Which Country Has the Most Overprinted Stamps?

Anyone with an interest in stamps needs to understand surcharged stamps and overprinting, two issues which can affect the rarity and the value of stamps. If you are collecting stamps from around the world, especially, you may run into overprinted stamps quite often, since some countries overprint more than others.

What are Overprinted Stamps?

Most stamps are simply printed, so the image and text which appears on the stamp was printed in one process. Overprinted stamps, however, are ones where text or images have been added to the stamp after the printing process is complete. Most overprinted stamps undergo this process for a few reasons:

  1. Changes in postage. Also known as surcharges, this type of overprinting allows a country to change the face value of stamps without printing new stamps.
  3. Special Function. Some countries will overprint text on stamps to indicate specific stamp uses, including air mail or military mail.
  5. Commemoration. Overprinting of images and text can be used to commemorate a special event or celebration of a country.
  7. Colonial changes. When political changes mean one region becomes part of another, overprinting is sometimes used to give a new nation or colony its own stamps at first. In these cases, overprinting can be used to add the local currency and local language to existing stamps. Transitional government overprints also fall into this category, where a new party may use overprinting to literally “stamp out” the name or face of a previous political leader.
  9. Security. In places where postage stamp theft has been an issue, overprinting has been used to try to limit how often or how widely a stamp can be used.
  11. Cancelling. Sometimes, a collector or private owner will overprint a stamp, and this will invalidate the stamps in most countries from use in postage. Postal authorities will also sometimes pre-cancel stamps, especially when selling them in bulk to organizations. In these cases, overprinting is used to cancel the stamps. In addition, some stamps are not intended for postal use and these are overprinted with the word “specimen.”

What are the Most Valuable Overprint Stamps?

In general, rarity and demand will determine the value of overprints. Some stamps, for example, are overprinted in error and may be rare and valuable. Some cancelled stamps are cancelled by having a postal authority write “specimen” on them by hand, creating a rarer specimen. Older stamps used in colonial times or transactional government overprints from significant historical moments may also be in greater demand and may command a higher value.

Which Country Has the Most Overprinted Stamps?

Guyana is a country where many overprinted stamps originated. In the 1980s, the country saw many surcharges as postal rates changed frequently. Thousands of overprints originate from Guyana.

The German area of Europe has changed names and politics many times throughout history, so this area of the world has been the origin point of more than a thousand overprints. One of the more curious examples occurred after the end of Nazi Germany, when overprinting was used to obscure the image of Adolf Hitler from stamps.

In addition to Guyana and Germany, other countries with many overprints include Belize, Fiji, and Trinidad and Tobago.

If you are curious about adding overprints to your collection, or would like to price overprints you currently own, visit Apfelbaum, Inc. and we can help you with anything philatelic.