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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Finland 1856-1917

1875-81 5p orange
Coat of Arms of Finland
Quick History
Finland was an Autonomous Grand Principality in the Russian Empire beginning in 1809. Until about 1862, the Finnish authorities emphasized their loyalty to the Russian court. In turn, the Tsar pledged that laws. liberties and religion for the Finnish people would be left unchanged.

Then from 1863-1898, there developed a sentiment for independence, and an increasing nationalism. The Finnish language became co-equal to Swedish. The stamps issued from 1856-1892, and 1895-96 all illustrate the Finnish Coat of Arms.
The "official" Coat of Arms of Grand Duchy of Finland (illustrated just above) has the Finnish heraldic Lion and Crown within the Imperial Russian Arms. But the Imperial Russian Arms was not part of these 1856-96 stamp designs.

The Russians must have noticed.  ;-)

The Russian emperors then attempted russification of Finland until 1917. This is reflected in the Finnish stamp issues, which look very similar to the Russian Empire issues.

1891-92 7k dark blue
The stamp design now illustrates prominently the imperial Russian arms. In fact, all stamps on letters leaving Finland were required to have the imperial Russian arms design. This is known in Finnish as sortokaudet, times of oppression. Clearly, there was a concerted attempt to end Finland's autonomy.

Into the Deep Blue
This blog entry will focus on the stamp issuing years of 1856-1917 which include the early 19th century issues and the subsequent russification period. The next blog entry will continue with the stamp issues from 1917, when Finland declared its independence.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1866-74 5p red brown, 8p black/green & 40p rose "Coat of Arms"
Deep serpentine roulette perforations
The "Coat of Arms" stamp issues of 1856-59 (Imperf-5 stamps), and the 1860-74 issues (Deep serpentine roulette perforations-10 stamps) are attractive and iconic. The least expensive  are the 1866-74 20p blue on blue ($60+) and 40p rose on lilac rose ($70+). They are listed by four types, depending on the depth and shape of the serpentine roulette. Of interest, Big Blue gives these stamps a space, and they no doubt are the most expensive stamps for Finland in the album. The deep perforations can cause perforation teeth to be missing, as can be seen on the stamps illustrated above.

1875-81 32p carmine "Coat of Arms" perforation 11
1881-83 2p gray perforation 12 1/2
The 1875 Arms type design comes in two major perforation flavors: The seven stamp 1875- 81 perforation 11 issue; and the twelve stamp 1881-83 and 1885 perforation 12 1/2 issue. These perforation issues are given major numbers in Scott. But there are also minor number 1881 issues (13 stamps) with perforation 11 X 12 1/2 or 12 1/2 X 11: so get out the perforation gauge! ;-) In fact, almost all of Finland's earlier issues require careful measurement of perforations because of varieties.

The "SUOMI" inscription is found on many/most Finnish stamps. What does it signify? Well it is Finnish for "Finland". Of uncertain origin, "SUOMI" is thought to have derived from a Proto-Baltic word meaning "land".

1885 5p emerald
Note the heraldic lion imprint difference?
One cannot help but notice combing through the early issues imprint differences between stamps. Scott makes no mention of major differences, and I don't have a Michel or a specialized Finnish catalogue to consult. So I suspect these are inking differences or "flaws", with the ink bleeding over the design.

1892 1m slate & rose perf 12 1/2
1895-96 20p orange wove paper perf 14 X 13
New design: One generally needs to pay attention to stamp details for early Finland as the designs can be similar. 
But here again there are different year issues with the same design and colors, but different perforations. The perforation gauge should be hot to the touch. ;-)

1891 25p ultramarine and 25p blue
Shades can be found among early issues (not just Finland); hence the question: Is it a changeling or a recognizable color variation? Here Scott awards the 25p ultramarine (42) and the 25p blue (42a) their own numbers.

1891-92 Finland 3k carmine and 1889-92 Russia 3k carmine
Here we enter the Imperial Arms of Russia era! I found even carefully put together collections of Finland with  Russian interlopers on the album page, so clearly these designs can be an identification problem for the general classic WW collector.

