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, February 25, 2013

Italy 1926-1940- Stamps and Propaganda

1935 Scott 348 1.25 l dark blue
A Phalanx of Planes and Leonardo
Quick History
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini , a revolutionary nationalist, and one of the founders of fascism, came to power as Prime Minister in 1922 following the "March on Rome". Creating a police state with himself as dictator, by 1936 his title was "His Excellency Benito Mussolini, Head of Government, Duce of Fascism, and Founder of the Empire".

Regions considered "Italian" by the Fascists in the 1930's
Nice, Ticino, Dalmatia, Malta, Corsica, Savoy, Corfu
But in 1940, Mussolini sided with Germany, and we are all aware that was ultimately a disaster for Italy.

The Allies invaded Italy in 1943, and King Victor Emmanuel III had him arrested. But he was rescued from prison by German forces, and subsequently headed the Italian Social Republic, those parts of Italy not occupied by Allied forces.

In 1945, he was captured by Italian partisans, executed, and he was hung in Milan upside down for public viewing.

Mussolini and the fascists created a cult of personality around Mussolini, and used propaganda through press, radio, education, and films to bend the minds of the Italian people.

And stamp "propaganda" was an integral part.

We will explore that aspect, as we see how patriotic imagery and emotionalism can be effectively used on stamps.
1928 Scott 204 50c orange brown & blue 
"Philbert and Italian Soldier of 1918" 
Into the Deep Blue
We will cover in this entry the regular stamp production of Italy from 1926-1940 (and a little beyond), as well as the semi-postals (1915-1935, 42 stamps) and air post (1917-1938, 105 stamps) categories.

The Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has, from 1926 ( and beginning with Scott 178) to 1939, 224 major numbers. Contrary to the earlier post, commemoratives far outnumber definitives.

They can be divided into three categories...

• Saints and scenes of the Holy Catholic Church. Mussolini, with his anti-Communist opposition, convinced many Catholics to actively support him. Still, it is jarring to see an issue devoted to St. Anthony, while the next issue is glorifying fascistic expansionism.

• Issues devoted to scientists (Volta, Galvani, Marconi), literature (Dante, Horace), music (Stradivarius, Bellini) and athletic games (University games, Soccer Championship). In other words, the usual subject fare for most countries. But by glorifying the Italian past accomplishments with the present government, it lent legitimacy to the fascists.

• "Propaganda" stamps- either covert or overt. We will see indeed how well the stamp medium works to convey the emotionalism of the fascist movement.

A closer look at the stamps and issues, and its value as propaganda

1927-29 Scott 196 2.65 l deep violet
"King Victor Emmanuel III" 
The House of Savoy were the monarchs of Italy since it's founding, 1862, and Victor Emmanuel III had been on the throne since 1900. Only 5 feet tall, and shy and withdrawn by nature, he had ascended the throne after his father was assassinated. Although King, he was committed to constitutional freedoms for Italian citizens, and Italy was a parliamentary democracy. Nevertheless, the monarchy still had many residual powers including appointing the Prime Minister.

 Although WW I did not go well for Italy, he manged to steer a course that brought affection from his people. Then the depression followed WW I with the country became politically unstable, and Benito Mussolini rose to power.
Albert I of Belgium & Victor Emmanuel III of Italy
The long and the short of it
With the violent rise of Fascism, and the "March on Rome" by Mussolini, the King felt he had no choice but to appoint Mussolini as Prime Minister to avoid civil war.

The King then did nothing as Mussolini consolidated his powers and became dictator over the next several years.

In 1936, the King assumed the crown of Emperor of Ethiopia (displacing Haile Selassie) after Italy invaded Abyssinia. He then kept a public silence about the Fascist government's "racial purity" laws in 1938.
Italy then invaded Albania in 1939, and Victor Emmanuel assumed the crown of the King of Albania.

Mussolini decided to enter WW II in 1940 on the side of Nazi Germany, but Italy was ill prepared for war. The Italian armies had major defeats in both Greece and North Africa.

Too late, Victor Emmanuel II tried to rectify the mistakes. On July 25, 1943, he dismissed Mussolini as prime Minister, had him arrested, and renounced the Ethiopian and Albanian crowns. On September 8, 1943, the King announced an armistice with the Allies. But the Italian army was confused (they had not been given orders), and the Germans assumed control of much of Italy.

The King escaped from Rome to the south (inviting unfavorable comparisons with King George VI of England who stayed in London during the Blitz). The Badoglio government in southern Italy (loyal to Victor Emmauel III) was opposed by the now freed Mussolini's Italian Social Republic, a German puppet state, in the north.

