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A stamp (individually also briefly brand ) in Germany officially postage stamps , the confirmation of a postal transport company on payment of the printed amount.

It is usually printed in several sheets of stamps on paper , is usually rectangular and has a rubber coating on the back. When separating from the perforated sheet, the typical perforation occurs on the edges. When using the transport service or another service of the company for which no other type of payment is mandatory, the payment of the fee or the fee is proven by sticking the stamp at the place provided for this. In order to prevent it from being used again, the stamp is regularly canceled with a postmark , although other cancellation methods (such as with a ballpoint pen) are still common today. The use of postage stamps takes place almost exclusively in the context of privately sent pieces of mail. In the franking of commercial post was usually most of the franking means of a franking machine and for large shippers by franking displaced.

The provider is the publisher of the stamps. This is different in every country, e.g. In some cases, these are state postal administrations and possibly commercial service providers. In Germany, Deutsche Post stamps are issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance. Monaco does not have a postal administration, but issues its own stamps through the Office des Emissions de Timbres-Poste . To date, over 1000 governments or administrations have issued their own postage stamps.



Before the world's first official postage stamp was issued in 1840, there were numerous forerunners. As early as 1653 , the tenant of the Paris City Post Office , Jean-Jacques Renouard de Villayer , created the Billet de port payé , a postage stamp-like paper fee slip. In the absence of an adhesive surface, this strip had to be attached to the letter with a clip or thread. Existing copies of these billets are currently not known.

There were also comparable forerunners in the United Kingdom . The system of a uniform price for local mail with postage paid by postage, developed from 1680 by the London Penny Post of merchants William Dockwra and Robert Murray, was so successful that the Duke of York saw its postal monopoly in danger. On his complaint, the London Penny Post had to go out of business after only two years; it was incorporated into the General Post Office . Some letters with the triangular postmarks ( English triangular postmarks ) of the London Penny Post are preserved in archives, four copies are said to be in private hands.

At the beginning of the 19th century there were so-called city envelopes in some cities , which can be seen as the forerunners of printed postage stamps on envelopes . In the Kingdom of Sardinia , for example, there was a postmarked post office paper ( Carta postale bollata ) in 1818 , although it was not the transport fee but a state tax that was paid on the licensing of the privately operated postal companies to complement the state post; Reply cards enclosed with British newspapers were also franked by 1821. In May 1831, the Kingdom of Greece issued the Tesserakontalepton, a 40-Lepta fee stamp for the transport of mail from Athens to Piraeus. The first postal stationery was the letter sheets issued in Sydney , Australia in 1838 .

Creation of the first postage stamps

One Penny Black - The world's first postage stamp (1840)

The basic idea of ​​the invention was to no longer have the postage collected from the recipient, but from the sender. This created the first “ prepaid system ” (advance payment and subsequent use). In addition, it was associated with a simplification and reduction of postage, so that an exchange of letters was no longer reserved for rich people.

In 1836 which made Slovene Laurenz Koschier from Ljubljana to the Austrian Government's proposal to the introduction of postage stamps to simplify the postal system . The Scottish bookseller James Chalmers made a similar proposal in 1838. Sir Rowland Hill , who was entrusted with the reform of the postal system by the British government in 1835, probably took up this suggestion and included it in his postal reform. He is therefore considered to be the author of the stamp.

The first stick-on stamp was issued in the United Kingdom from May 1, 1840 according to Rowland Hill's proposals , and was valid for postage from May 6, 1840 (however, one copy was first used on May 2). The value at one penny is referred to in collectors' circles as One Penny Black . It is considered to be the first postage stamp in the world.

Rowland Hill was also the subject responsible for the first two stamps. Several thousand designs were submitted for the design, all of which were rejected by him. Rowland Hill therefore copied the drawing from a commemorative coin from 1837, which he particularly liked. The value of one penny bears the portrait of Queen Victoria on a black background, the value of two pence on a blue background. The engraver of the first stamps was Henry Corbald. With the pressure that has been printing Perkins, Bacon Petch entrusted.

The spread of the postage stamp

Black ones

Shortly after the world's first two postage stamps were issued, other countries followed suit. In 1841 and 1842 some local stamps appeared in the USA . In 1843 further stamps appeared in Brazil ( ox eyes ) and in the two Swiss cantons of Zurich ( Zurich 4 and Zurich 6 ) and Geneva ( Double Geneva ). The first German postage stamp was the Schwarze Einser , which was issued on November 1, 1849 together with two other 3 Kreuzer and 6 Kreuzer stamps from the Kingdom of Bavaria . A copy of the 3 Kreuzer stamp, used on October 31st, is known on a letter from Deggendorf. The German states of Hanover , Prussia , Saxony and the Danish-German duchies of Schleswig and Holstein followed in 1851, and Baden in 1851 . The first Austrian postage stamps were issued on June 1, 1850. They were also valid for Liechtenstein , where the post office was operated by Austria until 1920.

Soon new types of postage emerged, such as the world's first newspaper stamps in Austria in 1851 . A postage stamp issued in April 1871 to mark the opening of the first railway line in Peru is generally regarded as the world's first special stamp, but not all historians support this view. Nevertheless, the advertising effectiveness of postage stamps was recognized more and more.

The first noteworthy change was made to stamps in the 1850s, when in Great Britain, on a trial basis, in 1850 and finally from 1854, the stamps on the sheets were separated by perforations in order to make them much easier to separate. This creates the typical tooth edge of postage stamps. Previously, scissors had to be used to cut.

Legal function in Germany


The postage stamp used to be officially called postage stamps. This word comes from the “sovereign” vocabulary and shows the historical background of the stamp from a legal point of view. Since all postal administrations were in state hands or based on a state-granted monopoly (sometimes with different names, for example Thurn und Taxis), one was active in public law. At the Deutsche Bundespost, for example, until privatization, the postal order regulated the relationship between the postal service and the postal user (“postal usage relationship”). This fact also results in the - still - existing peculiarity that the fees under private law that are now required for the transport are exempt from sales tax (better known as value added tax).

