Andorra Coat of ArmsAndorra Flag

Andorra (1928-Date)

LOCATION: On the southern slope of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain
AREA:  179 sq. mi.
Population:  72,766 (1 July 1996)
GOVERNMENT:  Constitutional Coprincipality
CAPITAL:  Andorra la Vella

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED:  1928

CURRENCY:
100 Centimos = 1 Peseta/100 Centimes = 1 Franc (1928-2002)
100 Cents = 1 Euro (2002-date)

Andorra is a co-principality that had been jointly administered by France and the Spanish bishop of Urgell since 1278.  In 1993, Andorra became a constitutional coprincipality, governed by its own parliament.  It is the sixth smallest country in Europe with an area of just 181 square miles (468 square kilometers).  The capital city of Andorra la Vella is the highest in Europe, sitting at an elevation of 3,356 feet (1,023 meters) above sea level.  Stamps are issued by both France and Spain for use in the principality with Correos of Spain and La Poste of France operating side by side.  The Spanish post boxes are red and French ones are yellow. However the postal code system, introduced in July 2004, has a different format from those of either Spain or France, consisting of the letters “AD”, followed by three digits.

Andorra-plotical-map

Andorra was created under a charter granted by King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) in return for the Andorran people fighting against the Moors with Overlordship of the territory by the Count of Urgell.  In A.D. 988, the Andorran valleys were given to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya.  The Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d’Urgell, has owned Andorra since then.  The principality was given its territory and political form in 1278 with the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra’s sovereignty be shared between the count of Foix (whose title would eventually be transferred to the French head of state) and the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia.

With the passage of time the co-title to Andorra passed to the kings of Navarre. After Henry of Navarre became King Henry IV of France, he issued an edict in 1607 that established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra. In 1812–13 the First French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it in four départements, with Andorra being made part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègre).

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The first postal route serving Andorra seems to have been established in 1837 with couriers conveying mail between Urgell and Aix during the Carlist War in northern Spain.  Due to the difficulties in direct communication between Andorra and France, the mountain passes being frequently snowbound in the months from autumn until late spring, the Andorrans always depended on Seu d’Urgell to conduct the bulk of their business, postal or otherwise and that city was their principal point of communication with the outside world, including with their northern neighbor.

In 1877, an Andorra subject, Tomàs Rossell y Moles, was appointed postmaster and sold postage stamps of both France and Spain to be affixed on outgoing mail according to its destination.  Mail bearing French stamps were postmarked at Porté and Spanish mail received the Seu d’Urgell postmark.  Then, as now, mail destined for internal Andorran destinations were always conveyed free of charge, requiring no stamps of any kind.

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At the Universal Postal Union Congress held in Paris in 1878, it was declared that that Andorra was a subordinate of the Spanish postal service although it would be another fifty years before that postal service was actually organized. France ignored the UPU stipulation and established a rudimentary postal service between Porté and Andorra la Vella in 1887, consisting of two postmen travelling by foot.  A French courier service inaugurated in 1892 continued to operate, virtually unaltered until 1931 when the present postal service came into being.

Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany during World War I, but did not actually take part in the fighting. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1958 as it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles.

A Ministerial Decree dated 31st October 1927, created the Spanish Postal Administration of Andorra la Vella, empowering it to take all steps necessary to introduce a full postal service in the country.   On 1st January 1928 post offices were opened throughout the principality and the postal service was officially inaugurated.  At its inauguration, the Spanish Postal Administration consisted of the Head Post Office at Andorra la Vella and six sub-post offices at Canillo, Encamp, Les Escaldes, Sant Julia de Loria, La Massana, and Ordino.  Seven postmen – all Andorran residents – were hired to carry on the service within the country, while the Head Postmaster – Don Filemon Lopez y Lopez – was a Spanish postal employee. 

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The Spanish Administration commenced with the usage of the then current series of Spain – the 1922-1930 issue portraying the portrait of King Alfonso XIII.  Overprints of this same set of stamps, plus the 1 centimo value of 1920 and the 20c express stamp of 1925, were released on 28 March 1928 with the unoverprinted values remaining valid.  This, it is possible to find covers bearing mixed frankings of both overprinted and unoverprinted stamps. 

Two additional sub-post offices were opened later in the year, at Soldeu on 2 September and Santa Coloma on 8 October.  The name of Andorra first appeared as in integral part of the stamp design with the release of the second series of stamps in 1929.

