Third topic used by early Austrian / Austro-Hungarian stamps is the head of Mercury – the Roman messenger god. The Mercury stamps were used as newspaper stamps created for the specific purpose of paying postage on newspaper delivery.
The mercury stamps are not usually denominated, but instead the color of the stamp indicates the value.
1851 and 1856 – The Austrian Red Mercury
The first Austrian newspaper stamps with Mercurys head design appeared in 1851. Blue color indicated the 6/10 kreuzer rate for one newspaper, yellow for ten newspapers (6kr), and rose for 50 newspapers (30kr).
In 1856, the design was reprinted in red (or scarlet), and along with the rose, was made equivalent to six Kreutzer. This Red Mercury stamp is by far one of the rarest stamps of the world with very few surviving copies left.
The 1867 design
1867 brought up a new design of Mercury stamps.
These are normally imperforate, but private perforations exist. These stamps were printed using several printing plates that can be identified rather easily by looking at stamp design and print quality.
About a decade later, in 1880, the same design was used to issue a new, light green newspaper stamp. This time the stamp design also contained nominal value of ½Kr printed on the bottom of the stamp frame.
1899 / 1901 design
The 1899/1901 design uses similar portrait of Mercury as before, but with different framing. Like previous issues, the stamps are inperforate, but private perforations exist.
The difference between 1899 and 1901 prints is use of varnish bars to prevent stamp re-use. The 1899 issue is without diagonal varnish bars, the 1901 is with them.
The 1809/1910 set highlights yet another design for Mercury’s head. Like previous issues, the stamps are imperforate, but perforated copies exist. For philatelic researcher, various paper types used for this issue provide hours of fun.
Be sure to check out other parts of this Austrian stamp series:
- Part 1: Early Austrian / Austro-Hungarian postage stamps
- Part 2:Early Austrian / Austro-Hungarian Coat of Arms postage stamps
- Part 3: Austrian emperor Franz Joseph stamps
- Part 4: An overview of Austrian Mercury stamps (this page)
You might also be interested of related posts about Stamps and postal history of Austria (Osterreich).