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German Empire

Germania Issue - 1900

At the beginning of 1900, the German Empire issued a brand new series of definitive postage stamps.

The denominations from the 2 Pf. through the 80 Pf. featured the bust of Germania, wearing armor and the imperial crown. All of the 1900 postage stamps are inscribed "REICHSPOST", and are printed on unwatermarked paper.

These German Imperial stamps were designed by Paul Waldraff from a portrait of the German actress Anna Führing. Anna Führing (1866-1929) is shown in an 1891 photograph at left, posing as Germania. She was born in Hamburg to an actor father and was active both in the theater and in silent movies in Germany, but she will be forever remembered as the model for the Germania postage stamp.

The four high-values of the new German Empire series were wide format pictorials, featuring representative subjects about the German Empire. The 1 Mark shows the General Post Office in Berlin. The 2 Mark shows a modified detail of the painting, "Union of North and South". The entire painting is shown on the German Empire page in this website. The 3 Mark shows the unveiling of the Kaiser Wilhelm I Memorial in Berlin. The 5 Mark shows Kaiser Wilhelm II speaking at the empire's 25th anniversary celebration.

Before going on to the description of the issued postage stamps of this series, there is an issue with some of the printings of the 25 Pf., 30 Pf., 40 Pf., 50 Pf., and 80 Pf. stamps of this series, that needs to be addressed.

The Scott Catalog refers to stamps of the type shown above as "early printings", which had the REICHSPOST inscription in taller and thicker letters than the regular printings. The variety is properly described, but stating that they were "early printings" is NOT TRUE.

The Michel Catalog more properly refers to these as "the so-called First Printings". According to the Michel Catalog, these were actually "essays", which were intentionally printed in very small quantities, and which were provided to philatelic publications for publicity purposes. Thus, they were never issued by the German Empire postal authorities and sent to the post offices for sale to the public.

Authentic examples of these varieties are almost never seen on the market, and all of them are VERY expensive. I DO NOT have any of these in my collection, and I have never physically seen any authenticated examples for sale. I found the scan, above at a German website, after exhaustive searches on the Internet, and it was the ONLY one that I was able to find.

A lot of collectors mistake darkly printed examples of the regularly issued 25 Pf., 30 Pf., 40 Pf., 50 Pf., and 80 Pf. stamps as being these "essays".  Be very careful.  The letters on the essays are physically larger and thicker than those used on the regular issues, barely fitting into the white frame, and sometimes overlapping it.|

Shown above is the complete Germania set, as issued in 1900 for the German Empire. The 2 Mark and 3 Mark values each come in two types, and the 5 Mark value comes in four types (two major types). They will all be described below.

Super-sized scans of these types are provided below, for additional clarity.

Type I

Michel Catalog # 64 I  /  Scott Catalog # 63

Type II

Michel Catalog # 64 II  /  Scott Catalog # N/L

The two types (not listed in the Scott Catalog) of the 2 Mark value are shown above.

In Type 1, the end of the spandrel around the numeral 2 on the left side is "open". In Type 2, the end of the spandrel is "filled in" with blue coloring.

The Type 2 stamps, in used condition, are worth about TEN TIMES the value of the Type 1 stamps.

The Type 1 stamps, In mint condition, are worth about THREE TIMES the value of the Type 2 stamps.

This offers a great opportunity for the educated specialist in German Empire philately to purchase the scarcer Type 2's from a seller that uses the Scott Catalog to price their stamps, for a very cheap price.

Type I

Michel Catalog # 65 I  /  Scott Catalog # 64

Type II

Michel Catalog # 65 II  /  Scott Catalog # N/L

The two types (not listed in the Scott Catalog) of the 3 Mark value are shown above.

In Type 1, the front of Kaiser Wilhelm's breastplate is touching the horse's back, the reins are sagging slightly, and the Kaiser appears to be leaning back slightly. In Type 2, there is a white space between the front of the Kaiser's breastplate and the horse's back, the reigns are taught, and the Kaiser appears to be sitting more upright.

In Michel, the Type 2 stamps are valued at about 20 Euros more than the Type 1 stamps.

Type I - Original Printing with no Retouching around Vignette

Michel Catalog # 66 I  /  Scott Catalog # 65

Type I - Vignette Frame Retouched with Red and White

Michel Catalog # 66 III  /  Scott Catalog # 65e

Type I - Vignette Frame Retouched with White Only

Michel Catalog # 66 IV  /  Scott Catalog #

Type II - Ear / Hair shows on figure at lower right

Michel Catalog # 66 II  /  Scott Catalog #

The 5 Mark comes in two major types and in two minor types. They are all shown above. The two major types are easy to tell apart!

On Type 1, the man at the far right side of the vignette has part of his head cut off by the inner frame, and as a result, his ear is not showing. The numeral "5" is also thicker than Type 2.

On Type 2, the man at the right edge of the vignette has more of his head AND HIS EAR showing. The numeral "5" is thinner than on the Type 1 stamps.

There are two minor varieties, which the Scott Catalog lists as sub-varieties of Type 1. Michel lists the same two varieties as Type 3 and Type 4. They all have the major characteristics of Type 1 stamps, but they are much less expensive than the original Type 1 printings.

Sometimes, during the printings, the vignette and the frame did not perfectly align with each other.

In Type 3, red and white paint was used to retouch the vignette and / or inner frame line.  In Type 4, white paint only was used to retouch the inner frame line.

Shown above are a set of modern reprints of the Mark values. Aside from the word "nachdruck" printed on the back, the quality of the reprints is very poor, when compared with the original German Empire 1900 printings.

Shown above is a "black-print" PROOF of the 1900 1 Mark value. These were part of a modern commemorative booklet issued by the German Democratic Republic.

German Empire

The Vineta Provisional

Scan Contributed by:  Dr. Lawrence Mead, APS, APEX, GPS
Authenticated:  Philatelic Foundation (1959),
Maria Brettl BPP (1978), Georg Bühler (1994), APS (2000)

In 1901, a very rare bisected / surcharged provisional version of the 5 Pf. definitive stamp came into being. The German cruiser "Vineta" was docked in New Orleans, and the crew members wished to mail copies of U.S. newspapers reporting celebrations of the Kaiser's birthday home to their relatives. The purser, with the ship commander's approval, bisected 300 5 Pf. stamps and hand surcharged them with "3PF", so the ship's post office could meet the need for a 3 Pf. printed matter rate. It would be safe to assume that any off-cover copies of these stamps are probably forgeries. All purchased examples of these bisects, both on and off cover, require certification, due to their rarity and very high prices.

I would advise against EVER buying an unused example of this bisect. Anyone with a mint 5 Pf. stamp, a mount cutter, a rubber stamp making kit, and an ink pad with dark blue ink can make one of these in about five minutes. That's probably how the ship's purser made them for mailing the newspapers, as well. I know this, because I MADE ONE for the stamp shop owner I worked for back in the 1980's, so she would have an example to put in her Scott Germany Album!

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Germania Issue - 1900