Andorra, Spanish - 102b - 1978

Interestingly enough, Andorrans were somewhat displeased over the seizure of their postal services by the Spanish and subsequent protests led to the eventual signing of a Hispano-French agreement concerning the dual handling of the posts on 30 June 1930.  The agreement went into effect on 1 August 1930 and the French Postal Administration of Andorra was officially inaugurated on 16 June 1931 with a Head Office at Andorra la Vella and Postal Agencies at Soldeu, Canillo, Encamp, Sant Julia de Loria, La Massana, and Ordino. No changes took place in this list of post offices until the 1st January 1967 when an additional agency was opened at Pas de la Casa, on the Franco-Andorran frontier, a sizeable settlement having developed here as a tourism and winter sports center.

Andorra, French - 23 - 1932

In 1931, the French Administration of Andorra used twenty-two overprinted French stamps from 1900-29.  Like the Spanish Administration, France only used overprinted stamps for the first set; with the second set of stamps issued, the name of the country was part of the design of the stamp.

In 1933 France occupied Andorra following social unrest which occurred before elections. On 12 July 1934 adventurer Boris Skossyreff issued a proclamation in Urgell, declaring himself “Boris I, King of Andorra”, simultaneously declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell. He was arrested by the Spanish authorities on 20 July and ultimately expelled from Spain.

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From 1936 until 1940 a French military detachment was garrisoned in Andorra to secure the Principality against against disruption from the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Spain. Francoist troops reached the Andorran border in the later stages of the war. During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Spain.

Andorra’s tourism services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually.  It is not a member of the European Union, but the Euro is the de facto currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993.  The population of Andorra in 2014 was estimated at 85,458 and has grown from 5,000 in 1900. As of December 2014, the people of Andorra have the highest life expectancy in the world – 81 years.

Andorra, French - 458 - 1995

The 2009 Scott Catalogue for the Spanish Administration of Andorra lists 330 general issue stamps, four air mail and five special delivery stamps.  It should be noted that the majority of the Spanish Andorra stamps issued until about 1950 are poorly centered and that well-centered examples will sell for approximately twice the value listed in the catalogue.  The French Administration is a somewhat heavier stamp issuer with a total of 728 — broken down as 656 general issues, one semi-postal, eight air mail stamps, 62 postage due, and one newspaper stamp.  Most stamps of French Andorra issued from 1961 onwards also exist in unlisted imperforate and small presentation sheet varieties. My collection currently holds six of the French Administration stamps and four of the Spanish releases.

Andorra, Spanish - 102a - 1978

Allenstein COA-cropAllentstein Flag 1

Allenstein (1920)

LOCATION: East Prussia
AREA:  4,457 sq. mi.
POPULATION:  540,000 (1920 est.)
CAPITAL:  Allenstein

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED:  Overprinted Germany 3 April 1920

CURRENCY:
100 Pfennig = 1 Mark

Allenstein was a district in East Prussia centered upon the city of the same name (currently the Polish city of Olsztyn) which overprinted German stamps in April 1920 to publicize a self-determination vote known as a plebiscite.  The name is German for “castle on the Alle River”, construction of which was begun by Teutonic knights in 1347 and completed fifty years later.  Since 1999, the city has been the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship in northeastern Poland; the river is now known as the Łyna.

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The area has changed hands numerous times throughout its history.  It was captured by the Kingdom of Poland during the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War in 1410, and again in 1414 during the Hunger War, but it was returned to the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights after hostilities ended.  Allenstein joined the Prussian Confederation in 1440 and rebelled against the Teutonic Knights in 1454 upon the outbreak of the Thirteen Years’ War, requesting protection from the Polish Crown. Although the Teutonic Knights captured the town the following year, it was retaken by Polish troops in 1463. The Second Peace of Thorn in 1466 designated Allenstein and the Bishopric of Warmia as part of Royal Prussia under the sovereignty of the Crown of Poland.

Castle at Allenstein, completed 1397 (postcard)

The astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus lived at the castle as administrator of both Allenstein and Mehlsack (now Pieniężno) from 1516 to 1521 and was in charge of the defenses of Allenstein and Warmia during the Polish-Teutonic War of 1519–21.  Allenstein was sacked by Swedish troops in both 1655 and 1708 during the Polish-Swedish wars, and the town’s population was nearly wiped out in 1710 by epidemics of bubonic plague and cholera.

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The town was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1772 during the First Partition of Poland. A Prussian census recorded a population of 1,770 people, predominantly farmers, and Allenstein was administered within the Province of East Prussia. It was visited by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807 after his victories over the Prussian Army.  The town became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. In 1905, Allenstein became the capital of Regierungsbezirk Allenstein, a government administrative region in East Prussia. From 1818 to 1910, the community was administered within the East Prussia Allenstein District, after which it became an independent city.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Allenstein used stamps of Prussia, the North German Confederation and Germany.