But the King was too contaminated by his years of working with the fascists. To try and save the monarchy, he transferred his powers to his son, Crown Prince Umberto, in 1944, and formally abdicated in 1946. But the plebiscite held later in 1946 was in favor of a republic. All male members of the House of Savoy had to leave the country, and the Kingdom of Italy was gone. Victor Emmanuel died in exile in Alexandria, Egypt in 1947, where he remains buried.

The propaganda part....

The stamps issued of Victor Emmanuel III from 1927-1942, some seventeen stamps, kept the illusion that the King was in full support of Mussolini and the fascists. He wasn't, but acquiesced and did nothing, then acted too late.

So ends the sad legacy of the House of Savoy.

1929-42 Scott 215 10c dark brown "Augustus Caesar"
What signals an aggresive regime change better than remind Italy of the glory days of Imperial Rome? The definitive issue of 1929-41 (21 stamps) has images of the She-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, and several images of the apparently acquiescing Victor Emmanuel III.

1929 Scott 220 35c deep blue "Italia"
Italia, a legendary early king, and the namesake of Italy, is resurrected here as a bold warrior. Certainly an image the fascists would like to encourage and mold.

1931 Scott 267 1.25 l dark blue "Cruiser Trento"
A three stamp issue for the Royal Naval Academy at Livorno, and a reminder of the naval power of Italy.

1932 Scott 280 10c gray black "View of Caprera"
Celebrating the revolutionary heroes of Italy, here Patriot and General Garibaldi, links the fascist present with the glorious past. Here in 1932, a 10 stamp issue was produced for that purpose.

1932 Scott 297 50c purple "Mussolini Statue"
In 1932, a large 16 stamp set was issued celebrating the "March on Rome", and commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Fascist government.

Could Mussolini look anymore dashing? Harnessing evocative emotional images to increase support of the regime- stamps do this very well.

1934 Scott 315 10c dark brown 
"Anchor of the Emanuele Filiberto"
Annexation of land perceived as a glorious return to the mother country is a popular theme. Here, the 10th anniversary of the annexation of Fiume, a seven stamp issue, is celebrated.

1934 Scott 335 30c dark brown "Military courage"
Honoring military acts of heroism, this 1934 eleven stamp issue pays homage to the Military Medal of Valor.
A positive perception of the military, naturally, is an important necessity for a bellicose totalitarian government.
 1935 Scott 346 30c brown 
"Fascist Flight Symbolism"
Having evocative aggressive design imagery, as this stamp set has- here "Fascist Flight Symbolism"- promotes the cause.
1937 Scott 371 50c purple 
"Child giving Salute"
Getting youth involved- or even here a small child- in summer camps where they can be trained and educated is important. Germany did that on a grand scale, and here Italy provides a four stamp issue with the surtax used to support the camps.
 1937 Scott 383 75c scarlet "Augustus Caesar"
A ten stamp issue was produced in 1937 celebrating the birth of Augustus Caesar. Why? - For the occasion of an exhibition in Rome, opened by none other than Mussolini. Coincidence? 

1938 Scott 404 50c light violet 
"Leonardo da Vinci"
The ten stamp 1938 issue for the "Proclamation of the Empire", or the "New Roman Empire" has stamp design themes from Romulus plowing, Italian Patriots and Geniuses (Here da Vinci), to a map of Italian East Africa. This issue was to celebrate the conquest of Ethiopia- and the creation of an Italian Empire.

The comparison to the Roman Empire was not intended ironically. But seriously....Really?

  1938 Scott 407 1.75 l violet black
"Blackshirts' March on Rome"
Another stamp in the 1938 issue shows the Blackshirts, an armed local fascist militia, who terrorized any nascent resistance in the towns and villages. Mussolini made sure he was head of this militia, and later the secret police, so he would not have any rivals.

The consequences of all this propaganda preparation?

1941 414 20c red orange "Hitler and Mussolini"
An overreaching concordance with Nazi Germany. This was a disaster for Italy.

1942 Scott 428 25c deep green "Victor Emmanuel III"
"Discipline is the Weapon of Victory"
And here the (reluctant) Victor Emmanuel III is paired with a "Discipline" exhortation.

The reality, of course, is that Italy, by itself, finished with few victories in WWII.

This concludes the "propaganda" themed review of Italian stamps during the 1926-1940+ era.

Now, let's take a look at a few semi-postal and air post stamps. The truth is I don't have much in these categories, so this will be brief. ;-)

Semi-postal 1924 Scott B22 50c + 25c violet & brown
"St. Maria Maggiore"
The surtax for the 1925 semi-postal six stamp issue was to contribute toward the Holly Year expenses.

