HISTORY OF STAMP
The postage stamp is a symbol of the history, tradition and development of a country.
With the issuance of the first Albanian postal stamp, the Albanian identity postal service was consolidated, which has always been an expressive part of our national identity. The stamp’s long and beautiful path itself is a precious asset to us. As an adequate account of the history of the Albanian people, it has always had its unmistakable face, its authentic portrait. This portrait began to be sketched shortly after the major act – the Declaration of Independence, on November 28, 1912. Initially, with the creation of the independent Albanian state, the Ottoman outposts continued to exist under the very circumstances of the administration of Ismail Qemali’s government. They were even the same clerks who, until May 1913, used Turkish seals and stamps.
Things came to normal starting on May 5, 1913, when the first Albanian national stamp was issued and put into circulation. The government of Ismail Qemal, having as its Minister of Post the well-known intellectual Lef Nosi, paid special attention to the postal activity in general and the issue of stamps in particular. In just a few months of its existence, on July 7, 1913, the Provisional Government of Vlora applied for membership in the Universal Postal Union, the realization of which lasted more than eight years. It was in October 1922 that Albania became a member of UPU.
Likewise, given the huge demand for postage stamps in the beginnings of the Albanian state, the Ministry of Post made a very effective and practical solution. Within a period of eight months, March-December 1913, six stamp emissions were issued.
The first emission, or first stamp, came about six months after the declaration of independence. It was not common, given the form of other stamps, it had the form of a black stamp and a total of 2232 envelopes were printed. This stamp in different colored envelopes cost 1 Lek and was sold in 11 cities where post offices were established during the Ottoman occupation. It was put into circulation on May 5, 1913. It also had a characteristic approach, to cut the seal from the original envelopes and place it on other envelopes, a practice recognized and justified by the Ministry of Post.
Similar to the first is the second emission, though somewhat more perfect. Again we are dealing with a single stamp, round shape, with two concentric circles on which is written: “Provisional Government Posts of Albania”. Its price was not written on the stamp, but it is known to have also been 1 Lek. This issue was circulated between May and November 1913. In addition to being printed on envelopes (2442 pieces), this stamp was also printed on white sheets (800 pieces). It circulated with a cut of a sewing machine and newly glued onto the envelope. The second seal was on several occasions counterfeited by various speculators.
Interestingly, even as one of the most diverse in our philatelic history is the third emission. Not coincidentally it is among the most sought after by the philatelists. This emission was used at the post offices from June 16 to October 20, 1913. For it, the Albanian Post used a considerable amount of stamps of the Ottoman occupation administration of 1909-1910 (a total of 39800 stamps), which were left unused. Above them, through a copper hand stamp, the impression was placed: a two-headed eagle and under the word “Albania”. Their values range from 2 fronts to 50 piastres, with circulations ranging from 16 pieces (50 piastres) to 11607 pieces (highest front end value 20 Lek).
Apart from the very low circulation, especially for some of the values, the rarity of these stamps is also related to the different impression colors: black (dominant), blue, red, brick and purple. This emission, the first of its kind, about the very conditions of the time it was put into circulation, has had many flaws, especially cases of backtrack pressing, which are highly sought after by local and foreign philatelists.
Like all other countries, the Albanian philately has been part of the culture and closely linked to history. This is best illustrated by the period between the two world wars. This period is reflected in the philately with its specific features. These include, for example, the low number of emissions during the years 1914-1919, during the First World War. They have been mainly local stamps such as Shkodra, Korça, Berat, Vlora, Gjirokastra, Tepelena, Himara, Elbasan etc. A variety of emissions were emitted by the warring powers of the First World War that occupied Albania. These emissions were circulated along with the date bearing inscriptions in the languages of these conquering powers.
Not coincidentally, but out of curiosity, we are separating from this period the postal history and the issuance of stamps by the Provisional Government of Durres, headed by Esat Pasha Toptani.
