Paper Heritage - Briefmarken mit Eisenbahnmotiv : Trams on Stamps: Hauptpostamt Berlin

This is a design which has given rise to some confusion amongst railway thematic collectors, confusion compounded by the haphazard and incomplete listing of these stamps in some railway catalogues.

The majority of the One Mark stamps, showing the Reichspostgebäude (also referred to at times as the Hauptpostamt) in Berlin, are very fine quality recess-engraved stamps, issued between 1900 and about 1920. However, in 1920 the design was completely redrawn and printed by lithography. For those of you unfamiliar with printing methods, these stamps provide an excellent illustration of the huge difference in quality between the two types. As the designs are so different, you can be very confident which type you are looking at:

Recess-engraved (1900-c.1920) : There are no flags on the GPO building; there are three people standing in front of the horse-drawn carriage just right of centre and there is only a horse-drawn vehicle to the left of the building. There are two sets of tram tracks down the left-hand side of the building and strong evidence that the horse-drawn vehicle on the left is a horse-drawn tram.

Lithographed (1920) : There are two flags on the left side of the building (faintly drawn), a flag on the extreme right of the building, one person standing behind the horse- drawn carriage just right of centre and both a horse-drawn vehicle and a poorly-defined electric tram to the left of the building.

GPO Berlin Recess and Litho

..... Above : Recess-engraved One Mark of 1900 (Mi.63 b) ..................... Above : Lithographed One Mark of 1920 (Mi. A 113a)

Note re. the 1900 design: There has been much dispute about whether there is a horse-tram or even indeed tramway tracks shown on the recess-engraved stamps (1900) of these issues. The recess stamp appeared in 1900. The postcard, illustrated below, was posted on New Year's Day 1899 using the private Berlin Parcel Post service, and this card clearly shows a horse-drawn tram at precisely the location of the parallel lines to the left of the building on the recess-printed stamp, which confirms that this stamp does indeed show tram tracks and, in all probability, the rear of a horse-tram as well, although a horse-bus which happens to be on the tram tracks, is an unlikely alternative for those who remain sceptical !

GPO Berlin PPC


GPO Berlin PPC detail

GPO Berlin PPC back


Above: The postcard, probably printed in 1898, showing a horse-tram

There are several printings, some with changes to the inscriptions, of the recess-engraved stamps. Although I shall list all the major variations, I am aware that many thematic collectors would not be seeking to collect every variant.

Most unusually, variations in perforation on this design are commonly described by the total number of holes on each side of the stamp and I have adopted this method here too. (The reason for this unusual practice is the tiny difference in perforation, 14¼ against 14). I have used Michel numbers, since this is a standard reference for specialised German stamps.

Note: Underlined headings are not HTML links in this article.

GERMANY (German Reich)

1900 (Recess) Inscribed REICHSPOST at the foot:
[...] 1 Mark Red (shades) (Mi. 63a)
[...] - ditto - Brownish-carmine (Mi. 63b)
[...] - ditto - Trial perforation 11½ - unissued. (Mi. 63B)

1902 (Recess) Inscribed DEUTSCHES REICH at foot. No watermark.
[...] 1 Mark Red (brownish-orange appearance) 26x17 perforation holes (Mi. 78Aa)
[...] - ditto - Carmine-red (Mi. 78Ab)
[...] - ditto - Imperf (Mi. 78U)

[...] 1 Mark Carmine-red 25x16 perforation holes (Mi. 78 B)

1906-17 (Recess) Inscribed DEUTSCHES REICH at foot. Watermark Lozenges.
[...] 1 Mark Carmine-red on white paper, clear impression, 26x17 holes. (1906) (Mi. 94 A I)
[...] - ditto - Carmine-red on greyish wartime paper, 26x17 holes. (1916/17) (Mi. 94 A II)
[...] - ditto - Red on greyish wartime paper, 25 x 17 holes. (1916/17) (Mi. 94 B II)
Note: The paper is only marginally greyer, but this, combined with the brighter ink and sharper definition of the 1906 issue, does produce a stamp of different appearance.

