Philately or collecting stamps is a very common hobby, and it can be very lucrative as well. Some stamp collections or even a single stamp can cost a fortune! I’m sure that a lot of you heard (even those people who aren’t curious about stamps) that the red Mauritius stamp from 1847 was sold for $12 million! That is the kind of money that completely changes life.
Even though the production of stamps isn’t so trendy anymore since we all use e-mails and different applications for communication, the stamp market is still alive and vibrant. For the past half of the century, Germany took over the primate in creating and minting stamps.
Since the majority of stamps originated from this country, I think we all agree that it is time for us to do a bit of research and create an ultimate list under the working title – the most valuable stamps from Germany.
Brief Throwback On Philathely In Germany
It is well-known how passionate Germans are about crafting and collecting stamps. It isn’t surprising at all that the ten most reliable and important stamp auction houses that operate today originate from Germany. Their annual cash flow is estimated to be approximately $300 million. Very casual amount of money, don’t you think?
Naturally, the history of stamps in Germany is tightly correlated with politics. Even though wars were raging through Germany for decades some examples of rare and valuable stamps survived all the chaos.
Here is a brief throwback at the history of the German postal stamp and how they evolved with time.
- Thurn and Taxis – Franz von Taxis, established the first postal service in Germany in 1947. However, in 1806 Germany had to split the stamps for ones that are used in the north “Silbergroschen” and those that were valid in the southern states ‘Kreuzer’.
- German States Stamps – From 1849, most German states decided to make their own postage stamps. The first one was Bavaria, following were Wurttemberg, Bremen, Hamburg and Lubeck, Hannover, Saxony, Prussia, and so on. In 1868, the northern states formed the North German Confederation and unified their postal services in one. Only Bavaria and Wurttemberg continued to make their personal stamps until 1920.
- The forming of Deutsche Reichsposts – In 1871 the German states united and form the first national post system. The following year they created the first postage stamp of the German Empire. During the accession of Kaiser Wilhelm, they created new postage stamps which included the Imperial Eagle. The third and final version of the national stamp was released in 1900 portraying the female figure of Germania. This stamp was used during the First World War, so it has real historic value. Also, very common stamps in this period were famous German people, German Zeppelin, and the Hindenburg stamps.
- Philately in the time of the Third Reich – The rise of the Third Reich played a crucial role in the design of the German stamp. At that time due to hyperinflation stamps became a form of currency. In the meantime for people like Jews, stamps presented a secure asset for running away from the Nazi regime. During the war, Germany also produced their personal stamps in Poland, France, Belgium, and Lithuania.
- Fall of the Nazi regime – Germany was divided into four zones after the fall of the Nazi regime. Great Britain, the USA, and Russia took over the control of postal services in 1946 and combined their postal to create Deutsche Bundespost. The Russian zone was turned into a German Democratic Republic (1949-1990), and they created around 3000 very unique and valuable stamps.
- Reunification of East and West Germany – Since the East and West reunified in 1990, the Deutsche Post was incorporated into the Bundespost. Most old stamps that were labeled as Germany were still in use while the new stamps were labeled with Deutschland. From 1995, they renamed Budespost to Deutsche Post AG. They still issue stamps today!
10 Rare And Most Valuable Stamps From Germany
There is no doubt that the rare German stamps have a long and incredible history. After all, some of them lasted through WW II, which increase their value significantly!
However, not all rare German stamps are from the pre-war or war period, there is a German stamp produced in 2016 that is worth a fortune. Also, some stamps owe their value to sheer luck, since they are the product of a mistake. They were printed in the wrong color.
In the rows below you will be able to learn about the most valuable and rare German stamps, see their estimated value in dollars as well as in euros, and find out if and where they are available for purchase.
1. Baden 9 Kreuzer Stamp Error
- Year: 1851
- Price: $1,545,000 (€1,548,422)
This is the most famous and expensive German stamp. We only know four specimens of this famous Baden 9 Kreuzer stamp error. Two are placed on a letter that is in ownership of the Museum for Communication in Berlin, one on the letter that is in private ownership, and one unused that was sold in April 2008 for an amazing $1,545,000.
The color error is what made them so valuable. The first issue of this error was made on 1 May 1851 when the 9 Kreuzer stamp was printed in green instead of pink. Later, some experts thought this error was caused by an inverted plate. Some even talked about how color is the consequence of heat damage during World War II.
