Notes from the Past

Finland's First Stamps

Finland came under Russian control after a short war with Sweden in 1809.  The Russian Czars ruled Finland until 1917.

Little is known of early Finnish postal history; however, in 1845 stamped envelopes in 5 and 10 kopeck values were introduced.  After five years, a new type appeared and a 20 kopeck value was added.

On February 26, 1856, a notice was published by the Director of Posts at Helsinki relative to an experimental issue and use of adhesive postage stamps.  The stamps could be used for payment of postage not only within Finland but for mail destined to Russia and abroad.  The stamps could not be used on registered letters but could be used for any letters otherwise mailable.  Postmasters were instructed to keep the stamps in cardboard boxes each of which held 100 copies.

Dies for two values, 5 kopecks, blue, and 10 kopecks, rose, were engraved on steel by C. M. Mellgren.  The printing was done by hand at the Kontroll Stampel Kantor, of the Finnish Treasury Department.  The press was a small, rather primitive lever press mounted on a wooden table.  The paper was cut into strips and fed into the press to receive one stamp impression at a time.  As a result the stamps have varying spacing.

The paper strips permitted two rows of stamps to be printed.  During the printing process the paper had to be reversed resulting in tête-bêche rows.  Various papers were used for the stamps.

There has been considerable uncertainty about the date the stamps were first placed in use; however, March 3, 1856, seems correct.  (Saturday, March 1 was noted in the Kohl Briefmarken-Handbuch and confirmed by Michel at the time [1950s]; Yvert and Scott were non-commital and Gibbons gave April, 1856.  Facit says that both stamps were issued on Monday, March 3, 1856.  March 3 is the earliest known usage.  Monday does seem a tad more plausible.)

Although the notice said that the stamps should be cancelled by the local postmark, pen cancellations are more frequent.  Cancellations with both pen and postmarks are also found and those with only the postmark are the least frequent.

Posted July 4, 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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