Postage stamps and postal history of the German colonies
This is a survey of postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

s and postal history
Postal history
Postal history is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the study of postage stamps and covers and associated material illustrating historical episodes of postal systems...

 of the German colonies
and part of the postage stamps and postal history of Germany
Postage stamps and postal history of Germany
This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Germany and philatelically related areas. The main modern providers of service were the Reichspost , the Deutsche Post under Allied control , the Deutsche Post of the GDR , the Deutsche Bundespost , along with the Deutsche Bundespost...

, as well as those of the individual countries and territories concerned.


With the establishment of a colonial empire
German colonial empire
The German colonial empire was an overseas domain formed in the late 19th century as part of the German Empire. Short-lived colonial efforts by individual German states had occurred in preceding centuries, but Imperial Germany's colonial efforts began in 1884...

 by the newly-unified
Unification of Germany
The formal unification of Germany into a politically and administratively integrated nation state officially occurred on 18 January 1871 at the Versailles Palace's Hall of Mirrors in France. Princes of the German states gathered there to proclaim Wilhelm of Prussia as Emperor Wilhelm of the German...

German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 after 1871 and before the issuance of specific stamps inscribed with the name of the colony, definitive stamp
Definitive stamp
A definitive stamp is a postage stamp, that is part of a regular issue of a country's stamps available for sale by the postal service for an extended period of time...

s of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 were used. Only postally used stamps can be identified as having been used in the colony as the cancellation mark identifies the point of origin; these stamps are known as "Vorläufer" (forerunner
Forerunner (stamp)
In philately, a forerunner is a postage stamp used before a region or territory issued stamps of its own. The term also includes stamps of the political predecessors of a country...

) stamps. By about 1897 provisional stamp
Provisional stamp
Linn's World Stamp Almanac defines a provisional stamp as "a postage stamp issued for temporary use to meet postal demands until new or regular stocks of stamps can be obtained."...

s came into use in the form of German definite stamps with overprint
An overprint is an additional layer of text or graphics added to the face of a postage stamp or banknote after it has been printed. Post offices most often use overprints for internal administrative purposes such as accounting but they are also employed in public mail...

s identifying the colony. By the end of 1900 and early 1901 the yacht issue
Yacht issue
The Yacht issue was a series of postage stamps, bearing the image of the German Kaiser's yacht, SMY Hohenzollern II, that were used in all of Germany's overseas colonies. Millions of the stamps were produced and they were the principal means of postage for all German imperial overseas possessions...

 was printed in Berlin and issued for each colony with its identifying inscription, initially without watermarks, and by 1905 and thereafter as a reissue with lozenge
A lozenge , often referred to as a diamond, is a form of rhombus. The definition of lozenge is not strictly fixed, and it is sometimes used simply as a synonym for rhombus. Most often, though, lozenge refers to a thin rhombus—a rhombus with acute angles of 45°...

s watermark
A watermark is a recognizable image or pattern in paper that appears as various shades of lightness/darkness when viewed by transmitted light , caused by thickness or density variations in the paper...

s. German colonial postal services ceased at varying times during World War I as colonies were occupied by forces of the Allies
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

. During occupation, German yacht series stamps were used for a limited time with overprints in a number of territories. In Germany, even after the loss of the colonies, the Reichspost
- Imperial Reichspost :* The Imperial Reichspost was the name of the postal service of the Holy Roman Empire, founded by Franz von Taxis in 1495...

 continued to sell yacht stamps of colonies for dealers and collectors until after World War I; such stamps, however, were not postally used.
Most German colonial stamps were denominated in German Currency
German gold mark
The Goldmark was the currency used in the German Empire from 1873 to 1914.-History:Before unification, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16⅔ grams of pure silver...

 (1 Mark = 100 Pfennig). However, German East Africa used its own currency on stamps of 1893 and later, the Rupie
German East African rupie
The Rupie was the currency of German East Africa between 1890 and 1916, continuing to circulate in the Tanganyika Territory until 1920.-History:...

 (1 Rupee = 64 Pesa and from 1905 1 Rupie = 100 Heller) and the leased Chinese territory of Kiautschou used the Chinese dollar ($1 = 100 Cents) from 1905.

