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British Honduras was a territory in Central America primarily colonized by the Spanish and settled by the British. After a number of disputes between both empires, it finally became a British colony in 1862 and remained so until its independence in 1981. The country was renamed Belize in June 1973.
The British Honduras began using British stamps in May 1858, obliterated "A06", until April 1860, when the colony took over postage operations and mail was sent only with handstamps "BELIZE PAID". It issued its own first stamps in December 1865, which contained a profile picture of Queen Victoria inside an oval-shape reading "BRITISH HONDURAS" in its upper band half and the denomination in the lower band half. The typographed stamp was unwatermarked and perforated (14). It is usual that the perforations touch the design of the stamps given the narrow spacing between them in the sheets.
The design was made by De La Rue and engraved by F. Joubert de la Ferte. These were issued in 1Penny, 6 Pence and 1Shilling, printed in sheets of 240 divided in four panes, where two held the 1 Penny values (120 in total), one the 6Pence (60 pieces in total) and one the 1 Shilling (60 pieces total). Printing different values and colours in the same sheet was possibly a need due to the small volume needed. A total of 235 sheets were printed, what means only 28200 of the 1Penny stamp and half that amount for the other two values. Later orders of 36000 of the 1 Penny in 1869 and 1871 raised the total number for those pieces to 64200. These stamps were ordered at Edward Sheldon and Company. (King, 1981, p.22-25)
The stamp orders after 1871, and until 1879, were made by the Crown Agents, who ordered copied at De La Rue printing company. These were printed on different paper and watermarked (a crown and the letters CC underneath). A later 3 Pence value was added to the set before the colony joined the Universal Postal Union in January 1879. (King, p. 25) This set sells at lower prices than the first.
The first stamps of the colony do not have a particularly high catalogue value, although pieces with perforations that do not cut into the design are scarcer. British Honduras issued stamps until 1973 under its name. Stamps post-name change started appearing in 1973, first as overprints on British Honduras stamps, and later issues containing the Belize name – and that, again, shall be information for another post.
Catalogue Value: Unused **, Used **
King, E.W. A Brief Postal History of Belize (1981). Online version available at the University of Florida website: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095455/00001
Antigua and Barbuda are islands located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The two main islands are Antigua and Barbuda. The islands were inhabited by natives when discovered in the late XV century by Columbus and were annexed to the British Empire. The group of islands of the region was called Leeward Islands, and apart from Antigua and Barbuda it also included St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Martin, the Virgin Islands, Dominica, among others. The British settled in Antigua in 1632 and in Barbuda some years later. They acquired independence in 1981, but still belong to the Commonwealth of Nations.
The early postal system of Antigua was controlled by the British until 1860, when it was passed to the local government. The first Antigua issue was printed by Messrs. Perkins, Bacon & Co, the same company responsible for the printing of the Penny Black, and issued in 1862, engraved and unwatermarked. They were printed in steel plates of 120, in blue green ink on white wove paper. The stamps were usually rough perforated (14-16, not uniformly punched), cutting often into the design and badly centered. The stamp pictures Queen Victoria’s Profile, and the inscriptions “ANTIGUA” above and “SIX PENCE” bellow.
The Kingdom of Prussia was established in 1701 from a Duchy, and the House of Hohenzollern ruled the territory for centuries. It was a central force behind the German States' union in 1871 and formed, under its leadership, the German Empire. It was legally abolished in 1947, although it had already been effectively abolished over a decade earlier. Its territory was roughly today’s northern part of Germany, up to Lithuania.
The first stamps of Prussia were issued in the 15th of November of 1850, featuring King Frederick William IV (the kingdom's ruler at the time), intaglio/recess-printed, imperforated and watermarked with an oak wreath. There was no inscribed country name, but rather “Freimarke” on the top, and the denomination at the bottom. Re-prints occurred in 1864 and 1873, where the new stamps were either 0,5-1mm wider or a bit narrower than the originals (respectively). The main differences between the originals and the reprints can be seen on the background (chalked in the original) or the paper type used.
It is also noteworthy that the first stamps of Prussia are not numbered 1 by neither Scott nor Michael Catalogues. While Scott number 1 is from 1856, Michael's is from 1851, ordering the series according to the denomination rather than chronologically.
