THE TWELVE WAYS OF CHRISTMAS
To reduce shipping costs, and to prevent a strike in a single printing plant from
destroying a whole year's fund-raising campaign, the TB Association (and now the ALA) has
seals printed in several different locations by different printers, up to eight different
in some years. Since 1936, most of these can be identified by a "printer's
mark", usually a letter on the 6th stamp in the 6th row. You can use our check list
to see what you have and what you need. Feel free to make more copies of it if you can use
them. You can collect printer's marks as single seals, or pairs or blocks of four for the
se-tenants, or blocks of nine with the printer's mark seal in the center, or whatever way
you like. Or, of course, full sheets, as discussed below.
2. Union Labels
Since 1952, most sheets have included a union label on the selvage. If you use a
magnifying glass, you can read "Scranton" on the Eureka sheets, "New
York" on the USP&L sheets, etc. And also the union local number, which is
particularly helpful in the case of Chicago, which has more than one printer. Many people
collect these in blocks of four like plate number blocks of postage stamps. Or if you keep
a full sheet, you will automatically have the union label as well as the printers mark.
And the lack of a union label on some sheets constitutes a distinguishable variety for a
few printers in 1952 and 1953. And there are even a few sheets which omit the printer's
mark itself, and of course can only be identified when they remain as full sheets.
3. Plate Flaws
A big area, particularly for older years, is plate varieties. As you know, many
collectors devote years to searching for, plating, and otherwise studying the minor
varieties which make one position in a printing plate slightly different from others.
Because Christmas Seals are not security paper, and because it is important to produce
them inexpensively, plate flaws tend to be more frequent and more dramatic than is the
case with postage stamps. Several examples are listed in Green's Christmas Seal Catalogue.
For example, position 76 of all Edwards & Deutsch 1939 sheets shows a blue mark which
looks like a double eyebrow. Other flaws, such as the "bird on mailbox" on
position 22 of some 1935 Eureka sheets, occurred on only one of several sheets printed
from the same printing plate. (Individual sheets are printed in large plates of up to 1600
for some years.)
Numerous other flaws are not documented in Green's, nor anywhere else to our
knowledge. Many are only temporary, occurring after some sheets had been printed without
the flaw, or being crudely repaired after they were noticed. If you're interested in such
"fly-speck philately", you might have fun looking for and documenting them.
Conceivably you could determine the order of when semi-constant flaws occurred and were
corrected and end up with a dandy exhibit. Again, full sheets are great for this.
4. Errors, Freaks & Oddities
As mentioned above, security on Christmas Seals is less strict and printing is
less careful than for stamps, so EFOs are easier to find. There are Christmas seals which
are mis-perfed, have color mis-registrations and even colors missing and upside-down. By
the way, most of the apparent imperforate "errors" were issued intentionally and
are not especially scarce . . . an inexpensive way to dress up your collection.
5. Progressive Color Proofs
Since about 1927, these have been available to the public. These interesting sets
illustrate how multicolor seals (or stamps) were printed. You can see that in the olden
days, red was red and green was green. Recently with the advent of process colors, red has
become magenta and green is yellow plus blue. PCPs usual consist of a set of 5 or 7
"seals". There is one "seal" printed in each color individually as
well as composites building to the final and complete seal in all it's color.
6. Full Sheets.
This includes all the above types of collections. Christmas Seals are particularly
handy to collect as full sheets because nearly all of them are smaller than 8« 11 inches.
If you've ever tried to put a sheet of postage stamps into a normal sheet protector, you
know the problem seals avoid.
7. Advertising Accessories.
In addition to the seals themselves, there are numerous props used to publicize
each year's fund-raising campaign. Many of these include replicas of that year's seal in
their designs, or have elements in common with the seal; others are more of a mystery. For
example, there are bookmarks, blotters, napkins, placemats, cardboard standups, milk
bottle caps and collars, metal pins, scarves, and "bonds" (certificates stating
the amount of larger donations, from $5.00 to $1,000.00). As with plate flaws, there is
lots of room for research and documentation here.
You may have wondered what's behind the note in the Scott Specialized Catalogue
"Beginning in 1979 there is no longer one national issue. Additional designs
are issued on a limited basis to test seals to determine the designs to be used the
Without the words "no longer" (our emphasis added) the statement would
be correct. There still is a national seal which is sent to most of the ALA customers.
However, there are also a few (usually 4-5) seals that are test marketed for the following
year. A particularly interesting variety is the seal each year which "won the
popularity contest" and became the national seal the following year. The two seals
will have basically the same design but different dates, and the Experimental is usually
without a printer's mark. And then there are all the "runners up" which may
never be seen again.
There are other varieties which seem to be a cross between regular issues and true
experimentals. There are, for example, seals for use in Puerto Rico which have the same
designs as the corresponding national seals but say "Feliz Navidad", etc. There
have also been dull gum varieties to resist moisture in southern climates. And for many
years there were "deluxe" seals printed on silver or even gold foil. Recently
these were replaced by seals with borders printed in silver ink on normal paper; the foil
was more expensive, and may also have been difficult to print on.
10. Spring/Summer Seals
The ALA is diversifying and has recently been issuing seals picturing flowers,
animals, scenes, quilts, etc., which they distribute during Spring and Summer. Instead of
"Merry Christmas", these seals read "LOVE" (or a similiar message),
but most include the double-barred Lorraine cross in their designs.
11. Local Seals
Many local TB charities issued their own seals over the years. You might find it
fun to try to collect these from your local area or state, in addition to the National
12. Foreign Christmas Seals.
Many if not most countries have also issued seals, generally around Christmas and
New Years, and often showing the Lorraine cross.
** Thanks to Betsy and Chuck, 3606 S. Atherton Street, State College, PA
16801-8301 for providing this insight into Christmas Seal Collecting. Phone/Fax:
Send e-mail to the authors Betsy and Chuck
The Yule Log is edited by Jon Mills of Ottawa, Ontario. Christine Sanders of Englewood, Florida is the club's
The invitation to
membership in the Christmas Philatelic Club is open to any Christmas topical philatelist
who is seriously interested in associating with those who collect likewise.
Current dues are $20 per
year for persons living in North America. Other Countries: $30.00 (US funds). Send an
international money order in US dollars.
Applications for membership
are available from Secretary/Treasurer Jim Balog, PO Box 744, Geneva, Ohio 44042-0744 USA or complete this Application Form and send it to the secretary's address..
For a sample issue of the Yule Log, send
P.O. Box 744