1920 (March) Lithographed (wmk lozenges)
[...] 1 Mark Red (Mi. A 113a)
[...] - ditto - Brownish-red (Mi. A1 113b)
[...] - ditto - var. lower half of flagstaff at extreme right missing (Mi. A 113 II)
[...] - ditto - var. right-hand rosette with damage to left side (Mi. A 113 III)
[...] - ditto - var. Closed lower half of ' E ' in ' DEUTSCHES ' (Mi. A 113 IV)
[...] 1.25 Marks Green (Mi. 113)
[...] 1.50 Marks Yellow-brown to orange-brown (Mi. 115a)

[...] - ditto - reddish-brown (Mi. 114b)
[...] - ditto - (dark)brown Note: All three values (1M, 1M25 and 1M50) exist with double printing of the complete design,

1920 (June) Unissued recess-engraved 1 Mark in new colours surcharged
[...] 1m25 / 1 Mk Dark Green (Mi. 116 I)

[...] - ditto - thin surcharge (Mi. 116 II)
[...] 1M50 / 1 Mk reddish-brown (Mi. 117)
[...] - ditto - Figure ' 1 ' with wide head (Mi. 117F)
Mi. 117 also noted as existing with double surcharge and with watermark omitted, both rare

That concludes the issues for Germany. There were, however, numerous overprints on this stamp for constituent parts of Germany, the Colonies, Post Offices, Occupations of World War I and some Post WWI plebiscites. Although it leads to a rather unstructured listing, chronologically and historically, I have listed them purely alphabetically for ease of reference. I have only identified the original stamp below in the case of the 1 Mark values; the overprints on the 1M25 and 1M50 are, necessarily, always on the lithographed stamps

ALLENSTEIN (East Prussia) - Plebiscite Issues:

1920 (Apr) : Optd. PLEBISCITE/OLSZTYN/ALLENSTEIN
[...] 1 Mark Red (optd. on recess-engraved, Germany Mi. 94) (Mi. 10)
[...] - ditto - Overprint Double (Mi. 10 DD)
[...] 1M25 Dark blue-green (Mi. 11a)
[...] - ditto - Blue-green (Mi. 11b)
[...] - ditto - Overprint Double (Not in Michel, SG 11a)
[...] 1M50 Yellow-brown (Mi. 12a)
[...] - ditto - reddish-brown (Mi. 12b)
[...] - ditto - (dark)brown (Mi. 12c)

1920 (May-June) : Optd. TRAITE DE VERSAILLES etc. in an oval
[...] 1 Mark Carmine-red (optd on recess-engraved, Germany Mi. 94) (Mi. 24)
[...] - ditto - Overprint Inverted (Mi. 24K)
[...] 1M25 Dark blue-green (Mi. 25a)
[...] - ditto - Blue-green (Mi. 25b)
[...] 1M50 Yellow-brown (Mi. 26a)
[...] - ditto - reddish-brown (Mi. 26b)
[...] - ditto - (dark)brown (Mi. 26c)

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BAVARIA (German State) :

1919 : Optd. Freistaat Bayern in Germanic Script
[...] 1 Mark Carmine-red (optd. on recess-engraved , Germany Mi. 94) (Mi. 148 B)
Offered with Double Overprint, Rudolf Steltzer auction, Oct.2006, reserve price Euros 300.-

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DANZIG (Free City, created by Versailles Conference; today, Gdansk,Poland)

1920 : Optd. Danzig in Black in Germanic Script
[...] 1 Mark (optd on Litho, Mi. A113) (Mi. 8)
[...] - ditto- pair, one without overprint (Mi. 8 F)
[...] 1M25 dark-to-blackish opal green (Mi. 9 a)
[...] - ditto - Dark Green (Mi. 9 b)
[...] 1M50 yellow-brown to orange-brown (Mi. 10)

1920 : Optd. Danzig and thick bar in RED
[...] 1 Mark (optd on recess-engraved, Germany Mi. 94 B II) (Mi. 48)
[...] - ditto - Overprint Double (Mi. 48 DD)

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EASTERN MILITARY COMMAND AREA

1916 : Overprinted Postgebeit / Ob. Ost in black.
[...] 1 Mark (optd on recess-printed Mi. 94) 26 x 17 perforation holes
[...] - ditto - 25 x 17 perforation holes
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GPO Berlin Occpn.of Belgium

Occupation of Belgium: Image (distorted to highlight feature) showing (left) surcharged value below stars and (right) level with stars.

