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...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


1920 Scott 2 10pf carmine rose 
Stamps of Germany 1905-20, Overprinted
Quick History
Memelland (Klaipeda), ripped from one country to another, and then back again, and back again, has an interesting history, to say the least.

Memelland was located on the Baltic Sea north of the Memel (Neman) River, and was part of Prussia prior to WW I. Population was ~ 152,000
But many residents outside the port city of Memel were Lithuanian. Consequently, Lithuania wanted the Memel lands after WW I, but the Allied Powers assumed control with a French administration in 1920.

Then there developed a plan to make Memelland a Free State, supported by German and Polish interest groups.

That was too much for the Lithuanian inhabitants of Memellland.  With Lithuanian support, by January 15, 1923, they had seized the government and lands. Although protested by the Allied Powers, the "de facto" situation was eventually accepted, and Memelland became an autonomous region within Lithuania. The port of Memel was renamed Klaipeda.

As one can imagine, stamp issues for Memel offer a copious number of overprints and surcharges on German and French stamps, as well as a variety of Lithuanian occupation issues. What fun! ;-)

That, of course, was not the end of the history of Memel.

On March 23, 1939, Lithuania was forced by ultimatum to return Memelland to the Third Reich.

At the end of WW II, the lands were returned to Lithuania, but this time as a member of the U.S.S.R.

1922 Scott 97 10m on 2m on 45c green & blue
Stamps of France Surcharged
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue, has, for Memel 1920-23, 17 overprinted German stamps, 106 overprinted/surcharged French stamps, and 114 Lithuanian occupation stamps. Total = 237.  Of those, 117 are CV <$1-$1+, or 49%. The Lithuanian occupation stamps are not as well represented, as they generally have a higher CV. Unused examples are valued at less CV than used examples. Scott states: "Excellent counterfeits of all Memel stamps exist".

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Pfennig = 1 Mark
100 Centu = 1 Litas (1923)
1920 Scott 11 75pf green & black
Overprinted "Memelgebiet"
The first stamps for Memel by the Allied Powers were overprinted 1905-20 stamps of Germany, as shown. There were 12 "Germania" stamps, with a CV of <$1-$2+.

1920 Scott 16 2m blue
Five of the larger design German stamps for the 1m-2.5m denominations were also overprinted. CV ranges from <$1-$10+. What a lovely stamp!

1920 Scott 20 20pf on 25c blue
Stamps of France, surcharged in black
The French took over administration of the Memel territory for the Allies, and so French stamps were then surcharged. There were an initial issue of 12 stamps of French origin surcharged in 1920.

1920-21 Scott 31 4m on 2fr orange & pale blue
In 1920-21, four  more stamps were released, as illustrated. Note the small initial "p" or "m" for "pfennig" and "mark' on the surcharge for the issues.

Also, the "4" script for the illustrated stamp comes in two types. Consult Scott for details.

1921 Scott 42 20M on 45c green & blue
Issue surcharged in black or red
A four stamp issue was released in 1921 as shown. Note the "M" ( and "P" also) is now capitalized.

1921-22 Scott 45 15pf on 50pf  on 35c, red surcharge
Between 1921-22, seven stamps, previously issued in 1920, were surcharged with large numerals, as shown. CV is <$1. There must have been a large number of mint stamps saved by dealers and collectors for Memel, as the CV prices for the 1921-22 era stamp issues are remarkably low considering their attractiveness.
1922 Scott 54 20pf on 20c red brown
Stamps of France, surcharged in black or red
The "Memel" script changed with the 1922 issue stamps. This "sower" design  is found on 14 stamps with a CV of <$1-$1+, except for two CV $7 stamps, including the one illustrated. ;-)

1922 Scott 76 3m on 60c violet & ultramarine, red surcharge
Twenty- six stamps of the French "Liberty and Peace" design were issued in 1922, with surcharge in black or red, as shown. Twenty -three are CV <$1! Nice!

