Previous articles have examined the stamp production of a number of stamp printing companies. This article is intended to be a look over a variety of matters dealing with the production of stamps and the subject of the designs. Its principal theme is politics and the relationships between countries. It is a truism that political considerations have affected every stamp issuing country, some more than others.

  • Nationalism can dictate who is employed to print our stamps. This has meant that for some countries, their stamps have almost exclusively been printed (and designed) in that country.
  • On independence from colonialism, sub-sidiaries of the former printers are occasionally established in the newly self-governing territory;
  • Stamp printing and design becomes part and parcel of foreign alliances and aid;
  • Stamps are issued to promote territorial claims. On occasion these claims have led to war between the claimants.

As Denis Altman has noted in his “Paper Ambassadors – The Politics of Stamps” Angus & Robertson 1991-

“Stamps are both a part and a reflection of the creation of national consensus, a symbol of governments’ determination to maintain control of postal services and to create certain images of the nation, both at home and abroad. For newly independent governments the issuing of stamps is one of the first available acts to proclaim their sovereignty. Equally, changes in name or political status are often first recorded on stamps. Thus, governments often use stamps to proclaim national unity, to assert their sovereignty over disputed areas or to proclaim state ideology. This is very evident in the early stamps of states that have had to fight to gain their independence. The first stamps of Bangladesh, following the successful revolt against Pakistan in 1971, included images of broken chains, massacres, and calls to support the new nation.”

And then on occasion, stamps have been prepared in one country for use in another, which at the time of initial production, was not in its control. Thus we have the stamps prepared in the United States for issue in Germany, Austria and Italy upon the occupation of each during the war of 1939-1945. The stamps for Germany, inscribed “AM POST DEUTSCHLAND” were firstly printed by typography by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington. They were issued as the Allies advanced into Germany. Then they were printed by the photogravure process by Harrison and Sons of High Wycombe, England, these being released between 28 August and 19 September. Finally, they were printed by Westermann of Brunswick, Germany, who printed by the lithographic process.

An Alphabetical Country by Country Survey

The source of stamp printing for most of the territories within the Commonwealth continues to be security printing companies in Great Britain. However, in a number of countries, stamp printing is carried out locally. Some of these companies have exported their expertise and printed stamps for other countries. Often there is no obvious geographic or cultural link.

Great Britain
How many stamps issued by Great Britain, the first stamp issuing country, have been printed anywhere but in the United Kingdom. I suggest that the answer is still what it was in 1995, namely one stamp, the 8p definitive of 1979. (Figure 1) The only reason for this “aberration” is that demand was so great, part of the contract held by Harrison and Sons had to be farmed out to Johan Enschede en Zonen of Haarlem, Holland. Some stamps were being designed by eminent foreigners such as Czeslaw Slania – that is when Great Britain wanted to issue a good recess printed stamp rather than its usual photogravure or lithographed variety.

Figures 1A and 1B. The Enschede en Zonen Great Britain 8p printing at left and Harrison at right.

Independence from Pakistan was attained in 1971. Stamps have been printed in a variety of countries, including by Rosenbaum Brothers and Uberreuter, both of Vienna, and the State Printing Works, Moscow. From 1990, most stamps were printed locally in Gazipur by the State Security Printing Press.

Following independence the postal authorities used a variety of English and European printers, then in 1979 they went to lithographic printers in Singapore and Malaysia, before experiencing two years of the Government Printer in Pretoria, and for their lithographic productions in 1982 to Mardon Printers Limited in Zimbabwe. This then became National Printing & Packaging, though Pretoria continued to be called on for the printing of some issues.

1980 saw the installation of lithographic printers in nearby Singapore and Kuala Lumpur as the preferred printers for the stamp issues of this Islamic country. Some issues continued to be printed in England, while others had their origin in France. In 1992 the Dutch company, Enschede were utilised for a number of issues.

We have previously dealt with stamp issues in Canada – local printers, usually subsidiaries of a United States based company, have been employed to the exclusion of all others.