Catalogue Value: Unused **, Used *
First issued in the first of May, 1840, it was the world's first adhesive postal stamp and revolutionized postal history in an era where postage was the main form of communication. Before the Penny Black, the postal duty was paid by the recipient, who could have chosen not to receive it, causing losses for the postal authorities. The Penny Black introduced pre-payment in the postal system at a time letters were folded and the stamp glued on the outside - what also contributed that many of these stamps survived today (who kept the letter, kept the stamp).
The postal reform did not only secure payment for the postal authorities, but also brought down costs to send a letter, on the public’s side. Variables such as the number of sheets sent or the distance traveled would no longer constitute a main pricing measure, weight would rather be used to bring down prices. These ideas were brought about by Sir Rowland Hill, pointed as the main driver of the reform. The impact of this reform can be grasped when one notices that one year after the first stamp issue, the number of letters sent doubled, and continued to grow in the subsequent years.
Schleswig and Holstein have, in different points in time, either belonged to Germany, Denmark or were independent. In 1721 all of Schleswig was united as a Duchy under the Kingdom of Denmark. Holstein and Southern Schleswig pressured to become a part of Prussia and were pro-Germans, while the Northern region was still much linked to the Danish. Wars followed and the region was annexed by the Germans, although the idea of holding a referendum existed already in the second half of the XVIII century.
The referendum finally took place after World War One, in accordance to the establishments in the Treaty of Versailles, in north and central Schleswig – since the southern part was clearly pro-German. The north of the territory chose to be annexed to Denmark once again, while the central part remained German. Schleswig-Holstein is today the northernmost German state.
Launched in the 25th of January of 1920, the plebiscite stamp no. 1 features the local coat of arms, with ‘Plebiscit’ written in the top, and ‘Slesvig’ at the bottom between the denominations. It was letter pressed and watermarked. Perforated 14:14 ½, rough perforations are also known, and these changes the stamp value. Zone 1 (the northern part) had the issues overprinted “1. Zone” after the plebiscite results, and were issued in 20/28th of May of 1920 to circulate while the change to Danish stamps was not finalized. Both the first issue and the overprinted versions are mostly very common stamps.
Catalogue Value: Unused *, Used *
The North German Confederation, or Norddeutscher Bund, was created by the union of 22 northern German states, and was the first basis to the later German Empire (created in 1870, when southern states joined). The first North Germanic Confederation stamps were issued in the 1st of January of 1868. In order to accommodate the different currencies in place, three denominations were chosen according to district. Groschen was used in the Northern Postal District, Kreuzer in the Southern Postal District, and Schillings in Hamburg. This means there are 3 ‘Number Ones’ to be considered here.
The first stamp from the Northern District presents the denomination in the middle of a circle, where the inscription “Norddeuscher Postbezirk” is. The ¼ Gr may easily lose its brown-violet coloration, becoming light pink. The currency is at the bottom of the stamp.
To the left, Scott number 1 (violet) and 1b ( red lilac) are shown.
Catalogue Value: Unused *, Used *
With the break-up of the Roman Empire, the Duchy of Württemberg became a Kingdom in 1806 for a little over a century, turning into a republic in 1918, and part of the German Empire a year later. German states, like Württemberg, saw their rather independent attributes diminish with the rise of the Nazi party to power. The region, together with the state of Baden, forms today the German state Baden-Württemberg.
Its postal services were carried out by Thurn and Taxis until March 1851, when it purchased the right of its postal services, subsequently joining the German-Austrian Postal Union. As the adoption of stamps was required by the Union, arrangements were made and Württemberg launched its first issues in October 1851. These issues remained in circulation until the end of 1858. German issues started being used in 1902, although regional issues remained in circulation a while after that.
The Principality of Liechtenstein lies between Austria and Switzerland, having Vaduz as capital. It took part in the Austrian postal services from 1770, and used the Austrian Empire issues when stamps were introduced. It issued its own first stamps in February 1912 with the inscription “K.K. Oesterr. Post im Fürstentum Liechtenstein” and the image of Prince Johann II - who was the monarch at the time. The stamps were designed by Koloman Moser and printed in Austria.
