Classic maximaphily : Origins and development



Maximaphily is a full-fledged branch of philately in which the collector is engaged in the production and collecting of so-called maximum cards. Many people who are interested in philately know what maximum cards are but few know that Maximaphily exists since the end of the 19th century.

The illustrated postal stationery is seen as the forerunner of the maximum card. There is an image similarity between the stamp and the detail on the card, no matter how small it is. From 1880 dates the left depicted Russian postal stationary. The stamp has an image of the arms of the then ruling Romanov family. Top left of the card shows the same coat of arms, the eagle with two heads. As a result of the development of photography people were able to send a postcard when they wanted to inform their whereabouts when they was traveling. One of the most famous travel destinations were the Swiss Alps with their luxurious hotels. On the image on the right you see a lithograph card from 1892 showing the Grand Hotel National in Lucerne. On top of the hotel proudly waving the Swiss flag, red with a white cross in it, the so-called " Croix Blanche ". The predominantly red stamp shows the same white cross of the Swiss flag.

On the right is a picture of one of the oldest known maximum cards with architecture as a subject. This card was sent in 1893 on December 28 from Cairo to Rome in Italy. The date of arrival is January 2, 1894. Sphinx and pyramids can be seen on both the stamp and the card.

Egypt, Greece, Italy and Switzerland were popular destinations for the aristocracy. Traveling also gave some form of prosperity. By sending a postcard a new, modern form of communication was born.

In the beginning there was not much variation in both the stamp and card. Mostly royal and other important persons. On the private postcard (left) from the United States in 1899 both the stamp and the illustration is President Ulysses Grant. Sometimes heraldry and an allegorical representation are subject on the small stamp. The postal stationery (right) from Guatemala shows such allegorical image with a bird. Later in time the subjects will change and the stamp will carry out the beauty of the country. The stamp still has retained this function to this day.

Architecture in those early days is not so common topic on stamps. One of the earliest maximum cards (from 1902) of a stamp with World Heritage as a subject you can see on the right. Especially interesting because both card and stamp image is from the harbor and fortifications of Malta's capital, Valletta. The city-state was built in the 16th century and is on the World Heritage List of UNESCO since 1980, It has a unique late-medieval center with intact walls. The address side shows that the card is sent to Tour-de-Peilz in Switzerland.

Tourist attractions, beautiful cities and landscapes are more frequently depicted on postage stamp and card at a later stage. From 1907, the address side of the card is divided into two parts. Left for text writing and the right part for the address. With knowledge of this rule, older cards can be placed properly in what time period they were issued.

In the review below I will show you a number of foreign, mostly European maximum cards from the period 1892-1925 that all get assigned predigate classic. In short, the outset of the Maximaphily worldwide. Remarkably many cards come from the period 1900 to 1915. There were no rules then where the sender had to put the stamp. That this was usually done on the image side of the card has contributed to the development of the Maximaphily. Collectors noticed that there is often an image similarity between the card and stamp. Than there was of course the city of stamping that gave an extra dimension to the whole.

It was indicated by the postal authorities in the '20s postal mechanization that the stamp could be related still stuck on the address side only. The supply of mail was in fact increasing. This period therefore has little real run maximum cards.

Since the early 30s, the maximum cards are almost all stamped on request and not transported through the mail. Countries were Maximaphily is popular are France, Italy, Portugal and Romania. These countries have a long tradition in this area, although Maximaphily knows practitioners worldwide. Also in the Netherlands. Not great in number but fanatical.

Maximum cards are mainly collected thematically. Architecture, World Heritage, Flora, Fauna and Royalty are the most appealing.



   1. Europe: Royalty and republics
   2. Heraldry and symbols
   3. Philately postcards
4. Architecture, monuments and important people

Click on the image for more information about the card and a picture of the address side


        Europe: Royalty and republics


We start in the Netherlands with the in 2013 detected maximum card (left) from Princess Wilhelmina 1898. Sent from Amsterdam on August 29, 1898 to Chimay in Belgium. From the fur collar series of Queen Wilhelmina a card (right) sent in 1904 from Amsterdam to Paris.

