Telegrams in Australia:
Principles underlying the coding system.

Telegram classification codes

The coding system developed here for the telegram stationery is applicable to all telegrams from 1854 to 1988 across all Colonies, States, post-Federation Australia and international stationery. It consists of three parts:

    1. geographical location and period;

    2. type of form and the rate;

    3. format number(s) or year of issue.

The code therefore enables a user to relate any given item of telegraphic stationery to its issuing authority, purpose and its issue date. Although maybe strange at first to a new user, the code is a very useful and informative tool which is succinct in its statement.

1. Geographical location and period.

The first two letters describe the nature of the postal administration and the period of operation or the scope of the Authority:

  1. first letter identifies the nature of the Postal Authority (Australia as opposed to the Interim or Colonial authority);
  2. the second letter describes the relevant period.
First letter


Second letter Reference
A Australia (1917-1988). E Establishment (1917-1922).
    B Brown years (1923-1939).
    W War years and recovery (1940-1957).
    A Australian Post Office (1958-1975).
    T Telecom (1975-1988).
N New South Wales I Interim period (1901-1917).
Q Queensland C Colonial period (1854-1900).
S South Australia    
T Tasmania    
V Victoria    
W Western Australia    
I International - the letter I is placed in front of the two letters for location and time period. It therefore identifies telegraph items used in some way for communications beyond Australia's shores.

When an item is clearly a Colonial or Interim period item and it was issued by the main Telegraph Authority, the 2nd and 3rd letters are those normally used. For example INC relates to:

  • an (I) International item;
  • issued by (N) New South Wales;
  • during the (C) Colonial years.

As an additional distinguishing feature for items developed by one of the companies, the third letter shows supplementary periods peculiar to the organisation responsible for the development of the international services:

    X Eastern Extension
    P Pacific Cable Board
    A AWA
    C Cable & Wireless
    O Overseas Telecommunications Commission
    M Miscellaneous - includes Reuters.

Hence INX describes:

  • an (I) International item;
  • issued for (N) New South Wales;
  • by (X) The Eastern Extension Company.


IAA describes:

  • an international form;
  • issued during the post-1917 period for Australia;
  • by AWA.

When there are only two letters in a code, the second letter "A" indicates the A(ustralian Post Office) period. When there are three letters in a code, the third letter indicates A(WA) because the first letter indicates I(NTERNATIONAL).




2. Type of item

The second set of letters identifies the type of item and the category within that classification.

Third letter Type of item Fourth letter   Fifth letter
(if used)
T Transmission form. O Ordinary rate.    
    U Urgent rate.    
    W Wheatstone telegram.    
D Delivery form. O Ordinary rate.    
    U Urgent rate.    
E Delivery envelope. O Ordinary rate.    
    U Urgent rate.    
    C Confirmatory Copy    
G Greetings telegrams and envelopes. A Anzac Day F Delivery Form
  B Birthday E Delivery Envelope
    C Congratulations    
    E Easter    
    G Generic    
    H (Sydney) Harbour Bridge    
    M Mother's Day    
    S Social    
    V Victorian Centenary    
    X Christmas/New Year greetings.    
M Money Order telegram.        
P Phonogram. O Ordinary rate.    
    U Urgent rate.    
R Reply paid telegram.        
    V Pre-paid voucher.    
A Administrative D Delivery (including non-delivery) advice    
  For International items: C Cablegram.    
    B Beam Wireless.    
    R Radiogram.    



3. Format number or year of issue

The third set of numbers/letters have different meanings depending on the context:

Examples of a code:

  1. AB-DO-3 means the item is a Delivery (D) form sent at the Ordinary (O) rate. It was printed during the Brown (B) years of Australian (A) authority. The form is the third (3) of that type issued within the Australian period. If the letters A to E followed the 3, they would describe each of the five formats which had been issued for that delivery form.
  2. AB-GMF-39A means the item was issued during the Brown (B) years of the Australian (A) responsibility. It is the first format (last A) of a Greetings (G) delivery form (F) for Mothers' Day (M) and it was first issued in 1939.
  3. VC-TO-5 means that the item was issued by the Victorian (V) Colonial (C) authority and that it is the 5th format of an ordinary (O) rate Transmission (T) form.