Many inhabitants of the region had Polish roots and were influenced by Polish culture; the last official German census in 1910 classified them ethnically as Poles or Masurians. During the period of the German Empire, harsh Germanization measures were enacted in the region.

Allenstein was captured by troops of the Russian Empire shortly after the start of World War I in 1914, but it was recovered by the Imperial German Army in the Battle of Tannenberg. The battle actually took place much closer to Allenstein than to Tannenberg (now Stębark), but the victorious Germans, having been defeated in the medieval battle of Tannenberg, named it as such for propaganda purposes.

Allenstein Postal Card circa 1898

Following World War I, the Polish delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, led by Roman Dmowski, made a number of demands in relation to those areas which were part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772 and despite their protests, supported by the French, President Woodrow Wilson and the other allies agreed that plebiscites according to self-determination should be held.  A number of disputed areas were placed under temporary League of Nations administration, pending plebiscites to determine which nation the populace wished to join.

Allenstein Foot Artillery, 1917

At the time, Allenstein had a population estimated at 540,000 mixed Germanic and Slavic people.  Although Allenstein had a sizable Slavic minority, these people were not Poles. They were Masurians who shared the Lutheran faith with the German-speaking Prussians.

The French and the British were looking for ways to strengthen the new Polish republic as a bulwark against the Soviet threat. The British and French tried to attach Allenstein to Poland, but the Germans objected strongly, so the East Prussian Plebiscite (Abstimmung in Ostpreußen) was called.  The vote in Allenstein was scheduled to take place on 11 July 1920 and was conducted by the German authorities.

Many German citizens of Polish ethnicity of the region voted for Germany out of fear that if the area was allocated to Poland it would soon fall under Soviet rule. According to several Polish sources the German side engaged in mass persecution of Polish activists, their Masurian supporters, going as far as engaging in regular hunts and murder against them to influence the vote. Additionally the organization of the plebiscite was influenced by Great Britain, which at the time supported Germany, fearing the increased power of France in post-war Europe.

Allenstein Postcard 1911

Articles 94 to 97 of the Treaty of Versailles defined the Allenstein Plebiscite Area as “the western and northern boundary of Allenstein Government Region to its junction with the boundary between the districts of Oletzko  and of Angerburg; thence, the northern boundary of the Oletzko District to its junction with the old frontier of East Prussia.” 

A five-member Inter-Allied Administrative and Plebiscite Commission for Allenstein was appointed to represent the League of Nations.  British and Italian troops under the command of this commission soon after 12 February 1920.  The local police forces were placed under the control of two British officers.  There was also a battalion from the Royal Irish Regiment and an Italian regiment stationed at Lyck (Ełk). Civil and municipal administration was continued under the existing German authorities who were responsible to the Commission for the duration of the plebiscite period.

Allenstein Postcard 001

On 18 February 1919 the Allenstein-based Commission decreed that the Polish language would gain equal rights to the German language in the region.  The Commission had to eventually remove both the mayor of Allenstein and an officer of Sicherheitswehr after a Polish banner at the local consulate of Poland was defaced; the Polish side expressed gratitude for Allied protection of Polish rights and underlined its desire for peaceful coexistence with German-speaking population.

In April 1920 during a Polish theatrical performance in Deuthen (Dajtki) near Allenstein, ethnic Poles were attacked by pro-German activists; on the demands of the Allied Commission, the German police escorted Polish actors but ignored the attackers.  There were pogroms against ethnic Poles that month in the towns of Bischofsburg (Biskupiec) and Lötzen (Giżycko), the latter of which saw Italian forces sent to protect the Polish population.  In May several attacks on ethnic Poles were reported in Osterode (Ostróda), and included attacks on co-workers of the Masurian Committee.

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Shortly before the plebiscite, pro-Polish activists decided to boycott the preparations for electoral commissions to protest unequal treatment of the Polish and German side and pro-German terror.  This allowed German officials to falsify lists with eligible voters, writing down names of dead people or people who weren’t eligible to vote.

The plebiscite asked the voters whether they wanted their homeland to remain in East Prussia, which was part of Weimar Germany, or instead become part of Poland (the alternatives for the voters were not Poland / Germany, but Poland / East Prussia, which itself was no sovereign nation). All inhabitants of the plebiscite areas older than 20 years of age or those who were born in this area before 1 January 1905, were entitled to return to vote.