At our neighbors in that period King Leopold rules the scepter. King Leopold II was a member of the House of Wettin and was King of the Belgians from 1865 until his death in 1909. He is on the card left in the locket. The Brussels-depart departure stamp is from 1900.

On the card below on the left is King Albert I who succeeded his father in 1909 as king of the Belgians. The king is here, just like on the stamp, seen in uniform. Sent from Antwerp to Lyon in 1912. King Albert dies in 1934. Maximaphily is at a high level in Belgium early in the 20th century despite the fact that the First World War from 1914 to 1918 has caused much damage in this country.

The next country we visit is the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The royal family from 1890 bears the name of Nassau-Weilburg after it belonged to the House of Orange-Nassau. The reigning monarch until 1905 was Duke Adolphe I.

He is surrounded by his family at Castle Burg (right), his favorite residence. The card was sent in 1904 to Rochefort. 

When he dies in 1905, his successor is Duke William IV who's picture is on the card on the right from 1909 at the left upper corner.
From 1919 Charlotte succeeds her father as Grand Duchess. Both cards on the left were send in 1921 from Esch-sur-Alzette.


The card with the red 30 centimes stamp is addressed to François Dessert in Fall River in the United States. His name and adress as a recipient we often come across when we speak of maximum cards from that time.

      Great Britain - United Kingdom

We leave the mainland and travel across the water to Great Britain, a country with a rich tradition, especially when it comes to the royal house. The name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is since 1840 in the British royal family through the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. However, Queen Victoria remains a member of the House of Hanover. She was born in 1819 and died in 1901.
A so-called " Mourning card " (pictured right) was released because of her death on January 22, 1901 and shipped on the 5th February from Clapham to Bilbao in Spain. On the image side there are two stamps with her ​​portrait to come to the required rates. The British Empire was and is large and diverse.

Newfoundland off the coast of Canada is also a part of this empire. Queen Victoria stands with veil pictured on both the stamps and the magnificent relief card from 1902.

The island of Malta honoured their Queen Victoria with a statue on the square in front of the library of Valletta. The card below from 1902 shows the statue with the postage stamp with her ​​likeness. It was sent from Valletta to the village of Tour de Peilz in Switzerland.

From 1901 she was succeeded by her son Edward VII, who until his death in 1910 became the first reigning monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.

The card on the left is his portrait surrounded by flags and heraldic representations. The card has not been sent and was stamped on request in London on November 18, 1902. He is also pictured on stamps of British colonies. Seated on horseback, he is diplayed as a statue in the Indian city of Bombay. The postmark is from 1909 and made ​​in Apollo Bandar, a better neighborhood in Bombay, now Mumbai.

The card most on the left is from South Africa and gives a wonderful impression of the beginning of that era. With ermine cape, crown and scepter, the king is put down as a real prince who was also ruler of the southern part of Africa. The card has followed the postal road from Johannesburg to the United States in 1908. The " Mourning card " sent from Windsor was published shortly after his death in 1910.

In that year he was succeeded by King George V, the first monarch of the House of Windsor. This " Coronation Souvenir Card " was sent in July 1911 from London to St Etienne in France.


We continue our journey to the north and we arrive in Sweden. A forerunner of the postcard and picture postcard is illustrated postal stationery. This card where the stamp value is printed on (in this case 5 Öre), a stamp of 10 Öre with the image of King Oscar II is added to get the tariff correct. On the left of the card is an image of the king. The card was sent in 1897 from Stockholm to the Potsdam.
In 1902, the card on the right was sent from Stockholm to Mexico. King Oscar II, who at the time was also king of Norway, ruled the Scandinavian country until 1907 after which he was succeeded by his son Gustav V. King Gustav V was king from 1907 to 1950 (card far right).

A true classic is the maximum card below from a country that certainly does not have a history with maximaphily where a card from 1904 really is unique.
This is a card of Denmark showing four generations of the royal house of Oldenburg. From left to right the then ruling King Christian IX, his son Frederick VIII, his grandson Christian X and his grandson Frederick IX. All have been King of Denmark in the 20th century. The cancellation is very clear, Kjobenhavn 29-12-1904 but the address side is also interesting. The red London arrival stamp next to a taxe postmark and postman stamp. This data is
for many collectors of old maximum cards proof of authenticity as it has proved to be quite lucrative to counterfeit these cards. The original cards are scarce and therefore valuable.

