OTD: Canada authorizes $50M in ‘War Savings’ stamps

On today’s date in 1918, the Government of Canada authorized the issuance of $50 million worth of “War Savings” stamps.

Two stamps were issued – a $5 green stamp (van Dam #FWS2) and a 25-cent orange stamp (van Dam #FWS1) – as one of several initiatives undertaken by the federal government to counteract its extensive First World War spending, which cost Canada nearly $900 million through the first four years of the war and more than $1 million a day by 1919.

The $5 green stamps were to be affixed to a “Dominion of Canada War-Savings Certificate,” which had space for 10 stamps. The cover of the certificate features an illustrated beaver within a wreath of maple leaves and above the phrase, “WORK SAVE / FIGHT FOR CANADA.”

“This certifies that subject to the terms and conditions endorsed hereon, the Dominion fo Canada will pay on January 1, 1924, to the owned named on the back hereof the sum of $5.00 in respect of each Canada War Savings Stamp of the First Series (1919) then attached thereto,” reads the certificate cover. “Each such Stamp is also redeemable at the option of the owner at an earlier date for the lesser amount indicated in the table of surrender values printed hereon.”

A poster printed and issued by the National War-Savings Committee to promote the program sold for $625 at a 2018 auction. Photo by Sparks Auctions.

“To raise funds, the government took several steps,” wrote collector Bill Bartlet in the July-September 2014 issue of BNA Topics, the quarterly journal of the British North America Philatelic Society. “In 1915, taxes were applied to a variety of goods, including a 1¢ War Tax on some postage rates, and the infamous ‘temporary’ Income Tax in 1917. ‘War loans,’ which in 1915–17 raised $336M, were followed by ‘Victory Loans’ in 1917. The Victory Loan bonds, however, cost a minimum of $50, which few people could afford up front, so Thrift Stamps and Savings Certificates became the method for the average Canadian to save in order to buy Victory Bonds.”

Both the $5 War Savings stamp and 25-cent orange “thrift” stamp were issued in English and French, the latter of which are “very rare, with only a few copies known,” Bartlet added.

The Canada War-Savings Certificate cover explains the program’s terms and conditions. Photo by Sparks Auctions.

“The stamps are found most often pasted into Thrift or Savings folders and rarely found mint with gum—ungummed stamps originate from the folders. The scarcity of the French versions can be attributed to the lack of popularity of the war effort amongst French Canadians. The French version of the 25¢ Thrift stamp, with perhaps ten known copies in existence, shows up in the stamp market every couple of years. The $5 stamp in French is even rarer, with just one copy known on a War Saving Certificate card and a couple of copies off-card. The 25¢ stamp was printed in sheets of 25 (5 × 5) with imperforate edges. The $5 value is believed to have been printed in the same manner.”

To read Bartlet’s full article, click here.

A certificate with one stamp sold for $525 as Lot 528 of Sparks Auctions’ May 2018 sale, which also offered an original poster promoting the program.

A certificate affixed with one $5 green War Savings stamp sold for $525 at a 2018 auction. Photo by Sparks Auctions.

Measuring 520.70 millimetres by 685.80 millimetres, the posters were printed and issued by the National War-Savings Committee before being folded twice and mailed to post offices for display. The example offered by Sparks in 2018 – as Lot 526 – “appears to have escaped any public display, as evidenced by its gorgeous condition, bright colours and such,” according to the auction catalogue. It depicts an enlarged $5 green stamp plus nine smaller 25-cent “thrift” stamps and sold for $625.


Instructions for the thrift stamp program were provided in Chapter 12 of the 1918 Canada War Book.

“You are not even GIVING the money; you are merely LENDING it on the best security with the expectation of profitable returns. For the Government has provided an easy method, and one that should appeal to your sense of thrift,” reads The Canada War Book.

A thrift card affixed with seven 25-cent War Savings stamps sold for $120 at a 2018 auction. Photo by Sparks Auctions.

“With 25 cents you may buy a Thrift Stamp at the Post Office, where you are given a Thrift Card. With 16 spaces, in one of which you place the stamp. When the 16 spaces are filled, you exchange your Thrift Card for a War Savings Stamp, for which you have paid $4.00, plus, perhaps, a cent; or a few cents, and which will be worth to you $5.00 on January 1st, 1924. With the War Stamp you get a War Savings Certificate with 10 spaces, on one of which you affix the War Stamp. When the Certificate is filled, it has cost you a little over $40.00 and will be worth $50.00 on January 1st, 1924. Even were there no war, this would form an admirable game in ‘progressive thrift.’ The Thrift Stamp provides a means for saving small amounts till these reach the dignity of a War Savings Stamp, which bears interest at 4½%.”

A thrift card affixed with seven 25-cent War Savings stamps sold for $120 as Lot 678 of Sparks Auctions’ September 2018 sale.

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