Following the independence of Cyprus, stamps were now printed by Aspioti-Elka in Athens, rather than the former British printing establishments of Bradbury Wilkinson & Co or Waterlow & Son. And they were now lithographed rather than recess printed. However Harrison & Sons Limited did produce some issues by photogravure in the 1970’s. Later that decade and in the 1980’s Harrisons also were permitted to use the lithographic process as well as photogravure. In 1988 other Greek firms were utilised, such as Alexandros Matsoukis and M.A. Moatsos both of Athens. 1989 saw the first Courvoisier photographure issue.

While the stamps available in the Greek area in Cyprus were printed in Athens, those available from 1974 in the northern, Turkish controlled area were printed by the lithographic process in Turkey, by companies as diverse as Darbhane of Istanbul, Güzel Sanatlar Matbaasi of Ankara, Ajans-Türk Matbassi of Ankara, Türk Tarih Kurumu Basimevi of Ankara, APA Ofset Basimevi of Istanbul, Ticaret Matbaacilik TAS of Izmir and Basim Ofset of Ankara. Thein in 1982 there was produced the first local issue, printed in Lefkosa by Tezel Ofset. After a few more Turkish printed issues, Tezel Ofset from 1984 were the principal printers of stamps for Turkish Cyprus until 1991 when the State Printing Works in Lefkosa took over.

In the early 1960’s Israel was pursuing a policy of support to those newly independent African states which either did not have Islamic majorities or were not yet aligned to the cause of the Palestinians. Ghana was one of these countries, and so in 1964 there was a set of stamps printed in photogravure by the Israeli Government Printer, and this was followed by one printed in lithography by Lewin- Epstein Ltd of Bat Yam.

From 1926 most issues of Indian stamps prior to and after Independence were printed by the Security Printing Press at Nasik. From 1952 photogravure was the preferred process. Some issues were printed by the Indian Security Press but stamps design and printing has continued to be in indigenous Indian hands.

Though some stamps since independence have been printed outside Ireland, most issues have emanated from the Government Printing Works, Dublin or the Stamping Branch of the Revenue Commissioners, Dublin. After 1976 Irish Security Stamp Printing Limited has produced most issues by the lithographic process. A De La Rue subsidiary, De La Rue Smurfit Ltd produced one issue in 1976.

An interesting example of interests occurred in 1980 in Kenya when the set of stamps for the visit to Africa of Pope John Paul II was printed by the Italian Govt. Printing Works in Rome. Incidentally, the stamps were designed by Sister Frances Randal.

It was not until 1983 that the first Malaysian stamps were printed in Kuala Lumpur by Security Printers (M). Other printers were used until 1986 when Harrisons printed the high values, the last of the nonnational printings.

Maldive Islands
The stamps of these islands are another interesting example of Israel’s attempts to gather favour internationally in the 1960’s. Though an Islamic Sultanate, from 1967 a number of sets were printed by the Israel Government Printer. This continued even after the removal of the Sultan on 11 November 1968. The last stamps printed in Israel were issued in August 1972. Following issues were printed in London usually by Format International Security Printers Ltd. It is a noteworthy sidelight that the first of such issues was that for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, in which Palestinian terrorists took hostage and then murdered Israeli athletes. In 1983 the Maldives expressed their solidarity with the Palestinian cause linking the Dome of the Rock with Palestinian refugees.

Prior to its independence, Malta used a number of printers, including for its 1970 Christmas stamps, the Government Printer in Israel. The designs for this issue include views of churches, carol singers and the nativity scene. From 1972 onwards all Maltese stamps were printed in Malta by Printex Ltd.

It is interesting to note that in 1970 two sets for this self-governing country were printed in Germany and Russia. The set from the State Printing Works in Moscow celebrated the centenary of the birth of Lenin, showing him as a student and as the founder of the USSR. These were the only incursions to Eastern Europe.

New Zealand
Although most New Zealand stamps were being printed in the United Kingdom, 1968 saw an initiative from the Japa- (Continued from page 4) nese Government Printing Bureau, (Figure 2) which was repeated for three years. The experiment seems to have ended in 1971, though use has been made of a number of European printing houses, (Figure 3) as well as printers in Melbourne. 1991 marked the use of Southern Colour Print of Dunedin, with its lithographic press.

Figure 2. New Zealand Stamps printed by the Japanese Government Printing Bureau.

