Collectible German Stamps
It doesn’t take long in the philatelic community to realize that Germans are among the most ardent stamp collectors in the world. Modern postal systems have their roots in the Metzger and Thurn und Taxis couriers established during the Holy Roman Empire. Prior to the country’s unification in 1871, the states that would make up Germany also issued their own stamps alongside these private systems.
Today, the ten largest stamp auction houses in Germany and Switzerland account for over $300 million in annual business. While it can be daunting for a budding philatelist to begin their Germany collection, the sheer number of issues available presents several options for specialization that can be far more rewarding than a comprehensive approach.
Unification and Empire
The unification of the German states in 1871 brought with it the establishment of a national post system, the Deutsche Reichspost. The Reichspost began issuing its first stamps the following year, with the definitive Germania stamp being produced from 1900 to 1922. As the country’s longest running postage series, the Germania provides an excellent entry point into German philately.
The late 19th century also saw Germany’s colonial ambitions take root in East Africa, New Guinea and other regions. During this time, colonial entities produced special issues designed for use abroad.
Philately and Nazi Germany
Undoubtedly the country’s darkest hour, the aftermath of World War One and subsequent rise of the Third Reich nonetheless plays an important role in German philatelic history. Stamps became an important form of currency during the period of hyperinflation following the Treaty of Versailles. Later, they acted as a portable, secure asset for Jews and others fleeing persecution under the Nazi regime. During the war itself, the Germans also issued their own stamps in Czechoslovakia, Poland and other occupied territories.
Division and Reunification
Following Nazi Germany’s defeat by the Allied powers, mail delivery in the country experienced a period of disruption. U.S., British and French powers each issued stamps in their respective occupied zones. Later, East and West Germany had their respective postage systems which continued to operate until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990.
The Michel Catalogue
The Michel catalogue is by far the best guide to collectible and rare German stamps in the world. Annual editions typically run to over 4,000 pages and 1 million entries covering all eras of the country’s history. For anyone attempting to break into the world of German stamp collecting, the Michel catalogue is an invaluable resource — it’s the first point of reference when it comes to identification and pricing.
Why Collect German Stamps?
Encompassing everything from horror to hope, empire to collapse and desperation to prosperity, Germany’s history in the 20th century is one of the most fascinating in the world. German stamp collecting provides a way of understanding and contextualizing this history, and offers undeniable proof that any nation can rise from its darkest moments.