Norway's First Stamp

The issue of Norway’s first postage stamp took place on I January 1855. The Storting had approved the Postage Reform the year before introducing uniform postage, which meant that a single letter weighing no more than I lod (15.6 grams) was to cost 4 skilling irrespective of the distance in Norway, and stipulating that the postage was to be prepaid by means of stamps.

Norway’s first stamp designer was Nils Andreas Harbou Zarbell. His real occupation was running an engineering workshop in Christiania, but he was one of a number of persons who had been asked by the postal authorities to submit a design for a stamp. When his first proposal, a portrait of King Oscar I, was refused, Zarbell submitted a new draft. This time the subject was Norway’s coat-of-arms. Originally square, the draft was revised and finally given a rectangular shape. The stamps were typo graphed in 2,018,200 copies.

Norway Number One enjoys a high status among philatelists. There was no perforation between the stamps and they had to be cut from each other. This meant that the margins on the individual stamp had different width. and this is a special field among collectors. Postmarks are another story. Initially the stamps were cancelled with ‘gridirons’ and the envelopes were date-stamped. Later on, number stamps were used and each post office had its own number. As a transitional arrangement, the stamps could be cancelled with an ink cross or a hand-written place name. These items are much sought after by collectors.

Among the almost 1600 Norwegian stamps that have been issued since 1855, the posthorn stamps deserve special mention. Posthorn stamps are paradise for collectors with an eye for detail. Different paper, printing plates, plate composition, shades of color, printing type and much, much more make posthorn stamps a science in themselves. For 133 years they have been fascinating and frustrating collectors all over the world.

Norway’s first commemorative stamp was issued in 1914 to mark the centenary of the Constitution. This was the start of a new era. The subjects of the stamps were no longer restricted to kings, coats-of-arms and posthorns. Famous Norwegians, historic events, flora, fauna, art, culture and nature have provided good PR for Norway on many fine stamps down through the years.

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