Express stamps, 1916-1922

The 1916 Postordnung (RGB 317) introduced a new service: express delivery of printed matter, which began on 1 October 1916. Details are given in sections 55-56 of the Postordnung. The item had to be flat not rolled, fully franked, and sent to an inland address (which included Bosnia, Herzegovina, Germany and Liechtenstein). A surcharge of 2h was applied irrespective of the item's weight, payment thereof was shown by a red triangular stamp. For items up to 50 grams, the normal postage was 3h and a green triangular 5h stamp was also issued to pay both charges. No triangular stamp meant no express handling! The new stamps, and a description of the design, were announced in Postverordnungsblatt (PVOB) 1916/79 Nr 82 of 24 Sept, sales beginning on 1 October.

The triangular stamps were printed head-to-tail, with 8 rows of 13 stamps; however since 8x13=104 while the currency was 1Kr=100h, the right-hand 4 stamps in the bottom row were omitted. See Ferchenbauer II p.319. [Paper suited to 10 rows of 10 wasn't available.] This example could either be the express sending of 4 newspapers, or a later using-up of the stamps for ordinary postage

The illustration on page 319 of Ferchenbauer II shows that this mint pair plus blank triangle comes from the left-hand side of the printed sheet. The designer's name - Alfred Cossmann - is cunningly concealed below the value digit!

The triangular shape irritated the users, so the design was rearranged into a rectangular shape, and these were used from May 1917 as the triangular stamps ran out. PVOB 1917/35 Nr 31 of 14th May gave the details. The existing triangular stamps remained valid till 31st October 1917, and could be exchanged for new ones at Post Offices during November. On 1st September 1918, as part of a general rates rise, the postage rate for an inland postcard with an imprinted stamp was raised from 8h to 10h to match the rate for an adhesive-franked card. The original red triangular 2h stamp was resurrected on the same date and used to officially uprate the 8h postal stationery card to the new rate of 10h. PTVOB 1918/48 gives the details. Later, the rectangular 2h was also used in this way.

The post-war Austrian government amalgamated Post and Telegraphs, so it was PTVOB 1918/67 that announced on 2nd December 1918 that "until new stamps were ready" all existing stamps would be diagonally overprinted with Deutschösterreich; those already 'out there' remained valid and would be used up. The printed sheets had been arranged as 8 columns of 13 rows, presumably to fit the available paper. Since 8x13 = 104, the middle 4 positions of the bottom row contained St Andrew's Crosses - so stamps with crosses are found. The earliest recorded usage of these Deutschösterreich express stamps is May 1919 The overprinting had many imperfections, described below.

In 1919 Posts and Telegraphs were separated again. By the end of 1921 the express surcharge had risen to 50h, and the rectangular red 2h Deutschösterreich over-printed stamp was further overprinted with 50, as described in PVOB 1921/59 of 26th November. Kroiss quotes Die Postmarke as stating that the stamp sold out immediately, hence genuinely-used examples are rare. He illustrates the use of ordinary adhesives as a substitute.

The first example is cancelled in Vienna on 21.2.1922, so could be genuine. The second is St. Polten on 15.3.1922, and there is no combination of printed matter rates at that date that comes to 7½Kr to which to add an express surcharge. A numerical possibility is using the 50h express surcharge stamp plus the 7½Kr to pay 8Kr for a 200-gram flat printed-matter item!

PVOB 1921/64 of 22 Dec announced the redesigned "Posthorn and arrow" 50k design, which would replace the previous Deutschösterreich overprinted stamps as these were used up. Plausibly-cancelled specimens exist.

However, on 1st May 1922, the inexorable rise of inflation saw the end of the printed matter express delivery stamp.

The stamps

2172h1.10.1916Red triangle on yellow paperThe paper is creamy-yellow throughout; shades are found. Perforations include 11½, 12½, and the higher-priced 11½x12½ and 12½x11½; imperf-between pairs exist. Proofs exist in other values eg 3h, 6h and in other colours.
2185h1.10.1916Green triangle on yellow paper
2192h15.5.1917Red rectangle on yellow paper
2205h15.5.1917Green rectangle on yellow paper
2522h15.5.1919219 with diagonal overprint DeutschösterreichA wide range of faults are found in the overprint position, and of damage to the capital D - see later.
2535h15.5.1919220 with diagonal overprint Deutschösterreich
25450h15.12.1921252 further overprinted '50' Overprint in blue-black ink.
41750h21.12.1921Rectangle: arrow & posthorn Printed in sheets of 80 (says PVOB 1921/64) by typography, in lilac ink on yellow paper

The dates

The various references give (as usual!) different dates for the introduction and invalidation of the stamps. Some at least of this is confusion between decision, announcement, printing, issue to Post offices, and first-use dates.

2172h1.10.19161.10.19161.10.19161.10.191631.10.192028.2.191828.2.1918End 2.1918
(but see note)

217 was resurrected on 1.9.1918 to officially uprate the 8h-imprinted postal stationery card to 10h, the existing rate for franking with adhesives, because the "8h concession" ceased on that date. The inland postcard rate rose to 25h on 15.1.1920; 217 probably remained valid as a component of ordinary franking but few ordinary senders would wish to do this!
Note: Kroiss records Die Postmarke as suggesting that the actual issue of 254 and 417 was in February 1922.

The rates [for inland printed matter only]

PeriodFromToExpress surchargePostage for 50 gramsExpress + postageRegistration

23.1.1919: Köflach to Frankfurt in Germany; inland rates; dual-language canceller; 2h triangle uprating.

1919 Deutschösterreich overprints

Stamps with St Andrew's Crosses, so from second-bottom row of the printed sheet.

Many imperfections can be found in the positioning of the Deutschösterreich overprint; and the capital D seems to have been especially prone to damage.

Left: a high overprint, with a gap of 2.2mm between the bottom of the D and the thin green line above the O O H.

Right: a low overprint, only 0.2mm above the thin line. This gap comes in all sizes, from 2.5mm to minus 0.2mm!

The overprint also varies in its left-right alignment

A selection of damaged Ds, as seen through a digital microscope.

Extraneous piece in middle Extraneous piece in middle Extraneous piece in middle Top & bottom of main stroke damaged

Leading edge of D broken off; main stroke damaged Chip missing from bottom of D; extraneous piece in middleMain stroke damaged; whole letter looks vertically squashed

Express stamps in use

22.9.1918: Freiwaldau to Vienna. 2h triangle used to uprate imprinted-8h card to the new 10h rate.

5.12.1918: Hruschau to Jauernig, both in Silesia so by then in Czechoslovakia. Dual-language canceller; 2h triangle uprating: all as if still Austrian. Message (in German) includes "we now belong to the Czechoslovak state - hopefully (USA President) Wilson will change that". (Spoiler alert - he didn't.) Yvonne Wheatley comments: "Austrian stamps could be used in Czechoslovakia until 28 February 1919 and postal stationery until 14 October 1919. Changing the dual-language cancellers began immediately but took a long time to convert in some areas because of resistance from the local population. There is no cut-off date because the existing ones continued to be used until there was a replacement."

12.1.1919: Prague (to Prague). Dual-language canceller; 2h triangle uprating. YW's note applies.

13.1.1919: Pochlarn to Freilassing. 2h rectangle used to uprate imprinted-8h card.

29.4.1919: St Johann to Vienna. 2h rectangle used to uprate imprinted-8h card.

8.11.1919: Vienna to Villach. 5h rectangle express stamp plus 5h Deutschösterreich overprinted definitive to pay the 10h postcard rate.