09.09.2016 - International Reply Coupons: a new catalogue

(lsn) Almost fifty years ago, a college student in Taiwan named Jack Yao started collecting so-called reply coupons. The Universal Postal Union (UPU) had been printing and distributing these coupons (IRC’s or International Reply Coupons) since 1907. Any member country of the UPU could order IRC’s from the UPU, and sell them to their postal customers. The customers could enclose the coupons in letters to family, friends or business relations. The recipients of the IRC’s could use the vouchers to acquire postage stamps in their own countries. In a certain way, International Reply Coupons could therefore be considered as a means to act as a surrogate postage stamps.
Together with his wife Carol, Jack Yao managed to collect more than 60.000 reply coupons. The Yao’s are therefore recognized experts in this field. And they have done a smart thing: they recently published the first volume of a catalogue titled ‘Yao’s Catalogue of Worldwide Reply Coupons’. The first tome encompasses the coupons issued by the Universal Postal Union. The Yao’s intend to publish a second volume dealing with non-UPU coupons; this will appear in early 2017.
Before the Yao’s published their catalogue, most classification systems were based on collections of reply coupons from a single country. The Yao’s however have managed to overcome this deficiency by developing a type classification system for both UPU and non-UPU coupons. They provide an overview of reply coupons, along with descriptions and illustrations of the UPU coupons (five basic types) and the coupons produced by the seven non-UPU postal unions.
There are also plans for three further catalogue parts: volume III, that will offer an overview of the listings and an instruction of how to read them, along with a helpful summary of the abbreviations used in the listings. Volume IV will become the heart of the catalogue, providing the listings of the UPU coupons alphabetically by country. And Volume V, the appendix, provides a bibliography for further research and a table detailing the quantities of reply coupons, ‘printed and distributed by [the] UPU between 1907 and 2000.’
Hundreds of illustrations accompany the listings; many of them are close-ups of important distinguishing characteristics.
For more information you can write to Jack Yao, Box 416, Hinsdale, IL 60522-0416.