The Prince Johann II 1912 issues were perforated and printed over chalky paper, are quite common and do not hold a high catalogue value (over half a million copies were printed for the 5 Heller). They were re-printed three years later with a common paper, and are more valuable than the first printings (just over 90 thousand copies were printed for the 5 Heller). The celebration of 100 years of stamps in the principality appeared in a commemorative issue in 2012, containing pictures of the four princes who reigned during the period.
The values of Liechtenstein’s first stamps were in the Austrian currency, the Heller. Given the principality’s customs union with Switzerland, the value in the stamps changed to Swiss Francs in 1921. During that year, some Swiss stamps were used in Liechtenstein. Clear Liechtensteiner cancel on Swiss issues are very scarce and valuable.
Catalogue Value: Unused *, Used *
Belgium is a constitutional monarchy since the 1830s (after its separation from the Netherlands), it is situated in western Europe where Dutch, French, and German are spoken. Belgium’s first issued stamps in July 1849, the brown 10c and the blue 20c called Epaulettes. They depict King Leopold I, the monarch at the time, wearing the ornamental shoulder pieces called epaulettes, giving the stamp its colloquial name. Its introduction symbolizes the start of the Belgium postal reforms, based on the British model from 1940.
Several variations, especially regarding to colour, exist and thus makes it a very good collectible pieces. The first issues were watermarked, engraved in copper plates, and imperforated on hand-made paper. Reprints were unwatermarked and printed in both thin and thick paper. Even later reprints shall have a similar watermark ‘L L’ to the first issues, but without a frame, and show a much lower catalogue value. Later prints may also present different sizes to the earlier ones. Unused versions are quite higher valued than cancelled specimens – although multiples sell at a much higher premium.
The Epaulettes were used within the kingdom only, with reprints in 1866, 1882, 1895, 1929, and 1949. They were officially demonetized in 1866. The Epaulettes do not carry the country’s name, which started being used in 1869. Stamps of Belgium can be found carrying its name in French (Belgique), Dutch (België) and German (Belgien).
Catalogue Value: Unused *****, Used ***
The Austrian Empire issued its first stamps in June 1950, the same year the Austro-German Postal Union was formed to unify postal rates between the Austrian Empire and Prussia – the German states would follow two years later. This Union would be a first step towards the creation of the Universal Postal Union of 1874.
The Empire was actually comprised where today several countries lay, (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro and the north of Italy), and several languages were spoken across its territory. For this reason, the first issues did not contain the name of the country, but rather the Habsburg (or ‘imperial’) coat of arms and “KK Post-Stempel” (abbreviation to Kaiserliche Königliche Post, or ‘imperial-royal postal stamp’) followed by the value in Kreuzer [it is important to note here that later issues shall present the values in Heller or Krone].
Most issues are believed to have been used in the Austrian side of the Empire. The stamps were valid throughout the whole empire with the exception of Lombardy & Venetia, which had its own currency and issues. The first Post-Stempels of 1850 were thought to be provisory at first, but ended up lasting until 1858, due to a currency change to Krones.
The first set issue comprised the denominations 1,2,3,6, and 9, and were imperforated and typographed. First printed on rough hand-made paper, varying in thickness and carrying a watermark, from 1854 watermarks were no longer present and the paper changed to be machine-made.The watermark used was the inscription K.K.H.M. (short for Kaiserlich Königliches Handels-Ministerium , or Imperial-Royal Ministry of Commerce), written in cursive and positioned vertically between the panels on the sheet – meaning the greater the margin of the stamp, the better one may view the watermark. The 1 Krone is printed in yellow on white paper. While cancelled specimens are quite common, unused pieces are higher valued – and even more so if printed in orange-yellow ink.
Catalogue Value: Unused *****, Used ***
* 0.1 - 49 USD
** 50 - 99 USD
*** 100 - 499 USD
**** 500 - 999 USD
***** 1'000 - 9'999 USD
****** + 10'0000 USD
The First Issues Blog is a place to discuss about the stamp number 1 of each country, territory, district, etc. Each additional item to my new collection shall receive a small description about the item, its history and curiosities.
Note that I may add more than 1 'number one' stamp to a place. This happens as I judge that in the case of independence or any other political issue that changed the postal history or when I deemed interesting to do so. This will be noted on the posts when it happens.