6th October 2015 The Ottoman Empire & Albania – Nick Bridgewater

On Tuesday 6th October Banbury Stamp Society welcomed Nick Bridgwater from Leamington to our regular meeting at Hanwell Fields Community Centre.

Nick started collecting stamps on retirement, intending to collect Eastern Europe. He soon discovered that history dictated that this included the Ottoman Empire – a much larger project as his display demonstrated.

Nick started with a brief geography and history lesson on how the Ottoman Empire waxed and waned over the centuries. By the mid nineteenth century several foreign countries ran postal services in the Ottoman Empire under the name of Capitulations, due in part to the inefficiency of the Turkish Post Office. The first Ottoman stamp was issued in 1863 and this and many of the early issues have the distinctive Arabic signature or Tugra of the Sultan. Early issues were printed in Paris before moving to Constantinople.

The early issues carried a wide range of overprints making collecting particularly challenging – once the overprint is identified it then has to be determined whether it is a forgery or not! Prior to joining the Universal Postal Union (UPU), Turkey offered a wide range of services each requiring a different stamp. As always some values are scarcer than other, particularly in a used condition and are certainly scarce used on cover for the correct service. On joining the UPU the range of values was streamlined and in an effort to compete with the foreign Post Offices still operating, foreign correspondence rate stamps were sold at a discount.

At the start of 1914, with Turkey allied with Germany, the foreign PO capitulations were cancelled. Wartime paper shortages saw yet more overprints as old stock was used up. The first half ended with two WW1 commemorative issues – one for the Dardanelles campaign which was of course a Turkish victory, and the second for the Armistice.

In the second half, Nick presented material on Albania, part of the Ottoman Empire until it became an independent state in 1913. It issued its first stamps that year, which were Turkish stamps overprinted with a double headed eagle – again, overprint varieties abound, interspersed with plausible forgeries. Independence didn’t last long and the country fragmented in the First World War only to be reunited in 1919 when it started to use overprinted Austrian stamps. From the 1920’s, the country was ruled by the man who eventually declared himself King Zog who indebted the country to Mussolini’s Italy. This ended up with nationalisation in the 1930’s followed by Italian Occupation from 1939-43 and subsequently German occupation until 1944. Philatelically, this resulted in Italian stamps used in Albania as well as German overprints of the same. Post war, Albania became a Communist republic under Enver Hoxha and Nick’s final sheets of stamps were examples from this period.

The next meeting is on Tuesday October 20th at 7:30pm when Ken Flint’s subject will be ‘Mail by Rail and Plane’.