2. Rare Audrey Hepburn Stamps
- Year: 2001
- Price: $456,479 (€457,490)
Audrey Hepburn was and still is a very popular movie star even though she died in 1993. In fact, her face was used in modern philately many times, as well as on almost every valuable rarity from the early 2000s.
In 2001, Germans created a charity issue of stamps that had Audrey Hepburn’s face printed on them. The scene was from her movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The problem was that her son didn’t like that she was holding a cigarette holder between her lips instead of sunglasses. Until that Germany has already printed around 14 million stamps, but most of them were immediately destroyed since her son didn’t grant them the copyrights.
The remaining sheet of ten stamps that show the original print with Audrey Hepburn smoking was sold at auction in Berlin for $456,479. The money from the auction her son donated to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund and to Unicef.
3. Oldenburg ⅓ GR Black
- Year: 1859
- Price: $389,193 (€390,656)
In 1859 the Oldenburg ⅓ GR Black stamp was also stamped on green paper by mistake. It seems like Germans have a thing for green color. Anyhow, the design is quite interesting. What makes this stamp so interesting is its design.
The stamp portrays a crown placed above the formula coat of the arms of Oldenburg. The ribbon spiral underneath holds the name of the duchy. Most experts thought there were only four of these stamps available today, until June 2019.
On that day at Heinrich Koehler’s auction, 12 vintage stamps appeared in perfect condition. They were previously owned by Arthur Hind. At the auction, they were presented as a part of the Erivian Collection. All 12 pieces were sold for $389,193.
4. Kerstfest Stamp Error
- Year: 2016
- Price: $112,000 (€112,248)
At the first glance, this stamp looks ordinary. However, if you pay attention more you’ll notice that it has a typo. The Dutch phrase “Vrolijk kerstfeest” was spelled incorectly as “Vrolijk Kerstfest”. Due to the mistake, the whole printing run was discarded.
However, a sheet of 10 stamps appeared on the Felzmann auction in June 2017 for $37,000. In the meantime, the second sheet was sold for $112,000. Two years later, Felzmann sold the third sheet for $21,890.
5. 2-mark Germania stamp with quatrefoil watermark
- Price: $65,500 (€65,620)
A very rare hundred years old stamp was found in November 2014 in perfect condition by a German philatelist. This two-mark Germania stamp with a quatrefoil watermark was sold for a very high price and I’m pretty sure her value increased over the past eight years.
There is no information about how many of these stamps are available for purchase. However, most experts think that there can only be a few pieces since they were printed on paper with a repeating quarterfoil watermark in the shape of little diamond clouds.
It seems like this was a mistake since this type of paper was used for printing revenue stamps In case you think you might have this rarity, these are the details that’ll help you identify it.
6. 5m Kaiser Wilhelm II Invert Error Stamp
- Year: 1905
- Price: $60,790 (€60,900)
The main problem with this stamp was that Kaiser Wilhelm II was inverted. The original stamp portrays Kaiser Wilhelm II who looks at the camera and poses while he gives a speech at the German Empire’s 25th anniversary held on 1896
This stamp was printed only in sheets of 20 pieces, the estimation is that there are only 27 inverted specimens are available. In March 2016 this stamp was sold at Felzmann’s auction for $60,790. Currently, the 5m Kaiser Wilhelm II inverted stamp can be seen in Smithsonian Postal Museum.
7. One Kreuzer Black Stamp
- Year: 1849
- Price: $44,957 (€45,039)
This particular stamp is valuable since it was the first postage stamp formally printed in the Kingdom of Bavaria. It was printed in November 1849 in 832,500 copies! The design features a large number 1 in the center and the stamp was printed in black and white. With time a lot of stamps were printed with small damages due to malfunctions of the engraving press.
In the October of 1851, the majority of stamps were declared unusable, only a few pieces were left with active status until August 1864. Pieces with color dots and damaged angles are very valuable today. In May 2015 a single stamp was sold for $44,057 at Heinrich Koehler auctions
8. German Offices In China Unissued 40pf Tientsin
- Year: 1900
- Price: $35,750 (€35,815)
As you know in the late 19th century Germany established a network of post offices in occupied and foreign countries and printed their own postage stamps. They did this mainly because worldwide and notable providing mail services were unsafe or unreliable during the war state.
