Trains on Stamps: Prepared for Use but Not Issued

There are many stamps found on the market which, for a myriad of reasons, could be described as ‘unissued’. The problem comes with finding a workable set of criteria for selecting any listing of unissued stamps - and that inevitably makes any list subjective.

We have chosen to apply quite a narrow definition and this has led to the exclusion from our main listing of many stamps which others might include. Perhaps by providing examples of what is NOT included, we may create a backdrop against which the scope of the qualifying listing can be best understood. To this end, therefore, we first provide FIVE examples of types of stamp which are excluded:

Excluded : 1. On sale to the public but not in the country for which issued : Philatelic.

timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps Marienwerder 1920 Plebiscite Abstimmungsgebiet timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps Marienwerder 1920 Plebiscite Abstimmungsgebiet timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps Marienwerder 1920 Plebiscite Abstimmungsgebiet

Marienwerder: The three different 1920 overprints on the 1 Mark Hauptpostamt Berlin (tram tracks) design, shown above, all with overprints entirely in capital letters, were issued only in Berlin, not in Marienwerder. They are arguably valid for postage and Michel does quote a price for a used example with the black overprint, but any used example would presumably have been a philatelic undertaking. To produce a genuinely used copy, someone would have had to take or send the stamp to Marienwerder and arrange for it to be posted there. However, the fact that the Hauptpostamt, a proper authority for issuing such stamps, put these stamps on sale in Berlin, albeit probably only for philatelists, does put them into some subordinate category of issued stamps.

Excluded : 2. On sale to the public but not in the country for which issued : Political.

timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps Ivory Coast Defense d'Empire 1941 Railway Bridge Pont Ferroviaire Cote d'Ivoire

From 1940 until about 1943, the Pétain puppet government issued several stamps in France ostensibly for the colonies, even though, in many cases, they had no means of delivering them to the colonies in question. They were issued under omnibus headings such as Défense d'Empire issues, to which the Ivory Coast 1941 1F+1F stamp above belongs. It shows a military engineer, railway bridge and tracks.

Although pro-Vichy forces governed the colony at that time, the issues were more for propaganda purposes and maintaining a claim to the colonies, rather than with a view to genuine usage. The majority of the Pétain issues for the colonies are not priced in catalogues in used condition, although a few are encountered with genuine contemporary postmaks. However, the majority of 'used' stamps are probably favour cancels.

Footnote: In the case of the Ivory Coast, it was occupied by the British in 1942, the invasion encountering little resistence. The colony was then handed over to the control of the Free French in 1943.

Excluded : 3. Unadopted Essays .

Proposed new stamps can reach many different stages of development, from rough mock-up by an artist to an engraved sample proffered to a postal administration for approval but then rejected. These often find their way onto the philatelic market eventually but were at no point ordered by, and printed for, a postal administration with the intent of proceeding to a public issue.

Excluded : 4. Corrupt Practices.

In some countries, unissued stamps or variants on an issued stamp are presented to government ministers and these stamps eventually are sold onto the philatelic market by a minister or his/her family. Where these stamps could come from no other source, we exclude them entirely from this article.

Excluded : 5. Modern 'agency' issues - overprints and surcharges.

The tendency of many postal administrations now to contract out their stamp production, and even their issuing policy, to agencies has muddied the waters considerably. Occasionally it takes a little research to establish that a stamp was on sale in the country of issue (as inscribed on the stamp), but this relatively small problem becomes a major hurdle to negotiate once the stamps start to appear first imperforate, then perf and imperf with a range of overprints, then perhaps again with the overprints in new colours. We have neither the time nor the resources to examine such modern issues in forensic detail, so these are also excluded here.

The above exclusions that we have applied do not cover all of the possible reasons for excluding a stamp from this article, but we shall now move on to stamps which we consider to have been genuinely prepared for use and not issued. In many cases, these stamps are well-known to collectors with a surcharge or overprint, where postal administrations have, sensibly, found a use for these stamps at a later date and minimized wastage.


. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Railway-related stamps : Unissued : Listing :


timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps Belgium Belgique Colis Postal Winged wheel Roue Ailée

Belgian Railways: 1938: Unissued :
3F50 Green [ . ]
4F50 Deep Lilac [ . ]
5F50 Red [ . ]

Listed by COB (Catalogue Officiel Belge), these stamps were only regularly issued with surcharge.



timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps Bolivia Unissued Steam Locomotive

As certain Bolivian stamps are regularly offered badly misdescribed, we show above four stamps, of which only the last one meets our listing criteria for an unissued stamp.

Stamp 1: There are various stories about these stamps. Firstly, that they were produced to the order of the Bolivian Post Office but that the printers sold them to stamp dealers in Paris at a stamp fair in 1892, prior to issue, and that the Bolivian Post Office subsequently refused to take delivery of them. Secondly, that they were handled by Bolivian diplomats in Paris and sold to the stamp trade and that, subsequently, they were not issued and the Bolivian Post Office ordered that all purchasers should be refunded any monies they had paid. The third version is that they were completely bogus productions, made to deceive collectors, and sold to dealers at the 1892 stamp fair.

We have seen the following values: ½c, 1c, 2c, 5c, 10c (very scarce), 20c, 50c (scarce) and One Bolivar (rare). The ½c exists imperf between vertically (horizontal pair) - very scarce. We have heard it reported that the 5 Bolivars and 10 Bolivars exist, but we have not seen them. Given the confusing background to these stamps, we have not, based on current knowledge, categorized them as 'prepared for use but not issued'.

Stamps 2 and 3: These stamps were produced for use by the Bolivian Post Office around 1914 but there was only one problem: The Bolivian Post Office had never placed an order for the issue and, when offered the prepared stamps, declined, understandably enough, to take delivery of them. There are nine values in the set, two of which have some railway interest, the 50c shown above and the 2B. which shows a ship at the quayside, probably with a travelling crane. Again, this does not strictly qualify as prepared for use but not issued as there was no order for the stamps from the postal authority. The third stamp is an ugly reprint in garish colours made from the original printing plates. All nine values exist with similarly hideous colours.

Stamp 4 : Bolivia: Bs.10: This is the only stamp of the four illustrated above which undoubtedly qualifies for listing here. A decree was issued, authorising production of this stamp, in order to commemorate the opening of the new railway from Santa Cruz (in Bolivia) to Corumba (in Brazil). The stamps were printed and ready for issue in 1954, but the new line, unfortunately, was anything but ready! The tracklaying was finally completed in 1960, at which date the stamp was issued with a surcharge, 1200 Bs. For an unissued stamp, which eventually did serve a postal purpose (with surcharge), there is a surprisingly plentiful supply of this unissued stamp on the market - and it is, or should be, very inexpensive.

Bolivia : Unissued :
Bs 10.- Orange without surcharge [ . ]



China : Yunnan Province :
timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps China Yunnan 6c Junk unissued

Unissued Value:
6c Yellow-Brown (Chan YPN1) [ . ]
The 6c Yellow-Brown was only issued for general use in China and with overprint for Sinkiang Province. It was not issued with the Yunnan overprint as shown here and very few copies exist. A major rarity.


China : 1941 Thrift Movement :
timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps China 1949 Transport Revenues Unissued $5000

Shown above are two regularly issued stamps from the 1941 Thrift Movement set/6 with values, 8c, 21c,28c,33c, 50c, $1. In addition, we have learned only recently, there were two further unissued stamps in this set, a 1c and the 33c in a different colour.

Unissued Values:
1c in Ochre [ . ]
33c in Red-Brown (not Scarlet as in the issued value scanned above) [ . ]

We have never seen either of these stamps, which are footnoted in SG.


