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...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Upper Silesia

1920 Scott 31 5m orange 
"Dove with Olive Branch Flying over Silesian Terrain"
Quick History
Upper Silesia had been part of Germany prior to WW I. It was situated in the far eastern portion of Prussian territory, sandwiched between the newly created Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Upper Silesia 1919
After WW I, the question was, what do do with Upper Silesia? It was a mineral and industrial rich area, accounting for 20% of German coal production. It had both a significant German and Polish population. Poland laid claim to it, and Germany wished to retain the territory.

North of Upper Silesia to the Baltic Sea, a large swath of West Prussia (including Posen) was transferred to Poland without a plebiscite to give Poland access to the sea via the "Free City" of Danzig.

At the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, the future of Upper Silesia was strenuously contested, and the original draft of the Treaty of Versailles had the area as Polish territory. But the final draft of the Treaty Of Versailles determined that a plebiscite (referendum) would determine the question.

In February 1920, the Allied Commission (with occupation of British, French, and Italian Forces) assumed control of the territory.

The Plebiscite issue "Numerals" were released on February 20, 1920.

Feelings were running high, and there were clashes between Germans and Poles during the plebiscite period. 

A propaganda campaign, backed by the respective Polish and German governments, was instituted.

Vote for Poland and You will be Free

Prayer of the Homeland: Upper Silesia remains German!
The plebiscite was held on March 21, 1921 with 1.1 million votes cast, with the vote for German retention winning overall @ 60%-40%.

But the Poles objected to allowing German migrant worker non resident votes. There was a large scale Polish uprising between April-June, 1921. The Germans responded with volunteer paramilitary units. The final position of the opposing Polish and German forces became, de facto, the eventual partition. 

The Allied Commission was unable to come to a decision about Upper Silesia, and turned the question over to the League of Nations in August, 1921.

League of Nations: "There now, I've given you each a Fair Share"
Germany or Poland (Bitterly): "He's got all the Stuffing!"
The League of Nations basically confirmed the new "de facto" border. Germany was awarded two-thirds of the territory, but Poland retained half the population. More significantly, Poland also received 80% of the industrial area.

Partition of Upper Silesia
Orange to Germany (Pink), Yellow-Green to Poland (Green)
The result of the plebiscite failed to determine the status of the country. But the partition of Upper Silesia, with the agreement of the League of Nations, is shown on the map.

Upper Silesia and Auschwitz Camps 1941-45
During WW II, Upper Silesia was the location of the infamous Auschwitz camps.

It became part of the Republic of Poland in 1945.

1921 Scott 33 15pf violet
Overprinted in Black
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Upper Silesia 1920-1922, 90 major number descriptions in the regular (Plebiscite) and official categories. Of those, 60 are CV <$1-$1+, or 67%. Clearly, a representative collection can be accumulated by the WW collector without much financial outlay.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Pfennig = 1 Mark
100 Fennigi = 1 Marka
1920 Scott 9 5m orange "Numerals"
On February 20, 1920 a nine stamp "Numeral" set was issued. The Commission of Government / Upper Silesia had the stamps printed in Paris.

The stamps name the territory in three languages: French, German, and Polish.

CV ranges from <$1-$5. Used are valued @ twice unused. It annoys me to find a "used" stamp, as above, that is clearly CTOed to  increase value. I won't pay a premium for an example like this.

1920 Scott 11 5pf on 20pf blue
Black Surcharge, Type I
Between March and May, 1920, surcharges were applied to the 15pf, 20pf, and 5m "Numeral" denominations.

Each surcharge can be found in multiple types. 

The 5pf on 20pf surcharge, using black ink, (shown above)  comes in four types. The 1840-1940 Scott catalogue has the details.

1920 Scott 12c 10pf on 20pf blue
Red Surcharge, Type IV
The 10pf on 20pf surcharge, using red ink, also has four types.

1920 Scott 12, 12a,12b,12c 10pf on 20pf blue, Red Surcharge
Type I, Type II, Type III, Type IV
All four types are shown here (click and enlarge for inspection).

CV is $1+-$2  for the types.

1920 Scott 15 2 1/2pf gray
"Dove with Olive Branch Flying over Silesian Terrain"
On March 26, 1920, a seventeen stamp issue (nine stamps- small format; eight stamps- large format) was released. The scene depicted is both rural and industrial, with a peace dove (carrying an olive branch) flying over the landscape.

Shown is the small format stamp. CV is <$1.

1920 Scott 28 1m claret
"Dove with Olive Branch Flying over Silesian Terrain"
Although the scene is peaceful, the campaign to annex or retain the territory by the Polish and German partisans - not so  much.

