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Memel Territory

(Memelgebiet, Memelland, Klaipeda)

On Collecting the Stamps

The overprinted stamp issues of the Memel Territory during the French Occupation, between 1920 and 1923, are one of the biggest "minefields" in all philately.

Beginning in 1920, existing stocks of German postage stamps were overprinted for use in the territory.  From 1920 to 1923, during the French Occupation, the postage stamps of France were overprinted and / or re-valued for use in the territory.  In actuality, no official, government printed postage stamps were ever designed or issued for use in Memel during the French Occupation of the territory.

The Germania / Representative Subject postage stamps of Germany and the Sower / Liberty and Peace postage stamps of France are among the most beautiful of any stamp issuing country.  Un-overprinted mint sets of these German and French stamp issues can actually get very costly.  With the addition of colorful overprints and surcharges, such as those utilized for the Memel occupation stamps, a collection of them can be very tempting and desirable for many stamp collectors.

Almost as soon as these overprinted stamps were issued, the forgers went to work, making millions of copies of them, which were quickly sold to unsuspecting stamp collectors throughout Central and Western Europe.

Before starting this webpage project, I decided to check and see what I could find in my copy of "The Serrane Guide -- Stamp Forgeries of the World to 1926".  Writing in the mid-1920's Fernand Serrane, the French expert in forgeries, basically "blasts" the new Memel Territory in the short, text only, article that is shown in the two scans below!  ( The numbers Serrane refers to are Yvert Tellier Catalog numbers. )

Memel Territory Stamps

Article from the "Serrane Guide"

As inferred in the article above, the forgers actually issued far more overprinted Memel postage stamps than the French Occupation government of Memel ever issued!

Maybe that's why the Scott Catalog prices the majority of the French Occupation issues in mint condition at twenty cents each.  That's Scott's polite way of saying that they are "penny stamps".

The later Lithuanian Occupation stamp issues are a bit less problematic, though forgeries do exist, especially with some of the higher priced overprinted / surcharged issues.

One can still collect and enjoy the stamp issues of Memel.  I do .... But the following two assumptions should be made with all of them.

  • Any unauthenticated mint stamp may quite possibly have a forged overprint and / or surcharge.
  • Any unauthenticated used stamp probably has a forged or favor cancellation.

eBay Auction and Store Links

Germany Plebiscites

The following links feature category-focused affiliated seller listings on various eBay sites worldwide. They may enable visitors to shop for and to buy specific items for the particular collecting subject they've just read about. 

The affiliated eBay seller auction lots provided by eBay, Inc. are not the responsibility of the management of this website.  On high priced material, make sure the lots you are buying are properly authenticated.

Remember that the lots on European eBay sites are priced in EUROS.  Shipping charges may be more, and the lots may take longer to arrive.  Also, make sure the foreign seller ships to your country, before bidding on or buying his lot.

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Memel Territory - On Collecting the Stamps