Valira Torrent - bulletin of the Andorran Philatelic Study Circle. Issue 47, pp4-7 (March 1988).

Copyright notice

Automatic Machine Labels of the Spanish Postal Service

by Philippe Louviau

(translation by David Lamb)

A brief mention of these labels has been made in previous numbers of the "Valira Torrent". We are indebted to our member Mr Philippe Louviau for this very detailed account of their history which he has now provided.

At the beginning of July 1992, the Spanish Post Office in Andorra la Vella was supplied with a machine (EPELSA Model ET-CB) to print self-adhesive labels. These were printed on thermic paper bearing the following details:-

Initially, only one machine was installed (No 1002), which was later followed by a second. The first machine was used to supply labels for mail handed in over the counter, whilst the second was used to supply strips of labels for use as substitutes for normal stamps when, after tariff changes, supplies of the new stamps were awaited.

The numbers of the two machines are given below, together with those of the replacement machines. As regards the "printing date", it must be pointed out that its presence or not was entirely at the discretion of the postal employee:-

Originally the labels had the value from 1 - 9999ptas, and printed without stars at the left. This, of course, gave rise to fraud, whereby an additional figure could be added to increase the label's value; this was quickly stopped by the addition of stars, "**28PTS". This change occurred between 4/1/93 (last recorded date without stars) and 15/3/93 (first date known with stars).

Labels Used in Andorra  (inscribed CORREOS ESPAÑA)

The different types of Spanish labels used are given below (always bearing in mind that the usage/supply of rolls is not tightly controlled by the authorities).

Type 1 (a) Parallelogram of thick lines with an open base to the crown above the posthorn. Type 1
  Supplier :- Ovelar
  Extreme dates known: 18/7/92 - 27/7/92 (A label has been seen dated 17/7/92 & used on a letter with cancellation of 18/7/92 - but this may be an error of the dater - Ed).
Type 1 (b) parallelogram of fine lines, crown split horizontally across the centre, and a large posthorn.
Supplier: F.N.M.T.
  Extreme dates known: 11/9/92 - 15/4/93
Type 1 (c) parallelogram of thick lines, very similar to type 1 (a), but with closed base to the crown above the posthorn.
Supplier: Eduardo Albéniz
  Extreme dates known: 28/9/92 and 27/8/93 - 16/10/93
Type 1a Type 1b Type 1c
1 (a) 1 (b) 1 (c)
Type 2 Type 3 Type 4
2 3 4
Type 5 Type 6a Type 6b
5 6 (a) 6 (b)
Type 2 Posthorn and men on yellow background
  Extreme dates known: 29/7/93 - 1/9/93 and 28/10/93 - 12/5/94
(two periods of use broken by re-use of type 1 (c) due to possible stock shortage).
Type 3 Yellow letter on blue globe
  Extreme dates known: -/10/94 - 17/6/95
Type4 Hand writing a letter
  Extreme dates known: -/7/95 - 21/9/95
Type 5 White posthorn on multicoloured background. This type also exists in brighter colours, especially the green at the top left
  Extreme dates known: 29/1/96 - 19/4/96
Type 6 (a) Posthorn and globe on deep blue background
  Extreme dates known: used in January and April 1996, then swiftly abandoned as the background was too dark for the date and machine number to be read.
Type 6 (b) Posthorn and globe on blue grey background
  Extreme dates known: 8/8/96.- 21/8/96

Until the end of Summer 1996, the Post Office used new types of Spanish labels (inscribed ESPAÑA) as they were brought into use in Spain when stocks of previous types were used up.

Before the introduction of specific labels for Andorra, the Post Office used up its stocks of the ESPAÑA labels during the months of August and September 1996, and labels of types 4, 5 and 6 can be found used at that time. Labels can, of course, be found used later than the dates given above, either in one of the Agencies or in Andorra la Vella where large postal users had obtained supplies of the strips of labels. Only the printing date on the label should be taken into account when identifying them.

Labels used in Andorra (inscribed PRINCIPAT D'ANDORRA)

Since September 1996, a new label inscribed PRINCIPAT D'ANDORRA, has been used, and one may hope that fewer changes of label will be seen in the future.

Type 7
Type 7   Green mountain with snow
Extreme dates known: since 19/9/96

Different Machines Used in Andorra

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, one machine was originally supplied in July 1992, later supplemented by a second. The first machine, 1002, was in use on its own until the end of 1994. In the autumn of 1994 a second machine, 1533, was installed and the two machines functioned concurrently until Spring 1995:-

Machine 1533 was subsequently used to supply labels at the counter from 14/6/95 (first date known) until 1/8/96 when it broke down.

Three machines were then supplied whilst the two originals went for repairs, although 1002 was back for counter work briefly until replaced by 0044 (in use until 19/8/96). The other two machines, 0635 and 0795, were each used until September 1996. 0795 and 1002 (back again from repairs?) were next used simultaneously for several weeks, followed by 1002 (for counter work) and 1533 (for strips of labels). Another machine, 0859, appeared in use from the month of September 1997, and was still in use when this article was compiled in January 1998. It was used in place of 1533 which also seems then to have gone for repair! Therefore, in January 1998, the machines currently in use were:-

Printing Varieties on Labels

There are two main types of variety:

Printing errors are usually a missing part of the date, or the wrong date, or the absence of the machine number.

Misplaced impressions can be a shift of the design upwards, resulting in the machine number being illegib1e (as happened on 18/3/93). They can also be shifted to the right so that the value appears as "PT" instead of "PTS" (dates known 14/6/95 and 29/1/96). Occasionally, the misplacement is so great each label has the printing of the right hand part of one and the left hand part of another (à cheval), as happened on 1/3/95. Labels can also be found which were used for accounting purposes and these are inscribed "ETIQUETATATUETE" and have large XXXXXX in place of the value.

variety variety variety
variety variety variety

Summary of Machines and Types of Label

 Type   1002   1533   0044   0635   0795   0859 
1 (a) yes
1 (b) yes
1 (c) yes
2 yes
3 yes yes
4   yes yes yes
5 yes yes yes
6 (a)   yes yes
6 (b) yes   yes yes yes
7 yes yes     yes yes

Summary of the Main Spanish Postal Rates for the Period

  National EU International
1/1/92 27 pts 45 pts 60 pts
1/1/93 28 pts 45 pts 65 pts
1/1/94 29 pts 55 pts 65 pts
1/1/95 30 pts 60 pts 60 pts
1/1/97 32 pts 65 pts 65 pts
1/1/98 35 pts 70 pts variable per zone

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Andorran Philatelic Study Circle / Hon. Librarian: E. J. Jewell / apsc@free.fr /
Updated 26th January 1999