After the departure of Prince Vid, beginning on October 2, 1914, Esat Pasha formed the Provisional Government of Durres. At this time the post offices were closed, the postal service was carried out by the posts of the Austrian and Italian Levant. This situation forced Esat Pasha to open post offices in Durres, Elbasan, Shijak, Lezha, Kavaja on January 9, 1915. Originally stamps with the portrait of Skanderbeg were used, in value in qindar and money and lek, which were found in the Durres post office. They were overwritten with the inscription of Esat Pasha. The emissions consist of 9 postage stamps, 5 tax stamps, a “T” impression and two simple 5 and 10 Lek postcards.
Of course this amount of stamps did not meet the requirements for a long time. Therefore, the government of Esat Pasha decided to launch two “Tarabosh” emissions, commissioned in 1913 by the Elderly of Central Albania. There were a total of 12 values, of which 7 were 27 × 30 mm and 5 were 27 × 34 mm. These stamps, which also have the impression of a round lettering with Arabic letters, were used, starting February 10, 1915 in Central Albania, even in Berat and Skrapar.
After these emissions, should come in 1919 that came to light several other interesting programs: Envelope with “the Office for Finance in Elbasan”, with 500 copies, which were put into circulation during the month of January 1919, local emissions of Shkodra with the imprint of the fiscal stamps of the Austro-Hungarian administration, which were in the financial offices in Shkodra, as well as the 1 Lek stamps of the 1919 issued with the inscription “SHKODER 1919” in oval shape.
In the following period there are years like 1921, 1926, 1932, 1935, 1936, when no emissions were aired. Also, besides the small number of shows, the thematic tightness is characteristic. The political theme remains dominant. Following a tradition of other countries, the stamp began to look more and more iconic to the king, Ahmet Zog (until 1939 most of the stamps are with his face), while during the Italian occupation the face of Victor Emmanuel III was often prominent. Of particular interest and somewhat overcoming this thematic bottleneck were the airmail stamps. Having fixed the aircraft figure, they indicated that they served the airmail, which justified their high fare.
So the Albanian philately of 1913-1944, as mentioned above, is quite interesting. Here can be mentioned a few emissions that have become extremely rare: the gold stamped envelopes with Skanderbeg’s face, the Elbasan Finance Office stamp envelope, Tepelena stamp envelope, the Berat stamp envelope, the Gothic emission with the inscription “Albanian Kingdom ”, stamps of the Provisional Control Commission of Korça, 19 March 1915 issue dedicated to the raising of the flag in Shkodra stronghold, those of the Greek, Italian and German occupation, especially the 14 September 1943 issue, which is particularly notable for the variety of errors, etc.
The issue of “September 14, 1943” coincides with the date of the Constituent Assembly meeting, which legalized the Albanian quisling state. The series consists of 14 stamps from 1939-1940, of which 13 are of ordinary value and one is express, inscribed with “September 14, 1943”. It was put into circulation on 18 September 1943 at the Tirana Post, but without delay for two days it was ordered blocked, after some 233 impression errors were found at 153 values. As such was accepted on October 23, 1943, approved by the UPU, which is also the day when the show was launched at the Post Office in Tirana.
In the other cities of Albania, the emissions were released in November 1943, as evidenced by the envelopes that various philatelists have in their collections.
A fascinating picture presents the period after Albania’s liberation and until the 90s of the 20th century. It is especially known for its abundance of shows (on average 10 shows a year), for more diverse topics than before, for a somewhat fair relationship between national and foreign themes, for multiple views on each show, etc. Stamps are generally politicized and ideologized. There are repeated shows every five years for certain historic commemorative events, as well as very large circulations. A careful eye does not find it difficult to discern that during this period the themes were enriched with emissions from flora and fauna, from sport, from art (stamps depicting works of art in painting and sculpture), from archeology etc. But it is also a fact that there are very few FDC Envelopes and official Postcards.
