Collectors’ Stamps from Afghanistan

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Mountainous, landlocked Afghanistan should not have emerged as one of the most significant geopolitical flashpoints of the 20th century. Once among the more progressive and cosmopolitan Middle Eastern nations, it has been beset with instability for more than 35 years, suffering from both internal wars and occupation from outside forces.

The stamps and philately of a country can provide a window into its history. Ultimately, any lens through which we can view and contextualize complex events makes us more informed, sympathetic global citizens. Collecting rare Afghanistan stamps isn’t going to change the world – but it can help us understand it a little better. Here’s what you need to know to begin exploring the world of Afghan philately.

Early Afghan Stamps

The first stamps to appear in Afghanistan were issued in 1871. These were known as the Sher Ali issues, and celebrated the eponymous founder of the Barakzai dynasty with their depiction of a lion’s head – Sher means lion in the Dari language. Though crudely produced, these issues remain among the more valuable rare Afghanistan stamps, and well-preserved examples can fetch high prices at auction. Sher Ali Khan was overthrown in 1880, and new stamps were printed. These new issues preserved the rounded design of the earlier stamps but removed the lion’s head.

One unique feature of this time period is that the Afghan cancelling system didn’t use a postal marking, but instead involved tearing a piece of the stamp off. As a result, when shopping for collectors’ Afghanistan stamps, in many cases what appears as damage is actually a sign of use.

Independence

Afghan independence was achieved in 1920, and the country began the gradual process of modernizing itself. Afghanistan joined the Universal Postal System in 1928 and began using Roman script on its stamps instead of Arabic. Afghan stamps from the ‘30s and ‘40s are little-loved by collectors, though a handsome definitive series was issued in 1951. In the 1960s, the country’s postal authority began to realize the importance of selling Afghan stamps on the philatelic market, and started to produce a number of collectible issues.

1979 Onward

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 threw the country into a period of instability from which it has not yet fully recovered. Following a long and bloody proxy war between the U.S. and USSR, the country itself fell into a civil war, which set the stage for the rise of the Taliban. During this time, several conflicting authorities issued stamps for use in the region, though none of them were authorized by national authorities, and few are listed in catalogues of collectors’ stamps from Afghanistan.

Stamp production resumed in 2002, following the overthrow of the Taliban. As the country inches toward stability, interest in Afghanistan’s philately has begun to revive. Today, you can find many collectors’ Afghan stamps for sale in Apfelbaum’s online store and buy-it-now sales. Browse our website to see what’s available, or contact our team directly for more information.