During the plebiscite Germans transported pro-German voters to numerous locations allowing them to cast votes multiple times. In Allenstein, cards with pro-Polish votes were simply taken away by a German official who declared that they were “invalid” and presented voters with cards for the pro-German side.  Voters were observed by German police in the polling stations.  Pro-Polish voting cards were often hidden or taken away and Polish controllers were removed from polling stations.  A large number of ethnic Poles – out of fear of repressions – didn’t attend the plebiscite at all.

The plebiscite ended on 11 July 1920 with a majority of the voters voting for East Prussia with only a small part of the territory awarded to Poland, the majority remaining with Germany.  The results were a hugely lopsided  362,209 votes (97.8%) for East Prussia and 7,980 votes (2.2%) for Poland.  After the plebiscite, attacks on ethnic Polish population commenced by pro-German mobs saw ethnically Polish priests and politicians driven from their homes.

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A total of twenty-eight stamps were issued to publicize the Allenstein plebiscite, with the first appearing on 3 April 1920.  These were German stamps overprinted with either of two styles. The first fourteen stamps were overprinted with “PLEBISCITE / OLSZTYN / ALLENSTEIN” while the second fourteen read “TRAITÉ / DE / VERSAILLES / ART. 94 et 95” referring to the Articles 94 and 95 of the treaty.   International use of the overprinted stamps ceased from 20 August 1920 and German stamps were used thereafter.

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Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, the Poles and Jews in Allenstein were increasingly persecuted. The city was made the seat of the Allenstein Militärische Bereich by the Wehrmacht in 1933. It was the home of the 11th Infanterie Division, the 11th Artillery Regiment, and the 217th Infanterie Division.  After the German invasion of Poland that started the Second World War, the Wehrmacht established an Area Headquarters for Wehrkreis I on 12 October 1939.  It controlled the sub-areas of Allenstein, Lötzen (now Giżycko) and Zichenau (Ciechanów). Beginning in 1939, members of the Polish-speaking minority, especially members of the Union of Poles in Germany, were deported to German death camps.

Allenstein was plundered and burnt by the invading Soviet Red Army on 22 January 1945 as the Eastern Front reached the city. Allenstein’s German population evacuated the region or were subsequently expelled. On 2 August 1945, the city was placed under Polish administration by the Soviets according to the Potsdam Agreement and officially renamed to Olsztyn. Polish stamps replaced those of Germany at that time.  In October 1945, the German population of Olsztyn was expelled by Order of the City Commanders of Olszty.

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The entire run of Allenstein stamps have a total value of US $49 unused, $105 mint never hinged and $91.90 used, according to the 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue.  The two most expensive single stamps are Scott #18 ($20 unused, $35 used) and Scott #4 ($5.50 unused, $9.50 used).  This is a 15-pfennig stamp in violet brown in each of the different overprint varieties which was issued some time after the initial 3 April 1920 release, replacing the 15pf dark violet shade.

Postmarked on the day of the Allenstein Plebiscite, 11 July 1920

Scott does list a few minor varieties – double and inverted overprints – and mentions that several other denominations of German stamps received the plebiscite overprints but weren’t actually issued.  These appear on the collector market from time to time and the Scott catalogue values them at between $75 hinged and $175 never hinged.

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Allenstein was the stamp issuer that first attracted me to early German stamps.  I currently have sixteen stamps in my collection, four of which are duplicates.  It won’t be difficult to obtain the remaining issues and Allenstein may just be my first “complete country” (Bohemia and Moravia is close behind).

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Happy Collecting!

Albania COAAlbania Flag

Albania (1913-Date)

LOCATION: Southeastern Europe
AREA:  11,101 sq. mi.
Population:  2,893,005 (est. 2011)
GOVERNMENT:  Republic
CAPITAL:  Tirana

FIRST STAMPS:  Turkish, from 1870
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED:  October 1913

CURRENCY:
40 paras = 1 piastre or grosch; 100 qint = 1 franc (1913-1947)
100 qint = 1 lek (1947-1965)
100 older = 1 new lek (1965-date)

Albania is a republic in southeast Europe, bordering on the Adriatic Sea.  Formerly part of ancient Epirus, it was defeated by the Turks in the 14th century and became a province in the European portion of the Ottoman Empire.  A national hero, Scanderberg, rose up about 1443 and liberated Albania from Turkish control until the siege of Scutari in 1478.  During the period of Turkish control there were seven post offices in Albania each with its own special hand-stamp.  Frequently the hand-stamps were only used as arrival marks, and stamps were applied at the office of delivery.

