Stamps issued for use in foreign countries

Apr 28, 2021, 10 AM

By Rick Miller

For most countries, certainly the great majority of stamps are intended for use in mailing correspondence within a country's borders and its possessions. However, there are three classes of stamps that have been issued by various postal administrations for the expressed purpose of being used in foreign countries. These three classes of stamps are offices abroad, military and occupation stamps.

Stamps are issued for offices abroad when one nation has been granted extraterritorial rights in another nation. Ostensibly, this was necessitated by the lack of an adequate native postal system for delivery of foreign mail.

In reality, from the late-19th to the mid-20th centuries, having offices abroad was also one of the trappings of being a Great Power. Historically, China, the Ottoman Empire, Siam (Thailand), Morocco, Egypt and other countries conceded or were forced to concede extraterritorial rights to certain other nations.

China may be the preeminent example of extraterritoriality. By 1900 there were 18 nations with extraterritorial rights in China, including the United States. The U.S. Postal Agency in Shanghai opened in 1867. U.S. stamps overprinted "SHANGHAI CHINA" and surcharged at double their original face value were issued to the U.S. Postal Agency in Shanghai and went on sale July 1, 1919. They were valid for prepayment of mail dispatched from the postal agency to U.S. addresses. A U.S. Offices in China 4¢ on 2¢ rose George Washington stamp, Scott K2, is shown in Figure 1.

An anomaly of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue is that listings of offices abroad stamps of the United States, Poland and Yugoslavia are prefixed with the letter "K," while those of most other countries are listed separately without prefix under their own headings immediately following the parent country.

The Ottoman Empire, the so-called Sick Man of Europe, also was forced to concede extraterritorial rights, including postal operations, to the Great Powers. A 6-kopeck blue Imperial Coat of Arms stamp, Russian Offices in the Ottoman Empire, Scott 1, is shown in Figure 2.

A different type of extraterritoriality arises when one nation grants another nation government-in-exile status when that nation's government has to evacuate abroad because of the exigencies of war. Government-in-exile stamps are a special category of offices abroad stamps.

During World War II, Poland and Yugoslavia were conquered by Germany in 1939 and 1941, respectively. Both conquered nations were allowed to establish governments in exile in Great Britain, with the right to issue postage stamps and perform some postal functions.

A Polish government-in-exile 75-groszy Polish Machine Gunners stamp, Scott 3K5, is shown in Figure 3. Polish government-in-exile stamps were valid for postage on Polish ships and from Polish military camps in Great Britain on certain days.

Military stamps are intended for the use of a nation's military personnel. Military stamps are issued free of charge, or at a reduced rate, to eligible military personnel. They are mainly for use by military personnel while serving as occupation forces in a conquered nation or as peacekeeping forces in a foreign land, although some nations have, from time to time, issued them to personnel stationed in the home country.

The United States has extended free-franking privileges to eligible military personnel in lieu of issuing military postage stamps.

Military stamps can be considered as a special category of Official stamps. They are listed in the Scott catalogs with the prefix "M." Military stamps have been issued by Austria, Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman Empire issued the first military stamps in 1898 for military personnel occupying Thessaly during the Greco-Turkish war of 1897-98. A 10-para Tughra and Bridge at Larissa stamp from this set, Turkey Scott M1, is shown in Figure 4. These Ottoman Empire military stamps were the world's first octagonal stamps.

Czechoslovak Legion Post stamps offer the unique example of stamps that combine aspects of military, offices abroad and occupation stamps. Large numbers of Czech and Slovak soldiers served in the armies of Austro-Hungary in WWI. The Allies began organizing Czech and Slovak volunteers from among the prisoners of war held by the Russians. The volunteers were to fight for the Allies on the Western Front in return for the promised establishment of an independent Czechoslovakia after the war.

After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, these volunteers were trapped in the Russian interior in the midst of the Civil War, with the Austro-Hungarian, German and Red armies between them and their homelands. The only escape route lay to the east, across the vast Russian-Asian hinterland via the Trans-Siberian railroad.

The Czechoslovak legionaries secured a strip of land a few miles wide on either side of the railroad, defended it against all comers and successfully transported themselves to the Pacific Coast of Russia, from whence they were evacuated by ship. The Czechoslovak Legion issued stamps valid for postage along the strip of land that it controlled. A 1-ruble Czechoslovak Legion Post Sentinel stamp, Scott 3, is shown in Figure 5.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire is responsible for the strange category of military semipostal stamps, prefixed "MB" in the Scott catalogs. Charging a voluntary surtax would seem to be at odds with the purpose of providing reduced-fee mail to military personnel. These stamps were on sale for a few days before the WWI Armistice, but they were never issued to army post offices. A 20-heller magenta Empress Zita military semipostal stamp, Austria Scott MB2, is shown in Figure 6.

The stamps of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued during 1912-18 while that country was a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire were inscribed as military post stamps because the province had a military, rather than a civil, government. Despite the inscription, these are not military stamps because they were sold at full value for use by the general population.

Both Italy and Germany issued military airmail stamps, prefixed "MC" in the Scott catalogs. Only Germany has issued military parcel post stamps, prefixed "MQ." Only Italy has issued military airmail special delivery stamps ("MCE") and military special delivery ("ME") stamps. A nondenominated red-brown Nazi Emblem military parcel post stamp, Germany Scott MQ1, is shown in Figure 7.

Occupation stamps are stamps issued for use in territory occupied by a foreign power. They are usually prefixed with the letter "N" in the Scott catalogs. The first occupation stamps may have been those issued for the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine occupied by Germany during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.

Occupation stamps have been issued by and for a host of nations. In the Scott catalogs, they are usually listed under the country for which they were issued, but sometimes they are listed under the country that issued them. Occasionally, they are listed as an entirely separate country, as is the case for the French occupation of Cilicia stamps.

The Ryukyu Islands of Japan represent an example of occupation stamps that are not prefixed "N" in the Scott catalogs, nor are they listed under their parent country. The Ryukyu Islands, the largest of which is Okinawa, were occupied by the United States from 1945 until their return to Japan in 1972.

The nearly 300 stamps issued for the Ryukyus under U.S. administration are listed in Vol. 1 of the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue with other U.S. possessions. A 6-yen Commodore Matthew C. Perry and American Fleet stamp, Ryukyu Islands Scott 28, is shown in Figure 8.

The United States, in conjunction with Great Britain, also issued occupation stamps for Germany, Italy, Austria and France in the WWII era. Occupation stamps have been issued for most of the categories for which postage stamps have been issued.

Semipostal stamps combine a postage value with a nonpostal surtax, usually for charity. Occupation semipostal stamps, prefixed "NB" in the Scott catalogs, have been issued for a number of countries. A 2¢+1¢ Woman, Farming and Cannery occupation semipostal stamp issued for the Philippines under Japanese occupation in WWII, Scott NB1, is shown in Figure 9.

Several occupation administrations have issued occupation airmail stamps, prefixed "NC" in the Scott catalogs. A 20-lira Airplane over Mt. Durmitor occupation airmail stamp issued for Montenegro under Italian occupation in WWII, Scott 2NC23, is shown in Figure 10.

Other categories of occupation stamps include occupation Official, prefixed "NO"; occupation postage due, prefixed "NJ"; occupation postal tax, prefixed "NRA"; occupation special delivery, prefixed "NE"; occupation newspaper, prefixed "NP"; and occupation postal tax due, prefixed "NRAJ."

In forming country collections for the areas that you collect, look for stamps those countries might have issued for use in other countries.