Notes from the Past

Bulgaria's First Stamps

The Treaty of Berlin which concluded the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, changed the status of Bulgaria from province of Turkey to principality under the suzerainty of Turkey (get someone else to explain those distinctions to you!).  Since Turkish stamps had been in use in Bulgaria from 1863 to 1879, recognition of those used in Bulgaria depended on being able to read the cancels in Turkish.

The Turkish mail system was supplemented at this time by Austrian Post Offices in which stamps of the Austrian Levant were used.  There were also a few Russian Post Offices where Russian stamps were in use.

In 1879, Prince Alexander of Battenberg began his rule over Bulgaria.  Bulgarian stamps were also issued in that year.  The stamps were printed by the Government Printing Office in St. Petersburg.  The central feature of the design was a Bulgarian lion.  Five denominations in two colors each were issued:  5 centimes black and yellow, 10 centimes black and green, 25 centimes black and purple, 50 centimes black and blue, and 1 franc black and red.  The central design was in black and the background was in color.

The stamps were typographed in sheets of one hundred arranged in four panes of twenty-five (five rows by five) with a gutter of about 10 millimeters between the panes.  The paper was horizontal laid.  The watermark is wavy lines making lozenges about the height of a stamp with the letters EZGV in Cyrillic characters distributed periodically.  The perforations are made by a harrow machine and gauge 14½ x 15.  The stamps were issued May 1, 1879, according to the Williams brothers; however, Scott suggests the date is June 1, 1879.  Take your pick but don't pass up any covers dated in May of 1879.

There are some errors including one in which the 25 centime stamp was printed on the green background of the 10 centime value.  There are also some imperforates which are deemed, in general, to be printer's waste although a used example of the 25 centimes was in the Ferrary collection.  There are also forgeries.

The reason for the stamps being issued in francs and centimes is obscure although that may have resulted from the constitution which was modeled on that of Belgium.  In any event, the French sounding values were replaced by stotinkis and levs in a new set of stamps with the same design and different colors on June 10, 1881.

Posted September 7, 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.  And, of course, Ceylon is now Sri Lanka.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

Note:  If the link isn't returned the first try, try again.

Comments? Send me an e-mail
Please include a reference to this item.