Precanceled Austrian Wrappers

Austrian precanceled wrappers were printed by the Austrian Bureau of Engraving and Printing at Vienna especially for the “Deutschen und Oesterreichischen Alpen-Vereines” or “D. OE. A.V” for short. Translated to English, this means “The German and Austrian Alpine Association”. This organization was the only one that used these precanceled wrappers. They were used from 1903 to 1938 to mail the club’s (usually) bi-monthly periodical. Typically, they were mailed at the middle and end of each month. As listed below, 23 different wrappers were used in this manner.

There were four major periods of use of these wrappers, they were (1) ordinary handstamp cancellation, (2) handstamp cancellation prior to use (3) printed precancellation in sheets (4) simultaneous printing of denomination and cancellation. Each of these periods demonstrates a continuous improvement in the efficiency in mass mailing these periodicals. Prior to the 3rd period, all wrappers were printed with a note reading “Mitteilungen des D. u. Oe. A-V Wien VII-I, Kandlgasse 19-21”, across the top. Similar to an envelope’s corner card, this indicated the return address of the club. For all periods, the address was printed on an address label which was affixed to the wrapper.

The ordinary wrappers were used for mailing abroad, especially Germany where most of the members of the society resided. The newspaper wrappers were used in the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, and are much harder to find.

Figure 1

1st Period: Ordinary Handstamp Cancellation (Feb 18, 1903 – May 31, 1907)

The wrappers in this period are not precanceled and carry two types of ordinary handstamp cancellation. A one circle cancel was first used (see Figure 1); after April 1904 a two circle bridge cancel was also used (see Figure 2). After December 1904 only the latter was used. Typically the mailing office was WIEN 60, but other offices can be found. During these years, the address label can be seen tied to the wrapper with the cancel, proving it’s post-cancel nature.

Figure 2

2nd Period: Ordinary Handstamp Precanceled (May 31, 1907 – March 16, 1910)

Wrappers found from this period utilize the same two circle bridge cancel as in the first period. The difference is that the cancel is commonly found to be covered by the address label (see Figure 3). This proves that the wrappers were indeed precanceled prior to addressing in order to save time and speed their delivery. The date of the first precanceled wrapper of this period is May 31st, 1907. For only this one mailing, a roller type cancel was used (see Figure 4). After June 17, 1907, all precancellations are from the WIEN 101 office, which was the date the newspaper office was opened there. At first the cancellation contained the hour of cancellation, but after June 1908 this disappeared.

Figure 3

Figure 4

3rd Period: Printed Precancellation with Address and Date (Ende March 1910 – 1922)

This is the period where the wrapper appears most likely to be a precancel. Starting in March 1910, further optimization was done to the cancellation process. During this period, all required information was included in a printed precancellation over the stamp design on an entire wrapper sheet prior to it’s cutting, addressing, and processing (see Figure 5). This was done in a two-step operation. First the frame and the outer inscriptions were printed in greater quantities. Next, the date and year were printed according to the needs of the society. Proof of this two-step operation is the fact that wrappers can be found with shifted date and year.

Figure 5

From the end of March, 1910 to the middle of December, 1913, there exists two dates every month with “Mitte” and “Ende”. For the first issue of 1914, only one issue was printed during January and February with a “Jan./Febr.” marking covering both of these months. After September 1914 the periodical was only issued once a month with the “Ende” overprint.

After late 1919, the date disappeared altogether, with only the frame remaining (see Figure 9 below). This was probably because of the chaos and economic crisis occurring at this time following World War I. Because of this, only five issues were mailed in 1920 and six in 1921.

4rth Period: Simultaneous Printing of Postage and Cancellation (July 1928- December 1938)

After an interruption of some years, the precanceled wrappers of the society found a new improvement in efficiency. Stamped stationary was not used during this period. Starting in July 1928 and continuing through December 1938, this style consisted of a red impression appearing at first glance to be a meter (see Figure 6). However, it was printed with a combination of both the postage and the cancel at the same time prior to use. There is nothing to indicate that these wrappers were used by this same society.

Figure 6

The proof that these wrappers were printed and not made by a meter machine is due to the fact that some items where the precancellation goes over the right fold on the other side and others on which the upper half of the imprint was at the lower margin and the lower part at the upper margin (errors due to cutting). After cutting the address was made by an addressing machine. On the left margin of the wrapper (folded back) you find cutting guide marks (rectangles or crosses) in the same color of the printing. On this same margin you can find (from1928-35), black numbers of a counting machine always ending in zero. This probably indicates the sheets of wrappers contained 10 per sheet. After the middle of 1935, numbers are more often printed in red, with a point after the thousand. All of these facts prove that these wrappers were made by printing in sheets.

