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DDR

Definitives of 1953-1959

The DDR, like other emerging Communist states in the aftermath of World War II, established a "five-year-plan", focused on industrialization, as a nation-wide exercise in rapid economic development.

In 1953, the German Democratic Republic began issuing a set of definitive postage stamps to publicize their current five year plan. The worthless, canceled-to-order examples everyone remembers from stamp packets of the 1960's were never even part of the actual five-year-plan definitive postage stamp series -- They were later reprints, made around 1957, for collectors, and they were never actually valid for postal use in East Germany.

The scope of this series is much wider than that, and for the collector that studies the different printings, varieties, cancellations, and postal history of this issue, it can be a very rewarding experience and make for a very attractive collection display.


The DDR began issuing the five-year-plan definitives in August 1953, continuing through the end of November 1953. The first printing, shown above, was lithographed, perforated 13 x 12 1/2, and printed on paper with a multiple DDR and Posthorns watermark.

From the lowest to the highest denomination, the designs depicted: a coal miner, a woman mariner, German and Soviet workers, a mother teaching Marxist principles, machinists, worker-peasant and intellectual, a teletype operator, a steel worker, Bad Elster, Stalin Boulevard, locomotive building, a dancing couple, Sports Hall in Berlin, a laboratory worker, Zwinger Castle in Dresden, ship launching, agricultural workers, and a dove and East German family.

Reprints were made of the first printing in 1957. The reprints all have printed cancellations between every four stamps, thus only a small section of the machine printed cancel appears on each stamp.

The designs of the reprints differ slightly from those of the original first printing. All the reprints are canceled-to-order, as described above, and they were produced for sale to collectors. Fourteen town cancels were used for the 1957 reprints, and they all have 1956 dates on them. The reprints were never sold to the public uncanceled, and they were never valid for postage. For more information on the details of the reprints and the printed cancels that were applied to them, please see the Michel catalog.

All mint and postally used examples are from the original first printing. Postally used examples of the first printing are very scarce, and in some cases, they are worth as much as the corresponding mint condition examples. The "precanceled" reprints have very little value today, though having them would be a necessity for a complete study of these five-year-plan issues.


The image above shows the 84 Pf. denomination from the 1953 Lithographed printing (left) and from the 1953-1954 Typographed printing (right).

At first sight, the differences on the 84 Pf. stamps seem obvious, but some of the other denominations may be more difficult to tell apart.

There are, however, several differences in the printings, which should make separating them even easier.

Lithographed, first printing:
  1. The stamps were printed in screened halftones, with the shading in small dots.
  2. The first printings do not have the imprint below the design.
  3. On the first printings, the "A" of "DEMOCRATISCHE" falls halfway in between the "H" and "E" of "DEUTSCHE"
  4. On the first printings, the tail of the numeral "5" DOES NOT TOUCH the compass on the left.

Typographed, second printing (shown below):

  1. The stamps were printed without screening, with the shading in lines.
  2. The second printings have the imprint below the design, though some later printings do not.
  3. On the second printings, the "A" of "DEMOCRATISCHE" is directly underneath the "E" of "DEUTSCHE".
  4. On the second printings, the tail of the numeral "5" TOUCHES the compass on the left.

Later typographed printings have basically the same "printing" characteristics as those described above.


Beginning in November 1953, the DDR began issuing redrawn, typographed versions of the five-year-plan definitives. Their characteristics are described in the previous section.

These new stamps were also perforated 13 x 12 1/2, and printed on paper with a multiple DDR and Posthorns watermark. Stamps from this printing are known both with upright and sideways watermarks. The sideways watermarks are very high priced.

The designs and denominations were unchanged from the August 1953 lithographed issues.

The 5 Pf. denomination was also issued in booklets.

The 6 Pf., 12 Pf., 16 Pf., and 35 Pf. denominations DO NOT HAVE the imprint below the stamp design.

Reprints were also made of this second printing in 1957. Their attributes are the same as those of the reprints of the August 1953 lithographed issues.

All mint and postally used examples are from the original second printing. Postally used examples of this printing are also scarce.


In October 1954, the DDR surcharged the nine stamps shown above with new values. All of the stamps were from the redrawn, typographed, second printing, except for one, an additional 24 Pf. denomination from the lithographed first printing.

Other surcharged values of the lithographed first printing set are forgeries.

Reprints were also made of these surcharged stamps in 1957. Their characteristics are the same as those of the 1953 first and second printings. Mint and postally used examples are from the original printings, whereas canceled-to-order examples are from the reprints.


Between January and August of 1955, the six new denominations shown above were issued. The stamps are identical to those of the previous issue, but they are now printed with the new denominations that they were previously surcharged with. The two 5 Pf. surcharged designs, and the lithographed 20 Pf. surcharge design were not used for this issue.

The 10 Pf. blue was also used in booklet panes.

Reprints were also made of these stamps in 1957. Their characteristics are the same as those of the 1953 first and second printings. Again, mint and postally used examples are from the original printings, whereas canceled-to-order examples are from the reprints.


In January 1957, the DDR re-issued nine of the 10 denominations of the typographed five-year-plan definitives shown above. These new stamps were also perforated 13 x 12 1/2, but they were now printed on paper with a multiple Quatrefoil and DDR watermark.

The 5 Pf., 10 Pf. blue, 10 Pf. blue green (1959), 15 Pf., and 20 Pf. denominations were also used in booklets. The 10 Pf. blue green denomination was issued in July 1959.

The canceled-to-order examples of these stamps are all from the original 1957 printing.


Between August 1958 and December 1959, the stamps shown above were issued by the DDR. They are the same as the 1957 issue, but these new stamps were perforated 14.

The canceled-to-order examples of these stamps are all from the original 1958-1959 printings.

The 20 Pf. stamps, shown at the bottom of the scans above, were issued on September 4, 1959 to commemorate the Second German Philatelic Exhibiton of the DDR in Berlin. The regular 20 Pf. stamp design was used, but the sheets were modified to include sixty stamps and 40 commemorative labels.


The scans above depict three booklet panes from the DDR 1957 five-year-plan definitive issue.




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