After the impressions made at the end of 1944 and at the beginning and in the continuation of 1945, on 28 November 1945 the Post administration launched a three-color and six-valued edition in different colors with the inscription “Democratic Government of Albania”. Later these emissions received four consecutive impressions. The first impression is dated January 10, 1946, the second July 1, 1946, the third July 26, 1946, and the fourth February 22, 1948. These broadcasts would be followed by many others dedicated to certain events in the history of our people or anniversaries of prominent figures, the construction of the first railways, cosmos flights, Olympic games, etc.
Until 1957 stamps were printed outside Albania. After this year they were printed in our printing presses. It is an occasion to remember with respect and to express our gratitude to the first typographers of Albanian specialized stamps in Germany, Sadik Dinga and Sulejman Maci.
In the last decade, beginning after 1990, with the democratic processes, besides the understandable oscillations of the first years of transition ’91, ’92, ’93, serious efforts have been made by the State Stamp Commission and the Albanian Post Directorate for avoiding the politicization of stamps, the quality of their publication is better, since they have been printed in Switzerland and Greece. In addition, optimum indicators for stamp prints have generally been maintained based on the needs of their collection. Characteristic of this period is the fact that almost every emission emitted is accompanied by the FDC Envelope, sealed with a special seal. This has led philatelists, both domestic and foreign, to increase interest in collecting these envelopes.
Currently the catalog of Albanian postage stamps has over 3640 different stamp types. It has been carefully considered that national topics occupy the largest place in the emitting of new Albanian emissions. It is worth mentioning its dignified presentation as qualitative, compositional and the introduction of new philatelic elements such as one and two series carnets, first day envelopes with graphic sketches, folders of various sizes, annual philatelic albums etc.
A new element is the design and production of the philatelic booklet for the “Albanian Emblems”, which contains four series of stamps with the respective explanations for each emblem presented. Significant improvements have also been made to the new, more practical and practical forms of Albanian stamp emissions.
The emissions are shown in trays with 8,9,10,12,16,20 and 25 stamps on a tray. Many are quite nicely composed in block form, with all the visuals of an emission such as the “National Costumes”, “Old Albanian Bridges”, “Rock Art in Albania”, “Berat, UNESCO-protected city-museum and indoor characteristic houses such as” Albanian Smoke “show.
In this context is the cycle of children’s shows with the most popular figures in cartoon films.
Prominent national figures have occupied an important place commemorating patriots, writers, clergymen, politicians, artists, sportsmen, etc. The shows “Flora” and “Fauna” of our country are present in the themes of recent years and are presented very beautifully by our painters. The same dedication has been shown to prominent international events, activities and figures where the “Europe” show is an important event.
The theme of this emission is PostEurope administration oriented. Very interesting are the shows of world famous figures starting from political figures, scientists, writers, musicians, painters, etc.
Care has been taken to present major world events such as the UN program, the Council of Europe, NATO, UNICEF, UNHCR, etc.
World sport activities are part of our programs such as: European Championships, World Championships etc. The improvement of the stylistic composition of the stamps is a result of the work of a young staff of painters who participate alongside the most prominent painters in the realization of stamp seals.
Of particular importance is the return of Albanian postage stamp production to Albania since 2007 with very good standards and quality. During these years, several important issues for our nation were broadcast, such as the one dedicated to the visit of US President George W. Bush on June 10, 2007, the issue “Albania in NATO, April 3, 2008” on the occasion of Albania’s NATO membership invitation, the issue “Visa-free in Europe” on the occasion of visa liberalization for Albania.
Of great historical value and co-operation is the joint Albania-Kosovo-Macedonia show dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s birth.
During these years there has been a further development of technology for stamp production and increasing its quality.
In 2012 many important emissions were aired, such as “100th Anniversary of Independence (Logo)”, “100th Anniversary of Declaration of Independence”, 100th Anniversary of the Albanian Army “, 100th Anniversary of Post-Telegraph-Telephone” these stamps are the 100-kilometer-long stones of our nation’s history. In the framework of the cooperation, a joint Albania-Kosovo-Macedonia carnival was organized on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the declaration of independence.
