Overprint stamps are a unique feature to many pre-war card issues. One type of stamp often seen that has confused some collectors are the Toy Town Post Office stamps. Let’s take a closer look.
What are Stamp Overprints?
In the pre-war era, stamp overprints were used with some degree of regularity. Mostly, they were used in two main ways. First, businesses used them as sort of an advertisement. Typically, they would stamp their name onto the backs and likely distribute them to customers.
In general, while overprinting technically defaced the card, cards with these sorts of stamps are generally more valuable than the more common, unstamped versions of those cards.
As you can imagine, that has led to some counterfeiting by collectors newly stamping cards in the hopes of making them more valuable. The Henry Johnson cards, for example, have been heavily counterfeited.
The second main type of overprint stamps were those done by private collectors. Unlike the ones stamped by businesses, these don’t typically include a large premium. Stamps from private collectors generally included a collector’s name and possibly an address.
Toy Town Post Office Stamp Overprint
One overprint that has confused some collectors is the Toy Town Post Office Stamp. It was previously believed that this could have been a stamp for an enterprising business and has even caused prices of otherwise regular cards to increase.
The stamp is a basic one – a small circular stamp that is almost always seen with purple ink. Other colors have been reported on occasion but the stamp is generally purple.
These stamps can be found on all sorts of cards but they are most commonly seen on early candy and caramel issues. They will occasionally be seen on tobacco issues but they are primarily found on candy/caramel cards such as the E97 C.A. Briggs card shown here.
Unlike some other overprints, however, this stamp was from a popular children’s game from Milton Bradley – Toy Town Post Office.
Toy Town Post Office Game
The Toy Town Post Office game was produced by Milton Bradley. The game was advertised ‘for busy boys and girls’ and included a series of faux stamps, postcards, telegrams, and postal supplies.
The box from the game as well as the stamp is shown here (credit: eBay user katyjr).
Essentially, the game served as a make believe post office. Children could use the materials to send postcards and messages. They were to be stamped by a postmaster using the, you guessed it, Toy Town Post Office stamp. That is evident from the game’s instructions, which read:
“Having written the letter we must of course post it, but how? This we can do by using any kind of box or even a hat as a letter box. Then, of course, the mock postman comes along, clears the box, and takes the letters to the “Toy Town Post Office” to be stamped, after which he delivers them to the friends to whom the letters are addressed.”
In addition to the supplies, the game even came with a Post Office display and a mask for a mail carrier, bearing the badge “U.S. Mail Toy Town” with an ‘official’ number of 6147.
And that famous purple ink color? That was the same ink supplied for use with the game.
While it isn’t known exactly who stamped the cards, they were almost certainly stamped by children playing the game. Whether they were stamped by a single child or several children is unknown. But given the parameters of the game, the cards were possibly even stamped to be delivered to other children, who would be the lucky recipients. It isn’t even too far-fetched to believe that many cards were sent back and forth this way as a form of early trading.
Because of that, collectors should not treat these as anything more than a slight fascination. A very small premium can perhaps be placed on them simply because of the unique stamp, but collectors should also be wary that, because copies of the game still exist today, it is easy for more cards to still be stamped to this day.