A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Greece 1896-1940

1896 Scott 122 25 lepta red "Chariot Driving"
1st International Olympic Games of the Modern Era
Quick History
The recent history of Greece, at least "recent" compared to the glorious history of ancient Greece, is reflected in the stamp issues of 1896-1940.

The 1896 Summer Olympics were the first international sporting games held in modern times. It was considered a huge success, and the expenses for the games was paid for by philatelists, at least in part, by a hugely popular Olympic stamp issue. More about that soon.

The second major event, again reflected in many overprinted stamps, was the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 against Turkey, and then their erstwhile ally Bulgaria, in which Greece acquired considerable territory and population. This will be discussed in more detail with the next blog.

The third major event is known as the "National Schism". The basis of this division between Greeks was whether Greece should enter World War I, and where the support would lay.

Prime Minister Venizelos and King Constantine during happier times
King Constantine's sympathies lay with Germany. Constantine had been educated in Germany, and admired Germanic culture. Queen Sofia was the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II. But outright joining the Central Powers was not an option because Greece's traditional enemy, the Ottoman Empire, was on the German side. He therefore wanted Greece to remain neutral.

Prime Minister Venizelos believed that the best interests of Greece were served by joining the Allies. In December, 1915, Constantine forced Venzelos to resign, and he went back home to Crete.

But a second provisional government of Greece was set up, based in Thessaloniki, and Venizelos returned to lead the provisional government with the backing of the Allies. In 1916, the royalist Athens based government overprinted Greek stamps to prevent the provisional government from using them. In 1917, the provisional Venizelist Government of National Defence printed a new issue.

In June 1917, after threats to bomb Athens, King Constantine left Greece and Venizelos took control of the government and pledged support for the Allies.

The deep conflict between the Royalists and the Venizelist Liberals left a bitter taste which persisted for decades. It clearly was one of the major reasons the Republic collapsed in 1935 with the Monarchy (via referendum) brought back. Then in 1936, the 4th of August Regime assumed dictatorial powers, under Ioannis Metaxas. 

1906 Scott 191 30 lepta dull purple "Wrestlers"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic specialized catalogue has 240 major stamp descriptions for the regular issues between 1896-1940. Of those, 200 are $4 CV or less. "Affordability" is 83%.

A word about 1896-1940 Greek stamps: Classic  ;-)  Greece has fully exploited it's rich heritage with stamp portraits and themes based on Greek mythology. There is a reason why Greece is a popular philatelic country among collectors.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1896 Scott 118 2 lepta rose "Boxers"
To help defray the cost of the 1896 Olympic Games, a twelve stamp commemorative set was issued. These attractive designs of course portrayed scenes and images from the ancient Olympic games.

1896 Scott 123 40 lepta violet 
"Vase Depicting Pallas Athene (Minerva)"
The issue, printed by the National Printing House of France, was, by any measure ,a popular success. The issue was first put on sale on March 25, 1896, the first day of the Olympic Games. Initially, according to the Hellas catalogue, the issue was only going to be sold during the games. But, in fact, the set remained on sale until the higher values were finally sold out in 1900.

Today, seven stamps are available for CV $3-$10+. The two higher values ( 5d,10d) are $500+.

1990-01 Scott 159 5 l on 1d blue "Stadium and Acropolis"
"A M" = "Axia Metalliki", or "Value in Metal (gold)"
The devaluation of the drachma required payment of international postal rates in gold drachma during 1900-01. Stamps were surcharged "A M", or "Metal Value". The gold currency stamps, such as the surcharged 1896 Olympic Games stamp illustrated above, were usually used for parcel post and foreign money orders.

1901-10 Scott 168a 5 lepta green  type I "Flying Hermes"
In 1901, the first new definitive issue since the "Small Hermes" was introduced. This 14 stamp issue is known as the "Flying Hermes". The 5 lepta green is shown above. The 5 l can be found in two types depending if the letters of "ELLAS" are outlined at the top and left  (type II) or not (type I).

Seven of the stamps can be found at minimum catalogue value, with another four up to $3 CV.

1906 Scott 195 2d rose "Foot race"
Capitalizing on the popularity of the 1896 Olympics, a Greek Special Olympic Games was held in Athens in 1906, with, naturally, another Olympic themed stamp issue.

This fourteen stamp issue from Perkins, Bacon & Co., again was quite popular. Today ten stamps are CV <$1-$3+. This issue has the watermark "Crown & E T".

1911-21 Scott 209 2d vermilion "Hermes Carrying Infant Arcas"
An engraved five design, sixteen stamp issue
In 1911, a new engraved definitive set was introduced with designs from Cretan and Arcadian coins of the 4th Century, B.C. The set is interesting, but clearly confusing to many collectors (to be discussed shortly).