The stamp was printed in white and ink color, and it features a portrait of lady Germania. Every stamp has a cancellation mark on it that shows from where the mail was sent and it labels that this particular stamp is not for postal use. These cancellation-marked stamps were called “Vorläufer” stamps.
A single stamp with a China overprint on it was sold on auction for $35,750.
9. Sachen 3pf red stamp
- Years: 1850
- Price: $30,300 (€30,355)
This stamp was printed for the first time in June 1850. Sachen stamp is also known as the Sachsendreier stamp and it is one of the most valuable and beautiful European stamps. It is so rare, that only a few pieces were found, and only already used in the mail.
A lot of these stamps were destroyed in the past since their main purpose was to seal the newspaper that was distributed by the mailman. There were a few auctions held that had sheets with this stamp in the offer.
The first one was held in 2015 in Stugart where the sheet with three stamps was sold for $30,300.
10. Olympic Games in Moscow semipostal stamp
- Year: 1980
- Price: $22,460 (€22,500)
The story goes like this. In 1980 Summer Olympic Games were held in Moscow, however, there was a boycott that protested because of the Soviet action in Afghanistan. The backup destination was Munich.
That is how Olympic Games semipostal stamp with Munich was printed in 1980. They were removed before the issuance day, but few of these stamps stayed in the possession of the German post office and by mistake used in the mail. All we know is that one specimen was sold in 2017 for $22,460.
How To Identify The Value Of German Stamps
If you have some unidentified stamps you would like to try selling, you must find out if it really has any collection value. Here is the best way to do it:
- Try to determine the stamp values by yourself – Find as many printed books and guides as you can and use them as a reference. Try to figure out the age and the material it was used. Look for centering of the design and stamp’s gum. It is very important to know if the particular stamp is canceled or not.
- Assess on your own the condition of the stamp – The grade levels for stamps are divided into three groups – sound (in perfect condition), faulty (with small damages), or defective (if it has stains, abrasions if it misses a corner, and so on).
- Look for watermarks – The majority of German stamps had some type of watermark on them – quarterfoil, lozenges, or network. The lozenge watermark looks like small diamonds, a very small number of stamps have this watermark. Most stamps that portray Germania feature a network watermark.
- Check if the stamp is labeled as rare – Search the Internet, forums, books, and catalogs to find out if your stamp is rare and in demand.
- Research the Internet – Luckily there are a lot of online pages that can provide you with good information. Look for auction sites, stamp dealers’ sites, and forums that count a larger number of stamp enthusiasts. One of them is Stamp World.
Where to look for rare German stamps?
In this case, the best place to look is the Internet. Stamps are very fragile and rare collectible items. Since they are very valuable as well, many of them are kept in the deposit box in banks and can’t be seen.
Looking for rate stamps on eBay and Etsy can sometimes bear fruit. However, it is better to look at auction houses that are specialized in numismatics and philately. Some of them are:
What is the most wanted and valuable stamp in the world?
Even though, Baden 9 Kreuzer Stamp is sold for an unbelievable $1,545,000 believe it or not there is a stamp that is worth twice as much as that. I am talking about the 1868 1¢ Benjamin Franklin Z Grill that was sold for $3 million!
How valuable are German stamps?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to track all the vintage German stamps and determine their real value. However, since the Germans are one of the nations that are still crazy about postage stamps, and they still make them, their work is wildly appreciated.
A lot of stamps are estimated to be worth tens of thousands of dollars originate from Germany, so we can safely say that they are pretty valuable. If you think you have some pre-war or war-dated stamps make sure you consult some professional.
Why collect rare German stamps?
Well, the answer is obvious – the history. No one has a such fascinating and diverse history as Germany. This country went through ups and downs during the 20th century. Their stamp provides some kind of confirmation and testimony of that time and its evolution from its darkest moments to its victory.
Philately is a hobby that is very popular as I already said but at the same time, it is a hobby that is still not very well studied. There are still a lot of postage stamps that are unidentified, or their real value is unknown or diminished, not on purpose, of course.
You can find a lot of different information and value estimation for one and the same stamp example, which can be frustrating sometimes. Anyhow, it seems like this branch evolves fast, and that some of the “issues” will be sorted out very soon. Until then all you can do is learn and do thorough research on your own and on many different places.
If you have some valuable piece of advice to share with us, as usual, I will ask you to share it with us in the comment section.