What are Back of the Book Stamps?

The term “Back of the Book Stamps” generally refers to those stamp issues that have appeared in the back of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue’s country sections.  The catalog itself is released in volumes, each covering a set of stamp issuing nations.  U.S. “back of the book” stamps appear at the end of the United States section.  These stamps also have one or more letters appearing before their catalog number.  An example of a regular postage stamp issue would be U.S. 4119.  An example Back of the Book stamp would be U.S. C7.  The “C” is the notation for Airmail stamps.

they require special categorization

So, why do they appear in the back of the catalog?  Are they not as popular, valuable, or collectible?  No. They are more seldom seen by the general public.  But the reason they appear in the back is that they require special categorization.  Their use differs from regular issues.  And their costs are applied differently.  For example, Semi-Postal stamps were and can be used for sending a regular letter to a regular U.S. destination.  But they carry a special surcharge that is donated to charity.  Recently we wrote a bit about a couple of semi-postal stamps — the 2001 Mongolia B27-28 Unity Against Terrorism Stamp and the U.S. B1 Breast Cancer Research Stamp (which has raised an astounding $83.9 million for breast cancer research).

One shouldn’t think of the back of the book as synonymous with bottom of the barrel.  Nor should one think of all back of the book stamps as particularly rare.  After all, over 1 Billion of the Breast Cancer Research Semi-Postal Stamps were sold!  But while all postage stamps are unique and fascinating, back of the book stamps are just a little more special.  Do you have any in your stamp collection?  Let us know in the comments.

Stamps are Little Pieces of Art

Every year postal authorities around the World accept and approve of artwork to be used as postage stamp designs.  In the United States, the first 50 years of stamp artwork was mostly the portraits of great American leaders.  Since these early days many a topic, landmark, and public awareness theme have adorned U.S. stamps.  Talented artists have created lasting images commemorating the beauty of national flora and fauna, the exploration of space and sea, and historic events that shape our nation.

As a young nation it should come as no surprise that one stamp art theme that persists alongside and within all others is Patriotism.  Stamp art honoring great actors and actresses may appeal to you while those depicting tropical fish may appeal to me.  But Patriotic graphics seem to appeal to us all.  The words of the Constitution, the colors of our flag, and the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty unite us as Americans.

William Butler Yeats said, “Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste.” I believe that stamp art proclaims to the World that while we are diverse in culture and beliefs, we are indeed United as Americans.

Related:  See our United We Stand U.S. Stamp Collection.