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...

Saturday, March 26, 2016


1858 Scott 6 5o green "Coat of Arms"
Quick History
The Kingdom of Sweden in Northern Europe is bordered by Norway and Finland.

Swedish Empire 1560-1815
At one time (17th-early 18th century), Sweden was one of the great European powers, controlling much of the Baltic region, beginning with the reign of Gustavus Adolphus (1611-1632).

But King Charles XII was killed in 1718 while attempting to invade Norway, and the Empire fell apart, with Russia becoming the dominant European power in the region.

When the war ended in 1721 with the Treaty of Nystad, Sweden had lost 200,000 men (150,000 from present-day Sweden, 50,000 from present-day Finland).

Sweden remained a poor agricultural society throughout most of the 19th century, and between 1850-1910, over a million Swedes immigrated to the United States, many to Minnesota and neighboring Midwestern states. ( I grew up in Minnesota, and can attest to the very strong Scandinavian and Lutheran influence on the culture.)

Stamps with the Coat of Arms were introduced in 1855.

Between 1870-1914, industrialization began to take hold, and a modern parliamentary democracy took root. (Today, Sweden is the seventh richest country in terms of GDP per capita, and has a very high standard of living.)

Sweden remained neutral during WW I (but there was German influence), and also remained neutral during WW II (but again, concessions had to be made to Germany, a much stronger power). Sweden did, however, support Norwegian resistance, provide haven for Jewish refugees, and gave unofficial support to Finland in the Winter War and the Continuation War.

The capital is Stockholm, and the population was 6,500,000 in 1943.

After WW II and during the era of the "Cold War", Sweden remained a neutral country, and was not a member of NATO or the Warsaw Pact. Sweden, however, still had strong informal ties with the United States and other western democratic governments.

Sweden is known as the home of the Nobel prizes, where every year, outstanding scientists and others might (hopefully, or sometimes, a complete surprise) receive a telephone call from Stockholm.

1866 Scott 16 20o vermilion "Lion and  Arms"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Sweden 1855-1940, 426 major number descriptions. Of those, 217 are CV <$1-$1+, or 51%. Issues after 1900 are generally modestly priced, while the 19th century issues can be expensive, and there are a many Scott minor number color shades also.

Sweden boasts one of the uber-rarities: The 1855 Scott 1a treskilling yellow (color error) @ CV $3,000,000. !!!

If one is looking for a country where the classic era stamps are modest in design, size, and issue, the philatelic literature is well researched, and there is an active philatelic community, then Sweden is a prime candidate. Perhaps because there is very little glitz here, I am attracted to the stamps: what a great specialty country Sweden would be! (The same, no doubt, can be said for all the Scandinavian countries.)

Although I will be referring to the Scott catalogue numbers for the blog post, most serious Scandinavian collectors tend to use the Facit catalogue. As a WW collector, it is a good idea to have one as a reference.

For the purposes of this one (alas!) blog post devoted to Sweden, I will concentrate on the classical era 1855-1919 issues for a closer look.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
48 skilling banco = 1 riksdaler banco (until 1858)
100 ore = 1 riksdaler (1858-1874)
100 ore = 1 krona (since 1874)
1855 Scott 2 4s light blue "Coat of Arms"
In 1855, Sweden first issued a five stamp typographed perforation 14 "skilling" set "Coat of Arms", consisting of a 3s blue green (CV $4,000), a 4s light blue (CV $80), a 6s gray (CV $1,600), an 8s red orange (CV $575), and a 24s dull red (CV $2000). Numerous 1855-58 shades and/or thin or thick paper minor number varieties also are listed in the catalogue. Clearly, this is the stamp realm and playing grounds of the rich or (famous) specialty collectors. On cover examples can be as high as CV $35,000. 

Specialists need to be aware of the 1868,1871, and 1885 reprints (All CV $$), which had little or no actual postal use. Scott and Facit have information on how to distinguish them.

