The philatelic history of Albania  shows the effects of the domination of four nations on the Albanian people as well as the political aspirations of the Albania people themselves. As part of the Balkan area, Albania has had the misfortune to be subject to  political and military intervention by the Turks, the Italians, the Germans, the Soviets, before finally, in the most modern period, having their own fate in their hands. (Don’t forget, the political good fortune of the dozen or so Eastern and Southeastern European countries that became truly independent after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992 was a historical anomaly. Most of the nations of this area have long been under foreign domination since the Roman Empire. We are apt to forget what wondrous times these are for worldwide freedom.)
Image result for albania stampsIn the late nineteenth century, Albania was controlled by the Turkish Empire, and their first issue stamps are Turkish stamps with the Albania eagle overprint. These stamps are very scarce though many collectors avoid them as forgeries are so pervasive. Albania enjoyed a brief period of quasi-independence from 1912-1928, and after 1928, in succession, Albania was dominated by the Italians, the Germans (who took over as the Axis conquerors after fascist Italy collapsed), and after the end of WWII hostilities by the Soviet Union. Albania was a primitive place even in the modern period. The country was not united by rail until 1948, and a form of feudalism existed until that date. Albania is still a poor country, even very poor by European standards, with its per capita income only about 25% of the EU average. The country is very mountainous, and outside the main cities a clannish culture exists, with blood feuds to this day. The population of the country is small—only a bit above 3 million.
The previous paragraphs show the pluses and minuses of collecting Albanian stamps. There are forgeries to contend with on the earliest issues, though many collectors dispense with that problem by only buying certified stamps or ignoring these early stamps entirely. Countries like Albania which have had so much foreign intervention sometimes benefit from a fraternal philatelic association—people from countries that dominated or had an interest in the country often collect their stamps (this explains part of the popularity of British colonial issues in Great Britain and French Colony issues in France). But the German experience in Albania was short lived and only necessitated by Italy’s failing, so there is no great German affinity for the stamps of Albania. The Italians are notorious in wanting little to do with their fascist imperial aspirations and do not seek Albania stamps. And the Russians, who dominated Albania for nearly fifty years, have so far shown little interest in the former areas in which they were, in reality, the colonial rulers (whether Russians, as they become wealthier, will desire the stamps of Eastern Europe is one of the great unanswered questions in evaluating the future of the philately of this area).
As it is, Albania stamps are very well collected when you consider how few of the traditional markers for philatelic popularity exist for the country—a small population (bad) and relatively poor and uneducated population (even worse). What Albania does have going for it, though, is interesting and well designed stamps that in mint condition are very scarce relative to their price. With the exception of fifteen or twenty stamps, there are few expensive items, but so many of the mint sets are hard to find. The country attracts (and should continue to attract) collectors who like the search and who are happy when they finally find something that they need and acquire an attractive mint set for only a few dollars. Countries that offer this kind of collecting always have devotees.
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