A little about some Danish Postmarks

By Toke Nørby

Copyright 1996-2000 by Toke Nørby.
This article must not be published without permission from the author
- but you are welcome to take a printout for your personal use ;-)


A warning! In these modern times you should be aware of forged postmarks. It is so easy - with a little help from a computer - to make your own postmark (as also shown on the "nice" picture of me on my homepage :-). I should tell you that in Denmark there are 11 "accumulations of houses and farms" named "NØRBY", all located north to and belonging to villages ("NØR" means north and "BY" means town/village. Furthermore there are four small villages with the name "NØRBY" in Denmark. None of them has ever had an post office or a postmark! - so my personal "postmarks" just look like real postmarks :-)

I made my "postmarks" for lecture purposes - just to tell collectors that they have to be aware of forged postmarks! In the following section I am going to tell you a little about special Danish postmarks - partly using my own "postmarks" as illustrations!


My "Star Postmark"The "Star Postmark". The first postmark, very like the type shown to the left but what we call the "STJ I - Taarbæk type", was introduced in Denmark in 1866 and was given to 31 sub post offices ("brevsamlingssteder"). Here they collected the letters, cancelled the stamps with their "Letter Collection Star Postmark" and sent them to the head post office in their area.

My "Removed Star Postmark"The first "Star Postmarks" (in Danish: "Stjernestempler" - and not shown here) had "simple stars" in the centre of the postmark. Later - in 1873 and thereafter - the "star" in the centre was changed and most of our "Star Postmarks" was produced with a "star" like the one you see in my "Star Postmark". This revised type is now called the "STJ II - Faarevejle-type". On 31 July 1929 our GPO announced that the "star" in the middle of the postmark should be removed (and this was normally done by the local blacksmith!) and hereafter the postmarks were named "Removed Star Postmarks" ("udslebne stjernestempler"). In spite of the fact that only postmarks without stars were given to the special sub post offices after 1929, we call all postmarks in this type "removed star" postmarks. Some of the "stjernestempler" are very rare because of a short period of use: "SMIRIL" and "RUTH" (used on board ships from the Færø Islands. "SEJHT" (without a star) and "BØLLING" - both from Jutland - are also very rare.
    The "udslebne stjernestempler" were in use until about 1960 and in 1956 - and in the period of use of my "favourite" Danish stamp series (30 øre provisionals) - only 9 "udslebne stjernestempler" were still in use.
    Danish "stjernestempler" is a very popular collecting field which can be seen by the prices at our auctions. "Removed Star Postmark" "SEJHT" were sold in 1985 for DKr. 16,000 (about US$ 3,000). And as you can imagine the covers with "star postmarks" are very decorative and such covers could be used as nice illustrations for Danish Postal History!

Reference: "Stjernestempler" by Jan Bendix. Skilling, Skibby 1995, ISBN 87-87832-13-5.


My "Bro I Postmark"The Danish "Bridge" Postmark (in Danish: "Bro-typen")
The first bridge postmarks (Bro I) was introduced in Denmark in 1891 in Kolding (in Jylland - Jutland), København (our capital Copenhagen) and Svendborg (on Fyn - the island Funen). Postmarks with this type of date wheels we also call "The Swiss Type", because Switzerland was the very first country to introduce this model in 1867. The Danish Bro I-Postmark is characterised by vertical bars over and under the "bridge" and was given to all larger post offices in Denmark.

My "Bro II Postmark"On 4 November 1936 the Danish GPO announced that all "Bro I" postmarks should be replaced by postmarks without vertical bars over and under the "bridge", the so-called "Bro II" postmark. As a matter of fact this replacement took several years and some post offices kept their old "Bro I" postmark and used it on very busy days e.g. at Christmas time. The latest known (of my knowledge) impression of a Danish "Bro I" postmark is from 28 April 1969!

Reference: "Late use of Bro I-postmarks" by Toke Nørby. Postal History Exhibition Catalogue "Hjemstavn 90" pp. 21-25, Odense, Denmark. ISBN 87-88688-31-3 and a follow up article in "The Danish Postal History Magazine", 1991, 2 pp. 77-80. ISSN 0902-8668.


Danish Ship Mail.
What is the definition of ship mail? A rough definition only covering a small part of all ship letters: A ship letter is a letter which has been transported on a ship a part of or the entire way from sender to receiver. But if we look at ship mail as a part of a postal history, we prefer that the letter have some hand-written markings or postmarks indicating that it had been transported by ship and treated by postal authorities as a ship letter according to special rules for ship letters.