Figure 7

Until August 1938, the wrappers had the inscription “OESTERREICH GROSCHEN” (see Figure 6 above). From then until December 1938, “DEUTSCHE REICHSPOST” (as in Figure 7 above) was used instead due to the Anschluss which occurred in that month.

Other Interesting Facts and oddities

In order to speed the mailing of the publication, nearby addresses were bundled together and a large black and white label showing the major city was applied to the back of the top wrapper of each bundle (see Figure 8 below). Wrappers with these labels are quite scarce, but not impossible to find.

Figure 8

Here are cities that I am aware of.  Please send me any other cities you have seen.

White Paper Yellow Paper
Erlangen Berlin weiter
Dresden A Dresden weiter
Chemnitz weiter Hannover
Hof i. Bayern Lugwigshafen Rhein
Frankfurt-Main Bk Munchen
Konstanz Munchen 2
Leipzig Saarbrucken
Mainz Stuttgart weiter


Figure 9 below shows that the address labels were also printed as one long listing of all the addressees. This was later cut to make each address label, similar to the wrapper itself.

Figure 9

Several mailings contained both the periodical and a supplement consisting of a catalogue. Because of this additional weight, an additional postage rate was required, leading to some of the higher denominations seen such as 5+10 Heller and 5+5 Heller used in combination (see Figure 10). Mailings to far overseas destinations also required more postage as one would expect. These higher denomination wrappers are rarely seen.

Figure 10

Another odd mystery came to me from Cemil Betanov. As can be seen from Figure 11 below, the back of the same wrapper is the offset indicia image, which probably was created by placing it on top of a another envelope before it first dried. It seems to indicate that the indicia were printed after the wrappers were folded! One would expect that the printing of the indicia occured when the wrappers were still in sheets. However, if this were the case, the location of the offset would be different.

Figure 11 (Front)

Figure 11 (Back)

Figure 12 below is another strange one. In this case the indicia never was printed, so a postage stamp was applied after the precancel.

Figure 12

Several other errors and varieties have been seen. For example, the first mailing in August 1914 left off the “MITTE” and only had “AUGUST 1914”. There is also an error variety on this date, with “AUGSTU”. The next mailing was the usual “ENDE AUGUST”. Has anyone seen others?

Wrapping things up

There is very little published information that I could find covering Austrian wrappers. The Official Precancel Stamp Catalogue, Foreign Section, 1936, published by Hoover Brothers has a listing of all the dates known in the Third period. It is woefully out of date now. According to this catalogue, 202 different dates exist of this period. From speaking with other collectors, many more are known to exist today. I’ve been told that the catalogue, Ganzsachen Oesterreichs, by Franz Schneiderbauer, also contains information about these wrappers.

Finding these wrappers is relatively difficult in the U.S.. While not generally rare, you just don’t come across them often, and especially not in any large quantities. The ordinary wrappers seem to typically sell in the range of $3-6 when you find them, although sometimes less if you are lucky. The newspaper wrappers used within Austria go for much more. Unlike precanceled envelopes, wrappers don’t take up much space, and can be mounted 8 per page in black pages to good affect.

An updated listing of precanceled wrappers is included in the International precancel catalogue that the has PSS recently published. I hope that the publication of that catalogue and this article will create further interest by precancel collectors in this material. If you have any further information on Austrian precanceled wrappers, or corrections to anything in this article, please feel free to send them to Michael Hynes, Box 866, Folsom, CA 95763. Special recognition should go to the article below by Dr. William Engelhardt, where most of the information for this article was found.


  1. “Austrian Precanceled Wrappers”, Dr. William Engelhardt, Stamp Collecting, January 15th, 1954.
  2. “Precanceled Austrian Newspaper Wrappers”, Ben Reeves, S.P.A. Journal, May 1949
  3. “Austrian Precancels”, Stephen G. Rich, The Precancel Bee, August 1936
  4. The Official Precancel Stamp Catalogue, Foreign Section, Stephen G. Rich, Editor, Hoover Brothers, 1936
  5. Ganzsachen Oesterreichs, Franz Schneiderbauer, 1981.
  6. Journal: “Austria”, Austrian Philatelic Society, #73 page 12.
  7. Catalogue Des Preos D’Europe, Jean Lepingle, 1951.
  8. International Precancel Catalog, John M. Randall, Editor, PSS, 2005.