German colonies have been a popular philatelic area and, as a rule of thumb, vorläufer stamps as well as used stamps of high denomination tend to be quite valuable.

Se-tenant (philately)
Se-tenant stamps or labels are printed from the same plate and sheet and adjoin one another, unsevered in a strip or block. They differ from each other by design, color, denomination or overprint. They may have a continuous design. The word "se-tenant" translates from French as meaning "joined...

 (Zusammendrucke) were issued for Kamerun, German South West Africa, and German East Africa and consist of stamps that were sold together with advertisement stamps.

German Colonial stamps should not be confused with foreign offices stamp
German post offices abroad
The German post offices abroad were a network of post offices in foreign countries established by Germany to provide mail service where the local services were deemed unsafe or unreliable. They were generally set up in cities with some sort of German commercial interest...

s that were issued in China, Morocco, and Turkey in agreement with local authorities.

German East Africa

German postal services in German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

 started on October 4, 1890. However, prior to the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty
Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty
The Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty of 1 July 1890 was an agreement between the United Kingdom and the German Empire concerning mainly territorial interests in Africa.-Terms:...

 German postal offices were briefly in operation at Lamu
-Threats to Lamu:In a 2010 report titled Saving Our Vanishing Heritage, Global Heritage Fund identified Lamu as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and damage, citing insufficient management and development pressure as primary causes.- See also :* Juma and the Magic...

 (November 22, 1888 to March 31, 1891) and Zanzibar
Zanzibar ,Persian: زنگبار, from suffix bār: "coast" and Zangi: "bruin" ; is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, in East Africa. It comprises the Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of the mainland, and consists of numerous small islands and two large ones: Unguja , and Pemba...

 (August 27, 1890 to July 31, 1891). Initially, definite German stamps were used. By July 1, 1893 overprints were used to indicate the local currency, namely pesa, and three years later the overprint also included the name of the colony "Deutsch-Ostafrika". The yacht issue arrived on January 1, 1901, and was modified in 1905 by the switch to the Heller currency, and in 1906 and later by used of a water mark.

During World War I stamps became scarce in the colony. On some instances stamps of the cruiser Königsberg were used in 1916. The last issues were the 2.5 heller, 7.5 heller and 1 rupie stamps that did not follow the yacht design but were locally produced at the mission printing office Wuga at Wilhelmsthal (Lushoto
Lushoto is one of the eight districts of Tanga Region in Tanzania. It is bordered to the northeast by Kenya, to the east by the Muheza District, to the northwest by the Kilimanjaro Region and to the south by the Korogwe District.During the German colonial period from the 1890s to 1918 the area was...

) in 1916. Gradually, during World War I, more and more parts of the colony were occupied by British, Belgian, and Portuguese forces who issued their own stamps. British authorities used in 1915 yacht stamps with overprints.

German New Guinea

In German New Guinea
German New Guinea
German New Guinea was the first part of the German colonial empire. It was a protectorate from 1884 until 1914 when it fell to Australia following the outbreak of the First World War. It consisted of the northeastern part of New Guinea and several nearby island groups...

 issues of the German Empire were denominated in Pfennig
The Pfennig , plural Pfennige, is an old German coin or note, which existed from the 9th century until the introduction of the euro in 2002....

 and Mark
German gold mark
The Goldmark was the currency used in the German Empire from 1873 to 1914.-History:Before unification, the different German states issued a variety of different currencies, though most were linked to the Vereinsthaler, a silver coin containing 16⅔ grams of pure silver...

 and used starting on February 15, 1888 and later at various postal offices. These issues are recognized by the cancellation mark. Starting in 1897 German definitive stamps carried the overprint "Deutsch-Neu-Guinea" allowing also for the isentification of unused stamps. On January 1, 1901 the yacht issues for "Deutsch-Neu-Guinea" was introduced with values from 3 Pfennig to 5 Mark. The 3 values of the 1914 yacht modification carry the inscription"Deutsch-Neuguinea" and have lozenge watermarks. The 3 Pfennig issue from 1919 has the inscription "Deutsch-Neu-Guinea" and watermarks and was not used postally. British-Australian occupation stamps in the form of "G.R.I." overprinted yacht stamps started to be used from October 1914.
Cancellation marks are Finschhafen
Finschhafen is a district on the northeast coast of the Morobe province of Papua New Guinea. It is named after the port of the same name.The port was discovered in 1884 by the German researcher Otto Finsch. In 1885 the German colony of German New Guinea created a town on the site and named it...