The fee for mail delivery was previously a fee under public law. When the postage stamp was used, it was shown by sticking it on that the prescribed administrative fee for the state transport had been paid. As sovereign fee stamps, the postage stamps did not come under the private law stamp law according to § 807 BGB.

From 1871 onwards, the postage stamp was understood as a document in the Reich Criminal Code and its forgery was punished as a forgery of documents (Section 275 RStGB). In the Federal Republic of Germany, the postage stamp was no longer classified as a document, but as an "official stamp" similar to money. With the major criminal law reform in 1975, their forgery was now regulated under “Counterfeiting of money and stamps” (Sections 148, 149 of the Criminal Code).


When the Federal Republic of Germany was founded in 1949, stamps were clearly sovereign stamps. Since they could in principle also be used as a substitute for money , the Deutsche Bundesbank initially insisted that stamps should only have a limited validity in order to be able to control the circulation of money. This reservation was only slowly relaxed. The first stamp series with unlimited validity appeared in 1964, while all stamps were basically valid for an unlimited period only from 1969 onwards. As a result of the founding of the European Post and Telecommunication Association, the Deutsche Reichspost had given the postage stamps still valid at that time and all stamps that had appeared since June 16, 1942 until the end of the war with unlimited validity. This became obsolete after the surrender. In the GDR, too, postage stamps were initially given a limited period of validity. This time limit was lifted in 1965 with retroactive effect from January 1, 1964, so that all stamps published from 1964 onwards remained valid for an unlimited period. The character of the postage stamps in the GDR was comparable to that in the Federal Republic.

On January 1, 1995, the state-owned Deutsche Bundespost was privatized, that is, it was dissolved as a state institution and reorganized as " Deutsche Post AG ". As a private company, it is no longer active in public law. It provides “services” under private law for “performance remuneration”. The former Post “users” are now legally Post “customers”. Since then, you have been concluding civil law contracts, such as purchase, work and other contracts, with Deutsche Post AG. The purchase of a postage stamp is now a normal sales contract under private law.

Deutsche Post AG was no longer granted the right to issue its own postage stamps. Instead, it was legally obliged to obtain the stamps it needed from the state (i.e. the Federal Republic of Germany). Today's stamps are produced in accordance with the instructions of the Federal Ministry of Finance and delivered to Deutsche Post AG ( Section 43 (1) sentence 1 of the Postal Act ).

The legal character of German postage stamps was unclear for a long time, and the legal literature in Germany on the legal character of postage stamps under civil law is inconsistent. Only the fundamental judgment of the Federal Court of Justice on October 11, 2005 provided clarity. Accordingly, postage stamps are “small bearer papers” in the sense of § 807 BGB. "Small bearer papers" are always in question when the issuer of the paper can free himself by making a payment to the owner, the owner is entitled to demand the promised service, and possession of the document is necessary to assert the right. According to this, it follows from the general custom of bearer marks that the postage stamp embodies a right to the carriage of a mail item to the extent that corresponds to the printed value. Swiss Post wants to provide the transport service to anyone with a debt-discharging effect who sticks valid postage stamps in the amount of the intended service fee on the respective mail item. At this point in time, the postage stamp is only used to check whether the service fee agreed for the specific mail item has been paid in advance. Possession of the stamp is required to assert the right to transport, so that if the stamp is lost, no performance can be requested from the Post. The protective function of § 797 BGB (issuing of the bearer paper to the issuer) is achieved by canceling the stamp with a stamp.

Under criminal law, their forgery no longer falls under the “counterfeiting of money and stamps” according to §§ 146 ff. StGB, but is simple forgery according to § 267 StGB. Postage stamps are therefore criminally equated with the private stamps of other postal companies. With the end of the so-called "letter monopoly" of Deutsche Post AG on January 1, 2008, more private stamps were issued.

Postage stamps from providers of universal services are exempt from sales tax in Germany according to § 4 number 11b sentence 1 UStG. In the past, this was justified by the fact that Swiss Post had an exclusive license for letters weighing less than 50 grams, which ran until December 31, 2007, and was therefore the only company to offer a nationwide universal service. After the expiry of the exclusive license and the associated fall of the letter monopoly in Germany, these prerequisites are no longer met, but the Post's tax privilege was retained until June 30, 2010. On July 1, 2010, this fell in the business area, while at the same time the postal competitors in the private customer area are exempt from sales tax, provided they offer their services nationwide.

Since September 2008 it has also been possible to purchase and settle postage at Deutsche Post AG via new sales channels. The so-called Handyporto a numeric code is sent after the order via the mobile phone via SMS to be entered instead of the stamp by hand on the broadcast. On the other hand, the so-called internet stamp is purchased by the customer via the internet , paid for electronically, printed out by the customer as a machine-readable barcode and stuck on the shipment or printed directly on the envelope. The process is similar to the Stampit service. While only the usual postage amount has to be paid with the internet brand, the mobile phone postage costs an extra charge. It must be noted that both are no longer a postage stamp in the strict sense of the word because they lack the character of uniformity - identical pieces are produced in larger editions.

Postage stamps become collectibles

Cover of the first Scott catalog from 1868

With the rapid expansion of the postage stamp, philately also spread more and more. The term philatelist was coined in 1864 by the French collector Georges Herpin. Translated from the Greek it means "friend of that which is free from taxes". Although this word describes the philatelists' passion for collecting very poorly, it caught on in almost all languages.

Postage stamps are widely used as collectibles. At first the small postage stamps were collected from the daily mail just for fun and used, for example, to stick lampshades , which almost always destroyed the collectibles. It was only slowly that some people began to take a closer look at the stamps. For the collector at the time, it was a matter of course and also possible to create so-called “general collections”. This means that the philatelist added all the postage stamps in the world to his collection. This was later unthinkable given the mass of different postage stamp issues.