Scott states: Finnish stamps have "dot in circle" devices or are inscribed "Markka", "Markkaa", "Pen", or "Pennia". A good thing to heed. ;-)

The Finnish thirteen stamp set issued in 1891-92 is the first of the Imperial Arms of Russia designs. Note the necklace of "dot in circles" on the 3k carmine Finnish stamp compared to the Russian stamp. But don't hang your hat on the "dot in circle" always showing up on Finnish stamps. ;-) Future Finnish designs, as we shall see,  will look exactly like the Russian design illustrated above without the "dot in circle": except there will be a change in wording compared to the Russian stamp. :-)

This design is also found on the 1k orange yellow, 2k green and 7k dark blue (The 7k is illustrated in the "Quick History" section).

1891-92 Finnish 10k dark blue and 1889 Russian 10k dark blue
The Finnish design here has the "dot in circle" added in each corner compared to the Russian stamp. This design is also found on the 4k rose, the 20k blue & carmine, and the 50k violet & green stamps.

1891-92 Finnish 14k blue & rose and 1889-92 Russian 14k blue & rose
Again, the two "dot in circle" impressions on the upper stamp distinguishes the Finnish from the Russian issue.
This design is also found in the 35k violet & green stamp.

I don't have an example in my collection, but also the larger 1r brown & orange, the 3 1/2r black & gray, and the 7r black & yellow have "dot in circle" changes in design compared to their Russian counterparts. But these stamps catalogue for a minimum of $90+, so perhaps we will not to need to worry about it. ;-)

1901 Finnish 2p yellow and 1889-92 Russian 2k green
Recall I said to not always rely on the "dot in circle" to distinguish Finnish stamps? The new "1901 type" issue ( 1901 and 1901-14 redrawn) does NOT have this distinguishing feature. They look remarkably like the Russian variety EXCEPT they will have a change in wording. Note the "Pen" inscription on the lower right portion of the stamp compared to a different inscription wording for the Russian stamp? 
Also, as far as I can tell, for the "1901 type" issue, they fortunately always have a different color for the same denomination compared to the Russian stamp. Note the yellow color for the Finnish stamp above compared to the Russian green color. ;-)

Now the 1901 issue (six stamps) was redrawn during 1901-14 (six stamps).  There were also different perforations found. There are plenty of minor numbers found in Scott based on perforation measurements. So definitely measure all these stamps, but I will not say more about that, as I would like to concentrate on the engraving differences found between the 1901 issue and the redrawn 1901-14 issue.

1901 2p yellow (chalky paper) and 1901-14 2p orange
The "2" below the "II"on the lower center portion of the stamp: The "2" is shifted a bit to the left below the "II" on the 2p yellow compared to the '2" being more centered under the "II" on the 2p orange.

1901 5p green (chalky paper) and 1901-14 5p green
The frame lines are very close on the 1901, while more white space between the frame lines is noted on the 1901-14.

1901 20p dark blue (chalky paper) and 1901-14 20p dark blue
First, pay attention to the lower inscription for the placement of the "H", the "period", and the "2". Note on the 1901, the "H" and the "2" are close together with the "period" midway. Then note on the 1901-14, the "H" and the "2" are slightly more separated with the "period" closer to the "H".

The second difference is found inside the vignette around the Imperial Russian Eagle. There are horizontal central background thin lines noted especially with the 1901-14 issue, while these lines are faint and broken on the 1901 issue. You may have to enlarge the image to see the difference.
 This distinguishing difference is more important for the 10p carmine stamp, as that is the only difference between the 1901 and redrawn 1901-14 issue. ;-)
Let's take a look...

1901 10p carmine (chalky paper) ?? and 1901-14 10p carmine
Here the right hand stamp is clearly a 1901-14 variety, as the central background thin lines are clearly there. But I'm not convinced the left hand stamp is actually a 1901 variety. The central background lines should be  faint and broken on a "true" 1901 variety. Yes, the central background lines are not as prominent, but the whole stamp does not have a strong impression. Enlarge the image for a closer look. Readers, what do you think? :-)

Two examples: 1901-14 1m lilac & green
Different color shades for the central vignette
I don't have an example of the 1901 issue, but note the "1" on either side of "Markka" on the lower stamp? This "1" has a serif at the base of the "1". This makes these stamps a 1901-14 variety. A 1901 variety will not have a serif at the base of the "1"
Note also the color shade differences between the stamps in the central vignette. One can measure the perforations to determine if this could be a violet & blue green Scott recognized minor number variation.

