The Graz emergency issue of 1945

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Translated & adapted by A Taylor from an article by Richard Zimmerl.

10x2 strip of H H o'prints

After the end of the war, Styria held the record with five zones of occupation: as well as America, Britain, and Russia the Jugoslavs and the Bulgarians also occupied areas. The city of Graz was occupied by the Russians on 8th May 1945 practically without any fighting. By this date the Republic of Austria had already been restored in Vienna, and postal service had resumed in Vienna on 2nd May 1945. In the areas occupied by the Russians the postal service was never fully interrupted, although it was severely handicapped by destroyed or confiscated office space and the absence of any means of transport.

Until 22nd May 1945 the Hitler-era stamps could be used in Styria without overprint. Around 10 am on that day the first values of 1, 3, 4, 6, 10 and 12 Rpf of the "Graz Emergency Issue" were issued. It was subsequently described in the official notice B.M.Zl.9165 of 9 May 1946 (repeated in the "Post- u. Telegraphen-verordnungsblatt No. 7 of 21 May 1946) as consisting of "a vertical black overprint ‘Österreich’, flanked on the left and right by three vertical black strokes". The remaining values followed in the next few days.

The overprint on the small-format values of 1 to 24 Rpf was carried out by the Styrian State Printers in Graz castle. The larger format values of 25 to 80 Rpf as well as the RMark values were overprinted in the printing office of Ludwig Kunath, 6 Conrad-von-Hötzendorf-Gasse. Since the printing capacity of the Kunath printing office was inadequate, the overprinting of the RMark values was transferred to the printing office of Karl Birkwald, 19 Kaiserfeldgasse, on 15 June 1945. There somewhat larger letters were used.

Collectors distinguish thus for the RMark values a "thin" overprint 16.25mm in length and a "fat" overprint of 18.5mm. The RMark values exist in two perforations, Line of 12˝ and Comb of 14 (the line perf has irregular corners, while the comb always has a perforation hole at the corner). The variants of overprint and perforation thus yield four combinations for the RMark values. However, not all four face values occur in all four combinations. The 1 RM value with fat overprint in line perf 12˝ is extremely rare. The perforations are often very inaccurate.

Line perfs
(note irregular corners)

"Fat" overprint

"Thin" overprint

The Rpf values have numerous shades of colour as well as smooth and ribbed gum. Especially expensive are the 1Rpf in grey-black and the 5Rpf in dark moss-green.

Due to insufficient printing equipment and the necessary urgency of manufacture, the overprints have numerous varieties and plate faults. Since each printer had only one overprinting plate for all values of the same size, many errors occur in several or even all values. A very good survey of the plate faults is given in the Austria Netto Catalog (ANK). Very popular are the inverted overprints, which occur in almost all values; on them the word "Österreich" runs from the top downwards instead of from the bottom upwards.

Considerably more striking are double impressions, slanting overprints or horizontally- or vertically-displaced overprints. The sheet overprints run over the whole of the sheet (as is obvious from the first illustration). If the overprint is displaced vertically, it ends at the lowest row (fields 91 to 100) instead of the lower margin, as is illustrated later on a 40Rpf stamp.

Inverted overprint

Double overprint

Slanted overprint

If on a such stamp a plate fault also appears, especially attractive pieces emerge. The 12Rpf below is the 100th stamp, ie the lower right corner of the sheet. This field has the plate fault "point in the h", and as well as the overprint has a large shift upwards.

"Point in h" fault,
plus vertical shift of overprint

Overprint displaced sideways, and also slanted

Due to the great fragility of the overprint, an immense variety of damage to the letters and the lines is found. So for example on three adjacent stamps of the fourth column (fields 44, 54, 64) the word "Österreich" is scratched (see illustration). In the RMark values the two last letters of the word "Österreich" are frequently stronger: "fat ‘ch’ " or "semi-fat ‘ch’ ". Also the thin lines were very susceptible to damage and breaks, and thinner or interrupted lines occur frequently. The boundary between plate- and printing-faults is here fluid.

Overprint displaced

Overprint displaced
vertically: bottom row

Middle line on right

"Österreich" scratched

Left set of lines

Very popular, although happening by chance, are offprints. As the printing machine slowed down, the printed image was transferred as a mirror image to the reverse.

As well as the stamps, the value-imprint on various postcards was also overprinted, which only required a single-stamp-wide overprinting plate. There are two types, 18mm and 22mm in length. Possibly these overprints were manufactured, like the RMark values, in two different printing offices. Postcards with adhesive stamps are also known overprinted, and overprinted stamps of 1, 5 and 6 Rpf intended for postcards are found. With these singles the overprint does not extend over the perforation on both sides: thus they may be distinguished from displaced overprints. Such pieces are extremely rare, and there exist numerous forgeries. In addition, different "rarities" were produced during the manufacture. If a postcard had propaganda-text, this was concealed with additional ornaments.

Warning! There exist numerous fakes and forgeries of ALL the overprint values, as well as forged and backdated cancels. Caveat emptor...

The issue of the overprinted stamps was between 410,000 (60Rpf) and 790,000 items (30Rpf). For the stamps of 16 and 24Rpf, only 100,000 were overprinted. On the contrary the much used values of 6 and 12Rpf had issues of 2.6 and 2.9 million. With the RMark values, the issues lie between 160,000 and 37,500 pieces (fat overprint). In the Kunath printing office (thin overprint) only about 15,000 pieces per value were overprinted.

The stamps were in practice only valid in the area of the Post- and Telegraphendirektion at Graz, which essentially coincided with the zone initially occupied by the Russians and later transferred to the British. Genuinely used pieces, especially on entires, are much rarer than unused.

The overprinted stamps were valid until 2nd July 1945, when the Russian occupying power forbade the use of all Hitler-stamps (including the Viennese overprints). Instead payment in cash was ordered, until new stamps were delivered. The stamps of the Arms series [ANK 714-736] were first delivered to Styria on 22nd July; meanwhile however on the 15th of July the occupying power changed, the Soviets handing over the zone to the British. On the 26th July the first stamps of the Posthorn series [ANK 697-713] were delivered. Stamps of the Arms series could thus be used only for three days in Styria, and items franked with them are thus extremely rare, most being philatelically-inspired.

In some areas of Styria the Graz overprints were used until the end of July. In other areas of Styria, around Leibnitz and Leoben, Hitler stamps were similarly overprinted [see ANK "Lokalausgaben"].

Note: see Heinzel’s "Österreich nach 1945" vol 2 pages 14-16 for a listing of which values could be used on what items. Many of the larger Rpf values are only found in contrived, philatelic usages; the 1 RM has a theoretical use on Postanweisung forms; the 2, 3 & 5 RM have no valid uses at all!

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©APS. Last updated 11 July 2012