Iceland and the end of stamps
As I collect Iceland and the fact that Iceland Post has announced that it will stop issuing new postage stamps from October 29th 2020, I thought it appropriate to put together a little selection of goodies to celebrate what I think are particularly interesting stamps, writes Suzanne Dwyer.
Although Iceland Post made the announcement it appears that they cannot unilaterally decide not to issue stamps after 2020, they need permission from their owners, the Icelandic State.
Whatever the outcome, Iceland Post will continue to sell stamps to customers and may reprint older stamps if necessary, to replenish stocks.
A regular mail service in Iceland was first established by a charter of 13th May 1776, and on 1st January 1873, Iceland issued its first postage stamps when it was still part of the kingdom of Denmark. It became an independent republic on the 17th June, 1944.
Iceland’s first stamp design was the same as for the Danish numeral issue of the time (numeral of value surmounted by a crown all inside an oval), denominated with values ranging from 2 to 16 skilling, and inscribed ÍSLAND. These are very scarce and used copies are especially hard to find.
In 1876 the currency changed to aurar and krona. This meant the issue of new stamps from August 1876.
These had the same basic design, with some changes of colour and perforation, and these continued in use until 1901.
This is one of my examples from 1882, perf 12½ (right):
In 1897 a shortage of 3 aurar stamps led to the overprinting of 5 aurar stamps with þrir or þrir / 3; these are rare, and unfortunately excellent counterfeits have been produced.
In 1902 the numeral stamps were officially withdrawn and declared invalid for postage, since a new set depicting King Christian IX was to be issued.
However, the then Minister of Iceland changed his mind for reasons which are still unclear and had the numerals reissued, overprinted Í GILDI / '02--'03 in red or black, the overprint indicating that they were still valid.
While some of the overprints are common, others are among the great rarities of Icelandic philately. There are also many inverts and typographical errors to be found. These are some of my examples from 1902–3 Perf 12½:
In 1902 the postal authorities failed to send the usual supplies to the Universal Postal Union in Berne for distribution to member countries and as stocks were exhausted when this was discovered, H H Thiele were instructed to reprint the stamps and overprint them.
All the values of the postage and official stamps were reprinted on paper bearing a larger Crown watermark.
It is understood 726 overprinted sets were sent to the UPU, and a further 104 sets of the reprints remain overprinted. These are two of my stamps from this series (left):
In 1906 King Christian IX died, and therefore in 1907 a new series of stamps, featured overlapping profiles of Christian IX and King Frederick VIII. These are some of my mint versions, Perf 12½:
Iceland's first commemorative stamps were issued in 1911. This set of stamps honoured Jon Sigurosson, who was the leader of Iceland's independence movement in the 19th century. They commemorated the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1811 at Hrafnseyri in the Westfjords area of Iceland. I have shown a selection of the stamps below, Perf 12½:
In February 1912, a set of stamps was issued with Frederick's silhouette. This is my mint version 50 aur Perf 12½ (right):
Although Frederick VIII died in May 1912, no new stamps were issued until between 1914 and 1918, when another set of the 1907 design was issued in new colours. Left is a mint 3 aur yellow / brown Perf 14 x 14½ Wmk Multiple Crosses.
King Christian X first appeared on Icelandic stamps in a new set of 1920. Periodic stamp shortages plagued the postal service during the 1920s, and locally surcharged stamps were produced in 1921, 1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1929, and 1930. These are two examples. The first is a 5 aur overprinted on a 16 aur background and the second is a 20 aur overprinted on a 25 aur green / brown background:
The first pictorial, non-portrait stamps were issued in 1925, a set of five showing views of Iceland. The 7 aur and 50 aur design shows fisherman landing at Vik, the 10 and 35 aur show Reykjavik and Esjaberg ( mountain ) and the 20 aur the National Museum, Reykjavik.
Iceland's first airmail stamp was issued in 1928; it was produced by overprinting a crude image of an airplane on a regular 10 aur stamp.
