by Robert Jensen

Published in The News of Hungarian Philately, July-September 2003.

Thanks to The Society for Hungarian Philately for permission to place on this website!

I collect Hungarian aerogrammes (aeros), which are also known as air letter sheets. To encourage collecting them, I am writing about their history and what Hungary has to offer to the collector. An aerogramme is a lower cost version of an airmail letter. It is a single sheet of paper of small size, which makes it light weight and economical to transport by air.

To encourage their use, the Hungarian Post Office priced aeros to be less costly than regular airmail. However, the written message was limited in size an only on one side of a single sheet of paper. Nothing additional was allowed inside the folded enclosure.

The world’s first aeros were military in nature and were messages airlifted by balloon out of several French cities during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71. In 1923, a private company, the Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transportes Aero (SCADTA), began flying aeros to Europe with the approval and assistance of the Colombian government. The country of Iraq is given credit for issuing in 1933 the first aeros as we know them today.

Hungary was late in joining the movement in the use of aeros. I estimate the first issue was in early 1950, but I can’t be any more specific as there are no catalogs on the subject and very little written material. Aeros were sold by the post offices as unfolded flat sheets. The user was obligated to fold them into the proper shape acceptable to the post office, where a clerk would add the required postage. Nothing could be added inside of a sealed aero or an additional charge would be made to the mailing cost.

There are three types of Hungarian aeros: formula, official, and private. A formula aero has a blank inside for a written or typed message. The outside front has boxes for the sender’s and the recipient’s addresses as well as a post horn indicating the space for the stamp. Each aero has one or more glue flaps to the seal the piece prior to mailing. Formulas could be purchased at any post office.

The format of an official aero was similar to the one described above but, in addition, it had an indicium or stamp printed on the front side. The selling price of the official aero was the face value of the stamp plus the cost of the paper. In the 1970s and the 1980s, the Hungarian Post issued commemorative aeros, which could be purchased only in the large post offices of Budapest or from Philatelia Hungarica.

Private aeros are formula look-alikes but are printed privately. They could be purchased at the corner store or the tobacconist shop, commonly called a trafik. They do not have the imprint of the post horn (the official symbol of the Hungarian Post) in the stamp space and the backsides resembled an envelope.

In all of the above cases, the purchase price did not cover the cost of mailing the aero to its ultimate destination. All aeros have a notice or legend printed on the front side stating that it would be sent by airmail in Hungarian and French: Légiposta / Par Avion.

The first three issues of aeros, all formula types, had the same size and shape with the final folded dimension of 174 x 93mm. All had three glue flaps, one long one at the top and two short flaps, one at each end. All had blue printing overlays on areas not used for address spaces or the post horn. The first and second issues of the formula types were the most elaborate of all Hungarian aeros from the beginning to the end. Both issues had left-leaning red, white, and blue slant bars around the folded perimeter, font and back, and a dark blue printing overlay on all areas not used for the addresses or the post horn, again, front and back.

Hungarys First Aerogramme

First Issue Formula Aerogramme Used in 1952.

On the first three issues there were opening instructions printed on the back of the top glue flap in five languages that stated, open here. For the first issue, which appeared around 1950, the languages on the back side of the aero with the top glue flap in place are in the following order, reading from left to right: English, French, Hungarian, German, and Russian.

Reverse of Hungarys First Aerogramme

Reverse Side of the First Issue Formula Aerogramme Used in 1952.

The second issue dated about 1953 was similar to the first issue except the languages were re-arranged. Reading from left to right, the languages are Hungarian, Russian, French, English, and German. As you can see, the Hungarian went from the middle to the first on the list.

The third issue dated about 1955 was similar to the second one except the left leaning slant bars are printed in blue and white only instead of the three colors and the printing overlay is light blue in color instead of dark blue.

Hungarys Third Aerogramme
Reverse of Hungarys Third Aerogramme

Third Issue Aerogramme Used in 1955. Note the re-arranged order of the languages for opening instructions.

Sometimes, a change in the postal rate resulted in a physical change to the existing aero. The fourth issue formula, dated about 1958, was reduced in size with folded dimensions of 138 x 92mm and the number of glue flaps were reduced from three to one at the top. On the front side, the word Feladó was added to the return address Exp. On the reverse side, the Hungarian document version number was reduced from MNDSZ 4605 to MSZ 4605. The overlay printing became very faint at times, and several printing colors and paper are known to exist.

A private aero appeared in 1958. I have an example that was printed in the United States, then sent to Hungary and mailed back to the US. The source behind this example was a prominent airmail collector-dealer from New Jersey.

A fifth issue formula was issued about 1960 and was very similar to the fourth issue except on the front side the sender’s name and address were moved from the upper left to the lower left corner. The receiving name and address were moved to the right. On the reverse side, the word Papirnemügyár was eliminated. Early in the life of this issue, the post office honored a request to have dashed lines added to the perimeter of the front to assist the user in folding the aero. This help did not last long as it did not appear on the next issue.

After the 1960 formula issue, official aeros appeared as well as companion formula and private aeros.

Hungarys Third Aerogramme

Reverse of Hungarys Third Aerogramme

Front and Reverse Sides of the Small Format Aerogramme Used in 1958. Note the single sealing flap.

Hungarys Third Aerogramme

Reverse of Hungarys Third Aerogramme

Front and Reverse Sides of the Revised Small Format Aerogramme Used in 1968. Note that the box for sender’s address moved to the lower left corner and the dashed lines along the bottom on the front side and the word ‘Papírnemügyár’ was removed from the upper right corner of the back.

Mr. Jensen’s Hungarian Aerogrammes exhibit received a silver medal at this year’s Lancopex stamp show.

Part 2 of Bob Jensen's Article

Books and Articles Related to Aerogrammes

Back to the The Aerogramme Home Page