When you set out to amass a complete collection of United States stamp booklets, it is nice to know the magnitude of the task. Let’s start the process of trying to count the booklets and see why we can’t arrive at a definitive number.
Before you can quantify the totality of U. S. booklets, you have to decide what you call a booklet. The United States Stamp Society has published A Glossary of Terms for the Collector of United States Stamps. It contains definitions of booklets, convertible booklets, and vending booklets. Because the definition of booklets includes the words “…sold by the Post Office,” it excludes booklets sold by Federal Departments other than the Post Office, States, and private organizations. Some people consider convertible booklets to be very different from traditional booklets and don’t include them in their collection of booklets.
The Scott 2007 Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers calls convertible booklets “booklets” but Robert Furman in The Comprehensive Catalogue of United States Booklets calls them “sheetlets” because Scott does not assign a booklet number (BK#) to them. The Post Office sends convertible booklets out in packages of 100 and labels the packages “Booklets” printed in bold, prominent letters. For this reason, I consider them in the total count of U. S. booklets.
Traditional Booklet – Scott 498e, BK55, BC8a.
There is a special group of vending machine booklets (VMBs) that were made by Minnesota Diversified Industries (MDI). The definition of MDI booklets in the Glossary of Terms indicates that these booklets were made by gluing panes of 14, 15, or 16 stamps into the booklet covers. None of the other references I have show pane sizes other than 15 or 30 stamps. Panes of 16 were used but one stamp was removed from either the top or bottom row. Hundreds of these booklets and their varieties were produced. More on these VMBs later.
Convertible booklet (Scott 2494a – no BK#) plus package label printed by USPS
In this article I use the broadest rationale for counting something as a booklet. The rationale is simply: if one or more authorities call an item a United States booklet, then it should be counted. If is not listed by an authority, then it is a U. S. booklet if it has a strong philatelic resemblance to a booklet listed by an authority.
Booklets can be grouped into three collecting categories. These are
1) Postage stamp booklets issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS)
2) Non-postage stamp booklets listed in an authoritative reference
3) Non-postage stamp booklets not listed by an authority
It is noted that it is not sufficient to say that, “It looks like a booklet” or “People collect
it.” There must be some objective, philatelic reason for deciding whether or not to count the item, which looks like a booklet, in the United States total.
Postage Stamp booklets issued by the United States Postal Service (USPS) or its predecessor the United States Post Office Department (USPOD) plus a local issue.
Even if you only count Category 1 booklets the number of booklets that differ from one another is hard to determine. The Scott Catalogue lists 302 regular postage booklets and 23 Air Post booklets and some MDI booklets. Each booklet (except convertible booklets) is given a BK# or a BKC# along with a BC# which identifies the front cover. (Scott also lists the many different plate numbers of the convertible booklets).The front covers enclosing the stamps in those booklets are shown but the back cover and the inside of the front and back covers are not. Scott only lists the number of cover configurations that exist but does not identify them either pictorially or with a word description. Though the covers may be different the stamps inside are the same.
Furman illustrates the different inside and back covers. A booklet containing the same stamps but with different back covers, adds to the total count of available booklets.
There are many other variations. These include plate numbers, booklet positions on the printing plate, marginal markings (electric eye, guidelines, and arrows), overprints, watermarks, perforation differences, color errors, and test and dummy booklets. The postal customer is only concerned with the stamps inside the booklet which are valid postage. The variations in the covers and the booklet panes (except for those that are imperforate) do not affect the customer’s use of the stamps.
In addition to providing pictures of the booklets, Furman also lists the existing varieties. And there are many. Plate numbers are a good example. The early booklets had many different plate numbers assigned. Donald B. Littlefield and Sam Frank’s book U. S. Booklet and Booklet Panes, 1900 – 1978, Volume I: Flat Plate Regular Issues lists the plate numbers assigned for Flat Plate regular issues. Scott 554c had 194 plate numbers assigned but eight plates were not used and 26 plates were not finished. Thus, 160 plates were used. Littlefield states that data has only been recorded for 150 plates so that is the number used here. Plodding through all the plate numbers, positions, variations (cracks, gouges, double transfers, etc.) and different combinations of booklet covers, reveals a minimum of 180 and a maximum of 1,380 different booklets containing Scott 554c booklet panes. A similar analysis of all the booklets listed in Littlefield yields about 1,700 minimum and 16,000 as the maximum number of different booklets.
The above analysis is based on Littlefield’s data. It only accounts for booklets up to July 1926, when the last of the Scott 554c booklet panes came off the press. Other sources, such as Scott and Furman and web sites, have to be consulted for booklets issued from then until 2007.
