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Stamps and postal history of Austria

(pre-stamp postal history here)

The postage stamp issues of Austria began on June 1, 1850 with a series of imperforate[?] typographed[?] stamps featuring the coat of arms. At first they were printed on a rough hand-made paper, but after 1854 a smooth machine-made paper was used instead. Issues between 1858 and 1861 used a profile of Emperor Franz Josef[?], then switched back to the coat of arms, in an oval frame.

Franz Josef profiles reappeared in 1867, as a side-effect of the establishment of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy[?] (at this point Hungary began issuing its own stamps), and continued until 1907, with various changes, including a change of monetary system in 1899 - from 60 kreuzer[?] to the gulden to 100 heller[?] to the krone. 1899 also saw the appearance of varnish bars, as diagonal shiny yellowish strips on the surface of each stamp, intended to prevent cleaning and reuse of stamps. (The experiment was abandoned with the 1908 issue.)

In 1908, Austria issued a series of large pictorial stamps to commemorate the 60th year of Franz Josef's reign, depicting previous emperors, Franz Josef at various ages, Schönbrunn Palace, and the Hofburg[?] (both in Vienna). The designs were reused in 1910 for a Birthday Jubilee issue celebrating Franz Josef's 80th birthday, the dates "1830" and "1910" being added at top and bottom.

A series in 1916 depicted Franz Josef, the Austrian crown, and the coat of arms, and between 1917 and 1919 Emperor Charles I briefly made an appearance on stamps before the republic was established.

The first issues of German Austria[?] were overprints reading "Deutschösterreich" on stamps of the empire, but in 1919 the republic issued new designs; a post horn, the coat of arms, a kneeling man representing the new republic, and the Parliament building, all done in a vaguely Art Nouveau style, and inscribed "DEUTSCHÖSTERREICH" ("ÖSTERREICH" appeared in 1922). However, Austria was caught in the hyperinflation of the early 1920s, and was forced to print new stamps in ever-increasing denominations, topping out at 10,000 kroner in 1924.

In 1925, a new monetary system was introduced, 100 groschen[?] to the schilling, which continued in use until replaced by the euro in 2002, and new stamps were printed also, featuring numerals for low values, a field crossed by telegraph wires, a white-shouldered eagle[?], and a church of the Minorite Friars[?]. Subsequent issues depicted scenic views (1929), and costumes of various districts (1934). The assassinated chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss was commemorated in both 1934 and 1936, then in 1938 the Anschluss put a sudden end to Austrian stamps.

Austrians used stamps of Germany until the end of the Third Reich in 1945. The wreckage of World War II included the postage stamp production system, and from May 1945, German stamps were overprinted in various ways. New issues inscribed "REPUBLIK ÖSTERREICH" were issued on July 3 by Russia, for use in Vienna and surrounding areas, still denominated in German currency, while the Allied Military Government[?] issued a series for use in areas under Allied occupation (Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg, Styria, and Carinthia). General issues produced by the Second Republic[?] became available in November.

Since that time Austria has issued a steady stream of stamps with a variety of subjects, many of them attractively engraved.

Table of contents

Lombardy-Venetia

Lombardy-Venetia[?] was a kingdom in the north of Italy that was part of the Austrian empire. The inhabitants used the Italian lira for money, so in 1850 the government issued stamps identical to those for the rest of Austria, but denominated in values from 5 to 45 centesimi. The monetary system changed in 1858, 100 soldis[?] to the florin, which required a new issue of stamps, designs otherwise identical to the contemporary Austrian issues. Lombardy was annexed to Sardinia in 1859, and Venetia[?] to the new kingdom of Italy in 1866, at which point the Lombardy-Venetia stamps went out of use.

Because of the early date and limited area, all Lombardy-Venetia stamps are uncommon, especially unused, the cheapest costing US$3 or so. The rarest type of newspaper tax stamp[?] last sold for US$100,000.

Italian Occupation

Near the end of World War I, Italy captured the Austrian territories of Trentino[?] and Venezia Giulia[?]. In 1918, Italy issued overprinted stamps for these areas. Stamps sold at Trieste were overprinted "Regno d'Italia / Venezia Giulia / 3. XI. 18." on Austrian stamps of 1916, and then just "Venezia / Giulia" on Italian stamps, while in the Trentino the overprint was "Regno d Italia / Trentino / 3 nov 1918" on Austrian stamps and then just "Venezia / Tridentina" on Italian stamps. In January 1919 the Italians issued overprinted stamps for all of the occupied territories, the overprint consisting of, for instance, "5 / centesimi / di corona". This lasted until September, when the Trentino was permanently assigned to Italy and used Italian stamps thereafter, while Trieste became a free city.

Offices in Crete

Along with several other nations, Austria maintained its own postal offices in Crete. Since the unit of money in Crete was the franc, the post office issued Austrian stamps surcharged in centimes and francs, from 1903 on, and in 1908 issued stamps similar to the 60th-year issue of Austria proper, but denominated in the local currency. These were used until the end of the empire.

Offices in the Turkish Empire

As with Crete, Austria and other European nations maintained an extensive system of post offices in the Ottoman Empire, typically motivated by the unreliable postal system of the Ottomans. For Austria, the practice started in 1748 with the establishment of a post office in Galata[?] outside of Constantinople, and eventually extended to dozens of locations throughout the Balkans and the eastern Mediterranean.

Beginning in 1863, stamps of Lombardy-Venetia were used, but after the losses of these areas in 1867, Austria had to issue special stamps; in appearance identical to contemporary Austrian stamps, but denominated in soldis and florins. In 1886 this was changed to paras and piasters[?] to match Turkish money, first by surcharging the existing offices stamps, then regular Austrian stamps. Regular issues began in 1906, by using Austrian stamps missing the denomination (at this point the denomination of Austrian stamps was printed in a second step), and as for Crete there was an issue in 1908 distinguished only by being denominated in paras and piasters.

While early issues are not common, the volume of mail by the end of the empire was such that both used and unused stamps are still commonly available.

See also: list of people on stamps of Austria



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