Figure 3. New Zealand entered the competition for the greatest number of different printers for one set with the 1970 definitive series. Harrisons printed the ½c. to 20c., Enchede the 23c. and 50c., Courvoiisier the $1 and $2 while the 25c. and 30c. Were printed by Bradbury Wilkinson.

Immediately following Independence in 1960 most stamps were printed in Great Britain. Israel entered the scene in 1963, with stamps printed by the Government Printer. Lewin-Epstein of Bat Yam printed by lithography two of the Kennedy Memorial set of 1964. Israel’s last contribution was in 1965. From 1968 Nigeria, then in the midst of its struggle with the break-away Biafra, usually used the Nigerian Security Printing and minting Co Ltd of Lagos. The stamps of BIAFRA must be considered as an incident of Nigeria. Except for the overprints, all were printed in Lisbon, Portugal by the Mint.

Whilst the stamps of India had been printed at Nasik, on its independence, Pakistan immediately used a local subsidiary of De La Rue, the Pakistan Security Ptg Corp Ltd, located in Karachi for those stamps not produced by De La Rue itself. All were recess engraved. From 1954 the Pakistan Security Printing Corporation printed most stamps, at first being recess engraved. After 1964 they were printed by the lithographic process.

Like Mauritius, this country had a fling with the USSR, the stamp and miniature sheet issued in 1977 for the 60th Anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917 having been printed in lithography by the State Printing Works, Moscow.

After its separation from Malaysia in 1966, Singapore used a number of printing houses in places as diverse as London, Tokyo, Helsinki, Vienna, Budapest and Madrid. In 1975 the local firm Secura, commenced to print in lithography. Singapore continued to use a number of printers, including Secura. A number of issues have emanated from printers in Melbourne.

Tanzania – Zanzibar
In 1964 the Sultan of Zanzibar was overthrown. Zanzibar had a left-wing administration and they resorted to East Germany for their stamp printing, using the German Bank & Note Ptg Co of Leipzig for most of their issues. In 1966 they went back to London and Paris for their last issues. For Tanzania itself a number of issues of the 1980’s and 1990’s were printed in Moscow.

Territorial Disputes

Examples of territorial claims are:

The map stamps of 1922 ignored the division between Eire and Northern Ireland, and showed all Ireland as the one country (Figure 4). Ireland has refrained since the 1960’s from issuing stamps showing a map of Ireland, save for the commemorative issue of 1972.

Figure 4. Irish stamp omitting Northern Ireland

Bolivia and Paraguay
One of the contributing factors in the Gran Chaco War of 1932-35 was the issue by Bolivia of a stamp in 1930, the featured map claiming the disputed territory. Paraguay retaliated in 1933 following the outbreak of war with a series showing the Chaco and proclaiming “Has been, is and will be”. (Figure 5) Most of the territory was given to Paraguay which commemorated the final peace conference and settlement. Bolivia abstained.

Figure 5. Paraguay 1933 “Chaco” stamp

The Falkland Islands
The claim of Argentina to the islands it knows as the “Malvinas” is illustrated in the map stamps of 1936 and then in its fatalistic invasion of the islands in 1982. The first map stamp in which the Falklands were shown as part of Argentinean territory had to be reissued, because Argentina had also included part of Chile within the territory designated as Argentina. In 1933 Argentina had refused to handle mail which was stamped with the Falklands’ Centenary of British Control set.

The annexation in the late 1930’s of Germany’s claimed “homeland” were featured in various stamps issues. Amongst these were the stamps for the willing incorporation of Austria within Nazi Germany on 10 April 1938, of the Sudetenland also in 1938 and Danzig in 1939.

China and Taiwan
The claims of the Peoples Republic of China to Taiwan have resulted in a number of stamps, the most famous of these being the “China is Red” stamp which was immediately withdrawn because Taiwan was not “Red”. Equally, Taiwan, particularly during the rule of the Kuo-Min-Tan included stamps showing scenes of the mainland.

Spain and Gibraltar
The claim of Spain to be entitled to rule Gibraltar have appeared on a number of its issues. Gibraltar was allowed to assert its independence from Spain on the occasion of Human Rights Day in 1968, the stamp showing the words “1704-1968 / FREEDOM” rising above the Rock”. Spain responded in 1969 with stamps to aid Spanish workers expelled from Gibraltar.