Minnesota Diversity Industries (MDI) of St. Paul, Minnesota, is a non-profit organization. Their web site is www.MDI.org. In the late 1990’s they produced stamp booklets for the USPS to be used in vending machines. The philatelic community calls them “MDI Booklets.” Scott calls them “Makeshift Vending Machine Booklets.” Furman calls those booklets produced by MDI, “Vending Machine Booklets (VMBs) and those produced by the USPS for vending machines “VM Booklets.”
Many of the MDI booklets were made from sheet stamps which were packaged 15 to 30 stamps in a booklet. There are many different MDI booklets, all containing the same stamps. The reason for these differences is that there are several plate numbers, the stamps are mounted sideways or inverted, Cello wrapped or unwrapped, assembled by hand or by machine, have different Tab markings, and some panes have mottled or smooth tagging. The covers are blue and have printing variations on either the front or back.
The web site http://booklets.pnc3.org/Kohler/mdi.htm lists the many MDI booklets .In the introduction on this site it is stated that it is “…nearly impossible to collect an example of every booklet variety.”
The MDI booklet shown here is Scott BK278, BC126. It is made from the Famous Trains sheet of 20 stamps, Scott 3333 – 3337 and is called “All Aboard.”
Front and back covers of MDI booklet “All Aboard”, Scott BK278, BC126.
When all the USPS booklets and convertible booklets and all their plate numbers and variations plus all the MDI booklets and their variations are taken into account, there are between 4,700 and 20,700 different booklets containing United States postage.
There are some booklets that I have counted that others may not wish to include. These concern some early booklets of the United States Possessions. Littlefield indicated that some of the Scott 554c panes were overprinted “Canal Zone” by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (“on press” 2/17/25 to 4/27/25) for use in the Canal Zone. They are not listed as United States booklets by either Scott or Furman. Scott lists these booklet panes as Canal Zone 73a and 84d. Since they are listed in Littlefield’s book about United States booklets I think they should be included in the U. S. booklet count.
Similar reasoning applies to the United States booklet which includes panes of Scott 279Be, overprinted “Philippines”, and listed by Scott as Philippines 214b. Furman doesn’t list them in his United States booklet catalogue. Littlefield illustrates the overprinted panes and booklet covers. They were sold in $0.25, $0.49, and $0.97 booklets and were in use from Sept. 29, 1900 until June 6, 1903. Since the stamps were printed and overprinted in the U. S., and the covers were printed and overprinted in the U. S., and since they are listed in a book about United States stamp booklets, they can be counted as United States booklets.
Another interesting overprint is the “RF” overprint standing for “Republique Francais” and used only by the French Navy during World War II for mail to the United States.
The stamps are Scott C25a and are listed in Rogers Postal Booklet Catalogue along with other United States booklets. They are briefly mentioned in a note in Scott, but not in the booklet section with the other air mail booklets. The note is in a separate section headed
“R. F. Overprints.” Rogers also lists Scott C25a with thick and thin covers. Neither Scott nor Furman list these variations.
Many of the early United States booklets and booklet panes, in all their variations, have not been reported to exist any longer. In some cases only the booklet panes are known. Such a pane is Scott 499f, the two cent Washington stamp issued in a pane of 30. The booklet is BK65 with cover BC7 and was issued for use by the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I. Referring to the BK65, BC7 booklet, Scott notes that, “The number and description is provided only for specialist reference” as no booklets are known to exist. The booklet did exist and should be counted even though it is extremely unlikely that you will ever find one.
A Privately Issued Postage Booklet for use in the United States
In 1990, in Wichita, KS, Postal Presort, Inc. (PPI) issued a stamp booklet with labels valid for postage for letter delivery.
Privately issued booklet. valid for postage
One label was to be attached to the letter for each ounce. The letter had to be placed in a mail box located at all Dillons Food Stores. If the letters were properly placed in Postage Savers Mailing Centers, they would be delivered by the USPS. They could not be placed in regular USPS mail boxes. PPI is still doing business in Wichita, KS, sorting and bar coding mail before turning the bulk mail over to the USPS for delivery.