China Transport Revenue Types :
We have published an article on this website for the China Transport Revenue stamps of 1948/49 (accessed via Railway Articles index page). All the stamps shown immediately below are also covered in that article.

timbres-poste Briefmarken stamps China 1949 Transport Revenues Unissued $5000

China: 1949 $5000/$100 (left stamp in scan above) :
Dah Tung Book Co., recess-engraved. This was a single unissued value, not included in the set of 30 (33 including Type II printings) Gold Yuan surcharges, issued in January 1949. A scarce stamp, issued without gum (as with all transport revenue types)

China: 1949: Unissued :
$5000 / $100 Green - Unissued [ . ]

China: 1949 10c/$1000:
Illustrated above are both the issued 10c/$1000 (centre scan) and the unissued 10c/$1000 (right scan).

1. The issued stamp is in rose-carmine.
The unissued stamp in red with a hint of vermilion.

2. The issued stamp is recess-printed
The unissued stamp is lithographed.

3. On the issued stamp, the small tug in front of the liner has a window on the bridge to the left of its mast (as we view it) as well as three windows to the right of the mast.
On the unissued stamp there is no window on the left, just the three on the right.

4. On the issued stamp, in the top line of portholes down the side of the liner, the fourth and fifth portholes are clearly separated
On the unissued stamp, they almost merge together

5. Issued Stamp: The lower arm of the railway signal points down at an angle and is STRAIGHT.
In the unissued stamp, the signal starts to point downwards and then, almost at once, angles up to the horizontal, appearing more like part of the building behind than a signal.

6. Issued Stamp: The small hut next to the locomotive has only one window in total (facing the loco)
On the unissued stamp, the hut displays two, possibly three, windows facing the loco and a further window on the gable end.

We have listed many differences above, as the surcharge often hides some of the design details. Strangely, for stamps with so many design differences, both stamps were printed by the Central Trust. The issued 10c/$1000 is part of the May 1949 set of 9 Silver Yuan surcharges.

China: 1949: Unissued :
10c / $1000 unissued (see notes above) [ . ]


China Kwangtung Province Stamp Unissued China Stamps Silver Yuan Hupeh Province Transportation Revenue

China: May 1949 Kwangtung Province Surcharge (left stamp in scan above) :
Although this stamp was issued with black overprint (SG1237) as part of a set of six stamps, the red overprint is not a colour trial, it seems, but was produced in some quantity with a view to being issued. The stamp illustrated has double overprint, which appears to be commoner than the stamp with a single overprint.

China (Kwangtung Province) : 1949: Unissued :
$500 unissued (single overprint in Red) [ . ]
- ditto - Overprint Double [ . ]


China: 1949(May) Hubei (also known as Hupeh) Province Silver Yuan surcharge (centre & right scans above)
In addition to the two regularly-issued Hupeh Province stamps (SG 1312/13), two further values were prepared for use but not issued, a 5c with Black surcharge and 30c with Blue surcharge. They are listed in Ma and other more recent catalogues.

China Hubei Province (1949 May):
Ma 1426 5c / $20 with Black Surcharge [ . ]
Ma 1428 30c / $20 with Blue Surcharge [ . ]



Dubai Stamps Kennedy JFK New York World Fair 1964 Perf
Dubai Stamps Kennedy JFK New York World Fair 1964 Perf

Dubai: 1964 New York World Fair (Brooklyn Bridge, which carried railway/trolley tracks from 1898 until 1950), overprinted.

Of the original set of 9 values, three stamps, the 1np, 3np and 5np show the Brooklyn Bridge, a tramway/streetcar bridge in the past. Following the assasination of President Kennedy, six values of the perforated set were overprinted 'In Memory of J. F. Kennedy' , the values being 3np, 4np, 5np, 75np, 2R and 3R. The overprint on the perforated stamps is in violet-blue.

Additionally, the same overprint was applied, but now in GOLD, to the full set of nine Imperforate stamps. The 1np, 3npa and 5np were, therefore, produced with this gold overprint imperforate. Neither the Perf nor the Imperf stamps were issued and, seemingly, very few of these stamps have reached the philatelic market.