Guatemala and Belize
Guatemala laid claim to Belize in a 1948 stamp (Figure 6)

Figure 6. 1936 and 1948 Guatemala stamps—the latter showing incorporation of Belize

India and Pakistan
The claim of India to Jammu and Kashmir was asserted in a stamp issued by India in 1985. The stamp commemorated the “South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation” conference being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh and its theme led to the cancellation of a ceremony in which the leaders of the seven countries attending were to have signed first day covers from each of the countries. The Pakistan stamp for the conference also showed a map. Issued on 8 December 1985 it was withdrawn the following day according to the note in the Stanley Gibbons Catalogue.

Israel and Palestine
The claim of Palestinians to the whole of the land west of the Jordan is asserted in stamps issued by many Islamic countries such as Iran and Iraq. These stamps deny the existence of the State of Israel.

Honduras and Beliza
Honduras expressed its claim to then British Honduras with its 1959 stamp inscribed “Belice es Nuestro”.

Venezuela and Guyana
This is one of the oldest philatelic territorial claims, first expressed in 1896 with the Venezuelan stamp depicting a map promoting Venezuela’s claim to the part of British Guiana west of the Essequibo River. Guyana years later responded with a series of overprints “ESSEQUIBO IS OURS”.

Foreign Politics
Attacking another country can be effected without the sounding of martial music.

Stamps issued by North Korea proclaiming “Smash Japanese Imperialism” or seeking the removal of United States troops from South Korea. While the early stamps of South Korea showed a map of the whole peninsula, and included designs showing scenery in the North, more recent propaganda has come from the North, in issues such as that of 1963 celebrating the Campaign Month for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from South Korea. A caricature of an American appeared in the design along with armed Koreans. There have also been a number of issues commemorating events during the Korean War.

Greece in 1954 issued its stamps attacking the role of Great Britain in Cyprus, and seeking Greek union with Cyprus, with its page from Hansard bearing a black blot. (Figure 7)

Figure 7. Greek stamp of 1954 with blot on what purports to be British ‘Hansard’. Under magnification, the lettering appears to be Greek!

Islamic country issues supporting Palestinian claims, and denying Israel’s right to exist. These appear to have their origin with issues such as Kuwait’s 1967 stamp, allegedly in honour of the United Nations, but bearing a map claiming the whole of Palestine. This was followed in 1968 on the 20th Anniversary of Deir Yassin with two stamps showing a dagger in the heart of Deir Yassin and the text “Twentieth Anniversary of the cruel aggression and massacre of Deir Yassin in Arab Palestine”. That was just the start.

Terrorism was deemed by Libya to be worthy of support. 1970 saw the first of its issues supportive of the Palestinian cause. It illustrated a Fatah guerilla.

Malaysia in 1978 promoted Freedom for Palestine with a pair showing the Dome of the Rock. This was repeated in 1982. Bangladesh support the cause in 1980 with a stamp showing the Dome of the Rock and inscribed “for the welfare of the families of martyrs and combatants of Palestine”. Pakistan joined the cause in 1981 issuing a stamp showing the Dome of the Rock, and inscribed “For the welfare of the families of martyrs and freedom fighters of Palestine”. They had previously noted the fire in the Al- Aqsa Mosque with a stamp in 1970 on the occasion of a conference of Islamic Foreign Ministers in Karachi.

The most virulent propaganda against Israel (and the United States) has flowed from the printing presses of Iran.

In Islam’s war with Israel, there is often an equation of the concept of Zionism with Israel. Thus in 1974 Sudan attacked the imprisonment of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Capucci – with the slogan “Arrested by Zionism – Jerusalem 1974”.

Sometimes there has already been the war. In 1973 after the conflict between India and Pakistan over Bangladesh, Pakistan called international attention to the plight of their 90,000 prisoners of war in India, describing this as a “Challenge to World Conscience”.

Figure 8. Egyptian anti-Israel Stamp of 1973

Political considerations in stamp issues
Perhaps the most serious case of the misuse of stamps for propaganda can be laid at the feet of the United States. The circumstances was the issue during its involvement in World War II of a series of stamps showing the flags of those nations which had been overrun as a result of foreign invasion and thus were currently oppressed. A late inclusion in the series, issued in November 1944, almost a year after the others, was a stamp for Korea, which had been incorporated into the Japanese Empire after the Russo-Jap War of 1904-05.

