Rare Cretan Stamps

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The largest of the Greek Islands, Crete has been inhabited continuously since prehistoric times. In fact, evidence of early settlements dates back more than 130,000 years! Later, it was one of the cradles of the Minoan civilization, as well as the birthplace of the written Greek language.

With such a prestigious history, it’s no surprise Crete’s stamps are of considerable interest to philatelists. The island experienced a brief period of independence between 1898 and 1908, during which time it issued its own postage. Overprints from periods of Turkish and Greek occupation are also popular collectors’ items.

Early Cretan Stamps

Various occupying forces established postal offices in Crete during the late 19th century. Until 1899, Turkish stamps were the most commonly used on the island. However, for a brief period in 1881, Greece established consulate offices in the cities of Chania, Rethymnon and Herakleion. Greek stamps and letters with local cancellations from this time are among the most sought-after and rare Crete collectors’ stamps.

Stamps of the Cretan State

With tensions escalating between Greece and the Ottoman Empire, in 1898, the short-lived Cretan state was established by the Great Powers. Crete was divided into four zones, each administered by a different power, with Greek Prince George acting as High Commissioner.

The newly founded state began issuing its own stamps in 1900. The first of these featured the High Commissioner, though later issues would celebrate some of the many mythological gods and creatures associated with the island.

Occupation and Revolution

Crete’s independence was a contentious situation, and this was reflected in its brief philatelic history. In addition to the island-wide issues printed by the provisional government, each of the four occupying powers established independent postal offices and routes. Italian, British, Russian and French authorities used their own stamps in their respective regions. Of these, the British and Russian stamps were special issues printed in Greek, while the French and Italian were overprints.

The fall of independent Crete was precipitated in 1905 by the Theriso Revolution, which advanced the cause of union with Greece. Revolutionary authorities printed a brief run of stamps which, while never put into circulation, are some of the most popular stamps from Crete among collectors.

Collecting Crete Stamps

Crete was annexed by Greece in 1908 and shortly thereafter began using that country’s stamps, which it continues to do today. Despite the brevity of the island’s independence, collectors have a lot to dive into and many potential areas of specialization. Collecting Crete stamps is popular among Greek stamp collectors and those interested in dead countries, as well as European collectors in general.

If you’re looking for a specific Crete collectors’ stamp, be sure to check our online store. Better yet, get in touch directly for assistance from one of our in-house experts.