Custom Search

Swiss Stamps

Definitives of 1854-1862

Strubel Type - Part 1


The classical definitive Swiss stamps issued between 1854 and 1862, known as the Strubel Issues, are the most popular specialization subject for most serious classical Switzerland philatelists. Officially, these stamps are called The Imperforate Sitting Helvetia Issues of 1854-1862.

These stamps feature a seated figure of Helvetia wearing a laurel wreath. She holds a spear in her right arm, and her left arm is resting on a shield, emblazoned with the arms of the Helvetic Confederation. The effect given by the shape of the wreath around her embossed head caused many German speaking collectors to jokingly refer to the design as "Strubel", referring to the visual effect of Helvetia having "unkempt" or "frizzy" hair. The nickname for these issues stuck, and just about every collector of Swiss stamps now refers to them as "The Strubels".

To someone just starting out studying these, the task can be mind boggling and extremely frustrating. First thing, if you want to collect this series, FORGET using the Scott catalog. The catalog organization can be misleading and some of the important varieties are not listed in the Scott catalog at all. The Michel Schweiz Liechtenstein Spezial Katalog has all the printings and varieties in excruciating detail, but the listing format may be very confusing to many collectors.

Depending on which denomination you are working with, there are up to seven different printings, different types of papers, different colored threads, etc.

Zumstein Catalog Structure

The only catalog that your author is comfortable with, and the one that almost all the Strubel specialists in the World use, is the Zumstein Schweiz Liechtenstein catalog.

The Zumstein catalog assigns each of the denominations a single catalog number.

  • 02 Rappen = Zumstein #21
  • 05 Rappen = Zumstein #22
  • 10 Rappen = Zumstein #23
  • 15 Rappen = Zumstein #24
  • 20 Rappen = Zumstein #25
  • 40 Rappen = Zumstein #26
  • 01 Franc = Zumstein #27

Then, a letter is assigned for each of the printings, as follows:

  • Aa = First Munich Printing, Green Threads, Thin Paper.
  • A = Second Munich Printing, Green Threads, Thin Paper.
  • B = First Bern Printing, Green Threads, Thin to Medium Paper.
  • C = Second Bern Printing, Variable Threads, Medium to Thick paper.
  • D = Second Bern Printing, Variable Threads, Medium to Thick paper.
  • E = Later Bern Printing, Variable Threads, Thin paper.
  • F = First Bern Printing, Green Threads, Pale Colors, Thin Paper.
  • G = Late Bern Printing, Green Threads, Blotchy Appearance, Thick Paper.

Thus, Zumstein #22A would be the Second Munich Printing of the 5 Rappen postage stamp. As such, the Zumstein organization of these classical Swiss stamps is logical and easy to understand.

Collectors around the World use three major catalog systems to classify these Swiss stamps.  They are Zumstein (ZU - Swiss), Michel (Mi - German), and Scott (Sc - American).  To help everyone navigate these Strubel printings easily, I am including a catalog detail table at the end of each group which will contain all the appropriate catalog numbers of each variety.

The only problem left is to learn how to tell the different printings apart!

I struggled for months, reading the descriptions of the printing types in Scott, Michel, and Zumstein, and I read a number of other specialized books, both in English and in German, on the subject. I now have a reasonable "clue" as to how to determine the major types apart, but I am still very much NOT AN EXPERT, and I am sure I have probably made some mistakes in attribution.

There are some excellent books on this subject, that go into the different printings, paper types, paper thicknesses, plate arrangements, etc. The best English language book I have seen is "The Imperforate Sitting Helvetia / Strubel" by Herbert Brach. The book is available from the family of Herbert Brach for $125.00, plus shipping. To email the publisher for more information on ordering the book, please click ....


The A.P.S. - American Philatelic Research Library also has copies of the Brach book that members can borrow.

Another excellent resource is a 2009 (updated in 2010) exhibit by Steve Turchik, entitled "The Usage of Switzerland's Imperforate Sitting Helvetia Issue of 1854-1863". He has an incredible collection of the Strubel Issues and related postal history, including many unique items, and the exhibit provides just about everything one would ever want to know about the issue, including recently discovered plate varieties that are not listed in any of the catalogs. The exhibit is available as a PDF, and it can be downloaded from the American Helvetia Philatelic Society website. The file is over 200 MB, but it is well worth the wait, for anyone that wants to make a thorough study of these issues.

Silk Security Threads

Groups: Aa, A, B, F

Group  G

Groups: C, D
(5 Rp., 1 Fr.)

Red or Carmine
Group: C
(10 Rp.)

Group: C
(40 Rp.)

Group: D
(15 Rp.)

Group: C, D
(5 Rp., 1 Fr.)

Colored silk threads were used as a security device in the papers used to print the definitive Swiss stamps of 1854-1862.  Instead of having to show the back side of each stamp in the remaining two parts of this section, they are all being shown above.  The colors are a loose guideline though.  Various catalogs give these colors different names, so one must just use their best judgement.  The colors are not consistent from one stamp to another, as well, due to the effects of aging, damage, and other environmental conditions.

Most people that collect these classical Swiss stamps collect them in used condition.  Mint condition examples are rare and tremendously expensive.  As a warning though, the original gum on these stamps, over time, can damage the paper and / or the color of mint condition examples.  Thus, most specialists prefer to remove the gum from original gum examples, in order to prevent the destruction of the stamp.  The prices in the catalogs are for mint examples without gum.  The original gum examples are worth no more than those without gum.

In this three part section, I shall describe and illustrate the characteristics of each of the different printings of these classical Swiss stamps.  These descriptions should serve as a starting-point for anyone interested in specializing in this interesting issue.

All of the images, now including those of the First Munich Printings, are from my own Strubel collection / accumulation.  The mint examples shown at the top of this page are from an old Zumstein CD.

Part 2

Part 3

eBay Auction and Store Links


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 most of the European eBay sites are priced in EUROS.  The lots on the Switzerland eBay site are priced in SWISS FRANCS.  The Swiss Franc is roughly equivalent to the US Dollar.  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.

Return to Switzerland Stamps from Swiss Stamps
Definitives of 1854-1862 - Strubel Type Part 1