On Tuesday April 17th, Banbury Stamp Society welcomed John Anthony who presented material from Bosnia. As with many of our presentations on stamps from a single country, we started with a reminder of where Bosnia is and how it came to exist as a country needing a postal service. In the case of Bosnia, the region was part of the Ottoman Empire from the mid-15th century until 1878. This was when Bismarck called the council of Berlin and agreed with other European powers to stabilise the Balkans and diminish Russian involvement in the region. Serbia and Montenegro became independent states and Bosnia-Herzegovina came under the protection of Austria. (Great Britain came out of the agreement with Cyprus).
John’s presentation started with covers posted in the 1850’s and using Ottoman stamps. The Austro-Hungarian army moved occupied the region in 1878 and there was military mail from this campaign. After stabilisation, the Austro-Hungarian Empire printed stamps at the Austria State Printers for use in Bosnia-Herzegovina, although that name did not appear on stamps until 1903. The first issue of stamps had a range of unusual perforation varieties – a minefield for collectors.
In 1900 Austria changed its currency and Bosnia followed suit. There was a three month transition for the stamps and John had examples from this period, including mixed currency covers. The early 20th Century saw a rise in the popularity of philately and the Austrian Post Office catered to this with a range of proof stamps as well as further perforation varieties. Commemorative and definitive (Franz Josef) issues were produced and the First World War saw a range of charity issue overprints. 1917 saw an issue commemorating the assassination of the Archduke and this was cancelled in red. The last set of stamps for Bosnia was printed in 1918 but were never issued as, after the Great War, Bosnia became part of the federation which eventually became Yugoslavia.
John showed material from the railway: most rail routes radiated out from Sarajevo and John showed a range of Travelling Post Office postmarks. John also explained how Austria divided the country into six administrative districts and he showed material from Mostar district (effectively Herzegovina). One way of identifying mail is from the post office number assigned. Interestingly, Mostar used Arabic numerals for its offices while the other five districts used Roman numerals.
The Banbury Stamp Society is on-line at ‘www.banburystampsociety.co.uk’, or contact John Davies on 01295 255831.