Albania Map 1

Italy, as part of its policy of expansion in the Mediterranean opened post offices in Albania in 1902 which used Italian stamps overprinted ALBANIA and in Turkish currency. Offices were opened at Durazzo, Scutari and Valona. The first issue was replaced in 1909 by a further issue overprinted for each of the towns.

Albania did not take part in the first Balkan War in 1912-13, but declared its independence on 28 November 1912. This was confirmed by the Treaty of London, which ended the war.  The country issued its first stamps in October and November 1913 with overprints on various Turkish adhesives. The overprints featured a double-headed eagle and the legend SHQIPËNIA. “Shqipënia” would be the first of a large number of variations of the country’s name on Albanian stamps over the years. The first permanent series was released in December 1913, inscribed SHQIPËNIE E LIRË.

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However, the new country was to suffer immediate problems. Overrun by German, Serbian, Montenegrin, Greek, Bulgarian, Italian, French and Austrian troops during World War I, foreign forces remained in Albania until 1921.  Essad Pasha set up his own regime and issued stamps for central Albania. The Greeks also issued stamps in 1914 for Epirus and Northern Epirus, which they had occupied. To try to bring peace, the Dutch were asked to send a detachment of police. These used their own special stamps at their headquarters in Koritza. The Montenegrins had occupied Scutari. Postmarks of SCUTARI-SKADOR are found on the stamps of Montenegro and Albania. 

Stamps of this time included many different overprints, plus different inscriptions for the name of the country, including SHQIPËNIË, POSTA SHQYPTARE, POSTE SHQYPTARE, REPUBLIKA SHQIPTARE, and REP. SHQIPTARE. Others have no inscription at all, and may be identified by the prominent double-headed eagle.

The country fell into a state of anarchy when the prince and all members of the International Commission left Albania. Subsequently General Ferrero in command of Italian troops declared Albania an independent country. A constitution was adopted and a republican form of government was instituted which continued until 1928 when, by constitutional amendment, Albania was declared to be a monarchy. The President of the republic, Ahmed Zogu, became king of the new state.

Tirana_Old_Postcard

On 7 April 1939, Italy invaded Albania. King Zog fled but did not abdicate. The King of Italy acquired the crown. Stamps were issued almost immediately and were overprinted ‘Constituent Assembly 12 IV 1939 XVII’. This referred to the body who offered the crown of Albania to the King of Italy. The figure XVII refers to the 17th year of Fascist rule in Italy.  Italy did not enter World War II until June 1940.  After the fall of France it used Albania as its base for the invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940. The Greeks counterattacked and soon overran almost half of Albania. They issued stamps overprinted for southern Albania on 10 December 1940.

When Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941, it returned the control of Albania to Italy. However, when Italy surrendered in September 1943, Germany immediately assumed the occupation of Albania. Stamps were again issued. These were from the Italian occupation overprinted.

In 1944 a guerilla leader, General Enver Hoxha, drove German forces from the country and proclaimed Albania to be a democratic republic on 22 November 1944. In January 1945 definitive stamps from the Italian occupation were further overprinted for the new republic.  Stamps in 1945 were issued inscribed QEVERIA DEMOKRATIKE E SHQIPNIS. In 1946, the new appellation REPUBLIKA POPULLORE E SHQIPERISE was used, first as an overprint, then as an inscription on new stamp issues. This was subsequently shortened on some stamps to a variation of RP E SHQIPERISE, SHQIPERIA, SHQIPËRIJA, etc.

Albania

In January 1946, a communist people’s republic was proclaimed. At first it appeared that Albania would become a satellite of Yugoslavia, but it maintained its independence, under Hoxha’s repressive regime. In 1960, because of the Soviet Union’s de-Stalinization campaign, Albania broke with the Soviet Union and aligned its foreign policy with that of the People’s Republic of China. In 1978 China’s liberalization brought a break between that country and Albania. From 1978 to 1991, Albania was one of the most economically undeveloped nations in Europe and one of the most isolated nations in the world.

In 1991, Albania held its first multi-party elections and became a Socialist Republic on 29 April 1991 with an elected President and a new Constitution. Since 1991, with the collapse of communism in Europe, Albania has instituted a democratic republican government. Economic reverses in 1997 threatened the country with a return to the anarchy that has characterized so much of its history.  Rioting broke out in January 1997 following the collapse of a number of pyramid investment schemes. Anti-Government protests were followed by open rebellion and a State of Emergency was declared in March. The attacks on the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by the Serbs led to a general move by the refugees into Albania.