GERMAN OCCUPATION OF BELGIUM (First World War)

Note for this area: To my knowledge, all the stars in the surcharges for Belgium are 'balanced' at their base, i.e.on a single point. For further explanation on this subject, see also the notes and footnotes of German P.O.'s in China and Western Military Command Area.

Optd * 1F(r).25C.* / Belgien in black
[...] 1914: 1Fr.25C./1 Mark ('Fr' for Franc, optd on engraved, Mi.94) (Mi.8)

[...] 1916-18: 1F.25C./1 Mark ('F' for Franc, optd. on Mi.94)Value below stars 26x17 holes (Mi.23 I A)
[...] - ditto - Value below stars again but 25x17 perforation holes (Mi.23 I B)

[...] 1916-18: 1F.25C./1 Mark ('F' for Franc, optd. on Mi.94) Value aligned with stars (Mi. 23 II)

GPO Berlin Error

[...] 1916-18 : ERROR : 2F50Cent/1 Mark. Only one sheet of 20 stamps was produced in error and sold at Charleroi. 13 copies are known to have survives, all used. Catalogue Officiel Belge OC-23Er (cv. Euros 20,000.00)

Note: For stamps surcharged in similar fashion but without the word 'Belgien', see under Western Military Command Area.
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GERMAN POST OFFICES IN CHINA

1901 : Overprinted China in Black
[...] 1 Mark (optd. on Mi.62, inscribed REICHSPOST) (Mi.24)
[...] - ditto - special printing with ' i ' of ' China ' like a comma (Mi.VII k). Unissued - are

[...] (1905) 1 Mark (optd in Latin script on Mi. 94, inscribed DEUTSCHES REICH) (Mi. VIII j). Issued only in Berlin in tiny numbers.

On the remaining issues for China, there is a six-pointed star either side of the new value. These are normally orientated such that they rest (at their base) on two points; some stamps, however, are found with one of the stars 'balanced' on a single point and these are indicated below, where they exist, as 'left star on point' or 'right star on point'. Another feature of nearly all the stamps with this surcharge is that the new value, ' ½ Dollar ' , is not centred, but located much nearer to the right star. I have only indicated below where this is not the case, there being just two stamps with the new value well centred between the stars (Mi. 44B IIa/aa)

GPO Berlin - P.O.'s in China

1905-19: Left: New value off-centre (normal) (Mi.44 B Ia). Right: Value well-centred + variety right star on one point (Mi.44 B IIaa).

1905 : Surcharged * ½ Dollar * / China on UNWATERMARKED stamps
[...] ½ Dollar / 1 Mark (optd. on Mi. 78Aa) 26x17 perforation holes (Mi. 34A)
[...] - ditto - left star on point (Mi. 34 I A)
[...] - ditto - right star on point (Mi. 34 I A)
[...] ½ Dollar / 1 Mark (optd. on Mi. 78 B) 25x16 perforation holes (Mi. 34B)
[...] - ditto - left star on point (Mi. 34 I B)
[...] - ditto - right star on point (Mi. 34 I B)

1905-19 : Surcharged * ½ Dollar * / China on WATERMARKED stamps
[...] ½ Dollar / 1 Mark carmine-red on white paper (optd. on Mi. 94 A I) 26x17 perforation holes (Mi.44A I b)**
[...] ½ Dollar / 1 Mark red on greyish wartime paper (optd on Mi.94 B II) 25x17 holes, surcharge centred (Mi. 44 B IIa)
[...] - ditto - right star on point (Mi. 44 B II aa)
[...] ½ Dollar / 1 Mark red on greyish wartime paper 25x17 holes, white gum (optd on Mi.94 B II) (Mi.44 B I a)
[...] - ditto - as above but dark red with yellow gum (Mi. 44 B I b)
** Note: stamp marked ** above also exists with a 9mm instead of a 9.5mm spacing between the lines of surcharge (Mi.44A I a)

