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Russian Stamps

Issues of 1857 - 1884



The first definitive Russian stamps appeared in December 1857.  The classical design featured the crowned, draped, Russian Imperial Arms with two post horns below.


WMK 166
Colorless Numeral
1857-1858

WMK 168
Cyrillic Letters & Wavy Lines Across the Sheet
1866-1906


The two watermarks shown above, were used for stamps of the Russian Empire between 1857 and 1906.  WMK 168 goes across the sheet, so an individual postage stamp will show only a portion of the watermark.



The 10 K. denomination Russian stamp shown above was issued on December 10, 1857. The stamps were typographed on wove paper with WMK 166, and they were imperforate.

The design features a crowned, draped, oval containing the Imperial Arms with post horns below. Other fields of the design show the word  "ПOЧTOBAЯ MAPKA" meaning "postage stamp" and the denomination, in both text and corner numerals.

The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 10 K.  (1857 - Sc. #1) - Brown & Blue.

The scope of the Russian Imperial stamp issues between 1858 and 1888 may seem daunting to the beginner, with all the similar designs, but they are actually very easy to identify. All of these stamp designs do not have thunderbolts across the post horns, as do the later issues. They can then be broken down into three groups:

  • Wove paper, watermarked colorless numerals.
  • Wove paper, unwatermarked.
  • Laid paper, watermarked Cyrillic letters and wavy lines.

Beyond this, they can be easily identified by denomination and perforation measurement.



The three definitive Russian stamps shown above were issued on January 10, 1858. The stamps are typographed on wove paper with WMK 166, and they are perforated 14 1/2 or 15.

The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 10 K.  (1858 - Sc. #2) - Brown & Blue.
  • 20 K.  (1858 - Sc. #3) - Blue & Orange.
  • 30 K.  (1858 - Sc. #4) - Carmine & Green.



The six major denomination-type Russian stamps shown above were issued between 1858 and 1866.  Three new definitive stamp denominations, the 1 K., 3 K., and 5 K. were added during this period.

The design of the three new denominations features a simple, crowned oval, containing the Imperial Arms and post horns.  The background of these three new stamps is composed of interwoven Arabic and Roman denomination numerals.

The catalog attributes, for stamps that are printed on unwatermarked, wove paper and that are perforated 12 1/2, are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (1864 - Sc. #5) - Black & Yellow, Black & Orange.
  • 03 K.  (1864 - Sc. #6) - Black & Green.
  • 05 K.  (1864 - Sc. #7) - Black & Lilac.
  • 10 K.  (1858 - Sc. #8) - Brown & Blue.
  • 20 K.  (1858 - Sc. #9) - Blue & Orange.
  • 30 K.  (1858 - Sc. #10) - Carmine & Green.

The catalog attributes, for stamps that are printed on unwatermarked, wove paper and that are perforated 14 1/2 or 15, are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (1865 - Sc. #12) - Black & Yellow, Black & Orange.
  • 03 K.  (1865 - Sc. #13) - Black & Green.
  • 05 K.  (1865 - Sc. #14) - Black & Lilac.
  • 10 K.  (1865 - Sc. #15) - Brown & Blue.
  • 20 K.  (1865 - Sc. #16) - Blue & Orange.
  • 30 K.  (1865 - Sc. #17) - Carmine & Green.

The catalog attributes, for stamps that are printed on horizontally laid paper with WMK 168 and that are perforated 14 1/2 or 15, are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (1866 - Sc. #19) - Black & Yellow, Black & Orange.
  • 03 K.  (1866 - Sc. #20) - Black & Deep Green, Black & Yellow Green.
  • 05 K.  (1866 - Sc. #22) - Black & Lilac, Black & Gray.
  • 10 K.  (1866 - Sc. #23) - Brown & Blue.
  • 20 K.  (1866 - Sc. #24) - Blue & Orange.
  • 30 K.  (1865 - Sc. #25) - Carmine & Green.