In this series, issued from 1943 – 44, the United States failed to recognise the oppression perpetrated by Soviet Russia on the Baltic States of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia”, all of which had been incorporated against their will into the U.S.S.R. and at the time of issue of the stamps were overrun by Nazi Germany.

Again, the fact that Austria had been willingly incorporated into Germany in 1938 was conveniently overlooked by the United States in 1943 with its inclusion of a stamp for Austria in the series. This fiction was continued in Austria after the overthrow of Germany. Austria had actually been incorporated into Germany against its will, and its stamps publicised the new politically correct viewpoint.

Political humour
This article would not be complete if I did not include in it the 5 cent brown stamp of New Brunswick released on 15 May 1860 which portrayed the Postmaster General of the Province, Charles Connell. There was uproar, and the stamp was withdrawn. The printer, the American Bank Note Company was instructed to immediately print a replacement bearing the portrait of Queen Victoria as appearing on the 2 cent and 10 cent values.

To conclude this topic, and round out this series, perhaps it might be apposite to quote some facts from “The Guinness Book of Stamps Facts & Feats” by James Mackay, 1982. (Guinness Superlatives Limited)

The countries using the fewest printers – Austria and Hungary – Since 1850 all Australian stamps were printed at the State Printing Works in Vienna, with the exception of the German Hitler Head stamps of 1945, which were originally printed in Berlin, and were overprinted by Hohler of Vienna or the Steyermuhl Press of Vienna, and a series which had been lithographed at the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington.

And with respect to Hungary, with the exception of the journal tax stamps of 1867-73, which were printed in Vienna, all Hungarian stamps since 1871 were produced by the State Printing Works in Budapest. A floral series of 1950 had the vignettes typographed at the State Printing Works, but the frames were intaglio printed by the National Enterprise Bank Note Company.

The countries with the most printers have been South American countries such as Colombia and Ecuador. They are into the thirties with the number of printers that have been employed on their stamps.

James Mackay does not note the country with the most overprintings – but Guyana would be one for consideration if surcharges for inflation are not taken into account.

Amongst unusual printers Mackay notes:

The Diamond Soap Works, Kishangarh, India – Kishangarh, 1914

The Jail Press, Jaipur, India – Jaipur, 1911- 1928

The Capuchin Fathers, Beirut – Syria, 1921- 24; Lebanon airmails, 1924; Alaouites, 1924- 29

The Greek Orthodox Convent, Jerusalem – Palestine, 1920; 1923 Postage Dues (Continued from page 8)

Salesian College of Pope Leo XIII, Bogota – Colombia airmails, 1932

There have been a number of stamps printed at newspaper presses. The listing does not include surcharging an existing stamp. Examples of stamp producing newspaper presses are:

Nassau Guardian, Nassau , Bahamas – Bahamas , 1916, 1942

Bermuda Press, Hamilton, Bermuda – Bermuda 1956

Royal Gazette, Georgetown, British Guiana – British Guiana 1850-51, 1862

Official Gazette, Georgetown, British Guiana – British Guiana 1856

Zanzibar Gazette, Zanzibar – British East Africa 1895

Fiji Times, Levuka, Fiji – Fiji 1870-71

Polynesian Gazette, Levuka, Fiji – Fiji 1874

Times of India – Bundi 1947

Daily News, St John’s, Newfoundland – Newfoundland Hawker airmail, 1919

Royal Gazette, St John’s, Newfoundland – Newfoundland Alcock and Brown airmail 1919

The Star, Auckland, New Zealand – Tonga 1894-95

De Zoutspansberg Wachter, Pietersburg, South African Republic – Pietersburg, 1901

Courier, Hobart, Tasmania – Van Diemens Land 1853


Dennis Altman “Paper Ambassadors—The Politics of Stamps” (Angus & Robertson, Sydney 1991)

James Mackay “Guinness Book of Stamp Facts & Feats” (Guinness Superlatives Ltd, Middlesex 1982)

Stanley Gibbons Ltd various catalogs (London)