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...

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Poland - Bud's Big Blue

Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Specializing in Poland’s stamp requires patience as well as a good grasp of European geography and political history. Where and what Poland currently is, as reflected in the above map, only remotely corresponds to the several “Polands” encompassed by Scott International Part 1, 1840-1940 (aka Big Blue, or BB). A better map for Big Blue lovers, such as the one drawn by Gerben VanGelder (below), will show the many machinations that kept changing Poland’s borders during the classical stamp era. This volatility must have caused headaches for BB’s editors and led them to scatter Poland-related stamps throughout the album.

At minimum, Poland philately must consider stamps related to Allenstein (Oltztyn), Silesia, Danzig (Gdańsk), Prussia, Austria, Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Memel, Ukraine, Marienwereder and, of course, the various occupation stamps. Guided by VanGelder’s helpful map, this post will sketch the labyrinth of Poland’s stamps, 1860-1940, using scans of stamps collected in Bud’s Big Blue.

Map credit: Gerbern VanGelder

Although Poland’s postal system dates to 1558, the first identifiable Polish stamp appeared in 1860. Issued by the Congress Kingdom of Poland (dark green on VanGelder’s map), a political entity established in 1815 and controlled by Russia Czars, it was used solely for mail within Poland and to Russia. The design reflects its Russian heritage with the Kingdom’s arms at the center. These, not being formally approved by Russian authorities, were withdrawn in 1865, after which Russian stamps were used throughout Poland until 1918. 

Scott #1, blue and carmine or rose

At first, Russian stamps used in Poland were canceled with both languages in the inscription, but after 1871, only Russian. The examples show below were canceled in Warsaw (ВАРШАВА), both in 1913. Such cancels frequently pop up in feeder albums.

Russia, Scott #s: 99 brown and slate, 102, red brown

Similarly, Polish city cancels can be found on early Austrian stamps. From the late 18th century when independent Polish territory was divided among Austria, Russia and German states, postal service was controlled by outsiders. The late 19th Austrian century examples shown below were canceled in Kraków and Ustron, a health resort town in southwest Poland (Cieszyn Silesia). These may have been Austrian field post offices.

Austria: Scott 9 red, J10 brown, pr7 (brown)

The redefinition of Poland’s boundaries following World War I stirred yet another philatelic whirlwind. US President Woodrow Wilson supported the notion that cultural groups should be able to govern their own homelands. After the war, he favored Poland becoming an independent state. The light green area on VanGelder’s map shows the result. Some parts of ancient Poland – Upper Silesia, Allenstein, and Marienwerder -- were allowed to choose by a vote (plebiscite) either Poland or Germany as a homeland. VanGelder marks these areas in red. All three opted for Germany; all three issued stamps; all three are represented in BB.

At the time, Poland very much wanted Gdansk (Danzig) within their border, but that was not to be. It became an unaligned, free city. Memel was attached to Lithuania. BB has large sections for both Danzig and Memel although, by 1938, Poland issued stamps for its offices in Danzig (BB places four of these in Poland’s BoB section).

At the War’s end, a jubilant Poland issued its first ever stamps as an independent nation. These began with four overprinted local stamps and some twice overprinted occupation stamps that Germany had hastily issued when they invaded Poland at the War’s outset. BB divides the occupation stamps between the Germany and Poland BoB sections. However, the twice overprinted variety with the blackened German inscriptions merit a place in the Poland section proper (1918).

Scott #s: 12 green on buff (Warsaw local), 
19 carmine, 24 orange and black, 13 rose on buff

Poland also overprinted some leftover Austrian stamps, but BB includes none of these.

Scott #s 27-29 (Polish overprints on Austrian military semi-postals)

From 1919 thru 1925, Poland’s stamps celebrate newfound independence and ancient heritages. The traditional Polish eagle predominates. Peace breaks out like brilliant sunshine. Ordinary citizens ride stallions, sow seeds, reap crops, and mine coal. Historic notables – Copernicus and Konarski – are commemorated. Only a few politicians and contemporary leaders, such as Marshal Pilsudski (1919) and President Wojciechowski (1924), appear.

 Scott #s: 70 deep blue, 139 purple, 185 olive green, 158 red, 160 slate blue

These themes faded after May 1926 when Marshal Pilsudski carried out a successful coup d’état that ended the democratically elected government of President Wojciechowski. Piłsudski, hoping to restore “moral fitness,” supported Ignacy Mościcki as the new president and replaced the old constitution with one more to his liking. The philatelic upshot is more political leaders on stamps, particularly Piłsudski and Mościcki. Military themes come to the fore, including appreciation for George Washington and Poland’s role in US independence.

Scott #s: Pilsudski, 253 bluish slate; Mościcki , 255 black on cream

Piłsudski’s influence on Polish stamp designs continues beyond his death (1935) and into those issued for the Polish Government in Exile during World War II. Spaces for the exile stamps are included in Part II of Scott International. Part I, however, ends its Poland section with German stamps overprinted for yet another siege of occupation.

Scott # n25 ultra

Poland’s expanded frontiers, as illustrated by the map at the top of this blog post, resulted largely from peace negotiations following World War II. Marienwerder is now Kwidzyn, Allenstein is Olsztyn, Danzig is Gdańsk, Silesia is Katowice – all in Poland. Memel, controlled by Lithuania, is part of Klaipėda and Tauragė counties.

Census: 363 in BB spaces, 14 tip-ins, 112 on supplement pages.

Postal service 400th year commemoration, black on beige, Scott #829a

Jim's Observations

No country has been ripped apart, and put back together as many times as Poland.

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Supplements (Note: Page 8 (above) is also under Supplement)
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Comments appreciated!


  1. Nice collection of Polish postage stamps. Thank You for sharing.

  2. Glad you enjoy them. I do, too.

  3. Fine history, superb collection.