1855 Treskilling Yellow
Color error- Should be blue-green
In 1886, a young fellow named Georg Wilhelm Backman was looking for covers in his grandmother's attic (Why are so many famous philatelic discoveries discovered in an attic? ;-), and found an 1855 Treskilling in a yellowish orange color (a color used for the eight-skilling), which should have been in a blue-green color. The accepted argument is one of the 100 stereotypes (10 X 10 array) was broken on an eight-skilling printing plate, and mistakenly replaced with a three-skilling stereotype.

Only one example has been found, and the CV is now $3,000,000, the most valuable stamp in the world !!!!

The lesser arms of Sweden
The 1855 design features the "Three Crowns" (Tre Kronor) - the national emblem of Sweden. The "Three Crowns" design will be found on various classical era stamp issues through 1919.

1858 Scott 12 50o rose perf 14 "Coat of Arms"
With a change in denomination from skilling to ore, a similar design on seven stamps was released between 1858-62. CV ranges from $2-$270+. Shades- found to 1872- exist as minor numbers.

Reprints were issued in 1885 (perf 13, used examples not known). Interestingly, the design was reprinted in 1963 (perf 13 1/2), but with lines in stamp colors crossing denominations.

1858-62 Perf 14 Issue "Coat of Arms"
Note the nice cancels?
What is particularly striking (no pun intended) about Swedish stamps of the classical era are the many fine cancellations applied as SON (socked on the nose) or, at least, fairly close. One could put together a town cancellation collection of Swedish stamps that would be very attractive, in my view.

1863 Scott 13 3o bister brown "Lion and Arms"
A seated lion was used as part of the design for the 1862-69 four stamp issue. The 3 Ore, illustrated above, is Type II, as "The horizontal inner frameline in the right upper corner does not extend beyond the curved spiral".

1872 Scott 26 Perf 14 50o rose "Numeral of Value"
Between 1872-77, an eleven stamp set of "Numeral of Value" stamps were issued in perforation 14. Perforation measurement is important, as the next issue in perforation 13 has similar colors.

1878 Scott 34 Perf 13 24o orange "Numeral of Value"
The 1877-79 eleven stamp issue was, as mentioned, with perforation 13, and a number of the stamps have identical colors to those of the 1872-77 issue.

One other difference is the 1872-77 high denomination is a 1 riksdaler in bister & blue (Sweden's first bi-colored), while the high denomination for the 1877-79 issue has one in kronor. (One can view the 1 riksdaler stamp fronting the Big Blue section of this post.)

1885 Scott 39 10o dull rose "King Oscar II"
Oscar II made an appearance with this single stamp issue in 1885. Check the back of the stamp for the presence or absence of a "Post Horn" print,  This 1885 stamp does not have the print.

1886 Scott 43 5o green 
"Numeral Type with Post Horn on Back"
Between 1886-91, a ten stamp issue was produced that has a printed "Post Horn" on back under the gum. The designs are "Numeral of Value" type (2o,3o,4o,5o,6o,20o,30o,50o,), "Oscar II" (10o), and "Coat of Arms" (1k). One will need to turn over stamps of these types and denominations to check for the "Post Horn".

1889 Scott 50 10o on 12o blue
(On 1877 Perf 13 Scott 32 12o blue with a Blue Surcharge)
In 1889, because of a shortage of 10o stamps, the 12o and 24o 1877-79 values were surcharged in blue.

1892 Scott 55 4o carmine & ultramarine
Between 1891-1904,  bi-colored numerals were released for the lower denominations for a new definitive issue.

1891 Scott 63 50o slate "King Oscar II"
The same 1891-1904 issue had a "Oscar II" vignette for the ten higher values. These stamps are wonderfully engraved. One may want to enlarge this 50o slate scan image, and just enjoy!

Oscar Fredrik was King of Sweden from 1972 until 1907 (his death), and King of Norway from 1872 until 1905.

(For more on Norway and Sweden and their relationship, and the Oscar II stamps of Norway, see my Norway 1855-1927  post.)