The card on the right from 1908 with the effigy of King Frederick VIII was sent from Copenhagen with destination Lyon. In 1906 Frederick became King Frederick VIII of Denmark after Christian's death on January 29. He himself died suddenly in 1912 during one of his incognito walks in Hamburg at the age of 69. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Christian X.

     Central Europe

More south, nowadays Germany, the kingdom of Bavaria (also called Bayern) existed from 1815 to 1918 and was ruled by members of the House of Wittelsbach. Prinz-Regent Luitpold was from 1886 until his death in 1912, the ruler of the southern German state. The card (far left) was stamped in 1912 in the Bavarian capital Munich on 12-12-1912 !!!, the date of death of Luitpold.
His statue stands in the city of Nürnberg
(postmark 15-4-1912).
The last king of Bavaria was Ludwig III who succeeded Luitpold in 1912 as regent.
To celebrate his "Goldenen Hochzeit " in 1918 the above card was issued and stamped in Munich on his wedding date February 20, 1918. Soon after that it came to an end with the Bavarian kingdom when Ludwig III was deposed. He died in 1921.

Neighbor country Switzerland has no royalty, as one of the few countries in Europe. It is a confederation of 26 cantons and is administrativelly a federal republic. The symbol of Switzerland is Helvetia, a female figure who's image is frequently on early Swiss stamps. A special page is dedicated to these early Swiss classic maximum cards with surprising discoveries. The starting point is the Swiss flag, "La Croix blanche" and Helvetia who appears in many different capacities in Switzerland. Click on the image on the right and you will come to a page with special items.

The next country that we encounter is Austria, where Emperor Franz Josef reigned until his death in 1916. Franz Josef, member of the House of Habsburg-Lotharingen, married in 1854 his cousin Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria that we know better as Sisi.

With Sisi the Emperor spent many hours in the imperial villa in Bad Ischl which can be seen on the card above next to the portrait of the beloved monarch. Postmark Bad Ischl 1909 in this case is the only correct one. The card on the right shows his portrait with characteristic beard and mustache. The cancellation is done on August 18, 1910 in the Austrian capital Vienna.

     Eastern Europe

We travel further east and visit Russia where Tsar Nicolas II was ruler until his death in 1917. On both the left and right card we see two of his predecessors namely Tsar Peter the Great as a statue in Peterhof, a suburb of St. Petersburg. Postmark 18-2-1914. In Kiev we find a statue of Tsar Alexander II. The card is stamped with Kiev 3-11-1913 . Both cards have been sent to Italy.


Furthern into Eastern Europe Romania also has its royals. As of 1881 King Carol I of the House of Hohenzollern is in power. Until his death in 1914 this man was loved in his country. From 1900 is the card on the left with his stately depicting with departure postmark Bucuresti April 13. Next to that there is also a cancellation for arrival in France namely Chatillon-s-Indre 17 April.

The card on the right shows the same King Carol I, however now in a different stamp value and on a superb lithograph card sent from Bucharest also to France. In 1914 he is succeeded by his brother Ferdinand who dies in 1927. 

In neighboring Bulgaria reigned King Ferdinand from 1908 until 1918. He belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. On the card his picture is central, surrounded by dignitaries. This card was sent in 1901 from Sofia to Charleroi in Belgium. As you can see on the right, he is sitting on horseback. This card was sent in 1913 from Sofia to Rennes in France.

Further south we arrive in the former Serbia. King Milan I abdicated in 1889 in favor of his son Alexander Obrenovic. This unpopular king (left) was murdered in 1903 and with that the Obrenovic dynasty was extinct.

His successor in that year was Peter I of the rival House Karađorđević who became King of Serbia until 1918 and then until his death King of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes which is better known later under the name Yugoslavia. 