My "Fra Nørby"The Letter Collection Postmark. Many different postmarks for use on ship mail have been issued in Denmark. The most common type is the "Fra xxxx" which means "From (name of the town)". Depending of the time where the letter was sent, different markings on the front of the cover can identify the letter as a so-called ship letter. In the old days (about 1836-1875) the sender could - by writing on the letter - choose the way the letter should be sent, if there was a choice. We typically can see two different private markings indicating that the sender desired that his letter should be sent by ship: "Pr. (Steamers name)" or "Via (name of a town)" from where a mail carrying steamboat received the letter and transported it to its destination harbour where the letter was given to the post office and transported to the receiver (an example is shown on my page "Danish Inland Ship Mail").
    Some of the first "Fra xxxx" postmarks for use on ship mail was given to seven Danish ships with travelling post offices (tpo's) on 3 June 1854. On board the ship letters could be given to the crew or dropped in the letter box on board the ship. When the ship reached its destination harbour the letters were delivered to the post office and, according to Danish postal regulations which said that it should be possible to see on the letter from where it was sent, the letter were cancelled with a postmark showing the name of the destination town and a special postmark indicating from where the letter was sent - the "Fra xxxx" postmark.
    Such postmarks were normally used on letters coming from ships in regular service and letters delivered from various other ships could eventually be postmarked with the well known "Paquebot" postmark, as it was more or less difficult to figure out the real origin of the letters.
    The Danish use of all ship postmarks ended in 1968 where the GPO on 1 November announced that it was no longer necessary to postmark ship letters with such postmarks. About 100 different "Fra xxxx" postmarks are known from the entire period with such postmarks.
    A very few "Fra xxxx" postmarks were used on land in different places in Denmark. Letters with such postmarks are not ship letters but you would have to use a catalogue to distinguish between the two types. 20 "Fra xxxx" were used in connection to mail carrying automobiles and one was used at Copenhagen Airport on letters given to the crew in aeroplanes from the "capital" of Bornholm (a Danish island): "Fra Rønne". Two postmarks had very special purposes "Fra Hjarnø" and "Fra Samsø" but they are both so rare that I won't describe them here ;-)

Reference: "Skibspost" by JKE in "Nordfrimex 83" exhibition catalogue pp. 21-35 and pp. 53-68, Copenhagen 1983 and "Posthornstemplerne" by Jerry Kern. Skilling 1991. ISBN 87-87832-15-1


The "Posthorns-Stempel"
In 1908 our GPO introduced a new service (a "Letter Collecting Service") at railway stations and railway stops where no post office or sub post office was present. The letters dropped in letter boxes at such places were collected by an railway employee. He then delivered the mail to the travelling post office in the train. In 1924 there were about 110 such places in Denmark. At some of these places our GPO introduced as an experiment that local letters from the letter boxes should be postmarked by the mentioned employee with a special postmark (the Posthorn Postmark) to ensure that local rate letters, in spite of the fact that they were transported by train out of the local rate area, and date postmarked in the travelling post office, not should be penalised after checking the postage. This means that you could distinguish between local letters with a lower letter rate and letters with the normal inland letter rate.
    On 6 July 1927 the use of the Posthorn Postmark was extended for use on all letters from such places. Even it then became impossible to distinguish between local rate and inland rate letters.

My "Nørbyhus Posthorn Postmark"Here you see a very special Posthorn Postmark. As a matter of fact it is the only private Posthorn Postmark made with permission of a post office and given to me on my 50th birthday! The post office who gave permission demanded however, that no crown was present so it could be easy to see that it is a private "Posthorn Postmark".

A real Posthorn PostmarkI will show you a real Posthorn Postmark to let you see how a real one looks. Impressions of "SKÆRSØ pr. EBELTOFT" is known in use from the period 20 April 1949 until 22 July 1949 (unless the railway station "SKÆRSØ" was closed so late as 31 October 1968). As you see there is a small crown over the posthorn on real Posthorn Postmarks. You also see that this postmark has no "lightning's" through the posthorn as my "Posthorn Postmark" and newer Posthorn Postmarks has, but the lightning's is just used to symbolise that the telegraph service was not connected to our GPO at the time this postmark was issued. There were 183 small railway stations and railway stops using these postmarks in different versions in the period from 1924 to 1969 (the latest impression of a Posthorn Postmark is from 2 January 1969).
    Many Danish philatelists collects these postmarks as they illustrate a very special field of the Danish Postal History and some of the Posthorn Postmarks are very rare - but not mine :-(

Reference: "Posthornstemplerne" by Jerry Kern. Skilling 1991. ISBN 87-87832-15-1.


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Last modified 25 October 1998