Illustrated is the large format stamp. CV is <$1-$2+.

Of note, for the 75pf, usually found in deep green, there are some rare minor number shades: blackish green (CV $800+), bluish green (CV $1200+), and deep gray green (CV $2400+).

1920 Issue Cancels on Supplementary Page
Feeder albums often have many interesting examples of cancelled stamps for the 1920 issues. I have a supplementary page for them.

1921 Scott 32 10pf dull red
Overprinted in Black
On March 20, 1921, the date of the plebiscite, eleven stamps were overprinted on the 10 Pf. to 1 Mk. denominations.

CV is $4-$20+.

1922 Scott 46 10m on 75pf red
Type of 1920 and Surcharged
In March, 1922, three stamps from the 1920 issue, but in different colors, were surcharged as shown. No doubt the surcharged stamps reflect the German inflationary period.

CV is <$1-$6+.

1920 Scott O34 15pf violet brown
Local Official Stamps of Germany, 1920, Overprinted
In February, 1920, German stamps of 1905-20 were handstamped in blue "C.I.H.S." for use as official stamps by French occupation forces. Reprints are common, while originals are rare. CV is <$1 for thirteen stamps. Despite the low CV for reprints, I do not have any at the moment.

Illustrated above is an example of the local official stamps of Germany, 1920, overprinted "C.G.H.S." on seven stamps. "C.G.H.S." are initials for Commission de Gouvernement Haute Silesie.

1920-21 Scott O44 40pf carmine rose
Official Stamps of Germany, 1920-21, Overprinted
Thirteen stamps with the "C.G.H.S." overprint on official stamps of Germany, 1920-21, were also issued.

Official Stamps of Germany, 1920-21
Overprint Variations
The "C.G.H.S." overprinted officials can be found with numerous overprint variations, as shown. Generally, the variations command little, if any, premium CV-wise. The Michel catalogue, in a most thorough German way, breaks the variations down into 20 recognizable types.

Deep Blue
1920 "Numerals" Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has five pages for the stamps of Upper Silesia, and all major numbers have a space. In addition, there are spaces for the minor number "types" of the surcharged 1920 issues (Scott 10-13).

One may want to also have supplementary pages for the many cancelled 1920 stamp examples found in collections, and also for the official overprint variations.

1922 Scott 45 4m on 60pf olive green
Type of 1920 and Surcharged
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on one page, has 36 spaces for the stamps of Upper Silesia.

There are no expensive stamps.

BB's coverage is adequate, but not great. Missing are any examples of the surcharged 1920 issues (Scott 11 and 12 types are inexpensive), and the overprinted or surcharged 1921-22 issues. The 1920 "Handstamped in Blue" Official issue has no spaces, even though 14 are CV <$1-$1+.

What is present is the 1921 Polish Occupation stamp issue which is no longer listed in the Scott catalogue. ;-) Scott has a note that stamps of this design were a private issue, and not recognized by the Inter-Allied Commission of Government. Value, Set of 7, $65 unused. The '47 Scott catalogue, though, had them included as "N1,N2,N3,N4".



Official Stamps


“N1” 10f red,”N2” 20f purple,”N3”30f orange ,”N4”40f dark green,

A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None
B) * Occupation-Polish - Scott has a note that stamps of this design were a private issue, and not recognized by the Inter-Allied Commission of Government. Value, Set of 7, $65 unused. The '47 Scott catalogue, though, has them included as "N1,N2,N3,N4". They are still in Big Blue. But, they are no longer listed in today's Scott catalogue.

1922 Scott O51 2m dark blue, Wmk 126 
Overprint on Official Stamps of Germany, 1920-21
Out of the Blue
Plebiscite issues are some of my favorites, as the stamps are clearly linked with a historical moment.

Note: Maps, poster scans, image of League of Nations cartoon- all appear to be part of the public domain.

Have a comment?


  1. Hi Jim,

    Quick question unrelated to this post. Does your BigBlue have Yugoslavia? Can't find it in mine. Mine ends with Yemen, after Zanzibar!


    1. Hi Chris

      Look for "Jugoslavia", under "J". ;-)


    2. Hah yes, a rookie mistake! Thanks Jim.

  2. Hi Jim, Since the Polish occupation N1-N4 are no longer in Scott catalog how are they usually specified in stamp listings? I've been looking at Stamps2Go and other sources for these stamps without any luck. Thanks! - Troy

    1. Hi Troy

      I don't know. I suspect other catalogues (Michel?) still list them.