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GERMAN POST OFFICES IN MOROCCO

1900 : Surcharged Marocco 1 Pes. 25 cts. Marocco with thin 'M' in Marocco
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark Red (optd on Mi. 63a) (Mi.16 I)

1903 : Surcharged Marocco 1 Pes. 25 cts. Marocco with thick 'M' in Marocco
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark Red (shades) (optd on Mi. 63a) (Mi.16 IIa)
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark Brownish-carmine (optd on Mi. 63 b) (Mi.16 IIb)

GPO Berlin - P.O.'s in Morocco

Above, left, the 1900 issue, with straight base to the downstrokes of the 'M'. The 1903 issue, right, has a thicker, angular serif.
The image has been distorted to highlight the thickening of the base of the M in the right-hand stamp.

1905 : Surcharged 'Marocco' etc. in gothic script on UNWATERMARKED stamps.
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark Carmine-red (optd on Mi. 78A) 26x17 perforation holes (Mi. 30A)
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark Carmine-red (optd on Mi. 78B) 25x16 perforation holes (Mi. 30B)

1906 : Surcharged 'Marocco' etc. in gothic script on WATERMARKED stamps.
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark Carmine-red (optd on Mi. 94 A I) (Mi. 43

1911-19 : Surcharged 'Marokko' etc. in gothic script
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark red on whitish paper (optd on Mi. 94 A I) (Mi. 55A)
[...] 1 Pes 25 / 1 Mark red on greyish wartiome paper with shiny surcharge (optd on Mi. 94 B II)(Mi. 55 B a)
[...] - ditto but with matt surcharge (Mi. 55 B b)

GERMAN POST OFFICES IN THE TURKISH EMPIRE

1900 : Surcharged 5 PIASTER 5 (in capital letters) ' A ' with pointed top
[...] 5 Pi / 1 Mark Red (optd. on Mi. 63a) (Mi. 20 I a)
[...] - ditto - but Brownish-carmine (optd on Mi. 63b) - rare (Mi. 20 I b)
[ ] - ditto - but Brownish-rose - rare (Mi. 20 I c)
Note: The base of the word ' PIASTER ' is usually level with the top of the figures ' 5 '. However, ' PIASTER ' is also encountered in higher and lower positions.

1903 : Surcharged 5 PIASTER 5 (in capital letters) ' A ' topped with a horizontal line
This surcharge is applied to a special printing of the 1 Mark, for use in Turkey, inscribed REICHSPOST.
[...] 5 Pi / 1 Mark Red (shades) (Mi. 20 II a)
[...] - ditto - but Brownish-carmine (Mi. 20 II b)

1905 : Surcharged 5 Piaster 5 in gothic script on UNWATERMARKED stamps
[...] 5 Pi / 1 Mark Carmine-red 26x17 perforation holes (optd on Mi. 78 A) (Mi. 32 A)
[...] - ditto - but 25x16 perforation holes (optd. on Mi. 78 B) (Mi. 32 B)

1907 : Surcharged 5 Piaster 5 in gothic script on WATERMARKED stamp
[...] 5 Pi / 1 Mark Carmine-red (optd on Mi94 A I) (Mi. 44)

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MARIENWERDER - Plebiscite Issues

1920 : Overprinted Commission / Interalliée / Marienwerder
[...] 1 Mark Red (optd. on engraved stamp, Mi. 94 B) (Mi. 20)
[...] - ditto - Overprint Inverted (Mi. 20 K)

1920 : Overprinted COMMISSION / INTERALLIEE / MARIENWERDER in non-serif capitals
[...] 1 Mark Red (optd. in black on Mi. 94 B II) Not Issued ( MI. 21 I )
See Note after next listing

1920 : Overprinted COMMISSION / INTERALLIEE / MARIENWERDER in angular serifed capitals
[...] 1 Mark Red (optd. in BLACK on Mi. 94 B II) Not Issued ( MI. 21 II a)
[...] 1 Mark Red (optd. in RED on Mi. 94 B II) Not Issued ( MI. 21 II b)

Note : Mi 21 I and 21 IIa/b come from official proof sheets. All three stamps are rare and, although not issued, a few copies are known to have been used.