The CV for the issue finds 9 stamps @ <$1, and another 5 stamps between $1+-$4.

1922 Scott 229 5l ultramarine "Hermes Carrying Infant Arcas"
A 1913-23 lithographed five design eighteen stamp issue
The confusion arises for collectors, as, to reduce costs during the Balkan Wars, an eighteen stamp issue was also produced with the same designs and colors by the cheaper lithographic method beginning in 1913.

Now how easy is it to tell the difference between an engraved and a lithographic stamp?

Engraved: 1911-21 Scott 198 1 lepta green "Hermes"
Lithographed: Scott 214 1 lepta green
Above is the 1 lepta stamp from both the engraved and lithographed issues. Although there are visual differences between the two printing techniques (otherwise why bother with the more expensive engraved stamp) , a cursory inspection will not necessarily yield the right answer.

Let me tell you my experience. ;-) I was transferring the two issues from a feeder Scott Specialized Greece album into the Deep Blue (Steiner) album, and. thinking the previous owner was no doubt somewhat of a specialist in Greek stamps, I would check the printing type after I had finished.

When I got around to doing the evaluation, I had quite a surprise. Of the "engraved" stamps, 10 out of the 15 stamps I had placed were in fact lithographic stamps! And I found an engraved stamp among the lithographic issue spaces. So confusion indeed!

Well, how does one tell the difference?

Lithographic- the stamp to the touch is smooth as a baby's skin. The stamp on appearance may seem more "superficial" than the engraved variety. Perhaps less fine detail, but that is quite variable.

Engraved, or "recess printed"- one actually will find recesses or ridges on the stamp.
A) View the stamp. Not uncommonly, one will spot an elevation (ridge) or a recess on an engraved stamp either from the front or back.
B) Touch the surface of the stamp with a finger. One should feel some ridges. This is a quick way to evaluate a group of stamps, and sort the lithographic from the engraved varieties.
C) The aluminum foil technique. (Reynolds Wrap or other aluminum foil)
Put the stamp down on a hard surface face up. Cover the stamp with a (larger) square of aluminum foil. While holding the aluminum foil down, rub over the foil covered stamp with a pencil eraser until one sees the perforations around the stamp. Look at the foil. There should be a partial or full imprint of the stamp on the foil if the stamp is engraved.

A picture is worth a hundred words...

The engraved 1921 10d deep blue with image left on the foil
A couple of comments...
1) If you rub, concentrate more on the lower portions of the stamp,as a hinge mark or hinge might leave an indentation in the foil and possibly confuse. Also, if you use the touch method, a hinge divot or remnant might create a false impression.
2) One can always use the aluminum foil technique if one is unsure after visual/tactile examination.
3) I doubt if the thickness of the aluminum foil makes a difference-I have "heavy duty", and it still works fine.
4) A little practice goes a long way. After a couple of tactile exams or aluminum evaluations, one can quickly discern the difference between the two printing methods.
5) I've said nothing about how a stamp is engraved or lithographed. The Scott catalogue has an explanation.

1916 Scott 241 40 lepta indigo "Iris holding Caduceus"
"National Schism": Athens Royalist government overprinting stamps
The "National Schism" is clearly reflected in the stamp issues. In 1916, the Athens Royalist government overprinted a "E T" ((Hellenic Posts) and the Greek crown on some of the preceding "engraved" and "lithographic" issues. The eighteen stamp issue has 13 stamps with CV <$1, with the most expensive of the rest @ $4+.

1916 239a 25 lepta ultramarine, lithographed
1913 Scott 221a 25 lepta blue, lithographed
The image above shows the 25 lepta stamp of the lithographed series can be found in different colors. But the other reason I'm showing this is because, in 1926, the 25 lepta, the 40 lepta, and the 1 drachma were lithographed in Vienna with new engraving plates. In this case, the primary difference with the new Vienna engraving is that both ends of the right numeral "5" is shorter compared to the earlier Corfu printing. I though I might have one with the right hand stamp, but no such luck. ;-) The Hellas catalogue has a wonderful one page illustrative layout of the differences in the printings for the three values. The Scott catalogue mentions the 1926 engravings, but doesn't even give them a minor number. I can't help but think if this difference was found in a U.S. stamp, Scott would given these stamps major numbers with alacrity.

1917 Scott 251 10 lepta rose "Iris"
"National Schism": Thessaloniki Venizelist Provisional government
An eleven stamp issue with the above design was produced by the Venizelist provisional government. CV is <$1 for 5 stamps, and $1+-$3 for 3 more stamps. What a gorgeous socked-on-the-nose cancellation for this stamp!