The 42 semi-postal stamps between 1915-1935 in the Scott Classical Specialized catalogue are for such "charities" as assisting war invalids, to the benevolent fund of the blackshirts, to the voluntary militia for national defense, and for veterans. The CV for the semi-postals is generally rather high-$3+-$20+, which might explain why I do not have many. ;-)

I should mention that Scott puts any surtax stamps that are part of an issue with the regular postage. But if the entire issue has a surtax, then it is put with the semi-postals.

Air Post 1932 Scott C12 25c dark green "Wings"
The 1930-32 issue had eight stamps, and has a modest CV of <$1-$1+ for seven stamps.

There are 105 major air post stamps for 1917-38, and many have a  rather expensive CV-$10+-$60+.

1930-32 Scott C17 2 l deep blue "Arrows"
Another stamp in the 1930-32 issue is shown above. 

Because of the CV costs for Italy Air Post, most which are more expensive used than unused, a modest selection might be all the general WW classical collector can expect.

Deep Blue 
The 1932 "10th Anniversary of March on Rome" page in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 16 pages for regular (1926-39), 3 pages for semi-postal, and 12 pages for the various types of Air Post stamps. As the Steiner follows the Scott catalogue, it is quite easy, even without illustrations, to find the appropriate space.

1931 Scott 262 1.25 l blue 
"St Anthony Freeing Prisoners"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 7 pages+ for regular issue stamps, has 206 spaces for 1926-1939. The Air Post category is on 4 pages, and there are 81 stamp spaces between 1917-1938. The Semi-Postal category is on 1 page, and there are 18 spaces from 1915-1935.

• Big Blue continues with excellent coverage here. Bravo!

• There are, however, an astounding 69 stamps with CV >$10! Of those, 13 are >$35, and on the "Most Expensive" list. There are three stamps tied @ $65 valuation. Details listed in the Comment section below the checklist.

• The Air Post stamps are indeed expensive, with 35 on the above list with CV >$10.

• But there's more to the story. It is obvious that Italy, on most of their commemorative issues of this era, had the high values as semi-postals. These semi-postals are included by Scott in the regular issue category. No doubt Italy was milking the collector here.

How many? Of the "regular" stamps on the list, 23 of the 29 stamps are actually semi-postals! And of the "air post" stamps, 15 of the 35 stamps are semi-postals. (Most of the semi-postals are much more expensive used, so these high values were bought by collectors, and not used in the mail stream.)

• Two printing errors by Big Blue in the air post section.

 Air Post C30 has two spaces
 The first space has the C30 3 l brown red image cut, and the next space has the C30 description! Obviously, a mistake ( double space for the same stamp), and the C29 1 l violet fits nicely in the C30 image cut space.
 Air Post C92 has two spaces
Another Image cut/description double space! The C90 should go in the C92 image cut, and then the C92 can go in the descriptive space.

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1933 (air post semi-postal)


