World Stamps

Ken Lawrence

Cover mailed after 1979 Islamic revolution reflects seismic changes

April 30, 2017 07:00 PM

  • This June 1, 1979, registered airmail cover from Tehran to Ibiza includes prerevolution stamps — a single 20-rial Communications Satellite stamp and pairs of 1r Shah and Tehran Refinery and 10r International Mail Day stamps — plus 15r and 19r definitives with black bars overprinted on gold silhouettes of the shah. The 50-dinar Red Lion and Sun stamp paid a compulsory tax on registered letters that supported the Iranian Red Cross and Red Crescent that had been instituted in 1950 and was abolished in 1980 after the clergy had gained full control of the government.

Covering the World — By Ken Lawrence

The Islamic revolution in Iran toppled the regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, sending the shah into exile Jan. 16, 1979. Most Americans remember it as the time when radical students occupied the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held the residents hostage, dooming President Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign.

The franking on the June 1, 1979, registered airmail cover from Tehran to Ibiza, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea, reflects the turbulence of the transition from a secular monarchy to an Islamic theocracy.

Stamps issued before the revolution profiled the shah as the nation’s sovereign and commemorated Iran’s participation in international communications: one pictures a communications satellite and another celebrates global postal relations. But two stamps have provisional overprints of the revolution in the form of vertical black bars struck through a gold silhouette of the shah after he had been deposed from power.

At the upper left is a 50-dinar postal tax stamp, with denomination and inscription only in the Farsi language.

The tax had been established in 1950 to support the Iranian Red Cross and Red Crescent, and remained in effect until June 1980. The Scott catalog has two listings for this design (Iran Scott RA1 and RA3), but this is actually the sixth variety, issued in 1976.

This combination of prerevolution, revolutionary provisional, and postal tax stamps was possible only during the one-year transition between the revolutionary seizure of power in early 1979 and the consolidation of power by the ayatollahs a year or so later.

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