Over time, numerous aids for the philatelist were created. The first stamp albums appeared in 1860 . Just one year later, in 1861, the first forerunners of today's stamp catalogs came into being . In 1862 the first philatelic journals were issued . This is The Monthly Advertiser , which first appeared on December 15, 1862, in the stamp's country of birth. The stamp magazines mainly promoted the exchange of stamps between the philatelists. They also reported on the new editions around the world and informed the collectors about everything worth knowing about philately.

In addition to the new tools for the philatelist, more and more stamp associations and events were created especially for the philatelist. Meetings of philatelists in the USA are known as early as 1856 . In 1866 the Excelsior Stamp Association , the world's first stamp association , was founded there .

The increasing number of philatelic associations led to numerous mergers. In Germany today this is the Association of German Philatelists , in Austria the Association of Austrian Philatelists' Associations .

The first counterfeit mail

The rapid spread of the postage stamp not only had positive side effects. More and more forgers recognized the lucrative business of postage forgeries, the so-called postal forgeries.

Shortly after the introduction of the first postage stamp on May 6, 1840 in Great Britain, the first total forgeries of postage stamps appeared. In addition to these total forgeries, there were also numerous partial forgeries of postage stamps. This means that only parts of a real postage stamp have been modified to increase their postage value. These include, for example, the change in color by chemical means and the manipulation of the value digits in order to imitate postage stamps with higher face values.

Postage stamps that have already been used were also often used again by painstakingly handcrafting an unused stamp from two (or more) used pieces. Attempts were made to remove the pen or the postmark by chemical means. In addition, postage stamps, of which only a small part was postmarked, could be used together with an original stamp that covers precisely this part.

Postage stamps to 50 hellers with and without paint strips

Post administrations took various protective measures early on to protect their postage stamps from forgery. The oldest protective measure against counterfeit mail is the watermark . It was already used on the advice of Rowland Hills on the world's first postage stamps.

Some countries used a fiber paper for their postage stamps. With this special type of paper, (often different colored) flakes of silk thread were added to the paper pulp, which later became visible in the paper. With some stamp issues, a colored silk thread was embedded in the still wet paper pulp. These protective measures can be found, for example, in the stamp issues of the German states of Bavaria and Württemberg as well as in Switzerland . Colored paper should also make counterfeiting more difficult. If the paper is only colored on the front, it is called colored paper . This protective measure can be found in Bavaria's first postage stamps, for example.

In Austria , the stamp paper was provided with glossy lacquer strips . This should make it very difficult to remove postmarks in order to reuse the stamps. The paint strips partially dissolved with the brand image in the water (or other liquids).

High-circulation 10- Heller brand

Highlight of the stamp

At the turn of the century around 1900, shortly before the First World War , the spread of the postage stamp reached its peak. Thanks to the constant expansion of the railroad, the letter had become the most important means of communication . The number of copies shot up. The most important Austrian stamp values ​​of five and ten Heller from 1908, for example, had a circulation of over three billion (3,000,000,000) each. However, these stamps could only be used in the Austrian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire , as Hungary had issued its own stamps since the Compromise in 1867.

Over time, its own stamp language developed . The position of the postage stamp (s) on the letter, for example stuck upside down and tilted to the right, enabled the recipient of the letter to deliver secret messages such as "Forever yours". Over time, however, this form of secret communication disappeared again.

Postage stamps as a means of propaganda

Postage stamp GDR 1971
Invincible Vietnam

During the First World War, the postage stamp was discovered as a propaganda tool . A distinction is made between two different types of postage stamp forgeries of warring states , which are produced to harm the enemy . Counterfeit espionage is an imitation of the opposing postage stamps that is as accurate as possible and is used to have propaganda material delivered through middlemen through the enemy post. This is why they are called war mail forgeries (→ mail forgery ). Buying a large number of postage stamps from private individuals would have caught the enemy immediately, especially during a war. Propaganda forgeries are counterfeiting of the opposing postage stamps, whereby the image content is changed for propaganda purposes (e.g. inscription "German Reich" → " Futsches Reich").

This type of postage forgery was particularly widespread during the Second World War . During the Cold War , forged propaganda and war mail were also produced.

The fact that postage stamps are a means of propaganda was not only recognized by the respective enemies of a country. Above all, dictatorial states such as the National Socialist German Reich used stamp motifs for their own propaganda. The personality cult around Adolf Hitler was supported by high editions of corresponding stamps. Something comparable can be found in North Korea around Kim Il-sung , in the former Soviet Union around Josef Stalin or in Romania around Nicolae Ceaușescu . However, people with symbolic functions also appear on postage stamps outside of a pronounced personality cult, such as B. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain , the founding father George Washington of the USA or the philosopher Karl Marx , who played an important role in the political self-image of the GDR . The Soviet Union gave motifs from space travel a lot of space, as these stamps were intended to propagate the country's technological superiority and the associated claim to leadership. In the so-called post war , postage stamps with propagandistic content were repeatedly exposed to complaints from other countries.

Stamps today

Ever since franking machines appeared at the beginning of the 20th century , stamps have been predicted to end quickly. Nevertheless, even today, stamps remain the most convenient way of franking mail, at least for private individuals. Several billion brands are used worldwide every year. Consumption depends heavily on people's payment habits: In countries like the USA, where it is common to pay monthly bills by sending checks , consumption is much higher than in countries where bills are paid by Bank transfer is common.

According to estimates by the Association of German Philatelists , only around 5% of the letters sent in Germany today have a postage stamp. Since the sale of postage stamps to collectors is good business for the postal administrations, many special stamps are mainly produced for collectors and the postal administrations endeavor to design themes based on popular themes such as "Football World Cup" or "Oldtimers". Some small states even produce stamps mainly not for actual use, but in order to generate a not insignificant contribution to the state budget with their sale to collectors (e.g. the Vatican state, Liechtenstein, San Marino or some very poor countries in the Third World ).

