all the declaration about celebration of Tatiana’s day 12 Jan. After discussion of the declaration the committee declared to provide at 12 Jan. a ceremonial meeting and organize mug donation and lotteri-allegri...”

But not the all organizers of mug donations issued the stamps and cinderellas. We should mention one point. A tradition to issue stamps of mug gathering was started before WWI, mostly money were gathered for orphans, poor men, patients of TBC. A lot of undertakings were organizing in different places, to avoid double request for donation the issue of special stamps/cinderellas has been started. These stamps/cinderellas have been handed donator over and he pinned it to the lapel. That’s why we observe some holes in stamps/cinderellas of that age. Another purpose was reached by this method: public opinion blamed those men who have been walking without sign. This leaded to increase of money gathering.

Before WWI all public undertakings were prepared a long before the day of gathering, which allowed issuing the corresponding signs. At war time there was a lack of time, so often organizers were unable to order signs or had shortage of money for it. There existed another problem at that time – shortage of aniline colors (it were the imported goods from Germany). That’s why a lot of stamps have been printed in one color. Some stamps were printed again in one color after have been issued multicolored.

Nevertheless, in the case of WWI charity stamps we can’t declare the decrease of quality. To the contrast, no one could predict the blossoming of miniature posters. That was the matter of WWI stamps popularity. These stamps look much better then the revenue and postal ones.

We should mention that the WWI charity stamps can be divided by four groups (kind of use):

A. Signs and labels for pinning to the clothes. It was made from paper, scraps of a fabric, cardboard, tin. Sometimes a combination of 2-3 materials was used. (ill.2)

B. Signs like stamps. It looks like postal stamps due to dents, glue, and the nominals. (ill.3). Sometimes these stamps can be found on postal parcels, envelopes or documents. Usually, the material was paper, it could have glue or no, sometimes dents could be changed by puncture or stamps had no dents.

C. The paper receipt (ill.4). The main feature was a special text on one side (rare – on both sides) that informed about purpose of issue, sum of donation etc. Often receipts were fastened into book.

D. Large souvenir or agitation piece of paper (ill.5). It looks like post cards but, on a contrast, it was fabricated from thin paper. Agitation ones had special text or proclamation.

The history of mug donations could reveal many interesting facts. We have no much information about those times and WWI charity stamps are able to help us. Some facts will be discussed below and we believe that it will be interesting for revenue/charity collectors and fans of history.

Imperial family and charity

Sometimes collectors find the stamps and signs with the monograms of Russian Imperial family members – O.H., T.H. etc. It is well-known that the natives of Emperor Nikolay II played important role in charities. For instance, Czar’s daughters have been worked for several years as the sisters of mercy in hospitals. Emperor family donated large sum of money from their capital. But it’s a not a common fact that the natives of Nikolay II organized several establishments and societies for money gathering for victims of war.

Monogram T.H is a sign of Great Duchess Tatiana’s committee (ill.6). Above we mentioned the citation about activity of this committee (Orienburg department) in a day of St.Tatiana. Nevertheless, gathering organized by committee took places in other days too. Thus, one poster has been dated 29-31 May 1915. There exist the posters and stamps with the portrait of Tatiana Nikolaevna issued in cities Vyatka and Rostov-na-Donu. Committee had departments in many cities of Russia; in our collections we can see the stamps and signs of Moscow, Petrozavodsk and so on. Tatiana’s committee was very fruitfull. We know a lot of its stamps and signs, and some publication about its charities could be found in old newspapers.

Another Nikolay daughter – Olga had the similar committee. Usually the stamps issued by this committee had monogram O.H. Its interesting that one issue of Olga’s stamps has no this monogram (ill.7). It has sign “The retreat of St. Duchess Olga” and was issued in the name of saint patron of the girl. The collectibles with “O.H.” are rare and very popular within collectors.

The Empress Alexandra Fedorovna had no their own organization, but she was a patron of Skobelev’s Committee (founded by the sister of general Skobelev, hero of Russia-Turkey war 1877). This committee was well known by WWI charities both in Moscow and St.Petersburg. Collectors know posters and receipts of it (ill.8). It’s very interesting that we can portrait of Empress on stamp of another society only – it’s the Moscow committee for supply by tobacco of soldiers in action. We don’t know other Russian non postage stamps. The reason is Empress was the german by the birth and public popularity of Empress was very low.