King Oscar II of Sweden - Oscar Bjorck Painting
Oscar II, because of his intelligence and fair-mindedness, was called on to arbitrate various international disputes (Samoa, Venezuela).

He wrote poems. He contributed to military history journals. He translated Herder's and Goethe's works.

Do we have anyone in the 21st century in leadership positions with such catholic tastes? ;-)

1903 Scott 66 5k blue "Stockholm Post Office"
In 1903, with the opening of the Stockholm General Post Office, Sweden issued the first commemorative stamp. Lovely engraving!

1911 Scott 67 1o black "Arms"
Watermark 180: "Crown"
In 1910-14, a seven stamp issue was produced, with the three lower denominations having this typographed "Arms" design. Be aware that these values are on watermarked "Crown" paper.

1914 Scott 73 5k claret/yellow "Gustaf V"
Watermark 180: "Crown"
The four higher denominations of the 1910-14 issue has a face-on vignette of King Gustav V, the eldest son of Oscar II, and monarch since his father's death in 1907. He remained king until his own death in 1950! He actually never had a coronation, and never wore a crown.

1919 Scott 97 3o pale brown "Arms"
Watermark 181: "Wavy Lines"
The "Arms" design was then again used for the four stamp 1911-19 issue, this time with the "wavy lines" watermark.

Wmk 180 "Crown"; Wmk 181 "Wavy Lines"
Here is a pic scan of the "Crown" and "Wavy Lines" watermarks.

Here watermarked "P O S" 
Part of double-lined capitals "Kungi Postverket"
Can be found along margins of the sheets
Of interest, one can find, close to the margins of a sheet, for "Crown", "Wavy Lines", and  "unwatermarked" paper, a "Kungi Postverket" watermarked script in double-lined capitals. In other words, "unwatermarked" paper might have these watermarks along the margins, which may show up on some stamps. ;-)

1918 Scott 91 65o pale olive green "Gustaf V"
The major definitive issue for 1910-19 has the "Gustav V" portrait found on nineteen stamps. This is on unwatermarked paper.

1918 Scott 104 27o on 80o
In 1918, six stamps from the preceding "Gustav V" issue were surcharged "7", "12" or "27" ore.

Of interest, the 27o on 55o pale blue, and the 27o on 80o black, are only CV <$1+, while the underlying original non-surcharged 55o pale blue and 80o black, also issued in 1918, are CV $2100! Clearly, there were not many non surcharged 55o pale blue and 80o black stamps released.

After this issue, Sweden turned to a lion design and a new portrait of Gustav V. These, and later issues, were both produced in coil stamps and booklet stamp form.

Deep Blue
1881-93 "Coat of Arms" Perf 13 Officials in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 31 pages for the stamps of 1855-1940 Sweden, and includes a space for all the major numbers in the Scott catalogue. I added quadrilled pages for the 19th century issues, as I could not part with the lovely cancelled and SON duplicate specimens I acquired. ;-)

1872 Scott 27 Perf 14 1rd bister & blue "Coat of Arms"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on seven pages, has 211 spaces for the 1858-1940 stamps of Sweden. Coverage is 49%.

The good news is there are only seven "expensive" ($10+) stamps needed, with two of them just hitting the "most expensive" ($35+) category. See the comments section below the checklist for specifics.

BB starts with the 1858 issue, and therefore, the first 1855 skilling denomination issue (five stamps, expensive to quite expensive) is not included. I guess the chance of finding a tri-skilling yellow (CV $ 3,000,000) sitting in a 3s blue-green space was never very high anyway. ;-)

The coverage is not all that generous, as a number of the issues are telescoped into one space choice.

