OLD FINNISH STAMPS PICTURE FINLAND’S HISTORY
By Elaine Lillback
Letters fly at the speed of light these days when we send e-mail.
Not so, in years past. Canceled postage stamps are here to prove the history and heritage of our Finnish ancestry.
“The first and oldest Finnish stamps of 1856,” remarked Tom Matpack, our Finnish Heritage Museum speaker for the April meeting, “were marked with the Russian KOP. Finland was under Russian rule. We can learn a lot about Finland’s history by collecting and studying stamps. Only ten different stamp editions were in use from 1856-1867. Before that, the royal mail, a wax sealed and white feather embedded envelope was mailed after being canceled by the printed circle with Kopek. A similar one, but carrying a black feather in the seal was used by the commoner.”
Tom has been collecting over six decades, at first garnering his Finnish grandmother’s early letters. In those days few people were interested in stamp collection. Now almost everyone is a stamp collector. He enjoys the canceled ones, but likes to get the mint stamps when possible.
Many of Finland’s stamps were reprinted with a number printed over the face of it increasing the charge for a special cause. Such was the sinking of the Finnish vessel Vaasa. The lion stamp in 1921 was increased greatly by multiple penniä.
In 1875 the Finnish stamps carried the national lion coat of arms. The coat of arms has been on Finnish stamps throughout Finland’s philatelic history, with the exception of 1891-1917 when the lion was replaced by the Russian double-headed eagle. During this period in 1889, when Finland was a grand duchy of Russia, the last stamp was printed in Russian, Finnish and Swedish languages. The lion became the Finnish coat of arms. Eliel Saarinen designed the 1917 new series definitive stamps with the coat of arms.
On purchasing a costly new stamp, Tom recommends that research should be taken to certify that the stamp is authentic. A stamp expert can be hired who then carefully studies the stamp’s validity and degree of perfection and upon completion, gives it a qualifying proof of authenticity. “I’d rather lose $17 paying for his expertise rather than $50 for a fraudulent stamp.”
“Stamping can be a costly hobby, but you need to know what you’re doing,” Tom says. “Go to the library and avail yourself of the Scott Catalogue. You can get the European Scott catalogue that includes Finland. There you can see what the stamp looks like, what the perforation count is, its watermark, date and value and any other interesting bit of data. It’s a good way to encourage your children in learning about their Finnish heritage. Perhaps there are valuable envelopes (covers) that you’ve saved among great-grandmother’s things.”
On with the search! Happy stamping!
Picture ©Lasse O. Hiltunen ---Text © Elaine Lillback
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