In 1929 the first labels were introduced to be sold in the period leading up to Christmas to primarily raise funds for Children’s Tuberculosis Sanatoria. This practice became common in a number of different countries across the world and it is possible to form interesting collections of the so-called “Christmas Labels” or “Anti-TB labels.”
The interest for the South Africa collector and philatelist comes from the fact that these labels were intended to be affixed to envelopes. Also, from 1932 the labels were printed using the same processes as the postage stamps by the Government printer, often on the same watermarked paper as the stamps. Hence there is much to keep the collector of South Africa Christmas labels entertained. It is possible to find labels from sheets or booklet panes, tete-beche blocks from the manufacture of the booklet panes, sheet number blocks, complete booklets in a range of different face values from 6d to 10s, as well as looking out for the labels tied to covers (tied means that a portion of the postmark is found on the label, thus “tying” the label to the envelope).
The first booklets were issued in 1934, in face values of 6d with one pane of six labels and 1s with two panes of six labels. In later years booklets of 2s6d, 5s & 10s face values were introduced. The pre-WWII booklets are scarce and can be difficult to find complete and in nice condition. The 6d and 1s booklets are more common, especially in the post WWII period. The higher value 5s & 10s booklets are much less common. The labels were issued in booklets until 1965, with the decimal issues in booklets of face values from 5c to R2.
The Christmas labels continued to be issued until 1993 in sheetlets of 20 or 25 labels and 1994-5 in sheetlets of 10. They were still widely used on cover in later years. Since 1996, special Christmas postage stamps have been issued by the post office most years. The 50th Anniversary of S.A.N.T.A. (South Africa National Tuberculosis Association) was commemorated in 1997 with a sheetlet of 10, showing different Christams labels (SG.1003/12, sheetlet SG.1003a).
Finding the earliest labels used on cover can be a challenge. Always look for labels to be tied to covers, anyone can add a label to a mundane cover years later in order to boost its appeal and value. There is a limited listing of these labels in the South Africa Handbooks, however the section on Christmas labels had been dropped from the 1986 edition. The most information is found in the 1952 edition, although it doesn’t list what booklets were issued.