1920 : Overprinted Commission / Interalliée / Marienwerder on Lithographed stamps.
[...] 1 Mark Red (optd. on Mi. A 113) (Mi. 26)
The Michel Deutschland-Spezial catalogue lists the same three plate flaws for this stamp as for Germany Mi. A 113.
[...] 1 Mk.25 Green (optd. on Mi. 113) (Mi. 27)
[...] 1 Mk.50 Yellow-brown to Brown (shades) (optd. on Mi. 114) (Mi. 28)

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MEMEL - German district under Allied Ocupation 1918-23

1920 : Overprinted Memelgebiet in black
[...] 1 Mark (optd. on engraved Mi. 94 B II) 25x17 perforation holes (Mi. 9)
[...] - ditto - but with inverted ' b ' (Mi. 9 II )
[...] - ditto - but optd. on Mi. 94 A II with 26x17 perforation holes (Mi. 9 I )
[...] 1 Mk 25 Green (shades) (Mi. 10)
[...] 1 Mk 50 Yellow-brown to bright orange-brown (Mi. 11 a)
[...] - ditto - bright brown-orange (Mi. 11 b)
[...] - ditto - dark to blackish brown-ochre (Mi. 11 c)

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SAAR

1920 : Overprinted Sarre in black
[...] 1 Mark carmine-red to red 25x17 perforation holes (optd on Mi. 94) (Mi. 17 A)
[...] - ditto - var. pointed 'a' in 'Sarre ' (Mi. 17 A IV)
[...] 1 Mark carmine-red to red 26x17 perforation holes (Mi. 17 B)
[...] - ditto - var. pointed 'a' in 'Sarre ' (Mi. 17 B IV)
Note: Further specialised varieties, including double and inverted overprints, all rare, are listed in the Michel Deutschland-Spezial catalogue.

1920 : Overprinted SAARGEBIET in black
[...] 1 Mk 25 Green (Mi. 41)
[...] - ditto - Inverted Overprint (Mi. 41 K)
[...] 1 Mk 50 Brown (Mi. 42)
[...] - ditto - Inverted Overprint (Mi. 42 K)
Note: The 1 M 50 exists with overprint at 45 degrees downwards à cheval across two stamps (best seen in vertical pair).

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UPPER SILESIA - Plebiscite Issue

1920 Issue of the Inter-Allied Commission : Overprinted in blue C.I.H.S. in a circle

[...] 1 Mark Carmine-red (optd on Mi. 94 B II) (Mi.17)

Note: Michel renumbers from Mi. 1 for the French/Allied Commission issue. This is a rare stamp, not to be confused with the cheap 15pf, Mi. 17, of the Upper Silesia main issues.

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WESTERN MILITARY COMMAND AREA

1916 : Overprinted * 1F.25 Cent. * in black. Stars 'balanced' on one point. All are overprinted on Mi. 94.
[...] 1 F.25 / 1 Mark. Value below the line of the stars, 26x17 perforation holes (Mi. 11 I A)
[...] - ditto - but 25x17 perforation holes (Mi. 11 I B)
[...] 1 F.25 / 1 Mark with value in line with base of the stars (Mi. 11 II)
[...] - ditto - var. Left star 'balanced' on two points (Mi. 11 II F)

Note: For an explanation of the orientation of the stars, see under German P.O.'s in China. However, whereas, for China, most stamps have the stars balanced on two points (balanced on one point being the variety), the opposite is true for the Western Military Command Area. I am not aware of any varieties of this nature with the issues for the German Occupation of Belgium, all the stamps that I have seen have the stars balanced on one point.

I hope that helps. As ever, please let me know about any mistakes or omissions that you may find in this article.

I should like to acknowledge the assistance of Jeremy Rayner in providing useful evidence with regard to the design detail of these stamps.

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