Austria's First Issue
On the 26th of March, 1850, the Austrian Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a decree authorizing issuance of stamps. The postal rates were simple: 1 loth (1/3 oz) letters were 2 kreuzer for letters delivered in the district of posting; 3 kreuzer for distances of up to ten Austrian miles (about forty-seven English miles); and 9 kreuzer for distances between and ten and twenty miles. Double -weight letters were charged double rate and letters between 2 and 3 loth treble rate. Printed matter was 1 kreuzer per loth, and registration was 3 kreuzer on local letters and 6 kreuzer on all others. To satisfy this rate structure, five denominations were issued: 1 kr yellow, 2 kr black, 3 kr red, 6 kr brown and 9 kr blue.
The design consists mainly of the arms of Austria in a shield. Electrotypes were made from the die and they in turn were used for producing metal blocks which formed the printing plates. The stamps were printed at the State Printing Works in Vienna. The sheet layout was unusual in that there were seven rows of eight stamps and one row of four in each pane with the four extra spaces being devoted to ornaments in the shape of St. Andrew's cross. The reason for 60 stamps in a sheet was due, as usual, to the accounting department there being 60 kreuzer to 1 gulden. Four panes comprised a sheet.
The initial stamps were printed on rough hand-made paper. Thickness varied between and within sheets. There was a central watermark with the initials 'K. K. H. M' in fancy script. These letters stood for Kaiserlich Koniglisches Handels Ministerium (Imperial Ministry of Commerce). Only a few stamps near the center of the sheet show part of the watermark. Ribbed paper and laid paper are also found on some values.
The stamps were issued on June 1, 1850, and remained in use until 1858 when Austrian currency went through a form of decimalization making 100 Neu Kreuzer = 1 Gulden.
Posted July 2, 2000
Editor's Note: I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.
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