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Since they were first issued in 1881, Postal Orders have achieved a degree of notoriety. The well-known play The Winslow Boy has a plot which centres on the true story of a naval cadet who was dismissed for allegedly stealing a 5/- order, which is still extant in the Post Office archives.
In the school yarns, Billy Bunter was always expecting his Postal Order, which generally failed to materialise. In spite of the advent of far easier means of transmitting money, Postal Orders are as popular as ever and are still sold in millions. Internet sales and auctions are now boosting their use. Automated Postal Orders, recently introduced have consigned the counterfoil and local hand-stamp to history but different varieties are still there for the discerning collector.
Many of the facets of stamps can be found in Postal Orders. There are perfins, which have perforated date-stamps and were issued as football payments; overprints and surcharges; watermark varieties, including sideways and reversed; machine issued; errors; commemoratives; booklets and legal tender issues relating to the first weeks of both World Wars.
In the mid-1980s special customised or promotional Postal Orders appeared, the first being issued by Cinzano in return for a number of bottle caps. These colourful innovations continued from the makers of coffee, car mats and others. In 2006 Postal Order cash-backs were issued by Knorr, Birds Eye, Ecover and the Post Office Insurance.
Ordinary Postal Orders used to donate to charity have the added facility of a claim for tax originally paid by the donor by means of a declaration on the reverse of the order.
Most collectors tend to specialise in British Postal Orders (BPOs), but more than a hundred issuers (countries and states) have sold British and/or their own internal orders. Around thirty still do, mainly ex British Colonies and Commonwealth. Some issues were called Postal Notes. Many overseas issued BPOs were overprinted. British Forces abroad carried their own stocks and they were issued at Field Post Offices. Mobile post office hand-stamps for issues at big events eg. Wimbledon can be found.
Members of the society receive a quarterly newsletter packed with information, views, details of current issues and much more.
Postal auctions are conducted on a regular basis and a members’ list of items for sale is available, which is a especially suitable for new members.
A discussion forum has been set up where the latest information about postal orders is posted.
Meetings of the Society are held annually in London at the IBNS (International Banknote Society) Congress on the first Saturday in October. Also at Midpex nr. Coventry on alternate years with the next one 2017. At the latter venue the society, along with other societies has a stand with a framed display by one or more of the members. Visitors to the stand are welcome to see the displays and discuss their interests.
Auctioneers.............John Gledhill & Richard Solly
Publications Committee........Michael Brill, John Gledhill & Richard Solly
USA Representative...........Jack Harwood
Australia Representative......Ross Pratley
New Zealand Representative....John Eccles