Fighting for spaces....
* The 1872-77 Perf 14 issue vs 1877-79 Perf 13 issue vs 1886-91 Post Horn on Back issue
* 1910-15- Some of the space choices include wmk 180 vs wmk 181, and unwmked vs wmk 180.
* 1920-22- Includes Perf 10 vertically unwmk vs wmk 181 vs 1920-26 Perf 10 unwmked vs wmk 181.
* Official 1874-93- Choices are perf 14 vs perf 13
* Official 1910-19- choices are wmk 180 vs wmk 181
* Postage Due 1874-77 (-80 here)- Choices are perf 14 vs perf 13

Unfortunately, BB often typesets a a stamp album page before a country has released all the stamps in an issue, This results is only the earlier released stamps are given a space, and not the later stamps. Then, BB never re-edits the page.! There are several egregious examples with Sweden issues....

* The 1920-34 "Crown and Posthorn" issues (Scott 145-159), all inexpensive, are given only five spaces for fifteen stamps.
* The 1921-36 "Gustaf V" issue (21 stamps, all inexpensive) are given only seven spaces.

Interestingly, the 1885 Scott 39 10o dull rose "Oscar II" stamp issue (CV $1)  lost its space in the '69 edition. This stamp, although similar, is not identical in design to the 1891 Scott 58 10o carmine "Oscar II", which does have a space in all editions.

But the '69 edition has the 1918 semi-postals ( B22-B31, ten spaces), while the 1940s editions do not have a space for them.

The "1925-30" stamp spaces:  Be aware that BB mixes various design stamps together here- "Heraldic Lion", "Gustav V", and "Crown and Posthorn". There are no visual clues, only denomination and color description.





40, 17 or 28 or 41, 18 or 29 or 42, 30, 31a or 31 or 44, 22 or 32, 23 or 33 or 46,
24 or 34, 25 or 35 or 47, 26a or 26 or 36, 27 or 38 or 49,




Next Page

67 or 95, 68 or 96, 69 or 98, 70 or 77,79,71 or 80, 82,



115, 117 or 122 or 126 or 130, 139 or 142, 140, 141 or 143, 120, 121 or 125 or 129,
146,148,150,154,158, 164 or 165 or 166,
167 or 189 or 190, 170 or 189A or 193, 171,174,182,185,153,

Next Page


119 or 128 or 134 or 138, 168,172,175,179,181,183,

230 or 232, 231 or 233, 234,235,

236 or 237 or 238, ( 236 or 237 or 238- Choose one not already taken)

Next Page

239 or 242,240 or 243,241 or 244,245,

248 or 251, 249 or 252, 250 or 253,254,255,
268 or 273 ,269 or 274, 270,

Next Page

275 or 278,276 or 279,277,

264 or 266, 267, 290 or 292, 291,

280 or 289, 281,282,283,284,
293 or 297, 294 or 298, 295,296,
300 or 302, 302G or 303, 305,307,

310 or 312, 311, 313 or 314,315,

Postage Due
1874-77 (-80 here)*
J1 or J12,  J2 or J13,  J3 or J14,  J4 or J15,  J5 or J16,  J6 or J17,  J20,J21,

Official Stamps
O12, O1 or O13, O14,
O15,O17, O6 or O18, O19,
O20, O8 or O21, O22,O23,
O24, O11 or O25, O26 or O27,

O28 or O41, O29 or O42, O30 or O44, O31 or O45,O32,
O33 or O48, O34, O35 or O51, O36, O37 or O53, O54, O38 or O55,