These are my examples of air mail stamps (right): The first is a 10 aur blue / grey blue Perf 12½ picturing a Gyrfalcon. The second stamp is the head of Christian X, 10 aur scarlet air mail overprint (31.5.28) produced by Gutenberg Printing Works, Reykjavik.
In 1930, Iceland celebrated the 1000th anniversary of its parliament, the ‘Althing’ with an attractive series of 15 regular and 5 airmail stamps featuring a wide variety of historical, mythological, and scenic images.
These are my examples depicting:
3 aur Parliament House, Reykjavik
5 aur Discovery of Iceland
7 aur Encampment at Thingvellir
10 aur Arrival of Ingolf Amarsson
15 aur Naming the Island
25 aur Discovery of Amarsoon’s Pillar
30 aur View of Thingvellir
40 aur National Flag
In 1928 the Icelandic authorities received a proposal from the 'Society of the Friends of Iceland' Verein der Islandsfreunde in Vienna, proposing to produce these stamps as a gift to Iceland for the millenary celebrations.
Against the advice of the Head Postmaster, Sigurour Briem, the Icelandic government accepted the offer to produce 813,000 kronur's worth of stamps, 600,000 kronur's worth of which were to go to Iceland, and the rest to the Society for its trouble.
Iceland's share of the stamps were delivered in December 1929, but in 1930 it became apparent that a fraud had been committed and a much larger than authorised number of stamps had been produced, by the insertion of the figure '1' before the value in the print order. Police investigations had not been completed before the outbreak of WWII, and were not resumed afterwards.
In May 1931, stamps were overprinted ‘Zeppelin/1931’ for use on mail sent via the airship Graf Zeppelin, which visited Reykjavik on 1 July. The Zeppelin did not actually land, there being no facilities, but it got low enough to pass mail bags up and down.
Also in 1931, a new issue came out depicting the Gullfoss waterfall.
In addition, stamps of the 1920 issue, but with the vignette of the
king much more finely engraved, started appearing periodically,
Right are my 1931 examples of the Gullfoss waterfall:
5 aur grey Perf 14 and 65 aur chestnut Perf 14.
Iceland's first charity stamps appeared in 1933. The subjects of these stamps depicted categories of recipients; rescue workers, children, and the elderly.
On the 14th May 1937 three stamps were issued to cerebrate the silver Jubilee of King Christian X.
They are perf 13 X 12½. These are my mint versions:
On the 29th March 1947 Mount Hekla in Iceland erupted after being dormant for 102 years.
The eruption was extremely violent and fire pillars from the mountain stretched 800m into the air.
The eruption lasted for more than a year and covered 40km2 of land.
The Hekla eruption of 1947 featured on an Icelandic 25 aur stamp of 1948 (left):
Iceland again honoured Jón Sigurðsson on its issue marking the independent republic established on 17 June 1944 (and again on the 150th anniversary of his birth on 17 June 1961 and the centenary of the deaths of Jón and his wife, Ingibjorg Einarsdóttir, in 1979).
Since independence, Iceland has pursued a relatively restrained stamp-issuing policy, bringing out about 20 new stamps each year. There are annual Christmas and Europa issues, and sets depicting local scenery, flora, and fauna, as well as heritage and the works of local artists.
Iceland Post also issues miniature sheets. These are some of my examples which are particularly interesting, such as this one issued in 1961 to celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Iceland University:
1982 MS619 400 aur and 800 aur Thingeyrar Monastery Seal
1983 MS636 8 & 12 kronur Seal Of Bishop Ogmundur Palsson
1984 MS645 Map of North Atlantic by Abraham Ortelius, 1570
So far this year, Iceland Post has issued 11 stamps on May 7. These include single stamps for the centenaries of the Icelandic Met (meteorological) Office), the Supreme Court of Iceland and equal voting rights for all Icelandic citizens, and for the 50th anniversaries of the Reykjavik Arts Festival and Iceland’s membership in the European Free Trade Association. Two stamps each were issued in the following series: Domestic Animals, Tourism and Europa.