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Semi-Postal Stamps




End of post coverage

A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1928 Scott 203 30c blue green & red brown ($10+)
1932 Scott 277 2.75 l gray ($20+)
1932 Scott 287 1.75 l + 25c blue gray ($40)
1932 Scott 288 2.55 l + 50c red brown ($30+)
1932 Scott 289 5 l + 1 l copper red ($30+)
1932 Scott 304 2.75 l slate green ($20+)
1932 Scott 305 5 l + 2.50 l carmine rose ($40)
1934 Scott 327 1.25 l blue ($10+)
1934 Scott 339 1.75 l + 1 l red orange ($10+)
1934 Scott 340 2.55 l + 2 l deep claret ($10+)
1934 Scott 341 2.75 l + 2 l violet ($20+)
1935 Scott 350 30c brown ($10+)
1935 Scott 352 1.25 dark blue ($10+)
1935 Scott 353 1.75 l + 1 l red orange  ($35)
1935 Scott 354 2.75 l + 2 l olive black ($65)
1936 Scott 366 2.55 l + 1 l slate black ($40)
1936 Scott 365 1.75 l + 1 l carmine rose ($30+)
1936 Scott 364 1.25 l +1 l dark blue ($20+)
1937 Scott 372 75c rose red ($10+)
1937 Scott 373 1.25 l dark blue ($10+)
1937 Scott 374 1.75 l + 75c orange ($40)
1937 Scott 375 2.75 l + 1.25 l dark blue green ($30+)
1937 Scott 376 5 l + 3 l blue gray ($40)
1938 Scott 408 2.75 l slate green ($20+)
1938 Scott 409 5 l light red brown ($30+)
1937 Scott 385 1.75 l + 1 l carmine rose ($30+)
1937 Scott 386 2.55 l + 1 l slate black ($40)
1937 Scott 395 2.55 l + 2 l gray green ($10+)
1937 Scott 396 2.75 l + 2 l red brown ($10+)
1917 Scott C1 25c rose red ($10+)
1917 Scott C2 25c on 40c violet ($20+)
1926-27 Scott C6 1 l blue ($10+)
1926-27 Scott C7 1.20 l brown ($20+)
1926-27 Scott C8 1.50 l buff ($10+)
1927 Scott C10 50c on 60c gray ($20)
1927 Scott C11 80c on 1 l blue ($57+)
1928 Scott C3 50c rose red ($10+)
1928 Scott C5 80c brown violet & brown ($30+)
1930 Scott C22 5l + 2 l brown violet ($10+)
1930 Scott C23 50c light brown ($20+)
1930 Scott C24 1 l orange ($20+)
1930 Scott C25 7.70 l + 1.30 l violet brown ($57+)
1930 Scott C26 9 l + 2 l indigo ($65)
1932 (Scott C31) 5 l deep green ($10)
1932 Scott C38 2 l + 50c deep blue ($10+)
1932 Scott C39 5 l + 1 l deep green ($10+)
1932 Scott C41 75c orange brown (10)
1934 Scott C63 75c gray blue ($10+)
1934 (Scott C64) 5 l + 2.50 l olive green ($50)
1934 Scott C71 2 l + 1 l bright blue ($10+)
1935 Scott C81 60c rose carmine (10+)
1935 Scott C82 1 l + 1 l purple ($20+)
1935 Scott C83 5l + 2 l green ($30+)
1936 Scott C88 5 l + 2 l slate blue ($20+)
1937 Scott C91 1 l purple ($10+)
1937 Scott C93 3 l + 2 l orange ($20)
1937 Scott C90 50c brown ($10+)
1937 Scott C92 2 l + 1 l dark blue ($10+)
1937 Scott C94 5 l + 3 l rose lake ($20+)
1937 Scott C97 80c orange brown ($10+)
1937 Scott C98 1 l + 1 l dark blue ($30)
1937 Scott C99 5 l + 1 l dull violet ($65)
1938 Scott C104 3 l brown carmine ($10+)
1938 Scott C105 5 l deep green ($10+)
1915-16 (Scott B3) 20c + 5c orange ($30+)
1935 Scott B39 20c + 10c rose red ($10)
1935 Scott B40 25c + 15c green ($10)
1935 Scott B41 50c + 30c purple ($10)
1935 Scott B42 1.25 l + 75c blue ($10)

B) *101-Alert! 25c light green is a 1907 design (A49); not the 1927-29 Victor Emmanuel III designs of the other spaces (A85,A86).

C) *287-Note- there  are a number of semi-postals listed in Scott under "regular issues", if the semi-postal stamps are only a few of the total issue. If the whole issue is semi-postals, then Scott as usual lists them under "semi-postals".

D) (  ) around a number is a blank space choice.

E) *C29- actually has the C30 3 l brown red image cut, and the next space has the C30 description! Obviously, a mistake ( double space for the same stamp), and the C29 1 l violet fits nicely there.

F) *C90- Another Image cut/description double space! The C90 should go in the C92 image cut, and then the C92 can go in the descriptive space.

1939 Scott 410 20c rose red 
"Wood-burning Engine & Streamlined Electric Engine"
Out of the Blue
As one would expect with this artistic rich country, the stamp designs for Italy are excellent.

All countries use stamps as messages or propaganda if you will. Not just Italy. But I enjoyed exploring the fascism propaganda theme here.

Finally, with all the expensive semi-postal stamps interspersed with the regular and air post issues, it will be awhile before I near completion with Italy. ;-)

Note: Map image and photo of Victor Emmanuel III and King Albert appear to be in the public domain.

Italy - Bud's Big Blue

Have a comment?


  1. Jim
    What an excellent discussion, the stamps of Italy indeed tell a lot about their history, focus and struggles during this era. I learned a lot about a time in history that I am just exploring. The muscle of the facists and the weakness of the king was a difficult time in Italy's history. It is too bad that Big Blue doesn't go just a little longer because the stamps of the Italian Social Republic would add the cherry on top of the collection.

    Thanks for the education!


  2. Thanks Michael

    My personal stamp interests include the 1940s, but the blog will probably continue with a soft 1940 cutoff date, as the classic Scott catalogue stops there as well.

    Now if I had more lives... ;-)