Afghanistan is a landlocked country located in Asia. It is surrounded by Pakistan, Iran, China, and the former Soviet Republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Due to its location as the proverbial crossroads of Asia, it has served as an important trading location for the continent.
The first postage stamp of Afghanistan (identified as the Kingdom of Kabul) was issued in 1871. It was created during the reign of the emir, Sher Ali Khan, who had initiated the postal service a few years earlier.
The stamp was square, but the design was circular. It was printed in black ink, and showed a lion's head as the central emblem. The lion's head was symbolic of the reigning emir; Sher means lionin Dari, the language spoken in Afghanistan. Note that early translators (and stamp catalogs) mistakenly interpreted the word as tiger at one time.
Arabic script surrounds the lion's head and details the denomination of the stamp and the year of the Islamic calendar in which it was issued. This first stamp was issued in three denominations.
The early stamps of Afghanistan were canceled by removing a portion of the stamp by either cutting or tearing the stamp. One must take care that stamps canceled in this manner are not discarded as faulty. The stamp shown above is of a canceled version of one of the early stamp issues.
Following the emir's death in 1880, stamps of a similar design were issued but did not include the tiger's head emblem. The stamps still had a circular design, but gone was the symbolism.
The same basic circular design was used until 1891, when the Kingdom of Afghanistan was established. From this point forward, all stamp images were rectangular in layout, but retained the Arabic script.
For the next 36 years, Afghanistan stamps remained in Arabic. Beginning in February, 1927, stamps for Afghanistan began to be labeled "Afghan Post" in English. Shortly thereafter, the French equivalent, "Afghanes Postes" started appearing on stamps.
The 1950s began a period of time wherein numerous stamps began to be printed. Thought to be a money-making scheme, the Afghan Postal Authority even issued stamps well below the minimal amount of postage. Many collectors saw this as an scheme to bilk collectors into spending more money on stamps that were essentially of little postal value.
In the late 80s/early 90s, the country was devastated by civil war, led by Taliban forces. It is at this point where many unofficial stamps were printed and distributed. The Afghanistan postal service has disavowed these stamps. The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog lists this statement:
Mavlavi Allahdad Balkhi, President of Post of the Afghanistan Postal Administration, has declared that 'the stamps which have been printed after year 1989 are false stamps.'
It was in the late 2001, early 2002 time-frame that the Taliban government in Afghanistan was overthrown, and the exiled government was restored to power. In May, 2002, the first authorized postage stamp of the restored government was issued. It depicted Ahmad Shah Masoud, a military general instrumental in both defending Afghanistan from Soviet invasion in the 1980s and in leading a resistance movement against the Taliban. This stamp represents an important issue in the restoration of Afghanistan, as Masoud was a national hero.
Afghanistan also issued numerous semi-postal stamps, air post stamps, and postal tax stamps, in addition to small quantities of registration stamps, official stamps, and parcel post stamps.
Most of the regular issue of stamps after 1891 (the onset of rectangular stamps) are affordable, with just a few going for tens of dollars (USD). Prior to that date, though the stamps are fairly expensive, with some stamps retailing for $200 or more. The most expensive regular issue stamp appears to be the 1872 tiger's head stamp on toned wove paper denominated as 1 Rupee Kabuli. This stamp, in used condition, has a catalog value of $1100 (USD).
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