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North German Confederation

Transition to Empire


The North German Confederation, Norddeutscher Bund in German, came into being as a military alliance of 22 states of Northern Germany, with the Kingdom of Prussia as the leading state. The Confederation did not include Bavaria, W├╝rttemberg, Baden, Luxembourg, or Liechtenstein.

Following the Austro-Prussian war of 1866, the alliance was formed into a federal state. This was the building block of the coming German Empire.

One of the functions of the Confederation (Federation) was to handle the mails and issue postage stamps, which it began doing in 1868. This presented problems though, as the states of the Confederation had different monetary systems.

To accommodate the monetary systems of the member states, the Confederation stamps were separated into three groups, those for the Northern Postal District (Groschen), those for the Southern Postal District (Kreuzer), and those for Hamburg (Schillings).


The first North German Confederation stamps were issued on January 1, 1868. The Northern District stamps, denominated in Groschen, and the Southern District stamps, denominated in Kreuzer, are shown in the two images above.

These first postage stamp issues were printed on white paper and rouletted 8 1/2 - 11 1/2. As with the rouletted issues of Prussia, the rouletting on these stamps is very irregular and sometimes incomplete. Thus, a stamp with uneven or missing rouletting on one or more sides is not necessarily faulty.

The stamps shown above exist imperforate. The Scott Catalog prices imperforate singles on all these. The Michel Catalog describes them as un-rouletted, with the caveat that dangerous forgeries exist. I referred to the Serrane Guide on these ... The Serrane Guide indicates that the rouletted stamps are a bit wider, and occasionally taller than the perforated ones, and that fake imperforates can easily be made from them. Serrane suggests collecting the imperforate varieties ONLY as mint pairs or as singles on authenticated covers.

The rouletted Hamburg stamp issue will be presented later.


Around January 1869, the North German Confederation stamps were reissued perforated 13 1/2 x 14 1/2. All the Northern District stamps, with a couple extra 5 Gr. cancels, are shown in the first image above.

Three of the five Kreuzer denomination stamps are shown in the second image above. The perforated 18 Kr. denomination, not shown, is rare, especially in used condition.


In 1868 and 1869, a special 1/2 Schilling stamp was also issued for Hamburg. Although Hamburg had its own stamps, the stamps of the other two postal districts were also occasionally used there. There is a Northern District stamp in the image at the top of this page that was used in Hamburg.

Both the 1868 imperforate and the 1869 perforated stamps of Hamburg are shown in the image above.


The 10 Groschen and 30 Groschen denominations for the Northern District were issued in March 1869. They were printed on a paper similar to goldbeater's skin, to prevent the re-use of these high-denomination postage stamps. The 10 Groschen denomination is shown above.


In 1870, official postage stamps were issued in both the Northern District and Southern District currencies. The Northern District set is shown above. The Southern District official stamps are scarce to rare, especially in used condition.

Issues for

Alsace and Lorraine


With the German occupation of the French departments of Alsace and Lorraine in 1870, new postage stamps were issued. They were issued in denominations from 1 Centime to 25 Centimes (French currency), which are shown above.

There are two types. The first type shows the background pointing upward -- /\ /\ /\ /\ , and the second type shows the background pointing downward -- \/ \/ \/ \/.  The second type is the scarcer of the two types.

September 19, 1871 Cover from Sentheim to Malbouhans.
L. Bian was a cotton manufacturing firm in Sentheim (Alsace).


The North German Confederation postage stamps were replaced, in January 1872, by the first postage stamp issues of the German Empire.




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