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The Art of Collecting Mexico

Introduction To Mexican Philately 
Using what we know about our stamps.
I have talked a lot about getting to know your stamps, but little about how Mexican stamps and postal history can be divided into six basic periods of study. So, today I would like to cover the historic periods of Mexico’s philately. They are Pre-stamp, Classics, Post Classic, Revolutionary, Early Modern and Modern. If you have been reading my messages from past years, you may remember some of the things I have said regarding these periods of study, but today I would like you to exam each of these areas as a possible future study of Mexico that may enrich your collecting efforts. 
The first period of Mexico’s philatelic History I will call the Stampless Mail era, and it has two sub periods of great importance. The first is the Colonial Mail, and this in the most difficult and valuable to collect. The Colonial Mail that ends with the 1821 Independence of Mexico, precedes what we will be called simply the Pre-Stamp period. The Pre-stamp period obviously lasted until arrival of stamps issued on August 1, 1856. The idea that mail could serve the population to boost an educated people had either not occurred of was ignored by those in power, both in most of Europe and in the colonel areas of the New World. Mail was mainly Government or Church Mail. The Royal mail in Mexico was generally correspondence between either the rich merchants or members of the Vice-Royalty. Little personal correspondence was found during the 18th century and internal mail in Mexico was slow in expansion outside of the major cities and Royal military post. Catholic Church mail was just that, and little of it was used by any others outside of the church. By the time of independence in 1821 the routes and mail had become more established connecting many of the areas of Mexico. The previous government division of Mexico began to have mail postal departments in what would later become the states of Mexico. These  postal departments became the district offices that would play such an important role in the coming Classic period of Mexico’s stamp history. 
In early 1856, the postal administrators of Mexico devised a plan that would set apart Mexico’s stamps as almost unique in the world. No other country in the world would have what is call the district system of overprints for every area of the country. The idea was to prevent what had become a national problem in Mexico, the robbery of the Stage Coach lines which were the main link between the larger cities. To send valuable stamps that could be stolen and resold would cost the Post a huge sum and dilute their revenue to a point of continued rate increases. So, someone, unknown today, came up with the idea of overprinting the stamps upon arrival at their designated district office that would validate the stamps for postal use. For the collector, this means that each stamp issue would turn into a possible average of 50 stamps for each denomination. The district overprinting of stamps would last until around 1883 and this will mark the end of the Classic period, with an enormous amount of collectable issues for the country. Adding to the numerous district overprints are consignment numbers and the cancels used on many of these stamps. Instead of just a number of series from 1856 to 1883, Mexico now has enough collectable stamps for stamp enthusiast to spend a life time collecting.
The classic period was a time of many conflicts including the Imperial period during the 1860s when France installed a puppet government with Maximilian as emperor . There were also times when stamps were an option or not available, were mail was sent without stamps, which we call these covers ‘Sello Negro’ (Black Stamp), for the black postmarks and ‘Franco’ (paid) notations. Some were sent collect as the pre-stamp covers were normally sent, but for many they elected to pre-pay for these stampless covers as they did for the stamps. Postal history in either these Sello Negro covers or stamped covers has become an important part of many advanced collections, where rates and links to historical events become part of their story. 
The Classic period is followed by the Post Classic Issues, of 1884-1910. These stamps mark the period that coincides with the expansion of the railroads in Mexico, that eliminated the need for the district overprint system to protect the sending of mint stamps between the cities. This period is also marked by the improvements in stamp production. The last of the classic stamps issued are the 1874 issues and the Foreign Mail issues, of which the designs were products by foreign stamp designers. They marked the beginning of better designs and stamp production. The first of the post classic issues is actually the Medallions of 1884 did indeed have some stamps with district overprints, but those were done by postmasters not following the postal administrations guidelines. The importance of the Post-Classic period is that we can find many issues that have changes in paper and perforations. The introduction of watermarks came with the Large Numerals of 1891 which was done to make the stamp more secure from fakes. Beginning with the Definitives of 1899, stamps would again be designed and even printed in England, until the last issue of the post-classic stamps in 1910 the Independence Issue. 
Starting in 1910 and lasting until the early 1920s civil strife would overtake the country again. By 1913 when the Northern states of Mexico would break away from the Government controlling Mexico. Stamps would now be produced or overprinted to satisfy the need for postage because of politics or the lack of stamp arrivals. Some of the most interesting stamps and covers were produced in Mexico during 1913 to 1916. Many of these stamps are collected for their rarity, the local and political overprints and also for wide variety of covers, setting this period apart from all other in Mexican philately. 
The next two periods of Mexican philately are the Early Modern and the Modern issues of Mexico. The lines between these two periods are more blurry than the divisions between the earlier issues. The printing styles and the improvements that were made can loosely be defined as the 1917-20 issues that still had the qualities of the post classic issues and the increasingly modernizing  designs of the stamps we see in the 1940s defines the Early Modern Issues. The Modern era with high quality stamp production can then be defined as starting with the stamp designs of the definitive issues of 1950-75. The rise in commemorative issues during the early modern and the modern time periods is evident in both these periods. Today the stamps of the Twenty-first century are by anyones standard as beautifully done as any in the world. 
We are now able to see how the progression of Mexico’s philately through these different periods has so much to offer both the general collector wanting just one each of the stamps of Mexico and the advanced collector looking for meaningful study material. There are other parts to these different periods of study that can be added to each of these groups, from postal history, postal stationery, proof and essays, specimens, airmail issues, back of the book issues, revenues and other subjects that play an integrated part in the philately of Mexico. 
Bubba Bland