In the Middle Ages, the first international courier service was probably the Metzger Post, founded by a guild of butchers in the 12th century.
Later, in the 1600s, postal service became a privilege of the nobility. Here is a brief look at the history of the German postal stamp in the past and its evolution into the stamps of today.
Thurn and Taxis, 1806 to 1867
The House of Thurn and Taxis operated the Thurn-and-Taxis Post from 1806, and issued its first postal stamps in 1852. Since the northern and southern states had different currencies, two types of stamps were issued. Stamps for the north were denominated in ‘Silbergroschen’ and those for the south were in ‘Kreuzer’. In 1867, the noble house handed over postal rights to the Prussians State.
Stamps of the German States
The division within the Holy Roman Empire is evident in the fact that so many of the German states at this point were issuing their own stamps. Bavaria was the first state to issue its own postage stamps, in 1849. The other state that followed with their stamps included the Grand Duchies of Baden, Hessen and Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Oldenburg, the three free Hanse cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lubeck, the Kingdoms of Hannover, the three free Hanse cities of Bremen, Hamburg and Lubeck, Saxony, Prussia, and Wurttemberg.
The states of Schleswig-Holstein, Braunschweig, Heligoland, Bergedorf and Mecklenburg-Strelitz also had their own stamps. In 1868, the northern German states joined the North German Confederation and their postal services became a part of the North German Postal District. Bavaria and Wurttemberg however continued to issue stamps until 1920.
Stamps of the First Reich, 1871 – 1918
The first stamps of the German Empire were issued in the January of 1872. There were 2 sets issued, in thaler (used in the Northern district) and in gulden currency. A new series was issued in 1875 to incorporate the new uniform decimal currency which introduced 100 pfennig in a mark. Another new series came out with the Imperial Eagle during Kaiser Wilhelm 2nd’s accession and a third between 1899 and 1900 depicting the female allegorical figure of Germania. The Germania stamps were used right through the First World War and even into the Weimar Republic that followed, issued by the Reichspost.
Stamps of the Weimar Republic, Second Reich, 1918 – 1933
In 1919, the Weimar Republic issued its first commemorative stamps for the sitting of the National Assembly. Hyperinflation in 1923 had stamps being issued for up to 50 billion marks. The common stamp series were the ‘famous German people’, the Hindenburg stamps and then the German Zeppelin stamps in 1928.
Stamps of Nazi Germany, 1933 – 1945
The Reichspost continued to issue Hindenburg stamps and then the Hitler head stamps became common. The year before the end of the war the original inscription of ‘Deutsches Reich’ was changed to ‘Grossdeutsches Reich’ meaning Greater German Empire. During the course of the war, Germany issued stamps in its occupied territories.
Stamps of Divided Germany, 1945 – 1990
After the collapse of the Nazi regime, Germany was divided into 4 zones by the Allied powers. The British and American control over the post is evident in the ‘AM Post Deutschland’ inscriptions on the stamps from this time (referring to the Allied Military). The French-occupied zone had its own stamps. In 1946, Britain, USA and Russia combined their postal administrations to the Deutsche Post. When the German Federal Republic was formed with the American, British and French zones, the Deutsche Post building stamps continued to be issued.
The Russian zone became the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and issued its 3000, often beautiful, stamps from 1949 onwards until the unification in 1990.
Stamps of Reunited Germany
After re-unification of the East and West, the Deutsche Post of the GDR was incorporated into the Bundespost of the West (renamed from the Deutsche Post of the German Federal Republic). All un-expired German stamps were used, and new stamps were inscribed with ‘Deutschland’. From 1995, the Bundespost has come to be known as the Deutsche Post AG, which continues to issue stamps today.
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