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As of 2011, the capital, Tirana, was home to 421,286 of the country’s 2,893,005 people within the city limits, 763,634 in the metropolitan area.[ Tirana is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania provides a universal health care system and free primary and secondary education.  The country is an upper-middle income economy with the service sector dominating the country’s economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture.

By my count*, there are a total of 3229 Albanian stamps listed in the 2009 Scott Catalogue.  Of these, 3064 are general issues, 40 semi-postals (the charity going mainly to health-related organizations such as the Albanian Red Cross), 79 airmail stamps, three special delivery stamps and 43 postage dues.  The early issues tend to be priced quite high.

I have exactly one stamp from Albania in my collection. Scott #1057 was released on 25 August 1967, the 80q value in a set of eight portraying regional costumes.  This stamp shows a man and woman from Dropullit. 

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*Yes, I am attempting to physically count all the stamps in the 2009 scott catalogue,  look for a blog article highlighting my reasons and methods for such an undertaking (and a look at the spreadsheet I’m developing to track stamp issuers and their emissions).

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Following a rare-in-July day without mail (possibly due to the heavy monsoonal rains we experienced all day), I received a single envelope containing a single stamp which happened to be a new addition to my A Stamp From Everywhere collection – French Andorra.  I also recently obtained my first stamps from the Spanish administration of the co-principality and so will be putting together a “Stamp Issuers” installment detailing its history and stamps.

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The French Andorran stamp is Scott #458, released on 4th November 1995 to mark the tiny enclave’s entry into the Council of Europe.  I’m always a sucker for flags on stamps!  (As you will soon see, I’ve recently created a set of flag stamps for the Muang Phuket Local Post.)

The stamp was ordered from a dealer in the Netherlands but was mailed in Belgium.  The envelope is covered with eight copies of Scott #B875 , a semi-postal released on 11 September 1971 to raise money for the Wallonia Festival, and one copy of Scott #734 which was released on 31 January 1970 for the Ghent International Flower Exhibition.  The latter stamp was also featured in a souvenir sheet of three released on 25 April 1970.

I love receiving mail that looks like this envelope; it’s a nice bonus when ordering stamps from other collectors and dealers.

Happy Collecting!

Alderney COAAlderney Flag

Alderney, Channel Islands

LOCATION: Northernmost of the Channel Islands
GOVERNMENT: Dependent territory in the Bailiwick of Guernsey
POPULATION: 1,903 (est. 2013)
AREA: 3 square miles
CAPITAL: St. Anne’s

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 14 June 1983.

CURRENCY:
100 pence = 1 British pound

Alderney is a small English Channel island just ten miles (16 kilometers) west of the French coast, 20 miles (32 km) to the northeast of Guernsey and 60 miles (97 km) from the south coast of Great Britain. The island is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which has been a British crown territory since the mid-13th century.  Alderney is 3 miles (4.8 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) wide; it’s read of three square miles (7.8 km²) makes it the third-largest island of the Channel Islands.  The main town is St Anne which features an imposing church and an unevenly cobbled high street. There is a primary school, a secondary school and a post office, and hotels, restaurants, banks and shops. Other settlements include Braye, Crabby, Longis, Mannez and Newtown.  As of April 2013, the island had a population of 1,903 people and they are traditionally nicknamed vaques after the cows, or elselapins after the many rabbits seen in the island. Formally, they are known as Ridunians, from the Latin Riduna.

Alderney Map 02 (1930)

Along with the other Channel Islands, Alderney was annexed by the Duchy of Normandy in 933. In 1042 William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy (later William the Conqueror, King of the English) granted the island to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. In 1057 the Bishop of Coutances took control of the island.  After 1204, when mainland Normandy was incorporated into the kingdom of France, Alderney remained loyal to the English monarch in his dignity of Duke of Normandy.  From 1721 Alderney came under the control of the Le Mesurier family from Guernsey who prospered from privateering and built a jetty there in 1736.  The last of the hereditary Governors, John Le Mesurier, resigned his patent to the Crown in 1825, and since then authority has been exercised by the States of Alderney, as amended by the constitutional settlement of 1948.

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The British Government decided to undertake massive fortifications in the 19th century and to create a strategic harbor to deter attacks from France. An influx of English and Irish laborers, plus the sizeable British garrison stationed in the island, led to rapid Anglicization. The harbor was never completed – the remaining breakwater (designed by James Walker) is one of the island’s landmarks, and is longer than any breakwater in the UK.  At the same time as the breakwater was being built in the 1850s, the island was fortified by a string of 13 forts.

