The Free German Trade Union Federation, in German Freier Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund (FDGB), was the trade union federation in East Germany. It was part of the National Front of the German Democratic Republic which was controlled by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED)and with sixty-eight seats constituted the second largest bloc of representatives in the Volkskammer ("People's Chamber").
The FDGB, a member of the World Federation of Trade Unions, was made up of about 15 individual trade unions (e.g. IG Metall, IG Transport etc.), Officially, membership in the FDGB was voluntary, but unofficially it was hardly possible to develop a career without joining. In 1986, 98% of all workers and employees were organised in the FDGB which had 9.6 million members. In May 1990, shortly before German reunification, the FDGB was dissolved.
The Books and stamps
Membership subscriptions were paid monthly by revenue stamps known as Beitragsmarken in booklets, In the beginning 1945 to 1948 these booklets were varied in style and colour (I have about 25 different), usually only a folded card 115 mm x 150 mm carrying 2 or 3 years of contributions. The size and shape of the stamps also changed regularly
In about 1949 the books were standardised to the red covered 115 mm x 150 mm 16 page version with room for up to 6 years contributions as well as other info. The first contribution stamps known as Spendenmarken were issued around this time, they were voluntary payments and the stamps usually showed a particular cause or campaign, although where the money went I do not know. For the first time the books had a specific place to put these stamps, a page inside the back cover.
Around 1955 the books changed again to a 85 mm x 115 mm 24 page dark red hardback with room for 5 years contributions and a page for spendenmarken and occasionally extension pages were added. The Beitragsmarken also changed to fit the space available
The books changed for the final time around 1961 to the classic slightly smaller 78 mm x 113 mm 48 page red hardback. Designed to last for 10 years, with 6 months on each page laid out with room for a now standardised Beitragsmarken followed by a Spendenmarken. Several pages towards the back were set aside for extra Spendenmarken which also had a new standard size with a few exceptions.
Spendenmarken or Solidaritätsmarken sets have between 1 and 17 stamps in values ranging from 10 pfennig to 50 marks some were issued over many years
The most common values are the lower ones 10pf , 25pf, 50pf and 1 and 2 marks, examples of these are generally easy to find, slightly rarer are the middle values 3 marks and 5 marks And 4 to 9 marks where they exist are rarer still.
Of the high values 10 marks and over, the 10 is relatively common, the 20 less so, and the others becoming rarer the higher the value. The prize of each set being 50 marks. The exception is the 75pf with is rare in almost every set
Beitragsmarken were set at a certain value depending on the cost of subscription for the monthly gross wage. For this reason the higher values are scarce as only the very top earners would need to pay.
These are Spendenmarken for a specific event usually a congress meeting, and are relatively rare as they would only be used for a few months
Every May from 1967 to 1989 a special May day stamp was issued the first 9 were the standard Spendenmarken size but the last 14 were larger. Although only available each May most booklets have a few and collecting them all is not too difficult.
The hard to find are those issued between 1946 and 1951
Beitrittsmarken and control marken are varied and rare the main exception being the 1962 F4 as it was common when everyone changed their book to the final small red version.
These are from the FDGB insurance scheme which was voluntary and had a fixed rate of 1.25 m for everybody, although the books are relatively rare when you do find one it is filled with all the same stamps, those prior to 1964 are hard to find.
West Berlin overprints
A "W" or "DM" overprint hand stamped or printed on Beitragsmarken and Spendenmarken Signifies that the member worked in West Berlin, The probable reason for this would be as a train operator this was due to the designation of the East German Deutsche Reichsbahn in post-war treaties and military protocols as the railway operator in West Berlin. Therefore these overprints are rare.
In 1953 (and all subsequent issues) Beitrittsmarken started to have a Talon stamp attached to their right hand side. This was detached and put on a control card as proof of contribution payments for each member. Rarely found se-tenant I have given them a separate "t" indicator added to the original catalogue number.
When collecting FDGB stamps they are almost always used examples, Unfranked examples are common but Mint stamps are rare as very few if anyone collected them at the time in East Germany and they were not available abroad, the potential for collecting only happened after the fall of the Berlin wall.
They were not printed to the standards of postage stamps on poorer quality paper with colour variations and regularly badly centred, for this reason although not ideal I do not consider poor centring to be a fault. Surprisingly major faults or errors are relatively rare.
First day covers, presentation packs or similar are unknown.