World Stamps

A scarce Central Albania 1915 set

Feb 1, 2023, 8 AM
The 1915 Albania – Central Albania set of seven previously unissued stamps with handstamped overprints is scarce and a good buy at full Scott catalog value.

Stamp Market Tips by Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

Albania lies on the Balkan Peninsula with seacoast on the Adriatic and Ionian seas. It shares borders with Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Greece.

Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century until 1912 and was the last European country to gain independence from that empire. The country was coveted by Austria, Italy, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. The Great Powers (Austria-Hungary, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Russia) settled on Albanian independence as the best way to maintain the balance of power.

At the time of independence, Albania lacked a sense of national identity. Loyalties were tribal, feudal and religious. Albania remained a chaotic and wild place through the 1910s and well into the 1920s. The Great Powers attempted to install a German prince, Wilhelm of Wied, as king of Albania, but he was forced to flee the country in 1914.

Essad Pasha Toptani, formerly an officer in the Ottoman army, set up a government based in Durres with Serbian support, and, after a period of conflict, held control after the erstwhile king’s departure. Essad managed to exert control over much of central Albania until 1916 when the Austro-Hungarian army invaded and drove him out.

Essad’s government issued postage stamps by handstamping overprints on previously issued Albanian postage, postage due and revenue stamps (Scott 1-11). A second set was issued in 1915 by handstamping overprints on the unissued stamps commissioned in 1913 by a previous government (12-18).

The Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 values the second set of seven stamps at $157 in unused, hinged condition. This is a scarce set that is seldom seen, and it is a good buy at up to full Scott catalog value or perhaps a bit more.

A used set, generally favor canceled, is valued at $80.25. Legitimately used examples on cover bring a big premium. Expertization is a must.

There is also a good deal of collector interest in the unissued and unlisted Central Albania stamps without the handstamped overprints. Prices vary widely, but they generally sell for between $10 and $20 each.

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