1923 Scott 262 1d on 1d ultra (Greece  stamp, 1913)
1923 Scott 267 5 l on 3 l orange (Occupation of Turkey stamp, 1913)
1923 Scott 277 10 l on 10 l red (Crete stamp, 1900)
1923 Scott 291 5 l on 5 l green (Crete stamp, 1909-10)
In 1923, some 63 stamps from previous issues, including occupation of Turkey stamps (1912 campaign) and Crete stamps as illustrated above, were surcharged. The overprint says "Revolution of 1922", and was printed on orders from the "new" revolutionary government in power at the time. I would think that pretty much exhausted any old stamp issues laying around the government post offices. ;-)

1927 Scott 334 25d green & black "Acropolis"
Part of a fourteen stamp definitive issue
In 1927, a new definitive issue was introduced consisting of "Landscapes". The issue was in post offices, at least in part, until 1939. It was greeted by mixed reviews as the double recess plates printing process resulted in sometimes shoddy output. CV for ten stamps is <$1.

1928 Scott 339 4d dark gray blue "Battle of Navarino"
In 1927-28, a six stamp set was released to honor the centenary of the naval battle of Navarino. CV is <$1-$10+. This battle occurred during the Greek War of Independence when an Ottoman and Egyptian armada was defeated by the naval forces of France, Great Britain, and Russia. It is a naval historic milestone, as it was the last battle fought entirely with sailing ships.

1930 Scott 351 15d yellow green "Dionysios Solomos"
"Heroes" issue for Greek Independence Centenary
Using the combined forces of Perkins, Bacon & Co. (9 stamps), and Bradbury,Wilkinson & Co. (9 stamps), a monstrous "Heroes" and Pictorial scenes issue was produced in 1930 for the centenary of Greek independence. Eleven stamps are CV <$1, while two more are $1+-$3.

1927 Scott 328 1d dark blue & bister brown type I
1931 Scott 365 1d dark blue & orange brown type II
1933 Scott 366 1d dark blue & orange brown type III
In 1931, and again in 1933, the "Landscapes" definitive 1d was re-engraved. One might want to enlarge the image for a close look at the differences in engraving.
Type I: Greek letters "L,A,D" has pointed tops, Numeral "1" is 1.5 mm wide at the foot, Rho (uppercase P) has a small opening in the center of the Rho (uppercase P).
Type II: Greek letters "L,A,D" have flat tops, numeral "1" is 2.0 mm wide at the foot, Rho (uppercase P) has a larger opening in a semi-circular shape.
Type III: Greek letters "L,A,D" has pointed tops, the "1" in lower left corner has no serif at left of foot, Temple lines have been deepened, Rho (uppercase P) has a larger opening that is triangular in shape.

1927 Scott 329 2d dark green & black ""The Acropolis"
1933 Scott 367 2d dark green & black re-engraved
Also, in 1933, the 'landscapes" 2d stamp was re-engraved. The distinctions are the Parthenon on the 1933 re-engraved stamp is strongly outlined, and clear; the four blocks of marble between the two pillars is much clearer, and the houses on the hill to the right of the pillar are more distinct. The most obvious difference is the shadows in front of (below) the pillars extends past the second pillar in the re-engraved stamp, while stopping just short of the second pillar on the 1927 original.

1927 Scott 330 3d deep violet & black "Cruiser Georgios Averoff"
1934 Scott 368 3d red violet & black re-engraved
The "landscapes" 3d was also re-engraved in 1934. The differences are that on the re-engraved stamp, the design is clearer, especially the vertical lines on the smoke stacks, and the reflections in the water. An "R" figure is visible on the middle of the hull close to the waterline, but not seen with the original engraving. The stamp image for the re-engraved version is 18.2 mm tall, while 17.5 mm tall in the original. The re-engraved version will have at least two sides with perforation 11 1/2. Finally, the color "deep violet" vs "red violet" for the two frames offers a clue.

There are additional original and re-engraved versions of the 'landscapes" series 50 l, 10d, 15d and 15d. I don't have example pairs of them at the moment.

A comment: Again I found confusion in albums with the original/re-engraved stamps put in the wrong spaces. In fact, I had to go hunting for an original 2d and 3d stamp (illustrated above), as the first 2d and 3d I put into the "landscapes" original engraving section was wrong! Also the 10d I had placed in the original "landscapes" section was in fact a re-engraved version. ;-)

1935 Scott 387 15d on 75d 
Surcharged with the date of the plebiscite (November 3, 1935)
Restored the Monarchy
In 1935 the Republic effectively collapsed as the monarchy was restored by a plebiscite vote on November 3, 1935. A five stamp surcharged issue (illustrated above) was produced to mark the event. CV ranges from <$1-$6. 