Within the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of independence, the Embassy of the Republic of Albania in the UK in cooperation with the Albanian Post organized the exhibition with postage stamps.
The exhibition was organized at the embassy premises with a wide participation of representatives of diplomatic corps, historians, British academic and philatelic scholars, and representatives of the oldest Anglo-Albanian Association Association in the UK and Albanian-British friends and guests.
The greeting speech was delivered by Mr. Mal Berisha, Charge d’Affaires of the Republic of Albania in the United Kingdom.
Attendees followed with interest the stamps of the first anniversary of independence, anniversaries of the Albanian Bonding of Prizren, the 800th anniversary of the state of Arber, emissions for Mother Teresa, for Lady Dajana, Albanian national costumes and various emblems or anniversaries.
The exhibition remained open until the first days of December 2012 and was visited by many academics, collectors, philatelists, friends and lovers of the Albanian postage stamp.
On May 5, 2013, the Albanian postage stamp was 100 years old, a long journey from the first moments of issuing the first Albanian postage stamp.
On this occasion, the program “100th Anniversary of the first Albanian postage stamp” was broadcast, which consists of 1 series with 2 images, the first day envelope and the Carnet. A joint exhibition was also opened with the Albanian Collectors Association where the Albanian Post reflected the journey of the Albanian postage stamp in 100 years and the collectors reflected their collections on specific topics such as Airmail, Cartmax, Traveling FDC, etc. Exhibitions were also opened in Fier, Shkodra and Korça, where are the main centers of Albanian philately in the districts.
Through the Albanian postage stamp, which constitutes the philatelic, the Albanian Post has participated in many international philatelic activities where our stamp has been exhibited and has been shown a special interest in it by various magazines and catalogs.
The first Albanian philatelists belong to the period of our National Renaissance. Among them we would mention Thimi Mitko, Sami Frashëri, Ndoc Xhuxha and Murat Toptani, later Luigj Gurakuqi and especially the well-known Lef Nosi, the first Minister of Post of the Albanian state, who has special merit in conceiving and issuing the first Albanian stamps. In his honor the Albanian philately has a stamp with the portrait of Lef Nosi.
A larger philatelic development in Albania took place in the years between the two world wars. From the documentation of the time it appears that in this period the first shops for sale of stamps were opened in Shkodra, Korça and Tirana. In the press of the time there are numerous cases of advertising for sale of stamps, where among the most prominent traders we can mention Zef Prendushi in Shkodra, who was known as a talented trader and connoisseur of postage stamps, as a competent professional. We can also mention the Albanian philatelist and trader in Turin, Italy, Aurel Ballamacin, who has held a philatelic shop in the center of this city for 40 years.
Of course, the number of philatelists in Albania has been and is limited, and their efforts to reach out to colleagues in various parts of the world have generally been spontaneous. This was dictated also by the lack of income due to the economic situation of the country.
The level of organization of the philatelists began to increase especially after the liberation of the country. In 1947, the Philatelic Club was formed in Shkodra, two years later, in 1949, the Philatelic District was established in Korça, and in 1959, the Philatelic Association was formed in Tirana. Such arrangements were later made in Vlora, Puka etc. The fruit of these organizations are the philatelic exhibitions opened in different cities of Albania. Since 1991 there is the Federation of Albanian Collectors, which in 1994 was accepted as a member of FIP (International Zurich-based Philatelic Federation of Switzerland) and FEPA (The European Federation of Philatelic Societies based in Hague of the Netherlands).
The Federation of Albanian Collectors has its own press body, the Collector’s Magazine, the first issue of which was published in 1998 and continues to be published today.
Cooperation between the Federation and the Albanian Post is ongoing not only in Tirana but also with district associations such as Fier, Shkodra and Korça to further develop the philatelic activity which reflects the Albanian postage stamp.