For some years now, many countries have had postage stamps on which a letter is printed as a value instead of a specific value. There are two systems: Usually the letter identifies a certain type of shipment, e.g. B. Domestic letter. The tokens then remain valid for this task in the event of price increases regardless of the previous purchase price. This phenomenon also occurs in countries with a high rate of inflation, so that when the inflation rate increases, you don't always have to print new stamps. Especially with the first stamps with letters in the USA , the letter only indicates a certain value, so the difference had to be added in the event of a price increase (e.g. in 1991 with the increase from 25c = E to 29c = F with a special supplementary stamp).

Modern marketing

Stampit 2-D code
Individual "Plusbrief" franking, here with the logo from Wikimedia Commons
“Brand individual”, self-adhesive, Germany

From 2001 to 2011 it was possible in Germany to load and print out so-called digital stamps from the Internet using the Stampit franking software . The postal reform with the accompanying weakening of the letter monopoly made it possible for private companies to issue postage stamps.

In 2003 the Dutch and Finnish Post (the latter initially only for corporate customers) introduced postage stamps that customers can design themselves for the first time. A photo , a graphic or a logo is printed in a given frame. In Austria you have been able to have your own postage stamps (so-called personalized postage stamps ) printed since 2003 with a minimum print run of initially 200 and since 2005 only 100. A comparable program is now available in the USA, where the minimum order is only 20 pieces.

In Germany, since February 1, 2008, Deutsche Post has been offering its customers the option of franking their private or business post with their own postage stamp with the “Plusbrief individual” service. Currently 32.33 euros. You can upload your own motif via the internet portal and the finished envelopes will be sent to your home.

Individually designed stamps have also been available in Germany since 2009. These can be ordered through Deutsche Post's “Brand Individual” program. Both companies and private individuals can submit their own motifs, which, after approval, will be produced on both sheets and rolls. This program currently only produces self-adhesive brands in runs of 20 to 10,000 pieces. In special cases, a practical test may be required, which is carried out with at least 150 franked letters in a mail center. Successful completion is confirmed by certification.

Another new online service for buying postage and parcel stamps is the internet stamp . There is no minimum number of items here, stamps can be personalized with many motifs from a picture gallery and printed out immediately.

On September 6, 2005, Switzerland issued four postage stamps worldwide for the first time showing photos taken with mobile phones . These photos could be submitted by the entire population via MMS . The SMS postage stamp was introduced in 2013 .

In 1988 Austria introduced postage stamps with printed hologram foil for the first time. Due to the technical manufacturing effort, this form of design is a marginal phenomenon that is used for high nominal values ​​and special occasions. Around 120 different editions have appeared worldwide since 1988, each of which represents a separate area of ​​collection.

Also in Austria for the UEFA EURO 2008 a new type of stamp with a wobbly image was issued for the first time . It shows Andreas Herzog's shot on goal for 6 seconds in 1997. The image on the stamp thus becomes a short film. Due to the high manufacturing costs, the price is € 5.45. In the same year, a 3D lenticular image of Venus von Willendorf was published with a face value of € 3.75.

On January 2, 2010, Deutsche Post issued so-called scented stamps for the first time in Germany with the “Fruit” welfare stamps, which release the smell of the fruit when rubbed over the stamp. As early as 1973, the Kingdom of Bhutan had issued a set of special stamps that were printed with fragrant inks and, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the chocolate manufacturers in Bayonne , stamps with a chocolate scent appeared in France on May 23, 2009, which was achieved through microcapsules incorporated in the printing ink .

Characteristic features and design


The original shape of the stamp was rectangular , with standing rectangles being more common than lying ones. Rectangular stamps make an ideal arrangement on the sheet. Square stamps as a special shape of the rectangle are rarely found. Pointed square postage stamps were often issued by the Hungarian Post Office. In addition to the classic squares, postage stamps in the shape of a triangle appeared early on; the best-known representatives of this genus come from the Cape of Good Hope .

Numerous countries have issued postage stamps in various forms in the last few decades, with round stamps - for example stamps with football motifs - being relatively common. However, they are more difficult to tooth and separate from the sheet than rectangles or triangles and are therefore usually issued as part of a stamp pad. Sierra Leone and the Tonga Islands are known among collectors for their special postage stamp shapes, which have the shape of coats of arms , fruit , birds , maps , parchment rolls or coconuts . La Poste in France has already issued several heart-shaped brands .

Compilations of stamps in block form and in stamp booklets are also popular .


The perforation is today the most modern type of perforation of stamps. In the early years of its history it was sometimes poorly executed. Today, however, it has spread all over the world and has become a characteristic of postage stamps. The world's first postage stamps had no perforation at all. The postman had to cut it out of the sheet with scissors .

However, the Briton Henry Archer thought of a better way to separate than the scissors. First he constructed a puncture machine . This worked through the use of small knives that were placed close to each other and made small cuts in the stamp paper between the stamps at regular intervals. The world's first pierced postage stamps appeared at post offices on a trial basis in 1848.

However, Henry Archer was not completely satisfied with his machine. He improved them more and more and soon replaced the fine knives with perforated pins. This new system of stamp separation soon found great acceptance among post office officials. After the first perforated postage stamps were issued in Great Britain , numerous other postal administrations followed with this innovation .

Many countries are moving more and more from the conventional arrangement of stamps in sheets to roll stamps . They do not have to be perforated on the side.


The gum is applied to the back of the stamps so that the stamp can be stuck onto a letter by moistening the layer. For technical reasons, the gumming is generally applied to the blank sheet before the stamps are printed; this is usually done automatically. In the early days, on the other hand, stamps were often only gummed after printing. As long as no machines were used, this was done by hand with a brush .

Nowadays, the main components of rubber lining are mainly plastics . In most cases it is polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), a synthetic carbon- based polymer . Initially, mainly animal glue was used, a little later also vegetable substances such as dextrin or gum arabic .