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On 23 June 1940, after the retreat from Dunkirk, the entire population of Alderney – about 1500 residents – were evacuated to Britain, since Alderney and the rest of the Channel Islands were considered by the British Government to be undefendable. On 2 July Alderney was occupied by German forces, who made it one of the most heavily defended fortresses in Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.  The Channel Islands was the only part of the British Commonwealth occupied by Germany during the Second World War.

The Germans built four concentration camps in Alderney, subcamps of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Over 700 of a total inmate population of 6,000 lost their lives before the camps were closed and the remaining inmates transferred to Germany in 1944. The Royal Navy blockaded the islands from time to time, particularly following the liberation of Normandy in 1944. Intense negotiations resulted in some Red Cross humanitarian aid, but there was considerable hunger and privation during the five years of German occupation, particularly in the final months when the Germans themselves were close to starvation. The Germans surrendered Alderney on 16 May 1945. The population of Alderney was unable to start returning until December 1945 due to the huge cleanup operation that had to take place simply to make the island safe for civilians. When the islanders returned home they were shocked to see the state of Alderney, with many houses completely derelict due to anything wooden, including front doors, having been burned for fuel by the Germans.

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The four German camps in Alderney have not been preserved or commemorated, aside from a small plaque at the former SS camp Lager Sylt. One camp is now a tourist camping site, while the gates to another form the entrance to the island’s rubbish tip. The other two have been left to fall into ruin and become overgrown by brambles. A series of tunnels also remain in place on Alderney, constructed by forced labor. These are in varying degrees of safety, but are left open to the public and the elements.

Alderney used the stamps of Guernsey following the release of the first regional issues in August 1958.  After it became postally independent and began issuing its own stamps in 1969, Guernsey made Alderney a sub-post office and handled its postal affairs. Alderney’s request to produce separate issues was rejected by Guernsey in 1975, but a later compromise allowed Alderney to issue occasional sets of stamps, the first of which appeared on 14 June 1983.  The island’s issues – typically about one commemorative set each year and a definitive set released every decade – are produced under the aegis of the Bailiwick of Guernsey Post Office in consultation with Alderney’s parliamentary finance committee. 

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Alderney is found in Volume 3 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue, right after the Guernsey listings in Great Britain (following the British Offices in Turkey), starting on page 373 of my 2009 edition.  I counted 325 general issue stamps with the most recent in my catalogue having been released on 2 August 2007.  This doesn’t count a number of minor-numbered perforation varieties or differing booklet pane format but does include various souvenir sheets.

I currently have five stamps from Alderney in my collection, Scott Nos. 37-41, released on 7 July 1989.  The set of five stamps, lithographed and perforated 13½x14, portray various maps of the island published between the 18th and 20th centuries.  For my A Stamp From Everywhere collection, I have chosen the 12p value which shows Henry Moll’s map of 1724.

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Åland COAÅland Flag

Åland Islands

LOCATION: A group of 6,554 islands in the Gulf of Bothnia, between Finland and Sweden
GOVERNMENT: Province of Finland
POPULATION: 28,666 (est. 2013)
AREA: 590 square miles
CAPITAL: Mariehamn

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: 1 March 1984.

CURRENCY:
100 kopecks = 1 ruble (1809-1921)
100 pennia = 1 markka (1921-2002)
100 cents = 1 euro (2002-date)

The Åland Islands are an archipelago situated at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia. It includes the main island of Fasta Åland on which 90% of the population resides and another 6,500 skerries and islands to its east. Fasta Åland is separated from the coast of Sweden by 38 kilometers (24 miles) of open water to the west. The main town is Mariehamn.

For centuries, the islands have been a key link in transportation between Finland and Sweden. The Mail Decree of 1636 is considered to be the birth of the Swedish postal system.  Along with mail services established in Finland in 1638, regulations were adopted for the mail road between the two countries to cross the Åland Islands.  Its first post office was soon established in the Kastelholm castle.

 Sweden lost Finland and Åland following the war of 1808-1809. The islands were ceded to Russia under the Treaty of Fredrikshamn in September 1809, becoming part of the semi-autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland. The Russians completed construction on a huge customs and post office in the western outpost of Eckerö in 1838 and shortly thereafter began construction on the fortress of Bomarsund with workers coming from all over the Russian Empire. Bomarsund became a community where many different cultures and religions met.  Bomarsund wasn’t completed before the Crimean War broke out in 1853.

During the Crimean War,  Britain and France took sides with Turkey against Russia. Postal transportation between Sweden and Finland was stopped when the Åland Sea was blockaded by the British starting in May 1854.  Bomarsund was attacked in August 1854 and the Russian forces were soon forced to surrender. After the war, it was decided during the peace negotiations in Paris that Åland should be a demilitarized zone which it remains today.

