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1902 Swedish picture post card
Hidden in Plain View: Stamp Position Codes
by Jay Smith & Associates

In the early 20th Century, if you wanted to add some fun and mystery to your correspondence with friends or loved ones, you might use a "stamp position code" on your correspondence -- particularly post cards. This practice was popular in Scandinavia and Europe, particularly among the romantically inclined, but less so in North America.

In reality, examples of mail (mostly post cards, it seems) using such codes are scarce. Furthermore, while some of the messages were more likely to be used (i.e. Do you love me?), others were undoubtedly rarely used (i.e. Leave me alone in my grief/pain). One can never really know if the stamp placement on a particular piece of mail represented a code, or just sloppy application of the stamp. Furthermore, many correspondencts undoubtedly had their own codes (sort of like lovers having "their song"). While we may never know what was really meant, we can use our imagination.

A 1902 Swedish picture post card (above) details one such code on the picture side of the card. I have seen a few such cards over the years, but unfortunately did not keep records (until now) of the code meanings.

In the code, illustrated below with translations, the card is divided into eight regions: the four corners; at the middle of each side; at the middle of the top and bottom. The placement of the stamps in each region has a different meaning: upright, inverted, turned 90 degrees to the right or left and tilted 45 degrees to the right or left.
The lettered positions are translated below
The lettered positions are translated below.
The expressions used on this card are idiomatic -- as of 1902. Not being a native Swedish speaker, some of the phrases don't quite work out for me.

Additionally, the language has evolved since 1902 and thus some words will not be found in a modern dictionary as spelled in 1902. As examples, the letter "f" has migrated to "v" in some cases (as in "skrif" which is now "skriv" [write]). The combination "fv" has migrated to "v", thus you often will not find "fv" (i.e. as in "profvet" which is now "provet" [proof, test, trial], ).

I welcome corrections and amplifications to my translation.

Position Meaning
A I love you
[Jag älskar dig]
B Farewell my darling (love)
[Farväl min älskling]
C Burn my letter
[Bränn upp mina bref]
D My heart belongs to another
[Mitt hjärta tillhör en annan]
E Return (reciprocate) my love
F I am engaged (to be married)
[Jag är förlofvad]
G Name the time and place
[Bestäm tid och ställe]
H Leave me alone in my grief/pain
[Lämna mig ensam i min smärta]
I Loyalty/Faithfulness/Fidelity is it's own reward
[Trohet får sin lön]
J You have remained/lasted/survived the trial/examination
[Du har bestått profvet]
K Yes
[Ja]
L No
[Nej]
M I send you a kiss
[Jag sänder dig er kyss]
N I swear my eternal fidelity to you
[Jag svar dig evig trohet]
O Write no more / Do not write again
[Skrif ej mera]
P Give me your friendship
[Skänk mig Er vänskap]
Q Do you love me?
[Älskar du mig?]
R Write immediately
[Skrif genast]
S Why so long silent? Why such a long silence?
[Hvarför så lång tystnad?]
T Meet me as usual
[Möt mig som vanligt]
U (Be careful to act on this ??)
(Be careful to give attention to this ??)
[Var försiktig man ger akt på dig]
[man ger akt på dig = you are being watched]
V When/How shall we meet?
[Huru skola vi träffas?]
W I cannot accept your congratulations/homage
[Kan ej mottaga Er hylling]
X Your love makes me happy
[Din kärlek gör mig lycklig]

1911-1917 era Finnish picture post card
The most recent of the illustrated Finnish Russian-design stamps was issued in 1911.
Finnish Republic stamps came into use in October 1917.
Can you translate this card? Volunteers are sought to translate the Finnish text of these stamp positions. The text of such cards often goes beyond the current standard dictionary meanings.
If you have a Scandinavian post card showing such a code, I would be delighted to see it.

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