Next Page

Air Post
C1, C2 or C4, C3 or C5,





A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1863 Scott 13 3o bister brown ($10+)
1866 Scott 16 20o vermilion ($20)
1858 Scott 6 5o green ($20)
1861 Scott 9 12o ultramarine ($10+)
1858 Scott 10 24o orange ($35)
1858 (Scott 11) 30o brown ($35)
1878 Scott 34 24o orange ($30)
B) *1872-91- Choices are Perf 14 vs Perf 13 vs Post  Horn on Back
C) *1910-15- Some of the space choices include wmk 180 vs wmk 181, and unwmked vs wmk 180.
D) *72 and *(94)- Scott 72 is the 1911 1k black/yellow "Gustaf V"- wmk 180 stamp. That leaves Scott 94- the 1919 1k black/yellow "Gustav V"- unwmked stamp- as a blank space choice. The only other choices are very expensive- Since Scott 91 was used for another blank space choice, the only remaining stamps are Scott 90 and 92 @ $2000+!!!. So, rather than use 90 or 91, use 94 (CV <$1). !!
E) *1920-22- Includes Perf 10 vertically unwmk vs wmk 181 vs 1920-26 Perf 10 unwmked vs wmk 181.
F) * Official 1874-93- Choices are perf 14 vs perf 13
G) * Official 1910-19- choices are wmk 180 vs wmk 181
H) * Postage Due 1874-77 (-80 here)- Choices are perf 14 vs perf 13
I) * 1925-30- Be aware that BB mixes various design stamps together here- "Heraldic Lion", "Gustav V", and "Crown and Posthorn". There are no visual clues, only denomination and color description.
J) *1935- choices are perf 10 vertically vs perf 10. Choices are found for various perfs for the 1936 and 1938 issues as well.
K) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.

1900 Scott 65 1k carmine & slate "King Oscar II"
Out of the Blue
If I wasn't already collecting the classical era all-world, I would seriously consider becoming a regional specialist in Scandinavian  philately. :-)

Note: Maps, treskilling yellow scan image, and Oscar II painting scan image appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?


  1. The 1918 55 and 80 öre "Gustav V" stamps have an interesting story. Just before the release they had a change in rates and concluded that the denominations of 55 and 80 öre was obsolete. So the complete edition was recalled. But about a hundred of each were sold by mistake at the post office in Värnamo. The remainder unsold stamps were destroyed in front of witnesses in 1985 at which time the CV for that bonfire was theoretically $100.000 to $150.000. Witnesses said the whole operation took 15 minutes.

    1. Thanks Steamboat Willie on the very interesting back story. !!!!! :-)

  2. Thank you for a great post about Swedish stamps in the Deep Blue, I have been looking forward to this for a long time. (unfortunately "S" is far back in the alphabet).

    I am originally from Sweden and have been a collector of Swedish stamps since boyhood. The Facit catalog is in my DNA so it was really exciting to get the Scott perspective on Sweden.

    You have made an excellent overview of Swedish classic stamps - all the basics you need to know.

    Thank you.

    Some small and detailed remarks:
    i) Charles XII died in November 1718.
    ii) Rixdaler is spelled Riksdaler in Swedish. (The word daler in Riksdaler has the same origin as Dollar).

    1. Thanks for the kind comments Freemark- glad the blog post met with your approval.

      I changed the date of death for Charles XII, and switched to the Swedish spelling "Riksdaler".

  3. Don't you just love the name King Oscar? Just by the name alone, you get the impression that here is a king who loves to have a good time.

    Excellent reading, as always.

    1. Well, he was apparently all a King should be- learned, and quite fair. I don't know if he went down to the local pub though. ;-)

  4. Oscar I (after which Oscar II was named) got his name from his godfather - Napoleon Bonaparte. His father being Jean Bernadotte - one of Napoleons marshalls. Before that, no scandinavian Kings have been named Oscar. (Karl/Carl/Carolus and Gustav/Gustaf/Göstaff have been the most common Swedish King names. The present King have them both - Karl XVI Gustaf).

  5. A really good post.. Just a pity it stops a bit short of 1940. I would have loved reading a "Sweden part II".

  6. Thanks Steamboat- as usual, you have very cogent comments.

    I would have liked a "Part II" also - perhaps someday. :-)

    1. When it comes to Scandinavian Stmaps - oh, Iä've got stories.. ;-) THe most famous one is the one about the Yellow 3 skilling b:co of course. [Did you know for xample that the first dealer to sell it called it a misprinted _8_ sk b:co, because techically it is?]

      Well, if you need anything for a part II some day, don't hesitate to ask! :-D

    2. Thanks for the offer. :-)