Russian Postage stamps


The postage stamp idea had already swept much of the world when, in September 1856, the Russian authorities decided to follow suit. The first stamps went on sale 10 December 1857, but were not valid for use until 1 January 1858. The first value was a 10-kopeck to be used for letters weighing up to one lot (about 12.8 grams). It was an imperforate stamp depicting the coat of arms of Russia, and printed using typography in brown and blue. This was followed on 10 January by 20-kopeck and 30-kopeck perforated stamps using the same design but in different pairs of colors, along with a perforated version of the 10-kopeck stamp. The paper was originally watermarked with the numeral, but this was soon abandoned, and later printings in 1858 are on regular wove paper.


A 5k stamp for local postage was introduced in 1863, and in the following year a new common design, with the arms in an oval, was introduced for 1k, 3k, and 5k values. These were used to make up complicated rates for international mail, which had previously required cash payments at the post office. After 1866 the stamps were printed on laid paper watermarked with a pattern of wavy lines and "EZGB" in Cyrillic. The "grain" of the laid paper was usually horizontal, but for a minority of each value the grain is vertical.


In September 1865, the Shlisselburg district became the first of the zemstvo offices to issue stamps; the system was officially organized by a decree of 27 August 1870.


In 1874, Russia became one of the original 22 countries forming the General Postal Union (later the Universal Postal Union).


The coat of arms design was changed in 1875, and used for 2k and 8k values, and a 7k in 1879. The 7k was also printed on revenue stamp paper watermarked with a hexagon pattern; these are quite rare.


A new issue of 14 December 1883 featured an updated design, lower values printed in a single color, and new high values - 14k, 35k, and 70k. January 1884 saw the introduction of 3.50-ruble and 7-ruble stamps, physically much larger than existing stamps.


In 1889 the designs were changed again, this time to introduce thunderbolts across the posthorns underneath the double-headed eagle, and in printings after 1902 the usual grain of the paper was changed to be vertical.


At the end of 1904 Russia issued its first semi-postal stamps. The four values were each sold at 3k over face to provide for orphans of casualties in the Russo-Japanese War.


In 1909 a new series came out, using a mix of old and new designs, all printed on unwatermarked wove paper, and with lozenges on the face to discourage postage stamp reuse.


Russia's first series of commemorative stamps appeared 2 January 1913 to mark the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. The 17 stamps featured portraits of the various Tsars, as well as views of the Kremlin, Winter Palace, and Romanov Castle. But in 1915 and 1916, as the government disintegrated under the pressures of World War I, several of the designs were printed on card stock and used as paper money. 7k and 14k stamps were also surcharged 10k and 20k due to shortages.