12.02.2020

The history of postage stamps (Part 2)

The production and typical features

Several billion stamps are consumed worldwide every year. But who prints them? There are also countless different designs of the stamps. But what are the typical features of each stamp? All this in the second part about the history of postage stamps.

The supplier of postage stamps is different in each country. However, they are usually distributed by government postal administrations or commercial service providers. In Switzerland, they are issued by Swiss Post, in England by Royal Mail and in Germany by the Federal Ministry of Finance. In total, over 1,000 governments or administrations have already released their own stamps. Source: (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Briefmarke),only in German.

From the idea to the postage stamp

The process from the idea to the stamp varies from country to country. For example, in Germany it looks like this: The process starts about 1.5 years before the first edition of a stamp with the choice of the design. Hundreds of suggestions are submitted to the Federal Ministry of Finance every year. The Ministry alone is the publisher and entitled to print new stamps. In Berlin, two advisory boards decide which of the entries can go to print; the selection criteria are top secret. After the selection of the design, the technical steps begin. First the design gets digitally prepared for printing. During printing, several postage stamps are printed at once on large gummed sheets. This is followed by the perforation which creates the typical teeth (see Part 1). Finally, the German Post Office gets involved: they buy the postage stamps from the Federal Printing Office on behalf of the Ministry of Finance. The complete article can be found here: https://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/neue-briefmarken-porsche-per-post-1.2782055, only in German.

What are the characteristics of a postage stamp?

Typical for a postage stamp is its rectangular shape with the perforation. However, more special shapes such as circles or triangles were also produced for special postage stamps. However, these shapes are less ideal for the printed sheets and are also more difficult to perforate and separate from the sheet.

Nowadays the stamps are printed on special postage stamp paper, which was previously gummed. Most often a postage stamp paper with luminescent bodies is used. These luminescent bodies serve as protection against fakes and brighten the stamp paper. For the automatic stamping machines it is also an identification mark for the position of the stamp and thus ensures the position of the letters for address reading and coding.
Source:(https://www.philaforum.com/forum/thread/234-die-geschichte-der-briefmarke/), only in German.

  • Wilde Anordnung von Umschlägen mit verschiedenen Briefmarken darauf.