Monday, July 14, 2008

Stamp Issuer - Armenia

Armenia Overprint
One overprint used on
early stamps

Armenia is a small, mountainous, landlocked country bordered by Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. It is the smallest of the republics that gained independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union, of which it was a member.

The country is called Hayastan in the native language. The country's name is thought to derive from Hayk, who, legend has it, founded the Kingdom of Armenia in 2493 BC. Hayk was reputed to be a direct descendant of Noah, and the kingdom he formed encompassed Mount Ararat, the biblical resting spot for Noah's Ark. Mt. Ararat is now part of Turkey, but Armenians still use the symbol as part of their national identity.

Armenia was the first country to officially accept Christianity as their national religion, circa 300 A.D. The country is now officially a secular country, but the Christian roots go very deep, so much so that over 90% of the country are of the Armenian Apostolic church.

Militarily, the country has been conquered many times throughout its history. The Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, and Arabs have all controlled the land at various times. The most brutal oppressors, by far, were the Ottoman Turks, who in the period of 1915 through 1917 are thought to have massacred 1.5 million Armenians. The passage of time has only barely dimmed the pain of this event and Armenia still memorializes this tragedy.

Following Turkey's defeat in World War I, Armenia gained its independence in 1918. Two years later, the Soviet army annexed the country, and by 1922, Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan formed the Transcaucasian Federation of Soviet Republics. This federation was absorbed into the Soviet Union. Armenia remained a part of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

Armenia, 1992 (Scott #430a)
Part of first set issued
after Soviet Union collapse

From a philatelic standpoint, the postal history of Armenia follows its militaristic history. From 1918 through 1920, overprinted stamps of Russia were used in the region. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Armenian stamps were printed and used for postage. Then, with the creation of the Transcaucasian Federation, Armenian stamps ceased to be issued after 1922 and stamps of the Soviet Union were used.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union into its constituent republics in 1991, Armenia once again began issuing stamps. After several early years in which just a nominal number of stamps were issued, Armenia has recently started issuing a larger number of stamp designs at more frequent intervals. Clearly, the country has recognized the revenue potential of stamp issues.

Because there were many varieties of stamps issued following World War I, the country is expensive to collect. Scott lists 308 regular stamps in the relatively short period of 1918 through 1922. These stamps have a total catalog value of over $7650 (US), which would indicate an average cost of almost $25 per stamp. Many stamps are much cheaper than the average, but many are more expensive, as well. Fortunately, the stamps issued after 1991 have a more moderate cost.

An interesting fact can be noted about the catalog values of Armenian stamps, as valued by Scott's Standard Postage Stamp Catalog, 2009 Edition. With the single exception of a 1993 4-stamp set, in which the used stamps in the set are 50 cents (US) cheaper than the mint stamps, the catalogue values for every stamp of Armenia, from the earliest overprinted Russian stamps through the two "back-of-the-book" stamps, are identical for both mint and used stamps. You cannot save money by collecting only used stamps for this country, like you can with most other countries.

Have fun collecting the country of Armenia!

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