1922 Scott 93 10m on 10pf  on 10c green
1922 Scott 98 25m on 1m on 25c  blue
In 1922-23, some seven previously issued surcharged stamps were surcharged again: this time with higher values. I suspect this may have been part of the hyperinflation occurring at the time.

1921 Scott C3 1m on 50c brown & lavender
Overprinted "Flugpost" in dark blue
Demand for air post stamps must have been high, as there were some 29 stamps of Memel overprinted for use. The initial five stamp issue is shown here. Note the small "m" in "mark".

1921 Scott C6  60Pf on 40c red & pale blue
Two stamps were also issued with the large "P" or "M" in "Pfennig" and "Mark" respectively. In general, the collector has to pay close attention to the (sometimes subtle) changes in surcharge overprints for Memel stamps.
1922 Scott C16 6m on 2fr orange & pale blue
Overprinted in dark blue
A change in overprint script occurred for the 1922 air post stamps. These 12 stamps have a CV of <$1-$1+, save for the "Flugpost" overprint on the Scott 40 3M on 60c violet & ultramarine stamp @ $ 100+!

1922 Scott C25 32m on 60c violet & ultramarine
Issue overprinted in black or red
In 1922, a 10 stamp issue was produced, as shown. CV is a low $1+.

1923 Scott N3 50c on 25c red, black surcharge: Memel printing
1923 Scott N8 25m on 5c blue, black surcharge: Kaunas printing
Issued under Lithuanian Occupation
As mentioned in "Quick History" the Lithuanians took over the government and lands on January 15, 1923. This resulted in  unissued Official stamps of Lithuania  being surcharged in various colors for postal use. There was a Memel printing (7 stamps), and a Kaunas printing (5 stamps). Note the surcharged denomination is still in "Marks". The name of the port of Memel and Memelland has been changed to "Klaipeda". CV is <$1-$1+.

Note: If using BB, be aware there are no spaces for the Kaunas printing.

1923 Scott N20 25m orange "Vytis"
A 10 stamp non surcharged regular issue for Klaipeda was introduced in 1923. It has the image of "Vytis", a knight on horseback holding an olden sword and shield- "the Chaser", and is on the coat of arms of Lithuania. CV for 8 stamps is <$1-$1+.

1923 Scott N30 500m  on Scott 99
Three of the previously issued French administration surcharged stamps were surcharged again; this time in green. Quite fascinating if one likes surcharged specimens. ;-)

1923 Scott N39 600m olive green "Seal"
A thirteen stamp issue was produced in 1923 with a "Ship", "Lighthouse" or "Seal" vignette. The issue was released  to celebrate the union of Memel with Lithuania. CV is $3+. Although I have a decent collection of Memel, I only have one stamp (this one!) in my collection. ;-)

By the way, these stamps were extensively forged by Bela Szekula of Budapest during the 1930s. Cancelled forgeries especially are more common than genuine cancellations. Each forgery has specific markers that Varro Tyler outlines (Focus on Forgeries Edition 2000), but I don't have enough material to show it now.

But there are general guidelines...
* The genuine stamps are on characteristic horizontally ribbed slightly yellowish paper.
* Forgeries are perf 11 1/2, while genuine stamps are perf 11.

1923 Scott N49 30c on 500m , black surcharge
Subsequently, in 1923, the "Vytis" issue was surcharged in Lithuanian Centu/Litas.  They were surcharged in various colors, and the issue (some 16 stamps) is identified by the "Thin Figures" .

1923 Scott N51 2c on 20m yellow
"Thin Figures" issue
Another example of the "Thin figures" issue is illustrated here. CV is moderately expensive, with CV $3+- $8+ for 12 stamps.
1923 Scott N81 1 L om 2000m red "Lighthouse"
"Thick figures"
There was another 1923 issue with 10 stamps that uses the "Vytis" issue, but surcharged with "Thick figures". One can see an example of the issue heading the "Out of the Blue" section. 

There was also this issue in later 1923 (illustrated) with "thick figures", and using the "Ship", "Seal", and "Lighthouse" vignette issue of earlier 1923. CV  for the 13 stamps issue ranges from $5-$6+.

