The Handstamped Issues of Albania.

1/05/2012     Albania

At the end of the Second Balkan War, in November 1912, Albania declared its Independence from the Ottoman Empire. Territorially the country was not intact, with Greek, Serbian and Montenegrin forces still in control of disputed border areas and the new Albanian Government only in control of the southern part of the country. What minimal postal services existed were in the main provided by the Foreign Service providers, namely the Italian and Austro-Hungarian Post Offices although some facilities were provided by Field Post Offices for the troops in the occupied areas.

In general the services were limited to the larger cities where the use of the existing stocks of Turkish stamps continued but by the end of 1912 the Minister of Posts only had control of the post offices at Fier, Gjirokaster, Tepelene and Vlore. By May 1913 , Albania had lost Gjirokaster and Tepelene to the Greeks but the partial withdrawal of Serbian troops gave back control of Berat and Elbasan so by the time of the "Eagle" overprinted issue there were government Post Offices at Berat, Durres, Elbasan, Fier, Kavaje, Kruje, Lezhe, Lushnje, Peqin, Qukes, Shijak, Skrapar, Tirane and Vlore.

Before the order and delivery of the overprinted stamps the only method to show prepayment of postage was the application of the official "Ministeria e Post Teleg e Telefonevet" double ring cachet with a double headed "Eagle" in the centre. These handstamps were originally applied only to envelopes for Official Post Office correspondence but from the 5th May 1913 this was extended to general public use for inland mail. The envelopes were sold at the price of 1piastre and "cut outs" used as stamps for the sender's own envelopes also known. The total issue is believed to 2230 items.

At the end of May 1913 a second handstamp was prepared, a similar double ring circle but inscribed "Postat e Qeverries se Perkoheshme" with "te Shqipenies" in the centre translating to "Post of the Provisional Government of Albania". These envelopes or cut outs were in very limited supply but in part overlapped with the delivery of the "Eagle" overprinted issues.

This 2nd Handstamp was later modified in October 1913 by the addition of a small double headed eagle and a value from 10pa to 10gr, (Michel 18-23) (6 values) and are known as the "Typewriter" issue, these were prepared in case there was a shortage of the "Eagle" overprints as stocks of the Ottoman stamps were dwindling.

Once again at the end of World War I, the postal service was reduced to a bare minimum outside of the major population centres. Lack of transport and infrastructure meant that a very limited service was offered between the main cities by means of couriers travelling on foot or by mule.

To use this service an application was made to the finance office where the postage and any associated fees were worked out for the particular letter and pre-paid. The letter was then handstamped to show payment had been made, the sender then took the letter to the post office who then cancelled it and arranged for transportation. At the other end the letter would be handstamped to show its arrival. The handstamp illustrated is a local issue for Elbasan of January 1919 using the double ring handstamp in red with a black double headed eagle superimposed in the centre, (Michel U1). This example is unused on a full envelope of which there were only 500 issued.

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