Non-postage Stamp Booklets listed in an Authoritative Reference
There are many stamps, seals, cinderellas, and labels that have been released in booklets. Many could be called United States booklets even though they are not used for postage. State Hunting Revenue (Duck) stamps – there have been many — have been issued by
U. S. states to raise revenue. Federal Departments have issued “stamps” in booklet form, but these “stamps” do not appear among the postage stamp listings in the Scott Catalogue. Savings (S), Postal Savings (PS), and War Savings (WS) stamps have been issued by the Treasury Department in booklet form. Some Post Office Seals (OX) have been produced for use by the USPS, many in booklets. The USPS has also issued test and dummy booklets (TDB#). Private organizations have issued Telegraph stamps (#T#) and Christmas Seals (WX#) in booklet form. What do these booklet stamps have in common? They are all listed in sections of Scott’s Specialized United States Catalogue. These sections are in the Back of the Book (BoB) after the postage stamp listings
In addition to the BOB stamps mentioned above, the following are also listed as having been produced in booklet form:
Postal Card Booklets — valid postage – listed in Postal Card section (UX)
Postal Card Booklet, Scott UX289a
Documentary stamps (R730 – R732)
Silver Tax stamps (RG131a and RG132a)
Potato Tax Stamps (RI14a – RI18a)
Marihuana Tax Stamps (RJM4a & RJM8a)
Christmas Seals (WX#)
Telegraph Stamps (#T#)
Test Booklets: Panes & Covers (TDB#) and
Indian Reservation Bird, Fish, and small game hunting stamp booklets
Though there are several types of these booklets, the number of actual booklets is small. There are probably fewer than 200 different booklets listed in Scott.
Non-postage Stamp Booklets not listed by any Authority
There are approximately 200 booklets that are not listed by any philatelic authority. You could easily exclude them but that would eliminate many interesting booklets. Let’s consider the Food Stamp Program.
During the first Food Stamp Program, May 1939 to the Spring of 1943, Food Stamps were issued in booklets and the contents looked like stamps. In years after that the booklets contained coupons that looked like little dollar bills. The Food Stamp booklets are not listed in any of the authoritative sources I have mentioned. They were issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. This is the same U. S. Department that issued the Potato Tax booklets which are listed in Scott. Never mind that the Potato Tax stamps were declared unconstitutional. The booklets have the same format: covers and stamps inside. The fact that the tax stamps were issued to control the number of potatoes raised by farmers and the Food Stamps were available to the needy to provide them with funds is not relevant to our philatelic considerations..
The coupon booklets of the Food Stamp Program contain labels that do not resemble anything philatelic. Thus, I would count the Food Stamp booklets but not the Food Coupon booklets in the total United States booklet count.
There are other stamp booklets released in the United States that merit being counted
e. g. State Fishing, Texas Archery, and Oregon Upland Game stamp booklets.
Fishing is another form of hunting. Since some of these stamps have been issued in booklet form, and Scott lists State issued duck hunting stamps and Indian reservation fish stamp licenses in booklet form, then State fishing booklets should also be included. The Hawaiian duck hunting stamp listed in the Scott Catalogue is also a license to hunt small game birds in Hawaii, such as pheasants, partridges, doves, and wild turkeys. The Oregon Upland Game Bird stamp booklet is the same size and format as the Hawaiian Duck Stamp booklet and is issued to raise funds to help with research and improve habitats, the same as with State issued waterfowl hunting stamps.
Oregon Game Bird Stamp booklet similar to State Duck Stamp Booklets
Air Corps PDQ stamps (actually these are labels)
The labels in this booklet were to be attached by World War II Air Corps Servicemen to their mail so that it would receive the speediest delivery possible. The strongest philatelic connection to booklets in Scott is that, although privately issued, it was “Approved by the U. S. Post Office Department.” Furthermore, on the inside front cover there is a message from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a prominent stamp collector. On the back cover there is a message from Ramsey S. Clark, Third Assistant Postmaster General. Perhaps it is stretching the connection a bit, but this booklet has more philatelic connections than a Pan American Airlines booklet of air mail etiquettes. There are three other PDQ booklets, one for each of the other service branches – Army, Navy, and Marines.
PDQ booklet with messages from F. D. R. and Third Assistant Postmaster General
The Number of United States Booklets is Finite but…
There are only a finite number of United States booklets but a final tally is nearly impossible to arrive at. This is not a contradiction. Postage stamp booklets continue to be issued by the USPS. This is not a problem because their issuance is well publicized.
It is the early 1900’s postage stamp booklets, the MDI booklets, convertible booklets and the non-postage stamp booklets that pose the most challenge. The search for those booklets is never ending. It’s not only that one can’t identify all those existing and they are just hard to find. The problem is that not all the booklets are known. There always seems to be a new one, a new variation, or a new configuration that qualifies for inclusion, even after you think you have identified them all.
There are many fewer than the 20,700 upper limit of U. S. booklets. A number which is very much closer to the 4,700 postage booklets lower limit is much more likely. Add the 400 non-postage booklets to the lower limit and you have over 5,000 booklets to find. It is not a question of money. It is a question of knowing what to look for and where to look. There always seems to be a new booklet that can be justified for inclusion in the total count of U. S. booklets. Since many of these booklets are extremely rare and elusive, one is never finished searching. It almost appears as if the number of
U. S. booklets is infinite.
Published U. S. Stamp News – December 2007 and January 2008