The Tabs of Israel
By Dr. Oscar Stadtler, Cleveland
To collectors of the stamps of Israel tabbed stamps are a fact of life. This was not always so; in the early years of Israel collecting the tabs were somewhat of a bother as they made for unevenness of the stamps on the album page. So in many cases, the collector simply removed the tab before mounting the stamp in an album. This of course accounts for high prices of so many of the tab stamps of 1948-1952.
Having said all that, let us take a look at the tabs and their origin. Obviously the place to begin is with the stamps of the Doar Ivri issue. As almost all know these stamps were printed secretly and under very trying conditions in the weeks just before the
declaration of the State on May 14, 1948.
Low values of the Doar Ivri showing the utilization of the selvage for the tab inscriptions.
The designs of the stamps were coins of the Second Temple period and the wars with the Romans, 66-70 C.E. and 132-135 C.E. The Hebrew inscriptions on the coins were in ancient Hebrew and as such would not be intelligibleto the average person. David Remez the minister-designate of Communications insisted on making the
inscriptions accessible to the widest possible audience and their transcription into modern Hebrew characters was decided upon. A suitable place for these inscriptions was found under the bottom rows of stamps in the selvage of the sheet and thus were born the tabs of Israel stamps. This innovation was well received and all subsequent issues, except postage dues, included tabs as a standard feature. It was David remez by the way who came up with the name Doar Ivri as a temporary name on the stamps of the new country.
Because the Doar Ivri were printed by letterpress there is the opportunity to develop mini-collection (or maxi if so desired) of
Doar Ivri tabbed stamps. The printing plate and the tab settings were seperate units and were joined together in a frame when the stamps were to be printed. The tab settings were set up either by hand or linetype and were made of lead and so much softer than the metallic printing plate; they had a tendency to crack and wear out. It was therefore necessary to replace worn and damaged tabs from time to time.
Since there were multiple printings of the Doar Ivri - especially the low values - during the period of their use many tab varieties developed. Since the printing plates and the tab row settings
were seperate units, they were stored seperately between printing runs, this produced two major variations when the printer mistakenly attached the wrong tab row to the printing plate. In one case the tab row of the 10mil stamp carries the tab inscriptions of the 15mil stamps. The second case is that of the 15mil stamp having the tab inscriptions of the 50mil stamp. These two wrong tabs should be an integral part of every Israel collection.
Once past the Doar Ivri issue the tabs became simpler since the printing techniques became more stable. The stamps were now printed by large presses with the paper fed in one end and comes out printed in several different colors. So there is no wear and tear on the tab row and no possibility of having the wrong tab inscription. The only tab variation to be found is tabs with an extra bit of selvedge (perforated) and tabs with finished straight edges. In those cases where there is that extra bit of selvedge it should not be removed since it is an integral part of the tab. In those instances where it has been removed the value of the stamp is diminished and it is considered to be a "short tab." This is to be avoided.
The Jerusalem stamp with Full Tab.
The 1948 Festivals the first to have tabs at the side, right and left
As mentioned the tab inscriptions - which complemented the stamp design - were printed in the selvedge or excess paper at the bottom of the pane of stamps. In the first years of Israel stamps there were five exceptions to this situation; the following stamps had their tabs at the sides: the 1948 Festivals, the Petach Tikvah stamp and the Flag stamp have have tabs on both the right and left of the stamps. The 1950 Festivals have tabs on only one side; the 5pr is on the right and the 15pr is on the left. There is a similiar sort of situation with the high values of the First Airmails; the 100pr has the tab on the right and the 250pr has it on the left side. I have not found anywhere an explanation or question as to why this was done with these issues. My thought is that the size of the stamps and the size of the paper for printing made this tab position necessary
The high values of the First Airmails showing side placement of the tabs.
The types of tab inscriptions can be divided into three periods. In the years 1948 to 1954 approximately the tab inscriptions were all in Hebrew with a few exceptions (1950 Maccabiah, 1951 Israel Bonds, 23rd Zionist Congress and 1952 Z.O.A.) which were in Hebrew and
English. It might be conjectured that this addition of English to the inscription was because of the reason for the issue. These issues were concerned with matters of worldwide and United States Jewry interest and that might be the reason.
The Flag stamp showing the placement of the tab on both the right and the left sides.
The 1950 Festival stamps showing the form of the side tabs. Note the wide excess of the tab.
Starting in 1954 the inscriptions on the tabs began to appear with a French translation of the Hebrew. This was a period of close Israel-France cooperation. There were of course exceptions to this situation: at least four issues (1953 Conquest of the Desert, 1954 TABIM, 1958 Ships and the 1959 Shalom Alechem) had English translations. There were of course still tabs with all Hebrew inscriptions.
In the period 1960-1967 we find that the tab inscriptions are all in Hebrew-French. The exceptions to this are the Independence Day, Memorial Day and the Festivals issues which remained with all
Hebrew inscriptions. Starting with the Victory issue of 1967 the tab inscriptions turned to Hebrew-English and that practice continues to the present. Why this change? There has been no official comment but popular thought is that it is due to the position taken by the French (in particular President DeGaulle) in connection with the Six Day War. Whatever the reason, French disappeared from the tabs of Israel.
From 1967 to the present the tab inscriptions have been in Hebrew-English with but few exceptions. These exceptions have all Hebrew tab inscriptions and consist mostly of the Independence Day and
Memorial Day stamps. The others in this group are issues concerned with very Israel oriented subjects. In addition there will be found tabs with only a graphic design related to the subject. Also there are the Twon Emblem stamps of 1969-1970 which still have the Hebrew-French inscriptions, no doubt due to the fact that the earlier stamps of the series had such inscriptions.
So it is evident that not only must the stamp designs themselves be studied but the tab inscriptions as well. So take a good long look at your stamps and be surprised at what you will learn from the tab inscriptions.
Israel Postage Stamps 1949-1998 Catalogue No.13.
The Tabs of Israel and Translations and transliterations
[Sol Rozman with Solomon Handel and Leon Walters]
The Doar Ivri Issue of Israel
[Stephen L. G. Rothman and Yaakov Tsachar]
The Tabs of the Doar Ivri.
[The Israel Philatelist Volume XII No.9/10;Volume XIII No. 1 and 2. Roger Stone]
The Running Stag