Insured Mail Irregularities


On 1st January 1899, the UK adhered to the UPU Insurance Agreement, making it possible to exchange insured letters of declared value (Valeur Déclarée) with many other countries. The service was intended for valuable paper and documents, rather than precious metal or dutiable articles, which had to be sent via parcel post or (later) as Small Packets. Letters had to be carefully sealed, and red or pink labels were used to mark the letter as insured. Although the UK treated declared value letters as essentially an additional service on top of registration, this was not universal; countries with separate registration and insurance systems frequently crossed out the indications of registration on insured letters from the UK.

The charges in the first half-century or so were as follows (registration was included in the fee):

1st January 18995d for first £12 cover, then 2½d for each
extra £12 to a limit of £120
1st July 19074d for first £12 cover, then 2d for each
extra £12 to a limit of £400
13th June 19215d for first £12 cover, then 2d for each
extra £12 to a limit of £400
1st May 19496d for first £12 cover, then 2d for each
extra £12 to a limit of £400

However, a separate insurance system for inland letters and parcels, based on a higher registration fee, was already in existence. There were repeated injunctions to postal staff in the Post Office Circular not to confuse the two (see below for an example that describes the system), but the existence of completely different systems, and specific rules that applied to insured mail, naturally meant that mistakes occurred, resulting in insured letters with postal irregularities of one kind or another - the subject of this exhibit.

General Structure

Sheet 1Introduction
Sheets 2-5Payment irregularities - due to confusion of systems or otherwise
Sheets 6-9Basic problems - wrongly followed makeup rules, interaction with foreign systems
Sheets 10-12Stopped letters - because of breaches of the general regulations
Sheets 13-16Stopped letters - because letters not acceptable to specific foreign POs

(This exhibit was the winner of the Martin Willcocks Award in 2016)


Frame 1

  1. Introduction
  2. Letters to Overseas with Inland Insurance After 1899
  3. Underpaid and Overpaid Insured Letters
  4. Deficient Postage and Mskeup Corrected in Transit
  5. OE13 Form for Notification of Irregularly Accepted Item
  6. Insured Letters with No Valeur Déclarée Label
  7. Registration Indicators Replaced on Letter to Russia, 1903
  8. Registration Indicators Replaced on Valeur Déclarée Letters
  9. Seals on Insured Letters - How Not To Do It
  10. Insured Letter Returned Because of Contents Other Than Documents
  11. Insured Letter Returned Because Coins Were Enclosed
  12. Mutilated and Insufficiently Described Envelope Refused Insurance
  13. No Insured Letter Service to the USA
  14. No Insured Letter Service to South Africa
  15. Letter Overinsured for Destination Stopped and Postage Refunded
  16. Letter Stopped Due to Insured Service Suspension in Poland