Centenarian stamps


by Kaya Dorsan



The first Turkish postage stamp went into use during the reign of Ottoman Emperor Sultan Abdülaziz in 1863. Thereafter, new postage stamps were put on sale every 3-4 years.


At that time, there was no tradition of issuing commemorative stamps, and only definitive sets consisting of stamps of various denominations were issued. These stamps bore the portrait of the monarch or some other national symbol or mythological figure. Turkish stamps of the Ottoman period generally displayed the Sultan’s formal signature (tughra), surrounded by a decorative frame.


The Ottoman stamps issued in 1901 had almost run out by 1905, so a new series was put on sale. The stamps thus issued are now exactly a hundred years old.


Domestic mail


The new stamps were headed by a postal series consisting of stamps of ten different values varying from 5 para to 50 kuruþ. The stamps bore the tughra of Abdülhamit II.


At the same time, a matbua set of six stamps was issued for use in sending newspapers and printed materials. The word matbua (printed matter) was overprinted on these stamps in Arabic script.


Together with these two sets of postage stamps, a set of two tax stamps was issued. These stamps were printed on red paper and served to charge the receiver of an underpaid item the deficient cost of postage plus a penalty charge.


International competition


Towards the end of 1905, an external set went on sale consisting of four stamps valid only for international despatches. These stamps were overprinted with the letter “B”, which stood for beyiye and indicated that the stamp was to be sold for a price lower than its face value. This was a tactic which enabled the Postal Administration to compete with the foreign post offices which had been permitted to operate in Turkey.


Later, with the abolition of the capitulations, the activities of the foreign post offices in Turkey were prohibited, and the need for the Postal Administration to make such “special offers” disappeared.


Varieties to collect


The 1905 stamps were also used on postal stationeries such as postcards, letter-cards and envelopes. The same stamps were also re-used with fresh overprints several times in subsequent years. As a result, it is possible to build up a large philatelic collection based entirely on the stamp series now exactly a century old.