Swiss stamps of the Standing Helvetia design were first issued in 1882, replacing the perforated Sitting Helvetia Issues. These stamps are among the most beautiful of any 19th Century definitive issues, and they are one of the most popular collecting specialties with Swiss philatelists.
There are a lot of stamps in this series, but using the Zumstein catalog approach, they are very easy to attribute. There were three different so-called "watermarks", four different perforation gauges, and two different papers, during the life of the series. The basic tools required to specialize in this series are a perforation gauge that measures in quarter-steps, a watermark tray and fluid, and a magnifying glass.
clarity, the different issues described in this page are presented in
Zumstein catalog order. I personally find this listing format very straightforward and
easy to understand. The Michel listings are excruciatingly precise, but they can be confusing. Using the Scott catalog for specializing in this series can be a problem, as all the collectible varieties are not listed in Scott. However, to provide for the needs for all my visitors, I am adding catalog attribute tables to each of the categories below which will include the Zumstein, Michel, AND Scott catalog numbers, where possible.
The so-called cross-in-oval watermark is NOT ACTUALLY A PAPER WATERMARK at all! The cross in oval was impressed into the paper, as a control mark, after its manufacture.
Two varieties of the cross-in-oval
impression were used.
The first type, shown above left, was used from 1862 through about 1892. On the first type, the oval is 8.9 mm wide at its widest point. The branches of the cross are thicker, and the double lines of the oval are fairly wide apart.
The second type, shown above right, was used from 1894 through about 1904, when it was abandoned in favor of a paper that contained the Swiss cross watermark. On the second type, the oval is 8.4 mm wide at its widest point. The branches of the cross are thinner, and the double lines of the oval are very close.
Differentiating stamps with the two impressed control mark types seems easy, but it can be quite problematic. In some instances, the cross-in-oval
impressions were so heavy that they actually broke through the paper.
In other instances though, the impressions are so light that they can
barely be seen, even in watermark fluid. The cancellations on used
stamps can make identification even worse, by obscuring the area of the
stamp where the impression is located.
The second type is quite a bit taller than the first type, which can be of help in picking out varieties with rather obscure impressions.
The Zumstein catalog contains a chart with some great tools for identifying the impressions of the cross-in-oval, as well as the various perforation types on the standing Helvetia issues.
The first Swiss stamps of the Standing Helvetia design, shown above, were issued between 1882 and 1891. They were higher denomination stamps and complimented the lower-denomination Numeral and Cross definitives, issued at the same time.
They were printed on white paper, impressed with the cross-in-oval type 1, and they were perforated 11 3/4. This perforation measurement is critical in identifying the stamps from this first set.
The catalog attributes of Group A are as follows.
The 30 C. denomination stamp is exceedingly rare and is pretty much unobtainable, with only about 100 examples being known.
During 1888, the five Standing Helvetia stamps shown above were re-issued on white paper with the impressed cross-in-oval type 1, and they were perforated 9 1/2.
a couple years, the Swiss stamps of the Standing Helvetia design, with
this perforation gauge, were deemed unsuitable, and they were discontinued. The large
perforation holes frequently caused the stamps to tear when they were
separated. As a result of their very short period of use, most of them are
very scarce today.
The catalog attributes of Group B are as follows.
The major-type Swiss stamps shown above were re-issued beginning in 1891 on white paper with the impressed cross-and-oval type 1, and they are perforated 11 1/2 x 11.
The catalog attributes of Group C are as follows.
The 3 Fr. denomination stamp is exceedingly rare, with about six examples being known.
This is the point at which collectors of Swiss stamps tend to go insane, in respect to determining the proper attribution. These stamps are identical to the Group D issue below, except that Group D stamps have the impressed cross-in-oval type 2. One has to be able to tell which cross and oval impression the stamp has, with certainty, as the Group C stamps are much scarcer than those of Group D. I am pretty sure that my Group C stamps shown above are correct, but still, I wouldn't stake my life on it!
