Early Austrian stamps (1850-1918, aka the Austro-Hungarian Empire) are very likely one of the most common causes of headache for most worldwide stamp collectors. I confess it took me years to get a somewhat decent grip of issued main types, and I’m still far away from being an expert with these stamps. For the rest of this week I’ll be covering these issues in a multipart article starting with this post.
Stamps without country name
One of the first things most stamp collectors notice is that very early Austrian stamps do not contain any inscription for country name. There is a very specific reason for this… Until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867, Austrian stamps were also valid in whole Austrian Empire (meaning Hungary and some German state areas where they were used even after the establishment of sovereign postal rights until 1871 and in Liechtenstein until 1912).
Country name began appearing in Austrian stamps as late as in 1883. Before this stamps might (but not necessarily did) include inscription “KK Post” – ” – abbreviation for “Kaiserliche Königliche Post” (roughly translated as Imperial Royal post).
The wide, multinational geographical usage of these stamps provides a sea of plethora for cancel and postal history collectors.
Only three topics
Missing country inscription can be a serious identification obstacle for some, but luckily, stamps from this era are easy to identify. Over a period of more than 50 years, only three topics were used in stamp design: coats of arms, the portraits of the Emperor and head of Mercury.
A more specific timeline can be achieved by looking at nominal values and currencies used in stamps. Between 1850 and 1858 the Austro-Hungarian stamps had currency using Kreuzer’s or Guldens (1850-1858: 60 kreuzer = 1 gulden, 1858-1899 100 kreuzer = 1 gulden), and from 1899 onwards it was Heller’s and Krone’s (100 heller = 1 krone).
More currency confusion is easily added if you are a lucky one to spot a stamp that was issued by one of the many Austrian foreign post offices. These can contain nominal values in Piastres, Paras, Centimes and several other currencies.
Be sure to check out other parts of this Austrian stamp series:
- Part 1: Early Austrian / Austro-Hungarian postage stamps (this page)
- 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
You might also be interested of related posts about Stamps and postal history of Austria (Osterreich).