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Denmark's "Easy" Fifty
By Glenn Hansen
August 1997

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AFA has always been my catalog of choice for Denmark, with some reference to Facit and its use of a multi-lingual text that includes English. I ignore Scott completely because it contains many errors in Denmark as a whole and in the POSTFÆRGE in particular. Also Scott is little known in Denmark and I soon knew I would have to deal with collectors, dealers, and auction houses over there. In the annual catalog produced by AFA the initial fifty grew slightly to sixty-nine, still very manageable, and three of these were the major "FF" varieties found in three of the earliest overprinted stamps. I decided that I would leave these three fairly costly items to the last. A strange facet of AFA is that it does not use prefixes to its numbering system for what we call back-of-the-book material, so most of us supply our own, I use pf, others use PF or Pf and all of them clearly identify what is being dealt with.

AFA has a very specialized catalog, updated every few years, and here the listing of my chosen field had expanded greatly. Now it took up ten pages, mainly because now there was not just one type of overprint, there were seven, and some stamps used as many as three different versions of the overprints.

And all of this didn't even approach the issues of why these stamps were issued and how they were used. It was found fairly quickly that the only legitimate cancels were those applied by the two ferry services that used them. The stamps were used on these ferries to perform the same function that stamps perform in any postal operation: to pay for services provided by the postal authorities. In these two cases the Danish Post and Telegraph system (post office) took over the chore of running the ferries.

The Aggersund-Løgstør ferry operated in the Limfjord between these two points. Actually there were two Aggersund ports of call. The distance appears to have been around ten kilometers, and this ferry system operated under D & T from 1919 to 1942. German occupation forces then built a bridge connecting the north part of Jutland to the south to aid the occupation forces in an anticipated invasion of Britain. The north end of the bridge was actually built right over the Aggersund ferry harbour.

The Fanø-Esbjerg ferry operated off the west coast of southern Jutland between the island of Fanø and mainland Esbjerg. Esbjerg is a port of entry to Denmark from Britain but is also a fish and meat processing area with a number of small warehousing firms. The two major industries account for the many complaints that Esbjerg itself is not a place to linger too long for a visit as the heady aromas are not all that attractive. Nordby, on Fanø, was that island's entry port and was about three kilometers across a narrow channel from Esbjerg.

Fanø is an extremely small island, only 55 square kilometers (21 square miles) in size, with a current population of about 2,800 people. Beside Nordby there are two other hamlets, Rindby in the interior and Sønderho on the southeastern tip of the island. There are scattered small holdings as well. Fishing is a major industry, as is the raising of livestock, largely swine for the famous Danish Bacon. A tourist industry operates with a number of small inns and several camp grounds, as the beaches on the west coast of the island are popular in summer for their casual "clothing optional" style.

When stamps overprinted POSTFÆRGE were first introduced, some Danes used the stamps for ordinary mail. Perhaps these people were collectors seeking a novelty or perhaps post office clerks were careless.

At any rate, in June of 1919 the authorities banned such use of the stamps after June 30, 1919, so for a period from June 20, 1919, until the end of the month a number of covers were serviced that are now considered philatelic, that is, created by collectors. I suspect that even prior to that period most covers processed as regular mail bearing POSTFÆRGE were just as philatelic. Be that as it may, covers with dates between 20.JUN.1919 and 30.JUN.1919 may not be acceptable in exhibition even if identified as philatelic in nature.
Figure 3 Figure 4

Danes later continued to place the overprinted stamps on their letters, perhaps in defiance of the authorities, perhaps in a spirit of adventure. Perhaps all the stamps that bore the overprint could be found with the overprint used, not only during the period of D & T operation of the ferries, but long after as well. Since the overprints were easily faked, there is a definite indication that examples of this illegal usage are plentiful and suspect, and can be difficult to detect. One easy way, available only when a normal postmark appears in the vicinity of the overprint: if, when held at an angle to a strong light, it is seen that the overprint has been placed on top of the postmark, the thing is a fake. In recent years numerous examples of these fakes have been found in the hands of dealers operating in Europe and elsewhere.

During their years of operation the ferries operated under a system of rate schedules that were in a fairly steady process of change, always upwards. This is most notable with the Fanø-Esbjerg run, as it was the most long-lasting. A total of eighteen upward revisions during the fifty-eight years of operation can be detailed. The longest period a rate schedule was in effect was 4,779 days between 01.JUN.1927 and 30.JUN.1940. The shortest was 120 days between 01.NOV.1954 and 30.APR.1955.

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