Notes from the Past

Denmark's First Stamps

A Danish committee appointed in 1842 inquiring into the management of the posts of Denmark spent eight years in its review and in reaching agreement.  On October 18, 1850, the Danish Chamber of Deputies began discussion of a bill to establish uniform postal rates and to issue stamps.  The bill was finally became law on March 11, 1851, but its effect was delayed until April 1, 1851.

Despite the protracted discussions, stamp design had begun in 1849.  Essays were submitted to the postal department as early as October 13, 1849.  The final design for the 4 rigsbankskilling design was one suggested by an engraver, M. W. Ferslew.  It contained a crossed sword and sceptre, surmounted by a crown and enclosed in an oak wreath.  A rectangular frame included labels.  The stamps were 18½ x 19 mm.  Ferslew engraved the stamp on a steel die which was then duplicated by electrotyping.  Sheets of 200 (2x10x10) were then surface printed.

The handmade paper for the stamps was supplied by Drewsen & Sons and had a crown watermark so placed that one appears on each stamp.  Further, there is a marginal watermark KONGELIGT FRIMAERKE with two crowns in the upper corners and two posthorns in the lower.  One side of the paper was covered with a burelé pattern (wavy lines printed in four positions) in shades of yellow-brown which stands out in relief due to it having been printed from an engraved plate.

The plates were completed soon after February 22, 1851, but paper was unavailable until March 8, 1851, at which time Ferslew proceeded with printing.  The press was in the General Post Office at Copenhagen and could only produce 400 sheets a day.  The stamps, printed in chocolate brown, were first delivered to post offices on March 21, 1851.  They went on sale April 1, 1851 when the new bill took effect.

The 2 rigsbank-skilling had a similar history.  This stamp provided for a rate for local delivery reflecting the practice of the General Post Office for Copenhagen.  These stamps were issued on May 1, 1851.

Posted July 3, 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.  This has been updated with information from Knud-Erik Andersen.

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