All of the WMK 168 stamps are also known on vertically laid paper.  The 10 K. denomination is known with center inverted.  There are other varieties, as well.  See the major catalogs for details.



The five new definitive Russian stamps shown above were issued between 1875 and 1879, with additional printings to 1882.  All of these stamps are printed on horizontally laid paper, with WMK 168, and they are perforated 14 1/2 or 15.

The new 7 K., 8 K., 10 K., and 20 K. denomination stamps have a Roman numeral denomination at the bottom of the oval, and the name of the denomination is spelled out in a straight line below the oval.

The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 02 K.  (1875 - Sc. #26) - Black & Red.
  • 07 K.  (1879 - Sc. #27) - Gray & Rose.
  • 08 K.  (1875 - Sc. #28) - Gray & Rose.
  • 10 K.  (1875 - Sc. #29) - Brown & Blue.
  • 20 K.  (1875 - Sc. #30) - Blue & Orange.

All of these 1875 to 1882 Russian Empire definitive stamp issues also come on vertically laid paper.  The vertically laid paper varieties are much higher priced than those on horizontally laid paper.

Many of the denominations exist imperforate, with inverted background, with inverted centers, and with missing centers. The 7 K. also exists printed on hexagon watermarked paper, normally used for revenue stamps (4 used examples known). With very few exceptions, all of these varieties are very rare and tremendously expensive.



The eight new definitive Russian stamps shown above were issued in 1883.  All of these stamps are printed on horizontally laid paper, with WMK 168, and they are perforated 14 1/215, or compound.

The new 1 K., 2 K., 3 K., 5 K., and 7 K. denominations are printed in single colors, and the background of interwoven Arabic and Roman numerals has been replaced by a network of dots. The new 14 K., 35 K., and 70 K. denominations have larger corner numerals and a curved tablet below the oval.


The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 01 K.  (1883 - Sc. #31) - Orange.
  • 02 K.  (1883 - Sc. #32) - Dark Green, Yellow Green.
  • 03 K.  (1883 - Sc. #33) - Carmine.
  • 05 K.  (1883 - Sc. #34) - Red Violet.
  • 07 K.  (1883 - Sc. #35) - Blue.
  • 14 K.  (1883 - Sc. #36) - Blue & Rose.
  • 35 K.  (1883 - Sc. #37) - Violet & Green.
  • 70 K.  (1883 - Sc. #38) - Brown & Orange.

Varieties of these stamps include printings on wove paper (no laid lines), imperforates, and examples with inverted groundwork.  These varieties are moderately scarce. The 14 K. exists with the center inverted, and it is rare.  A bisect of the 14 K. on an 1884 cover exists, but it is believed to be of philatelic origin.



The two Ruble denomination definitive Russian stamps shown above were issued in 1884.  These stamps were printed on vertically laid paper with WMK 168. They are known perforated 13 1/2 and perforated 13 1/2 x 11 1/2.

The catalog attributes are as follows:

  • 3.50 R.  (1884 - Sc. #39) - Black & Gray.
  • 7.00 R.  (1884 - Sc. #40) - Black & Orange.

Forgeries and forged cancels exist.  The 3.50 Ruble also exists on horizontally laid paper, but it is exceedingly rare.





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Return to Russian Stamps from
Issues of 1857-1884






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The 5 K. denomination definitive postage stamp shown above was issued in 1863, to be used for local city postage in St. Petersburg and in Moscow.

Used examples are very scarce, and the prices in the catalogs are for examples used before July 1864, when the 5 K. stamp became valid for postal use throughout the Russian Empire. Used examples after that date, until the issue was withdrawn in 1884, are worth much less.



For anyone seriously considering specializing in the stamps of Russia or the Stamps of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a specialized catalog is required.


The Zagorsky catalog is the specialty catalog for Russian philately, and the more recent editions are published in English!  Click on the picture above for a link to ordering information on the Zagorsky website. 

These catalogs are also frequently available on eBay.  Here's a link to the proper eBay category.