Some postal administrations are experimenting with postage stamps on self-adhesive plastic film . In the USA e.g. B. Today only self-adhesive stamps are issued. In most other countries, however, rubber lining is used. There have also been numerous efforts to improve the taste of the gumming. The Deutsche Bundespost experimented several times, for example in 1955 and 1956 as well as in the early 1980s with a gumming with a peppermint flavor , later the woodruff flavor was also tried out. In the meantime, gumming is done regularly with a mixture that is less moisture-absorbing and thus reduces the sticking and curling of the paper.


Two distinctly different types of paper

The most common material on which postage stamps are printed is paper specially made for printing postage stamps . This postage stamp paper has to be of a very high quality, since it has to meet the printing requirements, has to be secure against counterfeiting , and it should not be distinguishable from one another in the individual editions . This is not always possible , especially in times of crisis .

Nowadays, stamp paper with a luminescent body is mostly used. A distinction is made between fluorescent , phosphorescent and postage stamp papers with optical brighteners . The luminescent bodies serve as protection against counterfeiting and to brighten the stamp paper and are used by automatic stamping machines as identifiers for the position of the stamp to be stamped, at the same time ensuring the correct position of the letters for machine or manual address reading and coding. Phosphorescence (afterglow in the dark) is relatively rare, but is the rule with Finnish postage stamps, for example. The current demand for postage stamp paper in Germany is around 25 tons per day.

However, some postal administrations sometimes use other materials such as wood or cloth . These two examples were issued by the Swiss Post and are only for sale to collectors. Bhutan , which has been issuing its own postage stamps since 1955, even presented postage stamps in the form of real, 68 to 100 mm large, single-sided recordings . The GDR issued in 1963 a block on Dederongewebe . The Kingdom of Burundi issued various stamps on gold foil on the third anniversary of its independence . In its series of welfare stamps, the Deutsche Bundespost issued two postage stamps with glued-on hologram foil in 1999 . In 2003 a stamp was issued in Italy printed on denim, and in 2004 the Swiss Post issued a stamp on wood. Embroidered postage stamps have also been produced by the Italian, Swiss and Austrian Post since the early 2000s. Austria issued two postage stamps with special materials in 2008 : for the European Football Championship 2008, a round postage stamp made of the synthetic leather from which the soccer balls were made and a plastic lenticular image ("wobble" with 3D effect) of the Venus von Willendorf . In the Soviet Union , two postage stamps with space motifs from 1965 were printed on aluminum .

However, to this day, opaque postage stamp paper has remained the only useful material for postage stamps.

Design and printing

The motifs of postage stamps are a welcome way of presenting the countries that issue them. Therefore, in addition to the value and the designation of origin , the stamp usually also has an artistic motif. The portraits of monarchs, which were often used in early years, are increasingly being replaced by interesting depictions from the areas of culture , flora and fauna , technology , sports , buildings , art, as well as important personalities and current events.

Correct illustration of a German postage stamp that is valid for postage (see also: Official postage stamp (Germany) )

In Germany , postage stamps are issued for Deutsche Post AG by the Federal Ministry of Finance with the assistance of an art and program advisory board. The draft submitted by the artist must be enlarged six times so that details can be seen more precisely.

Since postage stamps are not official works , they are subject to copyright protection. Your copyright lies with the respective postal administration. The affected stamps can still be shown in most cases. However, if this does not involve the depiction of the entire stamp as such, but primarily the depiction of the motif or certain parts of the motif, the copyright of the designer of the stamp motif could be affected in this case.

The individual postal administrations of the world tolerate the depiction of postage stamps in books or on websites to varying degrees. While the postal administration of the Faroe Islands, for example, allows its postage stamps to be reproduced unchanged, German postage stamps can only be reproduced under certain restrictions. The stamp shown must either be at least 25% larger or 10% smaller than the original or have an imprint of a slanted black bar over one of its corners. The latter method is recognized by most of the world's postal administrations.

When printing the stamp, particular attention is paid to the high quality implementation of the designs. A wide variety of printing techniques are used today. Combined printing processes are often used.

In the past, printing was done with printing presses under high pressure, which could lead to breaks in the paper around the print image. The philatelist then speaks of the so-called Bayernbruch .

On September 9, 2004, the Deutsche Post issued a special stamp for the 50th anniversary of the Federal Social Court, which was produced with elaborate embossing . A stamp followed on March 2, 2006, which for the first time contained tactile lettering embossed for the blind (“See with hands”) and the value (55 cents) in Braille .

Before the final printing arrangement, a few test prints are usually made. Despite the numerous checks and test prints, there are always minor misprints, such as shifting a print run. These small varieties are mostly only of interest to the philatelist. Larger errors, such as a wrong color or an incorrectly inserted center piece, are very rare. The most famous misprints in the world include the Tre Skilling Banco from Sweden , of which only one copy is known, and the American Inverted Jenny from 1918.

There are not only works of art that are reproduced on postage stamps or artistic graphic designs that are depicted on them, but there are also works of art made from postage stamps.


Postage stamps with additional overprinting were issued to adjust the face value in a cost-saving manner in times of strong inflation. The color of the corrective imprint is often black, and the original value is sometimes crossed out or covered with a separate bar.

Overprints also occurred when new state structures or areas appeared with new names.

Austrian Post had 2019 vierfärbige (blue (member countries), light blue (GB), yellow, black) United Kingdom and Gibraltar European Union membership referendum - special stamp that specifies the originally planned withdrawal date "03.29.2019" Print to a design by Anita core. Britain's exit has been postponed. The black date on the stamp was therefore corrected by overprinting it in black: the former date value was delicately crossed out horizontally, immediately below it is the ultimately applicable value "31.1.2020", the day on which the stamp was first issued.

German Federal Printing Office

The production of postage stamps has been a traditional area of ​​activity for Bundesdruckerei (previously: Reichsdruckerei) for more than 100 years . The issuer of German postage stamps is now the Federal Ministry of Finance (formerly the Federal Ministry for Post and Telecommunications), which among other things authorizes the Federal Printing Office to produce postage stamps. Almost all German and numerous foreign postage stamps are produced in the Bundesdruckerei. Other printing companies that produce stamps on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Finance include Giesecke & Devrient Wertpapierdruckerei Leipzig GmbH and Bagel Security-Print GmbH & Co. KG in Mönchengladbach.