The First World War (1914–18) also had a significant impact on the Åland Islands with shipping the worst hit industry; several ships were sunk and Åland sailors killed.  After the war, Åland was wracked with uncertainty and anxiety. Russian soldiers were present throughout the region, and there was heated tension between the Conservatives and the Communists. Sweden was perceived as safe, and a group of activists began discussing a reunion with the former motherland.

Finland’s declaration of independence in 1917 gave impetus to discussions on the issue of Åland’s reunion with in the newly-formed League of Nations. The League did not uphold the wishes of the Ålanders, ruling instead that Åland should belong to Finland. The islands were, however, granted broad autonomy and guaranteed demilitarization and Swedish as the official language. It became an autonomous province of Finland in 1921.

Aland Map 1

Autonomy means that Åland has its own parliament (Lagtinget, formerly the county council) and a government (provincial government, formerly the provincial authority). In 1954 the region got its own official flag.  It also has its own police force and its residents speak Swedish.

Most of the post offices in Åland were founded at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The postal delivery routes came about in the 1920s. In 1917 the independent Finland took over the responsibility for the postal service in Åland. The postal service got incorporated with the telegraph service as Post och Telegrafverket in 1927.  In 1981 the department changed its name to Post och Televerket. In 1990 the organizational form was changed into a business firm with independent economy under the name “Post- och tele”.

The post office network was re-organized in 1991, with one-third of the offices closed and one-third were to be run by representatives. The remaining post offices were combined with bank services.  In the middle of 1991 the postal service in Finland was deregulated. Finland, along with Åland, became the first country in the world to open its postal market to competition.

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Åland became an independent postal administration on 1 January 1993 through a change in the Åland Autonomy Act. The business is based upon the provincial law regarding Åland Post and is run as a business firm under the supervision of the Åland Government.  It has issued its own stamps since 1 March 1984. There are a total of 16 communities in the islands, each with their own post office.

The first series of Åland Islands stamps in 1984 used the same currency of Finland — 1 markka = 100 pennia. This first series showed various subjects related to Åland, including a map of the area, the flag, buildings, scenery, and wildlife. Their stamps have always used their Swedish name rather than the Finnish Ahvenanmaa.

The Åland Islands postal authorities quickly began issuing items to appeal to the international stamp collectors’ market, with periodic souvenir sheets and maximum cards being among the interesting items available. The stamp designs from the Ålands tend to effectively reflect the pride that the locals have in their region, with a nice balance between “old” subjects that recall the islands’ history, and bold new designs for modern subjects. In 2002, Finland and the Åland Islands discontinued the markka in favor of the euro; all Åland Islands stamps from that point have been in euros.

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Åland can be found in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue following the parcel post stamps of Finland in Volume 2.  My 2009 edition lists issues up to the Christmas issue released on 9 October 2007.  Between the first stamps issued in 1984 and the 2007 Christmas stamp, I count a total of 288 general issues (no air mail or other back-of-the-book releases).  Most singles are valued in the US $1-$5 range with the most expensive stamp being Scott #257, priced at US $13.00 in both mint and used.  Some issues are collected in booklet panes of and these are a bit more in cost.

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Prior to moving to Thailand a decade ago, I had an almost collection of mint Åland housed in a hingeless Davo album along with quite extensive holdings in the islands’ postal history.  That was sold along with my other pre-2004 collections and I currently have but thirteen Åland stamps – Scott #72, the Autonomous Postal Administration souvenir sheet plus singles of each of its four stamps; Scott 109-112, Cargo Vessels issue as a block of four (half a booklet pane); and Scott #122-125, Owls in a block of four (half a booklet pane).

The Åland representative in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection is Scott #72a the 1.90 markka lithographed in light blue and black, perforated  12½x13. This was part of a souvenir sheet of four issued 1 March 1993 commemorating the ninth anniversary of its first stamp issue. The two stamps in the center were engraved while the two on either side were printed by lithography.

This stamp portrays inscriptions found on an early stampless letter and features the rare cancellation of Kastelholm in Cyrillic. When Gustav Wilhelm Landau became head of the postal authorities for the Grand Duchy of Finland following its loss to Russia in 1809, he decided that every post office had to have Russian-speaking officials. The Finnish post offices received their first single-line Cyrillic postmark devices in 1812. Two of these offices were in Åland – Eckerö and Kastelholm. The latter operated until 1842 when the post office moved to Skarpans, the village outside the great fortress of Bomarsund.

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