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WWII Free Franks

by Bonnie & Roger Riga

The military has long been given free franking privileges in time of combat. No postage is necessary in order for military personnel to mail a letter in wartime. This has encouraged the development of cinderellas that could be placed on the envelope in place of postage or a manuscript "Free." Each war has produced its own variety of Free stamp that the soldier could use to dress up his letter from the front lines. While some other countries allow the use of these labels in place of a stamp, the U.S. Postal Service has always prohibited their use when used in place of a stamp or a written "Free."

free_2.jpg (130353 bytes)One such label is a patriotic stamp from World War Two in red, and blue on a white background, stating "Postage Free for Victory" and "U.S. Armed Forces" and showing a soldier facing us. On his right is a tank, on his left, a ship in rough water and overhead, a "V" of airplanes. There is no doubt that this was designed as a morale booster for the men at war. The stamp is rouletted and issued in a strangely configured sheet of 50 (5 x 10) with an inscription at the bottom warning of copyright protection and that a patent had been applied for. It also gave an address for reordering in Albuquerque, NM.

free_2.jpg (130353 bytes)Interestingly, another cinderella from WWII, while not definitively a free franking label, was either produced for that function or as a simple patriotic seal, possibly usable by the soldier as well. Again in red and blue on a white background, the Statue of Liberty stands before a city's skyline. Across the top is "America" and across the bottom is "Land of the Free" with "Free" being both larger and in red. If this stamp wasn't created to use as a free frank label, it could certainly be used as one. The stamp was issued rouletted in a pane of six and could be a first-cousin of the previous stamp. Is this serendipity or conscious copying? We'll probably never know.

World War Two is a highly collected period of our history and these two labels are interesting examples of the philatelic ephemera of that time. Topical collectors of many stripes - Statue of Liberty, WWII, tanks, ships, Airplanes, militaria - will enjoy spicing up their collections with either or both of these stamps.

This column first appeared in Scott Stamp Monthly and has been edited for online presentation.
This page was last updated July 5, 2016.
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