When the forerunner of today's Bundesdruckerei was founded (1879), the imperial printers produced around 600 million postage stamps annually. Today's state-of-the-art printing machines deliver around four billion stamps a year. Great care is taken to ensure that the numbered and perforated stamps are of "flawless quality". If the inspectors discover a minimal color deviation or an irregularity at the edges, these are classified as "misprints" and destroyed. Since the stamp printing is extremely meticulous , misprints are rare and all the more sought after by stamp collectors. Despite the many checks and the care taken, it is astonishing that misprints are still being delivered. Often, however, the errors are minimal deviations, such as a point in the print image, which are barely or not at all visible to the naked eye.

Sale and presentation

1997 ministerial album

Postage stamps are sold individually or in units to postal services or to post office outlets such as selected postal agencies. However, there are special forms of sale for collectors. With a collective subscription , the stamp collector receives the newly published stamp issues monthly or quarterly. Often, it is also possible stamped to order stamps. Postage stamp subscriptions are particularly useful for collectors of stamps from “exotic” countries.

So-called first day covers are only offered on the first day of issue in some countries for philatelic collecting purposes . These are specially designed jewelery envelopes that indicate the occasion of issue, with a postage stamp canceled by a first day cancellation and usually also with an event-related special cancellation . The first day pages with an additional motif description on the stamps fulfill a similar function .

With the purchase of an annual set , the philatelist receives all the stamps of a year from a certain country. There are also numerous other forms of sales and presentation such as ministerial albums .

Postage Stamp Day is a very popular date for the postal service to issue and present new stamps . This is celebrated annually by numerous countries around the world. Stamp Day took place in Austria for the first time in December 1935. In Germany, Postage Stamp Day has been celebrated every year since 1948 on the last Sunday in October, in Switzerland mostly in December, in Austria mostly in May.

Types of postage

There are many different types of postage today. Soon after the postage stamp was introduced, more and more uses were found for it. The main types of postage are:

Postage stamps

The postage stamp is the oldest and most common form of postage stamp. Postage stamps are used to pay postal charges. Postage stamps are divided into three different types:

Definitive stamps are postage stamps that are issued by Swiss Postin unlimited numbers fora longer period of time . Definitive stamps are always available in all important postage levels, which together form a uniform set of definitive stamps. In most cases these stamps are less colorful than special stamps. In Germany definitive stamps are issued either in sheet form and in roll form or in stamp booklets , some of which were imperforated.
Special stamps or commemorative stamps are postage stamps that are issued on a special occasion. After the Peruvian Post published the first special stamps in 1871 on the occasion of the opening ofPeru'sfirst railway line between Lima and Callao , numerous countries followed suit with the issue of these stamps. Many countries nowadays use special stamps as a welcome way of presenting themselves. Small states inparticulargenerate a not insignificant share for the treasury with the issue of special stamps of popular motifs. (Whereby the more or less propagandistic aspect should not be underestimated. For example, special stamps were issued in Germany by the Royal Bavarian Post in 1911 for the anniversary of the reign of Prince Regent Luitpold and in 1919 by the Reichspost for aid to war victims and for the opening of the Weimar National Assembly The self-portrayal of a country with postage stamps is not insignificant.) Special stamps are mainly produced for collectors, since they are actually not necessary for postal purposes. Real letters franked with special stampsare therefore much rarer than letters with definitive stamps. Sometimes special stamps are sold by the post office for more than their face value. The philatelist speaks of a "surcharge" or "surcharge". The surcharge mostly serves charitable purposes, like the so-called welfare stamps from Germany, but it is also used to finance other companies worthy of support (exhibitions, associations, ...). Special stamps appear as sheet stamps and in stamp booklets .
Machine stamps: A specialty of the postage stamps are the machine stamps . These are sold via postage stamp machines, which are usually located in front of the post office. It is usually possible to print out any values ​​in certain stages.
Official stamp with overprint from the German inflation period

Official stamps

Service stamps are postage stamps that are used exclusively by authorities , offices or offices for franking postal items of service mail. They are therefore not sold at the normal post office counter and are not approved for normal postal traffic. Theft and misuse of badges are therefore rare. After all, the Danziger Post is known to have used private individuals several times without objection. The frequent excess postage at the expense of the state treasury, which at least from the 1930s onwards was obviously philatelically motivated by the Reichspost, are to be regarded as abusive, although very often ignorance of the fee rates or inattention were the cause.

Airmail stamp

Airmail stamps

Airmail stamps are used to pay for airmail transport . This is why they are sometimes called airmail stamps . Some airmail stamps could only be used for airmail and were not allowed to be stuck on normal letters. The German official ones were approved for all other postal services from the beginning and the majority of the other countries followed suit sooner or later. Most countries in the world decided to issue their own airmail stamps, as the transport of mail by air was a special feature at the beginning and middle of the 20th century, which was taken into account.

Germany introduced its first semi-official air tickets as early as 1912. These were in cooperation with and with the approval of the Reichspost and Kgl. Bavarian Post issued by private institutions. This period until 1914 is known as the pioneer flying period. The first official German airmail stamps appeared in the second half of October 1919 (no specific issue date was set). In Austria, during the First World War, on March 30, 1918, the first airmail stamps were issued. Like Germany in 1913, Switzerland issued its own semi-official pioneer flight stamps and official flight post stamps from April 30, 1919. In most European countries flight post stamps were abolished again after the Second World War . Ordinary postage stamps could now be used to frank airmail letters. In Germany these were permitted for this from the beginning of the official air mail on February 6, 1919, until October 1919 only such. The introductory regulations in the official gazette of the Reichspost only recommended the use of airmail stamps to pay the airmail surcharge, but did not make them mandatory. Market values ​​of the series from 1924 were even used up on parcel cards at parcel counters.

Postage stamps

Postage due stamp Austrian Empire
Austrian postage due from 1925
See also postage fee .