1911-16 40p violet & blue, 5p green, and Russian 1909-12 5k claret
New issue: 1911-16 (5 stamps)
These Finnish stamps are distinguished by the "pennia", "penni" or"pen" inscription wording compared to their Russian brethren. Note also the Russian stamp is in a different color? I believe that is always the case here between the Finnish and Russian varieties.

This issue marks the end of the "Russian" stamp design era. Finland declared its independence in 1917, and the Finnish "Coat of Arms" made an emphatic comeback.

To be continued....
Kingdom of Finland Coat of Arms 1918-19
Out of the Blue
Hope you enjoyed this primer on earlier Finnish stamps during the Grand Principality of Finland era. I learned quite a bit. :-)

1890 10p carmine

Finland circa 1900

Map and Coat of Arms images appear to be in the public domain.


Would like to hear your comments!


  1. Hi Jim,

    I've been expecting this post for a long, long time. It's always interesting to see how non-Finnish collectors approach and see these stamps.

    True, Finnish special catalogs go pretty deeply with this era. There's 50-100 pages filled with information about different prints, perforations, papers, postmarks etc. If I'm not fully mistaken, the only major difference between Scott and other catalogs is inclusion 1901 Emergency issue: Scott doesn't seem to list this. Bizarrely, it seems to be omitted in Steiner's pages too.

    Here's a quick overview of my collection: http://www.stampcollectingblog.com/mounting-stamp-collections-digitally.php (just click the images to view them larger). The pages should also give a pretty good perspective how Finnish catalogs list these issues on general level.

  2. Very nice digital mounted collection Keijo!
    I will review the presentation with attention to detail when I have some time: As you say, it should give a good clue as to how the Finnish catalogues present the material.

    I was expecting a comment from you, and am glad I (apparently) made no glaring errors, other than the general limit Scott presents. :-)

    I'm not too surprised that Steiner does not have a space for the 1901 Emergency issue, as often it follows Scott exactly.

  3. I just got up to Russia in my current collation of Big Blues, and, sure enough, I had two "Russian interlopers" (as you put it) on my Finland page. Thanks so much for this invaluable reference!

  4. And Joe, thanks again for your fine list of the total spaces count for countries in BB. !!

  5. What an excellent post on the differences between the Finnish and Russian issues, Jim. I thought of doing something of the sort for my upcoming Finland profile. But, why redo your excellent work when I can also link to this post - if you do not mind. I will instead focus on the validity of the different issues in this period and the use of Russian stamps in Finland.

    1. Gerben- By all means you are welcome to link. I certainly do for your great maps and histories. :-)

  6. Replies
    1. I assume you mean the Finnish stamp issues discussed in this blog post?

      Well, that depends on the specific stamp.

      The Scott catalogue value ranges from <$1 to $several hundred.

  7. First: The 10 penni red "chaulky Paper" 1901 Lithographed stamp is not the stamp shown. SCott catalog creates a huge problem with the identification of these 10 and 20 penni stamps BECAUSE they show TWO DIFFERENT "PRINTINGS" WHEN THERE WERE ACTUALLY THREE! Here you show the third "1908 Helsinki Plate" typographed printing on the left and the second "1902 type typographed printing on the right. The 1901 Lithographed printing is not shown.

  8. The 2 penni and 5 penni and 20 penni 1901 Lithographed "chaulky paper" (virtually no dealer you see will be able to identify "chaulky paper" so that description is useless) shown here are the correct 1901 prints.
    Neither 1 mark stamp is the 1901 Lithographed type. Shown are the two different perf gages of the typographed 1 mark, where shades printed varied over the years.

    1. Thanks EdF for educating us on why the Scott catalogue is not very useful for Finnish stamps. And, as a non specialist in Finnish stamps, I have a lot to learn. !!