1964 Dubai JFK In Memoriam issue:
3np Perf with violet-blue opt [ . ]
5np Perf with violet-blue opt [ . ]

1np Imperf with gold opt [ . ]
3np Imperf with gold opt [ . ]
5np Imperf with gold opt [ . ]

Note: We have found very little information on these stamps and there must therefore be some doubt as to their status.



stamps East Germany DDR Thübria 94 sheetlet locomotives

East Germany 1990: Translation of key text passages in the scan above:
The new issue programme for East Germany 1990 included the above set (without surcharge). After the currency union between East and West Germany, the issue was cancelled and was then re-scheduled with new currency surcharge for October 23rd, 1990. However, by that date the unification of Germany had taken place, so, in the end, neither the original set nor the surcharged set were ever released. The scan shows a facsimile of the surcharged set in sheetlet form which was produced for the stamp show Thübria '94. We have never seen or heard of either the original set or the surcharged set being on the market, except as reproduced in this private stamp show sheetlet. We have therefore not provided any listings below.



stamps Guatemala 1897 Exhibition Bogus overprints and surcharges train ship
stamps Guatemala 1897 Exhibition Bogus overprints and surcharges train ship
stamps Guatemala 1897 Exhibition Bogus overprints and surcharges train ship

We include the scans above as these stamps are quite often on the market, sometimes described as unissued. They have no such status. The stamps are genuine but all the overprints on them are BOGUS (German: Schwindelmarken; French: Faux) as is any postal stationery with the same overprints.



stamps Madagascar Unissued 75c steam train and tunnel

Madagascar 1922 : Amongst the numerous Madagascar transport stamps of 1908-32 is a 75c violet (on rose) surcharged 60c. However, the 75c in this colour was never issued, presumably because a change in postal rates made the stamp obsolete. A small number without surcharge are on the market, listed in catalogues as a 'surcharge omitted' variety. As we have not seen these stamps listed as 'pair, one without surcharge', it seems likely that any examples found are from a small number of sheets which did not receive the surcharge.

Madagascar : Litter Transport, Train & Tunnel
75c Violet without surcharge (unissued) [ . ]

stamps Madagascar Unissued post-war airmail with diesel railcar

stamps Madagascar Unissued 75c steam train and tunnel

Some years ago, a correspondent sent us the images above. The sheetlet which repeats the designs of the postage values of 1946 but in new colours and with new face values, also contains two airmail values, which are new designs, one of them depicting a diesel railcar. This design has never been regularly issued.

We understand that both the stamps and the sheetlets can be found in a number of colours but we do not know whether or not they were only issued in the sheetlets or also in normal sheets. More information (and better scans) would be welcome.

Madagascar : c.1946 Diesel Railcar
2f 50 Diesel Train single stamp in various colours (all unissued) [ . ]

2f 50 Diesel Train in miniature sheet in various colours (all unissued) [ . ]



stamps Malawi railway trains error of value 4t for 5t - unissued

stamps Malawi railway trains error of value 4t for 5t - unissued

Malawi 1979: A set/4 stamps and a miniature sheet of the same four stamps were ordered but, by the time of delivery, the postal rate for the lowest value stamp, had risen from 4T to 5T. Consequently, both the stamp and the miniature sheet in the design of the 4T were reprinted, both now with the value changed to 5T. A scan of an example of a stamp from normal sheets in 5T denomination is included, for comparison.
A small quantity of the original printings of both the 4T sheet stamps and the miniature sheets survived and are scarce.

Malawi 1979 Railway Issue:
4T stamp from sheet of 4T stamps, multicoloured (unissued) [ . ]

Miniature Sheet of 4 values, including the 4T value (unissued) [ . ]



stamps Nicaragua 1901 2c/1c & other unissued stamps

The scan above shows two unissued stamps and one issued value (the yellow-orange 1 Peso).

Nicaragua 1901 2c/1c:
There are numerous issues (surcharges) of the Nicaragua Post Office between 1901 and 1905, both for regular use and, on occasions, slightly amended surcharged stamps solely produced to meet a stamp dealer's order. The first regularly-issued surcharges, in 1901, were a 2c/1P (illustrated, lower left), a 10c/5P and a 20c/2P.

