Monday, May 12, 2008

Stamp Issuers - Allenstein

Allenstein, 1920 (Scott #1)
Overprinted Germany Stamp

Allenstein (Olsztyn, in Polish) was a district in East Prussia (basically present day Germany). Following the end of hostilities of World War I, the population of Allenstein was allowed to determine whether they would be part of East Prussia or Poland.

As World War I ended, Allenstein was administered by the Allied Forces. The Treaty of Versailles, which marked the formal end of World War I, specified in Articles 94 and 95 that Allenstein could hold a vote to determine their national alignment. This vote for self-determination is called a plebiscite.

In April, 1920, 28 German postage stamps were overprinted with messages calling attention to the upcoming vote. The first 14 stamps were overprinted with "PLEBISCITE / OLSZTYN / ALLENSTEIN" while the second 14 read "TRAITÉ / DE / VERSAILLES / ART. 94 et 95" referring to the Articles 94 and 95 of the treaty. Both overprints are shown nearby. The 14 stamps in each run are identical, except for which overprint was used.

On July 11, 1920, the plebiscite was held. Almost 98% of the voting population chose to remain with East Prussia. The area remained under German control until the end of World War II when it was subsumed by Poland, to which the area remains allied to this day.

Allenstein Overprints

The plebiscite stamps were not valid for postage very long. By August 20, 1920, they were invalidated. Thus the stamps, and hence the district's total stamp issuance, had a lifespan of not quite 5 months.

Interestingly, these stamps are not very expensive, in either used or unused condition. One would think that with such a short period of time and such a short period of postal validity that they would have achieved a certain rarity. However that is not the case.

The 28 stamps issued by Allenstein catalog for under $45 (US) for mint condition according to the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog (2006). Used Allenstein stamps catalog for about double that amount. The bulk of the value for the Allenstein stamps comes from the two overprinted 15-pfennig violet brown stamps, Scott #4 and #18. Together these two stamps account for over half of the catalog value for the entire set.

For No. 1 collectors (those who collect the 1st catalog-listed stamp for a country), the first stamp should be easy to find for under $1 (US).

All in all, Allenstein stamps represent a fun little niche to collect. It is easy for any level of collector to afford the entire set of issued stamps.

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David A. Andelman said...

For the background to these amazing events that led to this "stamp collecting opportunity (!) ... a compelling look at the Treaty of Versailles and all its immense consequences down to the present day, DO have a look at my fascinating new book -- "A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the
Price We Pay Today" [] published by Wiley and available at and most bookstores !
The author (myself) -- executive editor of and a veteran foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News is also
available for speeches and lectures!
David A. Andelman

Tony Servies said...

Mr. Andelman, thank you for reading my blog and submitting your comment.

To my readers: By permitting this comment, I neither agree or disagree with the book. In fact, I have no background knowledge of it, nor am I in any way profiting from it. Mr. Andelman's book seems highly regarded by Amazon reviewers, who are better at critiquing history than I, and does seem to address many of the issues of the existence or lack thereof for the "dead countries" that we now collect.