In 1894, a new paper featuring the impressed cross-in-oval type 2 was introduced. This paper continued in use for all Swiss stamps until 1905.
The catalog attributes of Group D are as follows.
Between 1899 and 1903, the 25 C., 50 C., and 1 Fr. Standing Helvetia denomination Swiss stamps were issued in changed colors. They are all shown in the image above.
Their catalog attributes are as follows.
Between 1901 and 1903, the perforation gauge for all the current Swiss stamps was changed to 11 1/2 x 12. All but two of them are shown in the image above.
The catalog attributes of Group E are as follows.
Between 1901 and 1904, the perforation gauge 11 3/4 was again used for two Swiss stamps of the Standing Helvetia design. They were both printed on paper with the impressed cross-in-oval type 2.
The catalog attributes of Group F are as follows.
The 40 C. denomination, shown above, was re-designed for this issue. On the redesigned stamps, the value numeral is small, and it fits below the oval. On the original designs, the value numeral was much larger, and it projected into the oval above.
The 3 Fr. denomination stamp, with the cross-in-oval type 2 control mark and perforation gauge 11 3/4, is very rare.
In 1905, a new white paper with a multiple Swiss cross watermark was introduced, and all Swiss stamps have been printed on paper with this watermark since then. The new watermark is shown in the image above.
The first Swiss stamps to be printed on the new watermarked paper were all perforated 11 1/2 x 11. Most of them are shown in the image above.
The catalog attributes of Watermarked Group A are as follows.
In 1906, a new plate for the 25 C. denomination was implemented. The stamps were printed with both perforation 11 1/2 x 11 and perforation 11 3/4. Both of them are shown in the image above.
The 40 C. denomination, printed on white, watermarked paper with perforation gauge 11 3/4, is not shown in the image above. It is a relatively common variety.
The catalog attributes are as follows.
In 1907, the 20 C., 50 C., 1 Fr., and 3 Fr. Swiss stamps were produced with perforation gauge 11 1/2 x 12. All but the 3 Fr. denomination are shown in the image above.
The catalog attributes of Watermarked Group C are as follows.
In 1907 a granite paper, containing blue and red silk fibers, was introduced, and almost all Swiss stamps for the next half Century were printed on this paper.
The current perforated 11 1/2 x 12 Standing Helvetia denominations were all printed on this new paper.
All of the collectible denominations are shown in the scan above. The 3
Fr. denomination is exceedingly rare.
The catalog attributes of Granite Paper / Watermarked Group A are as follows.
Before the Standing Helvetia series was finally retired at the end of 1907, a few of the 25 C., 30 C., 40 C., 1 Fr., and 3 Fr. denominations were printed on granite paper with perforation gauge 11 1/2 x 11. The basically collectible denominations are shown in the image above. The 30 C., 40 C., and 1 Fr. denominations are very rare and seldom obtainable.
Their catalog attributes are as follows.
Though the Standing Helvetia Swiss stamps remained valid until 1924, they were replaced by a brand new definitive series of Swiss stamps in 1908. Usages of the Standing Helvetia stamps after 1908 are very scarce.
Taking into account the basic denominations and colors, there are actually only 12 Standing Helvetia stamps. Most collectors choose to take the effort much farther than this though, as you can see how just separating the perforations and watermarks greatly expanded the number of stamps presented in this article. The majority of the standing Helvetia issues, in used condition, are NOT EXPENSIVE, so specialization is something that just about anyone could do with a little effort.
to do a life-long philatelic study on these? Some people have. There
are numerous plate-flaws and retouches on just about every stamp in this
series. The Zumstein Spezialkatalog Schweiz, 2000 edition, has over
sixty pages dedicated to the plate flaws on this series. There's also
postal history. The possibilities for specialization in the Standing
Helvetia Swiss stamp issues are immense.
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Swiss Stamps - Standing Helvetia Issues of 1881-1907