Latvian Stamps | Collecting Stamps from Latvia

What Can Be Done: For most of the last thousand years, Latvia was a culture, an ethnicity, and a language that bound together the Latvian people. But Latvia was not, until 1918, a political entity, that is a country. We lose sight of the fact that for most of the last five hundred years, Russia was the predominant power in Eastern Europe and many countries that we think of today were incorporated as administrative districts in the Russian Empire (much of Putin’s foreign policy can be seen as an attempt to regain Russia historic importance).


The October Revolution and WW I caused a great power vacuum that allowed the Baltic States to proclaim their independence. Latvia became independent in 1918 and quickly issued their first postage stamps, as much to proclaim sovereignty as to pay for postage. The early issues are highly specialized in itself. Some of the stamps were printed on paper that had been previously used to print maps. Latvia must have had a great need for maps and there are hundreds of thousands of these stamps printed with the reverse of most of the stamps showing differing sections of maps. Russia took the opportunity during WW II to occupy and control Latvia. Latvian stamps then exist only from 1918-1940 and then after the end of the Soviet Union, from 1990 to now.


Specialty Catalogs: Latvian philately basically breaks down into two broad periods. The classic period – 1918-1940 is well covered by the both the regular Scott catalog and to a somewhat more specialized degree by the Scott Classic catalog. While post Soviet Union issues are listed in the regular Scott catalog, most specialists concentrate on the pre 1940 issues as the later issues are not very interesting.


Specialty Albums: The Scott Specialty series for the Baltic States are good, as are the Lighthouse specialty albums.


Availability of Material: There are several factors that contribute to the philatelic popularity of smaller countries such as Latvia. First, a high degree of national pride makes the collecting of one’s own country’s stamps a badge of honor. This is true of Latvia (and also countries like Israel and Iceland). Second, Latvia has an educated and increasing affluent population. Third, there are many people of Latvian descent living in Europe and the US. Wealthy expatriates are often collectors.


So Latvia is a popular country with not too many stamps and almost no rarities. This has meant that there are many dealers who stock and offer Latvian stamps and so collectors will find them often on offer.


Expense: Latvia is a relatively inexpensive country to collect, though some of the better watermark varieties can be pricey and hard to find.


Overall grade B+

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