, Hatzfeldhafen, Kerawara, Konstantinhafen, Stephansort, Kokopo, Friedrich-Wilhelmshafen
Madang is the capital of Madang Province and is a town with a population of 27,420 on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. It was first settled by the Germans in the 19th century....

, Matupi, and Berlinhafen.

German South West Africa

Definitive German stamps were used first in German South West Africa in 1888 and their use is only recognizable by the cancellation mark of the Colonial post office (i.e. "
Otjimbingwe is a settlement in the Erongo Region of central Namibia. It has approximately 8000 inhabitants.The Rhenish Mission Society used Otjimbingwe as a central location for their Namibian mission in 1849. Johannes Rath and his family settled in the area on 11 July that year, and the settlement...

, Keetmanshoop
Keetmanshoop is a city in Karas Region, southern Namibia, lying on the Trans-Namib Railway from Windhoek to Upington in South Africa. It is named after Johann Keetman, a German industrialist and founder of the city....

, Windhoek
Windhoek is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Namibia. It is located in central Namibia in the Khomas Highland plateau area, at around above sea level. The 2001 census determined Windhoek's population was 233,529...

, Swakopmund
Swakopmund is a city on the coast of northwestern Namibia, west of Windhoek, Namibia's capital. It is the capital of the Erongo administrative district. As a seaside resort, the weather is cooler here in December to January so the territorial administration moves to Swakopmund for these months...

"). Starting in May 1897 German stamps with the overprint "Deutsch-Südwest-Afrika" and one year later"Deutsch-Südwestafrika" were used. The yacht issue was introduced in November 1900 inscripted "Deutsch-Südwestafrika" first without watermarks, and with lozenge water marks in 1906 and later. In September 1915 the territory was occupied by South Africa and German colonial postal service ceased to exist.

Caroline Islands

German postal services started in the Caroline Islands
Caroline Islands
The Caroline Islands are a widely scattered archipelago of tiny islands in the western Pacific Ocean, to the north of New Guinea. Politically they are divided between the Federated States of Micronesia in the eastern part of the group, and Palau at the extreme western end...

 on October 12, 1899 and consisted of overprinted ("Karolinen") German stamps. The yacht issue was introduced in January 1901. Lack of stamps led to the Ponape issues in 1905 and 1910 when stamps were either split or overprinted to stretch use.


German stamps were first used in German Kamerun on February 7, 1887 in the form of vorläufer stamps that can be recognized by the "Kamerun" and "Viktoria" cancellation marks. In April, 1897 German provisionals with "Kamerun" overprint became available. In November 1900, the yacht issue was introduced. The water-marked version of the yacht issues appeared 1905 and alter. Lack of stamps led to the "Longji" issue of 1911. The German post office closed with the British occupation in 1915. "G.R.I." overprinted Kamerun yacht stamps carried British currency denominations. In Germany, between 1915 and 1919 Kamerun yacht stamps (with water mark) were sold to collectors.


German stamps were first used in Kiautschou
Jiaozhou Bay concession
The Kiautschou Bay concession was a German colonial concession in Imperial China which existed from 1898 to 1914. It had an area of 552 km², it was located around Jiaozhou Bay on the southern coast of the Shandong Peninsula, which lay in the imperial province of Shandong in northern China.Jiaozhou...

 on January 26, 1898 in the form of vorläufer stamps that can be recognized by the "Tsingtau" cancellation mark. On May 9, 1900 German stamps with "China" overprint and German Pfenning surcharge became available. In January 1901, the yacht issue was introduced. The Pfenning/Mark denomination was replaced in 1905 with a new yacht issue in cents and dollars. The German post office closed with the Japanese occupation on November 7, 1914.