In many countries separate postage stamps are and have been issued to offset postage for insufficiently franked letters. They are before the delivery pasted the letter from a postal clerk and at delivery from the postman charged.

Postage stamps were first issued in Austria in 1894. They were only abolished with the introduction of the euro in 2002. Germany never issued its own postage stamps. Only the states of Baden (1862–1871) and Bavaria (1862–1910), which at that time still had their own postal sovereignty, issued their own postage stamps. In addition, after Austria's annexation, its postage stamps were used there until October 31, 1938, but not in the rest of the Reich, as were those of the former Free City there until October 31, 1939 after the reintegration of Danzig. Another exception are the postage stamps of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (1939-1943). Switzerland issued its own postage stamps from 1878 onwards, but stopped using them on February 29, 1956 and on December 31, 1956, at the collector's counter. Austrian postage stamps were used in Liechtenstein until the separation from the Austrian postal administration in 1920. In the following years of postal independence, Liechtenstein initially issued its own postage stamps in Austrian currency until January 31, 1921, then used Switzerland's stamps until April 11, 1928 and then issued its own in Swiss currency again, which it used until December 31, 1956, however sold at the collector's counter until December 31, 1958 and also stamped on request.

Other types of postage

Telegraph brand
EasyFranking stamp for international letters from Deutsche Post

The Great Lexicon of Philately gives around 100 different types of postage stamps under the keyword “ Brand Types” . In addition to the types mentioned above, the following types of postage are considered "basic types":

These brand categories can be further subdivided, for example into express stamps for service items, airmail, parcels, etc., so that around 100 types are created. However, many species were only introduced briefly and by a few countries. In addition to the brands of the state postal service, there are brands of other services that may appear on mail, including

A modern variant of the international stamp is the test operated EasyFranking for the dispatch of international letters . From April 2010 onwards, Deutsche Post is carrying out a long-term test with self-adhesive EasyFranking stamps with just a few customers. The stamps, which were only intended for international mailing of letters in the test run, contain a 2D code instead of a fixed postage value. This coding also contains a key for assigning the sender. The required franking for the item is only determined in the mail center; the amount to be paid for this is allocated to the respective sender account and billed. The test was discontinued on December 31, 2011. Franked and run items with this type of franking are likely to be a rarity both in Germany and abroad, as they were only tested in small quantities and exclusively with international business mail.

Cancellation of postage stamps

So-called. Spring balancer cancellation "Sarajewo 20/7"
Hand cancellation of a postage stamp from 1960

In order to prevent the stamp from being used again, it will be canceled by the post office . The most common type of cancellation nowadays is the postmark . These usually circular stamp (often in black color ) give place and date of the cancellation. Special forms of postmark are the special and first-day postmarks , which are only used on special occasions or when a new postage stamp is issued and usually have a motif suitable for the occasion in addition to the usual inscriptions.

These types of cancellation are particularly valued by stamp collectors. Nowadays, normal postal items are canceled by machine. Often only a series of straight or wavy lines or a text is knocked off the stamp, from which neither the time nor the place of cancellation can be determined in the case of a detached stamp. Since the 1990s, machine “stamps” have increasingly been applied by inkjet printers in some countries (e.g. Canada or Great Britain).

However, there are numerous other forms of cancellation that can be found especially at the beginning of the postage stamp issues in the 19th century. Especially in smaller post offices that did not have their own postmark in the early years of the postage stamp, the stamps were simply crossed out or handwritten with place names and the date.

In some countries, such as Spain , stamps were canceled by punching them . In the Ottoman Empire , scissors or knife cuts were used for a while . The stamp to be canceled was cut with scissors or a knife .

In other countries, for example in France, advance cancellations are used for bulk deliveries. Valid postage stamps are canceled in advance using special letterpress or hand stamps and are then given to bulk carriers in whole sheets . This eliminates the need for individual postmarking of the mail items and simplifies the postal service. The post-cancellation of postage stamps is also a form of cancellation. Postage stamps that have inadvertently not been canceled will be canceled afterwards; The use of a stamp "subsequently canceled" is intended. However, there is always a cancellation by the postman with a ballpoint pen or colored pencil , usually in the form of a cross.

Famous postage stamps

Due to their rarity and high popularity with collectors, stamps often fetch high prices at auctions . The question of the rarest and most valuable postage stamp cannot be clearly clarified, as there are several unique stamps. The most sought-after and famous stamps among collectors include:

Saxony threesome


  • Burkhard Müller: Lost Lands. A world history in postage stamps . Verlag zu Klampen, Springe 2013, ISBN 978-3-86674-221-5 .
  • Martina Gorgas: Merian Compass - Postage Stamps in Europe . Travel House Media, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7742-6767-7 .
  • Joachim Helbig: Pre-philately . Schwaneberger, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-87858-553-5 .
  • Waldemar Gruschke: Brand countries lexicon . Books on Demand, Norderstedt 2004, ISBN 3-8334-1044-2 .
  • Guido Schmitz: It doesn't have to be the “Blue Mauritius”. The "most boring hobby in the world" and how stamp collecting can be really exciting . Martin Schmitz, Kelkheim 2004, ISBN 3-922272-91-6 .
  • Gerhard Webersinke: Michel Collectors ABC. Correct collecting made easy! Schwaneberger, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-87858-539-X .
  • Michel catalog Germany 2005/2006. Schwaneberger, Unterschleißheim 2005, ISBN 3-87858-034-7 .
  • Hans Reichardt, Wolfgang Maaßen: What is what? Volume 52 - Postage Stamps . Neuer Tessloff-Verlag, Hamburg 2001, ISBN 3-7886-2920-7 .
  • G. Feustel: Lexicon: poets and writers on postage stamps. Berlin 1987.
  • Ludwig Tröndle, Burkhard Brehme: My hobby stamps . Mosaik Verlag GmbH, Munich 1982, ISBN 978-3-570-04840-5 .
  • Heinz Kühne: We collect stamps . Mosaik, Munich 1976, ISBN 3-570-02285-4 .
  • Buschmann, Konrad: The mail went off - the history of the motorization of the post. Vol. 3. Michael Weyand, Trier 2002, ISBN 3-924631-98-0 .
  • Chris Gatz: Postage Stamps - Paper Pearls. Phil * Creativ GmbH, Schwalmtal 1993, ISBN 3-928277-08-1 .
  • S. Jakucewicz, F.-J. Könsler, M. Szwemin: A postage stamp is created. Presentation and explanation of all production techniques, Phil * Creativ GmbH, Schwalmtal 1999, ISBN 3-928277-18-9 .
  • Gerold Schmidt, Is the forgery of so-called "postage stamps" (§ 148 StGB) exempt from punishment since the post-privatization (Article 103, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law) ?, in: Journal for the entire criminal law science, vol. 111, 1999, p. 388– 421.
  • Gerold Schmidt, postage stamps, in: Concise Dictionary of German Legal History (HRG) 3rd Vol. 1982, Sp. 1844–1846.
  • Horst Zeisig: Munich and Bavaria on postage stamps - small works of art from 1849–2010 . MünchenVerlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-937090-50-4 .
  • W. Stössel: On the development of the postage stamp. In: Archive for German Postal History Issue 2/1974, pp. 54–57.
  • Georg Finke: History of the Penny Postage System and Postage Stamps: With e. Appendix about d. Erfdg d. Postcard; For the 50th anniversary of the postage stamps; with e. Portr. J. Chalmers, whose postage stamp designs ue postage stamp designs Charles Whitings . Leipzig: E. Heitmann, 1890. (Reprint: Unikum 2013, ISBN 3-8457-0238-9 )

Web links

Commons : stamps  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Postage stamp  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Freimarke  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Postage stamp  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Stamps: Development / From the Idea to the Stamp . Federal Ministry of Finance, 2014. Accessed September 9, 2018.
  2. ^ Björn Berge: Atlas of the vanished countries. World history in 50 stamps . Translated by Günter Frauenlob, Frank Zuber. dtv, Munich 2018, page 7. ISBN 978-3-423-28160-7 . Norwegian original 2016.
  3. Greece Hermes 20 Lepta 1861. On, accessed on January 29, 2017.
  4. ^ Sergio Sismondo: The Tesserakontalepton - The Nine Pearls Variety - Greece, 1831. From, accessed January 29, 2017.
  5. Paper Heritage - Train Stamps: Peru: 1871 'Trencito' issue. Retrieved January 29, 2017 from
  6. Federal Court of Justice: Exchange period for Pfennig and DM stamps effective. In: Communication from the press office. No. 137/2005, online at, accessed on January 29, 2017.
  7. Federal Court of Justice: Judgment XI ZR 395/04 of October 11, 2005. The wording of the judgment at, accessed on January 29, 2017 (PDF; 53 kB).
  8. Erman / Heckelmann, BGB, 11th edition, § 807 margin no. 4th
  9. BGHZ 28, 259, 264.
  10. Gerold Schmidt: Does the issuance of official "postage stamps" violate Art. 87 f GG? In: Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (NJW). No. 200, 1998, p. 202.
  11. Gerold Schmidt: Has the forgery of so-called "postage stamps" (§ 148 StGB) been punishable since the post-privatization (Article 103, Paragraph 2, Basic Law)? In: Journal for the entire field of criminal law. Volume 111, Issue 2, November 1999, ISSN (Online) 1612-703X, ISSN (Print) 0084-5310, pp. 388-421, doi: 10.1515 / zstw.1999.111.2.388 , online at, accessed on 29 January 2017.
  12. Allgaier, ArchPF, 1989, 222, 223.
  13. ^ Postage calculator of the Deutsche Post. With internet brand and mobile phone postage, online at, accessed on January 29, 2017.
  14. Wolfram Grallert: Lexicon of Philately. 2nd edition, Phil * Creativ, Schwalmtal 2007, ISBN 3-932198-38-7 , p. 284.
  15. Wolfgang Maassen: The first philatelic literature appeared 150 years ago. In: Philatelie - The magazine of the Association of German Philatelists. No. 416, February 2012, ISSN 1619-5892, pp. 42-45.
  16. ^ Wolfgang Maassen: Philately and associations in the 19th century. Phil * Creativ, Schwalmtal 2006, ISBN 978-3-932198-69-4 , p. 218 f.
  17. See e.g. B. Tobias Ronge, The image of the ruler in painting and graphics of National Socialism. The image of the ruler in painting and graphics of National Socialism (dissertation, University of Tübingen). LIT, 1st edition 2011, ISBN 978-3-643-10856-2 . ( Article )
  18. ^ Philipp Seitz: Stamps - canceled forever? . Central Bavarian Newspaper . April 12, 2014. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  19. The text on the stamp (Scott-Nr. 2521) reads: This US stamp along with 25c of additional US postage is equivalent to th 'F' stamp rate.
  20. STAMP INDIVIDUELL , Deutsche Post
  21. The first MMS stamps in the world! , Swiss Post, Swisscom Mobile and the Museum for Communication present the winners
  22. Federal Ministry of Finance: Bet that you can recognize stamps by their scent?
  23. ^ Collecting + Helping - Wohlfahrtsmarken-Journal I / 2010, Ed .: Federal Association of Free Welfare Care
  24. Des timbres parfumés au chocolat à partir du 25 may 16 May 2009 (fr.)
  25. ^ Jean-Louis Emmenegger: Postage stamps - but not made of paper! In: Schweizer Briefmarken-Zeitung issue No. 3/2013, pp. 118–124
  26. cf. David A. Norris: Vintage Collage Postcards. In: American Philatelist January 2012 issue, pp. 56–58
  27. Brexit commemorative stamp with humor, January 31, 2020, accessed February 17, 2020.
  28. Ullrich Häger: Large Lexicon of Philately . P. 277, Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 1973
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on March 13, 2005 in this version .