1923 Scott N105 30c on 50m, red surcharge
Issue surcharged in red or green
Part of the earlier "Vytis" issue was then surcharged in 1923 as illustrated. The 15 stamp issue has a CV of $2+-$5+ for 12 stamps.

1923 Scott N112  30c on 100m carmine
Some others of the "Vytis" issue were then also surcharged in green or red. This last issue before Klaipeda was absorbed into Lithuania has nine stamps with a CV of $2+ for six stamps, with the rest at a much higher CV.

Deep Blue
Lithuania occupation 1923 Kaunas printing in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 14 pages for Memel. All the major Scott numbers have a spaces, and follows sequentially the Scott Classic catalogue.

1923 Scott N15 50c on 25c red, blue surcharge
Lithuanian Occupation
Surcharged on unissued Official stamps of Lithuania
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 1 1/2 pages, has 51 spaces for Memel. Of those, 7 are for the German overprinted stamps, 29 are for the French overprinted stamps, and 15 are for the Lithuanian occupation issues. Total coverage is 21.5%.

Memel in the '69 is placed after Mauritius, and shares the second page with Moheli. Mexico, then, is the next entry.

The 40s editions, which have the same coverage as the '69, also have Memel after Mauritius, and share the second page with Mecklenburg Schwerin and Mecklenburg Strelitz. These German States were eliminated by the '69 editors.

• No expensive stamps ($10 threshold)
• BB includes seven Lithuanian occupation stamps from the 1923 "Ship" and "Seal" designs, of which I have no copies. ;-) These stamps have a CV of $3+.
• On the other hand, BB provides no spaces for 71 stamps with a CV of <$1-$1+. It would have been nice if the half page remaining, after eliminating the previously mentioned German States, could have been used to expand the spaces for Memel.


1920 (French)

1920 (German)

1922 (French)

Air Post

Next Page

Lithuanian Occupation


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None

1923 Scott N69 1 L on 1000m blue
Thick Figures, Surcharged
Out of the Blue
Memel is, without a doubt, one of the more interesting post WW I territories with overprinted/surcharged stamp issues from three nations. Get Some! ;-)

Note: For those that celebrate, have a wonderful Christmas Eve day!

Note: Map appears to be in the public domain.



  1. The Memel River figures in the German national anthem "Deutschland, Deutschland ueber Alles" as one of the limits of the empire: "Von der Maas bis an die Memel, von der Etsch bis an den Belt."

    The Maas (Meuse in French, located in Benelux, Flemish-speaking duchy of Limburg) represents German claims in the West, the old heartland of the Carolingian empire. The Etsch River (Adige in Italian) in South Tirol marks the southern limits of Great-German (Grossdeutsche) nationalist aspirations in the 1840s when August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben wrote the lyrics to a Hayden melodyl. The Memel represents the easternmost limits of East Prussia and the [Little] Belt River (Lillebaelt) represents the northernmost claims, to Danish/German Schleswig.

    The hymn was adopted in 1922, just at the time that these marginal territories were being disputed in the wake of the German loss of World War I.

  2. I should add that in today's Bundesrepublik only the third stanza about unity, justice, freedom, brotherhood and all sorts of good stuff, not this one, is used, and that, even in 1922, the President of the republic, Friedrich Ebert (whom we all know so well from German stamps) thought that only the third stanza ought to be used. And officially the song is known as the Song of Germany or Deutschlandlied or Lied der Deutschen, not "Deutschland ueber Alles".

  3. Thanks for the update- I know Germany today is quite careful to not glorify the nationalistic and fascist past.

  4. Are you sure you have the perfs for the fakes and the genuine stamps the right way round? Varro Tyler notes the fakes as p11 1/2 and Michel and Gibbons note the genuine stamps as p11

  5. If that is the case, then I obviously switched the information in Varro Tyler. I don't have my Tyler handy as we are at our beach cabin, but I will change the information after checking. Thanks!

  6. The genuines are indeed Perf 11- I changed the post. Thanks again!

  7. Keijo-

    I recall reading your excellent post on the forgeries, and thanks for the link.