Another royal name is Elisaveta. Elisaveta’s charitable society began activity far before WWI. Its name is linked with the name of one Great Duchess – Elisaveta Fedorovna, sister of Empress. Her monogram is weaved letters “E” and “Fita” (special letter, look like “O” with crossbeam in the center). We can find it on some stamps issued in Poltava (Ukraine) and Fellin (Estonia). There is the interesting fact connected with a name Elisaveta: she helped German and Austria captured soldiers. This summoned some public judgements. In another case, probably, we have more charity stamps “help for captured”.

The stamps of St.Eugenia society of the sisters of mercy are widespread (iil.9). It’s a well-known society founded in 1893 year. Society published the great number of charity postcards. We should mention that the name of society is connected with the name of member of another royal family – princess Eugenia Oldenburg (she was a founder of this society).

In the end it could be mentioned that the portraits of other members of Emperor family (prince Alexey, Emperor’s brother Nikolay Nikolaevich and so on) can be found on signs and stamps of that time. Nevertheless, we don’t know the societies connected with these names.

The plots and shapes of the mug donation stamps

Of cause, the collectors are preferred to operate with the non postage stamps like post ones. It’s very conveniently. But mug donation stamps reveal a wide range of materials, plots and shapes. There were the stamps from thick cardboard, fabric, metal, merged paper. The shape could be a rectangle, rhomb, shield, cross etc. By the way, there exist the intriguine connection between shape, content, and a kind of mug donation. We will talk about that below.

Very often the money gathering got the special name – “Day of soap”, “Cossack’s day” (ill.10). Another name is “Day of the banners”. At that day a lot of small banners (usually from paper) have been offered for purchase. Now we are collecting it as the signs of mug donation (ill.11). The size of banners was varied; ant the material could be merged paper, fabric, tin. Of cause, it were the national and war banners of allies. Russian, English and French banners were often. Sometimes we can see the banners of Japan, Belgia, Italy. Its interesting the absence of State Banner, USA joined the allies too late.

Distribution of the signs and stamps with the portraits of governors was the same (ill.12). We can see the portraits of Serbia’s, Montenegro’s, and Belgian kings – these countries were under first strike of Germany and Austria. After that many state leaders and warchiefs were printed on paper miniatures. The set of stamps of “Einem publishing” is well-known under the name of “Activists of Great War”; we can find here not the royal members only, but warchiefs too. On the contras Lebedev’s publishing house immortalized glory of simple soldiers. We consider these publishing houses below.

What the plots and shapes could be found on that stamps? Fist of all, we should mentioned the epaulets of some regiments and ranks made from paper or cardboard. Sometimes shape was like easter egg, these stamps have been prepared for money gathering at easter celebration. Finally, the image of St.George’s cross was very popular as a shape of stamps. However, St.George was the welcome guest for the plot of charity stamps.

After that, there were dozens of different plots and ideas. We ought to say thanks to organizers and publishers for a beauty and variety of charity stamps collections. From the huge choice we will highlight one idea only – it’s the imitation of post envelopes. The corresponding charity labels (little cards) have been distributed in the post offices. It’s interesting that both sides of label have been drawn very carefully and post stamp revealed the date of donation days (ill.13). There exist a lot of varieties (from different cities) of that “envelopes”.

Interesting facts

One of the pecularities of our topic is the existing of copies of some popular plots (ill.14). Now, sometimes, we can’t find out a history of some issue – was it the “recommended plot” or private initiative of a printing house. The plot of fist St.Petersbug’s set of charity stamps was very popular (ill.15). This plot has been copied in Lugansk, Nikolaev, Tashkent, Saratov, and Fellin cities.

Specificity of repeated money gatherings leaded to that organization ordered the same plot for charity stamps but asked to change a text. For instance, Dr.Pirogov’s Society issued 4 stamps with the same plot – a sanitary car. At the 3d issue the stamp got the new text (name of society has been changed to committee) and the last issue had the simple sign instead the name of organization – “The donation hand will not become scanty”. The change of the capital’s name (from St.Petersburg to Petrograd) summoned a lot of new issues.

