I have been a promoter of children’s aid charities for a number of years and became involved in an orphanage and school that was set up here in Phuket following the 2004 Andaman Sea tsunami. Because of this, and my teaching career, I avidly collect stamps portraying children and their education. I’d been aware of Switzerland’s Pro Juventute charity stamps but never knew about the Kinderpostzegels release by the Netherlands since the 1920s. I have several of these types of stamps, none of which I’d catalogued before pulling one out at random in preparing for today’s article.
The Pro Juventute foundation was established in 1912 to support the rights and needs of Swiss children with mental and physical disabilities. The Swiss post office issued the world’s first charity stamps dedicated to children’s aid the following year supporting the work of Pro Juventute.
In 1924, the Netherlands became the second country to release this type of stamp and has continued to issue them each year since, missing only the war years from 1942-1944. The surcharge has been mentioned on the stamps since 1936. Their sale is organized by Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland. In addition to Switzerland and the Netherlands, there are also children’s stamps in other countries, such as Germany where they are called Jugendmarken.
Students in primary school grades 7 and 8 throughout the Netherlands annually sell the children’s charity stamps and other products on the last Wednesday in September. By doing this, Dutch school children learn about children who need extra support. The motto of the campaign is “For Children by Children.” In addition to the stamps, these are postcards, child’s plasters or USB sticks are sold. Buying nothing, but giving a donation is also a possibility. Buyers of the stamps receive a sticker that they can stick on the door, to indicate that they have already been bought. Previously, children delivered the packages but the orders are now delivered by post.
In 1924, the League of Nations adopted the World Child Welfare Charter, which endorsed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, an international document promoting child rights, drafted by Eglantyne Jebb and adopted in an extended form by the United Nations in 1959. The text of the document, as published by the International Save the Children Union in Geneva on February 23, 1923, is as follows:
- The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
- The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succored.
- The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
- The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
- The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.
This text was endorsed by the League of Nations General Assembly on November 26, 1924, as the World Child Welfare Charter, and was the first human rights document approved by an inter-governmental institution. It was reaffirmed by the League in 1934. Heads of State and Government pledged to incorporate its principles in domestic legislation. In France, it was ordered to be displayed in every school. The original document is in the archives of the city of Geneva, It is probable that the document helped bring about the Dutch children’s stamps.
The annual tradition of issuing charity stamps every December for child welfare began in 1924. These stamp issues are referred to as Kinderzegels or “Children’s Stamps”. The first set of these was released on December 15, 1924 (Scott #B6-B8). The designs feature an allegorical representation of “charity” protecting a child. The 2-cent denomination had a surtax of 2 cents, the 7½-cent stamp had a surtax of 3½ cents, and the 10-cent value was surcharged 2½ cents.
A pair of charity stamps released in late 1923, called Tooropzegels after the designer Jan Toorop had sold poorly with two-thirds the amount printed having to be destroyed (Scott #B4-B5). In March 1924, Mr. H de Bie, the future chairman of the Dutch Association for Child Protection, wrote a commentary entitled “The Failure of Charity Stamps” which identified three reasons for the poor sales: the stamps themselves, the unclear purpose and the lack of advertising. He compared the Tooropzegels with the Swiss Pro Juventute stamps, which were “so much fresher and more attractive in terms of stamps”. Their purpose was mentioned on the stamps with the inscription PRO JUVENTUTE, Latin meaning “For The Children”. He hoped that charity stamps would be tried again in 1924, but with better advertising and a clear purpose. In July 1924, the Dutch Government decided that the money raised from an annual charity stamp should go to the benefit of children to give a clear purpose for the charity surcharge.
It was originally proposed that the stamps would show an image of the 15 year old Princess Juliana, but this was rejected by Queen Wilhelmina. The next proposal was the coats of arms of the Dutch Provinces, as was being used on the Swiss stamps, but there was insufficient time to develop this idea (later used on the issues between 1925 and 1928). The issued stamps bore a design by Georg Rueter featuring a child’s head between two angelic figures. Reuter used his oldest daughter, Maria, as the model. The inscription was VOOR HET KIND, Dutch meaning “For the Child.”
The three 1924 Kinderzegels stamps raised a total of 56,723.32 Dutch guilders (58,890.48 gross with costs of 2,167.16), more than three times that of the Tooropzegels the year before. The proceeds were divided amongst various institutions, child custody and children in Government care.
At first, only committees of volunteers sold the child welfare stamps. Following World War II, a teacher — master Verheul from Waarder — sent his pupils door to door selling the child welfare stamps. Based on this, in 1948 a pilot project was started in which pupils from a number of primary schools started to sell Kindepostzegels. It was a great success. The next year, the program was rolled out nationally. By 1956, more than half of the number of schools in the country took part in the campaign.
In 1972, Prince Claus photographed his children for the campaign. Crown Prince Willem Alexander did this at his turn in 2012, with his three daughters. The campaign was organized by the Foundation for Children starting from 1948 and the revenues of the campaign were distributed by the National Committee for the Child Welfare Stamps. In 1989, they merged into the Dutch Child Welfare Stamps Foundation. “For Children, By Children’ is, more than three generations later, still the motto of the Child welfare stamps campaign.
I have three Kinderpostzegels in my collection, all from the 1938 issue. The five surtaxed child welfare stamps were issued on December 1, 1938 (Scott #B108-B112). The design features a dove, flowers, and a child playing a flute. They were printed using the photogravure process, perforated 14½ x 13½. The featured stamp is the lowest denomination of the set, 1½ cents with a 1½ surtax, printed in black.
PostNL continues to release the children’s charity stamps each year, Proceeds from their sale are donated to projects of the Foundation for Children’s Welfare Stamps (Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland). It is by far the largest annual school campaign in the Netherlands. Apart from being educational, children and teachers consider the campaign as a lot of fun.
Every spring, the Stichting Kinderpostzegels approaches the schools that took part in the campaign during the previous year, asking if they want to participate again. The campaign week at the end of September begins on Tuesday with a First Order from a Dutch celebrity, by children who received help from supported projects. From noon on Wednesday the pupils go from door to door to sell the stamps, postcards and other products. The selection, which varies each year, is made by the Child Welfare Stamps FouActress Linda de Mol and Dutch schoolchildren during the 2016 Kinderpostalzegels campaign.ndation.
Every year the child welfare stamps are designed in cooperation with the Post Office. At the beginning of November, the organization reveals the revenues of the campaign and the groups that won the schools competition (25 groups with the highest average revenues and five groups with the most creative entry). Most of the time there is nice publicity for the announcement of the revenues (youth news broadcast) and regional press for the combination with the school trip prize. In the following weeks the orders are delivered to the customers. Stichting Kinderpostzegels thanks teachers and pupils for their participation in the campaign with a small gift.
The 2018 campaign begins on September 26 with 160,000 children expected to participate.