Then, in 1936, the dictator Ioannis Metaxas was installed as head of the 4th of August Regime.

WW II began for Greece with the Greco-Italian War, then the Germans occupied Greece.

After WW II, liberation was followed by a Greek civil war between communist and anticommunist forces.

Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has, for the 1896-1940 regular issues, 22 pages that follows Scott's major number sequence.

Deep Blue's 1913-23 Lithographic issue page
Deep Blue, as usual, has a nice layout presentation. I managed to put stamps on 20 pages. ;-)  Any shortcomings are due to Scott not providing as much depth as the Hellas catalogue.

1930 Scott 359 4d dark blue 
"Map of Greece in 1830 and 1930"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 5+ pages, has 152 spaces for the 1896-1940 regular issues. Coverage is 63%.

The most expensive stamp for the years 1896-1940 regular issues is the 1896 Olympic issue Scott 125 1d blue @ $26. There are a total of eleven stamps with CV $10+. The identified stamps can be found after the checklist. The good news is BB does a good job here of keeping expensive stamps out of the spaces. But BB also (IMHO) does not provide enough spaces for inexpensive stamps.

What (may) be missing in Big Blue...
A) BB provides 8 out of the 12 spaces for the 1896 Olympic issue, perhaps missing the 60 l black ($20+).

B) For the 1901 "Flying Hermes" issue, BB does not provide spaces for the 2d ($8), and 3d and 5d ($10+).

C) The 1906 Special Olympic issue has spaces for 10 out of 14 stamps, perhaps missing the 1d gray black ($10+).

D) The 1911-21 engraved issue  (16 stamps) and the 1913-23 lithographic issue (18 stamps) is given 11 spaces: woefully short. ;-) As usual, BB only provides one space for the engraved/lithographic varieties. But BB also has no space for the 15 l, 2d,3d,5d,10d, and the 25d. These stamps could have been put in BB for CV <$1-$4.

E) The 1916  "National Schism"  Athens Royalist government overprinted stamps are missing the 1d,2d, and 3d spaces (<$1-$3).

F) The 1917  "National Schism" Venizelist provisional government stamps are missing spaces for the 3d and 5d ($3-$7+).

G) The 1923 surcharged 63 stamp "Revolution of 1922" issues is given 11 spaces in BB. Thirty-seven of these stamps have a CV of <$1-$1+.

H) As one would expect, BB does not provide any additional spaces for the 1931-35 re-engraved "landscape" stamps. (CV <$1-$1+ for six stamps).

I) The 1935 Scott 383-387 surcharged "Restoration of the Monarchy" issue is missing. (CV <$1-$6)


Next page

165,166,167,168a or 168b, 169,170,171,



198 or 214,199 or 215, 200 or 216, 201 or 217, 202 or 218, 203 or 220,204 or 221,

Next page

205 or 222,206 or 223,207 or 224,208 or 226,







Next Page




Next Page






391,392,393,397 or 413, 398,401,

Next Page






A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1896 Scott 122 25 l red ($10+)
1896 Scott 125 1d blue ($20+)
1906 Scott 194 1d gray black ($10+)
1928 Scott 341 5d dark brown & black ($10+)
1928 Scott 342 5d violet blue & black ($10+)
1928 Scott 343 5d lake & black ($10+)
1930 Scott 351 15d yellow green ($10+)
1930 Scott 352 20d blue black ($10+)
1939 Scott 418 20d yellow orange ($10+)
1939 Scott 419 20d dull blue ($10+)
1939 Scott 420 20d carmine lake ($10+)

B)*1911: I elected to include choices in the spaces for both the 1911-21 engraved and the 1913-23 lithographic issues, and ignored some (minor) color differences.

C) *1927 Be aware there were 1931-35 re-engraved 50 l, 1d,2d,3d, and 10d stamps produced with engraving differences.

1939 Scott 420 20d carmine lake 
"King George I of Greece and Queen Victoria of England
75th anniversary of Ionian Islands with Greece
Out of the Blue
A very enjoyable excursion through the 1896-1940 regular issue Greek offerings. Classic lovely designs, and enough issue complications to keep a flyspecker like me happy. ;-)

Note: Picture of King Constantine and Venizelos appears to be in the public domain.

Would appreciate a comment!


  1. I learn so much reading your work. Thank you! Bill S,

  2. Glad you find it useful Bill.

  3. Thanks Matthew - glad I was of some help. :-)

  4. I have an old looking Greek stamp with Hermes (I think) facing left. It is pale green and 1/2 kr. Can anyone shed light on this, please?

  5. Rose

    My guess is a Austria Newspaper stamp 1880 Scott P10 1/2kr blue green CV $1+.

    And that would be "Mercury".