In the middle of the card on the right, he sits in the front row with his distinctive white headdress with buoyant plume. Posted on September 6, 1908 from Belgrade to the French city of Laval, arriving there on September 15.

      Southern Europe 

The following Southern European country that we visit is Italy. Today, that country is a republic, but in the early 20th century and before that Italy was a kingdom with members of the House of Savoy to power. The illustrated postcard is an early forerunner of the maximum card when it has with the right image corresponding with the stamp. On the card on the right from 1892 you see the effigy of King Umberto I, who reigned from 1878 until his death in 1900. The card below is from 1897 and shows in addition to King Umberto also his successor, the future King Vittorio Emanuel III.

The stamp with King Vittorio Emmanuel III can be seen on the card on the right that is from 1904. In that year he was visited by the then president of France, Emile Loubet. This beautiful embossed card was issued for that occasion and sent that year from Naples to France with arrival stamp St. Nazaire.

It is only a step to get In Monaco. From 1889 to 1922, Albert I was the reigning monarch. On the lithograph card (left) from 1907 with a 10 centimes stamp he is illustrated. Sent to Monrovi in Italy this card also makes his great passion, oceanography, come forward.

Even further in Europe we find ourselves in Spain. From this country are strikingly many maximum to be found with of course the effigy of King Alphonso XIII of the House of Bourbon. Born in 1886, he married in 1906 to Princess Victoria.

On the card on the right from 1902 are both shown. The stamping is done in Palma de Mallorca and sent to Soignies in Belgium. From a year later,1903 you will see on the left King Alphonso XIII, standing in the royal barge at his favorite destination Las Palmas. In this case the only correct postmark is Las Palmas.

Neighboring Portugal is known as a country with a relatively large number of maximaphilists and an active association. In the early 20th century, King Carlos I of the House of Braganza was a respected monarch. Born in 1863, he was crowned king in 1899. On the card on the left, sent in 1907, we see King Carlos I pictured as a portrait second from the right between several members of the Portuguese royal family.


His son Emanuel II (card on the right) succeeded him in 1908 as King of Portugal. As of October 4, 1910 Portugal is a republic.


   Heraldry and symbols

Besides the many portraits at that time stamps were issued in Europe with coats of arms. Often in a series of ascending values. The color and value of the stamps changed but the stamp image always remained the same. Countries like Italy, Germany and Belgium have a rich tradition when it comes to coats of arms on stamps. The card on the left is from 1897 and shows the crown next to the coat of arms of the Italian House of Savoy. Both elements can be found on the stamps. From the year 1905 (left) again the Savoy coat of arms but now with the eagle prominently on stamp and card.

Two German cards that show both the coat of arms of Bavaria. The card on the right with the postmark Nuerenberg Aug 29, 1902. Below on the right a card from 1900 with the beautiful coat of arms with two lions protecting the Bavarian flag. The card was stamped in Lindau in 1900 on September 17.

Scandinavia is represented on this list by the card on the left from the year 1906 with an image of the Danish coat of arms with crown and lion.
Stamps at that time from Norway are simple designs. The crown on the stamp can also be found in the middle of the card (left). The postmark is from 1907 done in the capital Kristiana, nowadays called Oslo.

In Belgium, the stamp with the Flemish Lion was issued in 1905 to mark the 75th anniversary of an independent Belgium (right).

Neighboring Luxembourg has a similar "Grüss aus Luxembourg" card sent in 1907 to France. Both the lion and the crown are exactly displayed on card and stamp (right below).

A special find is the card from Hungary (below). The stamp shows a picture of the crown of St. Stephan. This crown is similar to the crown above the coat of arms, the cross slightly askew on the crown. Postmark is from November 23, 1903.

Interesting as well is the card on the right of the statue of St. Stephan in the Hungarian capital Budapest. There is the crown - described in the Yvert catalog as " la Couronne St. Etienne - clearly at the head of this saint. The card, sent in 1909 to New York, has 3 stamps all with the same image  but each with a different value.