Also found occasionally is a 2c/1c (illustrated, upper left), not given full catalogue status but often footnoted in catalogues. Due to the numerous Nicaraguan stamps at this period produced to meet dealers' orders, it needs to be said that this 2c/1c is NOT, in our opinion nor according to some catalogues, a stamp produced to fill a dealer's order, but one that belongs chronologically and philatelically with the first three surcharges already described. In Michel, it is numbered, but with a Roman numeral, as Michel II.

In common with the issued values, the stamp exists both with and without bar under date. We assume the format was the same as for other values in the issued set/3, sheets being of 25 stamps (5x5) with only the five stamps on the top row having a bar beneath the date, as in the scan of the 2c/1P orange-yellow above. Note that, curiously perhaps, the stamp may be found cancelled-to-order as well as mint.

Nicaragua 1901 2c/1c :
2c/1c Purple-brown (unissued) [ . ]
- ditto - with bar beneath date . ]


1979 Nicaragua IYC issue 2C20: This stamp was issued with three different overprints in 1980 as follows:
1. Small black overprint near the foot of the stamp ANO DE LA ALFABETIZACION (only)
2. Olympic Rings and five lines of overprint, all in RED
3. Olympic Rings and five lines of overprint IN SILVER

All these listed issues were made after the rebel Sandinista National Liberation Front takeover, the original stamps having presumably been ordered by the American-backed government of the dictator, President Samoza. However, the stamp may also be found without any of the overprints mentioned, as in the illustration above. As such, it qualifies as a stamp prepared for use but not issued.

Note: Do not confuse this with the slightly larger C5 stamp in the same design without any overprint which was used only for the miniature sheet. This sheet has both an 'ANO DE LA ALFABETIZACION' and an 'Olympic overprint' but these are both located in the sheet margins, not on the stamp.

Nicaragua 1979 IYC Issue:
2C20 Concorde and toy train without overprint (unissued) [ . ]



stamps Russia Train 1958 unissued

Russia (Soviet Union) Right Stamp in Scan above: 1958 40K Unissued: Mi. XX (Roman 20):

The stamp was originally intended to be issued alongside three stamps in very similar designs, SG 2276-78, Yv. 2101-03, Mi. 2157-59, Sct. 2116-18, Domfil 958.115-17, two of which are shown above (left and centre stamps in scan). However, by the time the stamps had been printed, the town inscribed on the 'brown' stamp had been re-named, resulting in this stamp being completely withdrawn from the issue programme. A small number of these unissued stamps have come onto the philatelic market.

Russia 1958 Unissued :
40k Brown and Pale Brown - Modern Locomotives (unissued) [ . ]


stamps Russia Train 1968 unissued stamps Russia Train 1968 unissued

In 1968, the Soviet Union prepared the stamp above for issue but it did not appear. It is apparently numbered #3719A in the Russian catalogue. We have seen two images of this stamp but do not know whether the variation in colour is due to scanners or the stamp existing in more than one colour. We list it just once provisionally.

Russia 1968 Unissued :
6k Diesel Train (unissued) [ . ]



stamps Russia Train 1958 unissued

Yugoslavia 1983 8d80 without surcharge: This stamp was only issued with a 23d70 surcharge as shown on the left in the scan above. Michel lists the stamp without surcharge as 'Missing Surcharge' (Mi. 1982F).

There appears to have been a good range of 8d80 stamps available at around the time the railway set/2 was produced in 1983; the other value of the set is a 4d. The decision to surcharge the 8d80 to a new rate of 23d70 would appear not to have been due to inflation or a rapid change in postal rates but, presumably, more an urgent need for stamps with a 23d70 face value. A very small number of unsurcharged stamps survived, but they were not, so far as we know, put on sale in error to the public.

Yugoslavia 1983 Unissued :
8d80 Train without surcharge 23d70 (unissued) [ . ]


We make no claim to this listing being complete, even within the narrow parameters we have set. The breadth of knowledge needed to identify all unissued stamps and establish their true status, even just for railways, is beyond the means of any single source.


  • Return to Listing of all Railway Articles (with links). Note: You may already have an open tab