Classic Switzerland

Switzerland was one of the world’s first issuers of stamps and the country continues to be one of the most popular philatelic areas. The first issues of Switzerland are called the Cantonals and the first of these was issued in 1846. Switzerland has a federal system of government, similar to the United States in that sovereignty rests with the states which united and set up a constitution governing the relationship between Federal government and the state governments. Over time in the United States, the Federal government has assumed more power and the states less. The same thing has happened in Switzerland except that the Swiss states or Cantons as they are called have retained more of their power vis a vis the Federal government than have the states in the United States.

In the 1840’s the Swiss Cantons were so autonomous that they issued their own postage stamps. Several Cantons issued their own including the Canton of Zurich and Geneva (both are pictured above) and it wasn’t until several years later that Switzerland proper issued its own postage stamps superseding the stamps of the Cantons. Swiss Cantonal issues illustrate one of the major changes that have taken place in philately in the last fifty years. These stamps are very rare and always have been but in 1960 they were among the great classics of our hobby that every collector aspired to own. Such classics, and they exist in many countries, have lost ground in the last half century to more modern rare stamps, covers, plate blocks and other items that collectors have higher on their list of things that they wished  they owned. Accordingly the price of such stamps as the Swiss Cantonals has languished and today actually sell for less than they did thirty years ago. And when you factor how much the dollar has fallen against the Swiss Franc over the last thirty years and the effects of inflation, that drop in these stamp prices is dramatic indeed.

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