Mariana Islands

German stamps were first used in the German Mariana Islands
Mariana Islands
The Mariana Islands are an arc-shaped archipelago made up by the summits of 15 volcanic mountains in the north-western Pacific Ocean between the 12th and 21st parallels north and along the 145th meridian east...

 on November 18, 1899 in the form of overprinted ("Marianen"). In May 1900 German provisionals with overprints were issued followed by the yacht issue in January 1901. The German post office closed with the Japanese occupation on October 14, 1914. Yacht stamps with lozenge watermarks were issed in Germany later for collectors.

Marshall Islands

German postal service started in the German Marshall Islands
Marshall Islands
The Republic of the Marshall Islands , , is a Micronesian nation of atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just west of the International Date Line and just north of the Equator. As of July 2011 the population was 67,182...

 on October 1, 1888 evident in the form of vorläufer stamps that can be recognized by the "Jaluit" cancellation mark. In 1897 German stamps with "Marschall-Inseln" overprint became available and replaced by 1899 with the "Marshall-Inseln" overprint. In January 1901, the yacht issue was introduced. The German post office closed with the British occupation on December 16, 1914. Yacht stamps were overprinted with "G.R.I." and new British denominations. In Germany between 1916 and 1919 Marshall-Inseln yacht stamps (with water mark) were sold to collectors.


German stamps were first used in German Samoa
German Samoa
German Samoa was a German protectorate from 1900 to 1914, consisting of the islands of Upolu, Savai'i, Apolima and Manono, now wholly within the independent state Samoa, formerly Western Samoa...

 on September 21, 1886 in the form of vorläufer stamps that can be recognized by the "Apia" cancellation mark. In April, 1900 German stamps with "Samoa" overprint became available. In December 1900, the yacht issue was introduced. The German post office closed with the British occupation on September 3, 1914. "G.R.I." overprinted yacht stamps carried British denominations. In Germany between 1915 and 1919 Samoa yacht stamps (with water mark) were sold to collectors.


German stamps were first used in German Togo
Togoland was a German protectorate in West Africa from 1884 to 1914, encompassing what is now the nation of Togo and most of what is now the Volta Region of Ghana. The colony was established during the period generally known as the "Scramble for Africa"...

 on March 1, 1888 in the form of vorläufer stamps that can be recognized by the "Klein-Popo
Aného is a town in southeastern Togo. It is situated 45 km east of the capital Lomé, between the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Togo in Maritime Region. Historically it was known under the name Little Popo and it had a Portuguese slave market. It later became the first German capital of Togo in the...

" and "Lome
Lomé, with an estimated population of 737,751, is the capital and largest city of Togo. Located on the Gulf of Guinea, Lomé is the country's administrative and industrial center and its chief port. The city exports coffee, cocoa, copra, and palm kernels...

" cancellation marks. In 1897, 1900 German stamps with "Togo" overprint became available. In November 1900, the yacht issue was introduced. It was replaced in 1909 with the water-marked issues. The German post office closed with the British occupation in September, 1914 and French occupation in October, 1914. The occupying forces used yacht issues with "Anglo-French Occupation" overprints. In Germany between 1915 and 1919 Samoa yacht stamps (with water mark) were sold to collectors.


As many stamps of the colonies are valuable yet based on commonly available definitive German stamps, the stage is set for forgery
Philatelic fakes and forgeries
In general, philatelic fakes and forgeries refers to labels that look like postage stamps but are not. Most have been produced to deceive or defraud...

. A forger may just "overprint" a common stamp of the period. The earliest forgeries appeared already in 1903. A notable forger was François Fournier
François Fournier
François Fournier was a stamp forger who thought of himself as a creator of "art objects" and a friend of the little man....

 who produced "reproductions" which are close enough to the originals to fool the unsuspecting buyer. In recent years, the so-called "Hialeah Forgeries" have appeared at E-bay and other auctions and involved among others stamps from the Marshall Islands with falsified "G.R.I." overprints. In the "Blüm Case", a forger produced false cancellation and expertizing
Philatelic expertisation
Philatelic expertisation is the process whereby an expert is asked to give an opinion whether a philatelic item is genuine and whether it has been repaired or altered in any way....

stamps that were applied to German colony stamps and others.

External links

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