In Russia in the early 20th century on almost any building you could find an image of the coat of arms of the Russian Tsar, the two-headed eagle. In this case it is the Spassky Tower, part of the Kremlin in Moscow (left). Nowadays, these coat of arms are all replaced by a star.

The early postal stationeries of mostly South and Central American countries have often beautiful illustrations. As described in the introduction above, this kind of cards are seen by many maximaphilists as the forerunners of the maximum cards. As long as the illustration is clearly present on both card and stamp. Two good examples are the cards from Costa Rica (1899) and Guatemala (1898).

Back to Europe. On stamps from countries with no royalty often female figures are shown. France is a republic and on its stamps from early 20th century is an image of Marianne, the symbol of the republic. On the card below you see her as the sower better known as " La Semeuse".

afb 52-1.jpgThat France is a leading country concerning Maximaphily will be afb 52-2.jpgknown. The national association had so many members in the 50s that special membership cards were made to indicate that one was a member of this distinguished club.afb 52.jpg

The stamps of the German Reich depict the female figure Germania, symbol of German victory over the French in 1871 after the German Empire was founded. The statue that was created for this occasion, we find in the small town of Bingen am Rhein near the city of Rüdesheim. afb 53.jpgOn the right a beautiful card from 1905 with a nice legible postmark.

A Germania statue also used to be at the centre square called "Altmarkt" in the city of Dresden (left). Because a parking garage had to be constructed this monument disappeared from the market. Nowadays some parts of the statue are at the museum in Dresden.

  Philately postcards - Cartes Philatelie

afb 60.jpgA special place in classical Maximaphily is reserved for the so-called "Philately postcards" or "Cartes Philatelie". Producers of postcards anticipated skilfully on the craze of sending postcards. Early 20th century they produced so-called "Cartes Philatelie" with images of stamps from many different countries. Leading publishers are the firm Guggenheim in Zurich, Switzerland and Ottmar Zieher in the southern German city of Munich. In addition to the postage stamps famous tourist places were depicted surrounded by weapons and flags, mostly printed in relief.

On the top left postcard you see the effigy of King Leopold II, who at thatafb 61.jpg time graced on the Belgian stamps and on the left picture the stamps from Luxembourg with images of afb 62.jpgGrand Duke Adolphe I. Both cards were sent in 1906.

As mentioned, these cards were popular throughout the world. The picture on the right shows a postcard (1910) from Mexico with next to the coat of arms an image of an eagle. The eagle was placed prominently in many countries on the stamp as a symbol of authority, strength and afb 63.jpgpower. 
afb 65.jpg

Sent in 1909 from Cairo in Egypt is the postcard that you see on the right. This North African country with its ancient pyramids was in those days a favorite destination. Maximum cards from this country are therefore highly sought after by maximaphilists.

Popular in these early years were the cards like the Swiss card on the right. The way the stamp afb 64.jpgwas placed on the card issued a "secret" message that had to be understood by the receiver. People then spoke of the "Language" of stamps.

The card on the left, sent from France in 1913, was also written for that reason. It is clear that these cards were very popular with amorous couples.


Architecture, monuments and important people


Scarce and globally sought are early maximum cards with architecture as a subject. On the left you see a card from 1921 of the capital of Estonia, Tallinn formerly called Reval. The two stamps with postmark Tallinn - Eesti show the skyline view of this authentic Baltic city. From the same period is the card on the right of the pyramid and sphinx in Cairo. Particularly rare in this case is the postmark Pyramids.

We remain in Africa where many countries formerly were colonies of wealthy European countries.

The French for instance have left their traces in Senegal. The governor was General Faidherbe who contributed much to develop the land in the 19th century. To honor him, the arch bridge in the city of St. Louis is named after him.

On the red 10 centimes stamp stands, next to his portrait, both left and right these movable bridge. This card was sent in 1909. His statue can also be found in St. Louis. Both cards have the correct postmark St. Louis.

In South and Central America are mostly presidents and freedom fighters that on the stamps. Finally the rare Haitian maximum card on the right is from 1905 with the effigy of President Nord Alexis who was in power at that time.

The story above proves that maximum cards were worldwide made and collected for decades and thus have also played a major role in the development of philately. 



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