An interesting nuance was that the same stamps have been distributed among different cities. We should note the Lebedev’s publishing house. A.N.Nedaivodin believes that this printing house specialized on issue of non postage stamps and sold it to some charitable organizations. Base of the mention is an existence of city names on the opposite sides of the stamps. You can ask – how is possible to define the printing house? An answer is simple - headlines on stamps are the following: “Moscow, Maroseika, bld.14, Tel.60-64. Thus, Lebedev understood significance of advertising of his company and indicated the name of city for potential clients from regions of Russia Empire. So it’s not an amazing fact t that he got significant number of order on the stamps. Here were the sets of little banners (see above), sets of portraits, and a special set “Russian heroes”.

The facts described above make hard the detailed collecting of the mug donation stamps. Point is that our visual memory is the basis for collecting, but the copies are so similar...

We mentioned one printing house but there was another very famous one well-known within the collectors. It’s the printing house of “Einem” company (manufacturer of candies and chocolates). The sets dedicated to actors, dancers, writers, Russian proverbs and sayings etc. were very popular. These stamps had advertising purpose. During the WWI “Einem” has issued huge set of stamps named “The persons of Great War” – 13 portraits from king of Serbia Peter I to Russian warchief A.A.Brusilov.

Who issued mug donation stamps else? We know money gathering organized by educational institutions, for example - grammar schools. Old newspapers said that pupils took active participation in charities: they put performances, lottery, and auctions. Note that pupils ordered issuing of charity stamps sometimes. For instance, all known three mug donation stamps from city Votkinks belong to local educational institutions.

The great number of charity stamps has been issued by society of Red Cross (created in 1863 in Geneva, that’s why banner of this society looks like Swiss state banner). There exists a special topic in collecting of Red Cross stamps, postcards etc. Less known are the stamps of Creen Cross (society for disabled men help) and White Cross (society for help to families and orphans of soldiers killed in actions). Its interesting that symbol of White Cross got second meaning: help to White Guards movement.

But the most wide-spread activity was the activity of municipal self-management establishments (we know it as the mayoralties). If you see abbreviations like SPBGOU, SGOU, Petr.GOU and other …GOU on stamps – it means municipal issue. By the way, a lot of stamps has been issued by All-Russia Union of Cities (shortly – VSG) and All-Russia Zemstvo’s Union – the special establishments operating with the work activity in rare at WW1. After these ones has been united to one organization – ZemGor.

In the end, we would like to mention one interesting fact. The publishers of charity stamps clearly understood that their production would be subject of collecting like post stamps. On ill.16 you can see the package with the charity stamps intended for sell to collectors. About existence of such collectors we know from pen or inc signs on the stamps. Signs sometimes have information about a date and place of money gathering. With the help of such signs some issues were defined and dated.

It should be mentioned that the first catalogue of mug donation stamps has been published in 1920-1921 by Trachtenberg [2] in Paris. In parallel at that time a lot new charity stamps have been issuing for help to victims and disabled of Russia Civil War (1918-1922). But this is detached topic for the next articles.


[1] A.N.Nedaivodin “Catalogue of Russian non postage stamps. Stamps of donations (war time).” 2001.
[2] D.F.Trachtenberg “The special catalogue …

List of illustrations:

Ill.1. The photo of a demonstration in the day of war proclaim, printed on a stamp issued by Women Society for Clothes Gathering to Wounded ()

Ill.2. The stamp of Tsaritsin’s issue of the All-Russia Union of Cities ()

Ill.3. The stamp of Penza’s issue()

Ill.4. An example of receipt (city Kiev)()

Ill.5. An example of poster (Crimea)()

Ill.6. The monogram of Tatiana Romanov()

Ill.7. Rare issue: the stamps “The retreat of St.Duchess Olga” ()

Ill.8. The poster of the Skobelev’s Committee()

Ill.9. The stamp of St.Eugenia society of the sisters of mercy ()

Ill.10. The stamp of “Cossack day”()

Ill.11. The paper banners of «Banners day»()

Ill.12. The portrait of Romanian king on the stamp()

Ill.13. The two-sides stamp of Post Department()

Ill.14. The similar plots on the stamps of Altay and Ekaterinoslav reg.()

Ill.15. Saratov copy of the stamp plot of St.Petersburg GOU ()

Ill.16. The package of charity stamps issued for collectors at WWI ()

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