Oldest Austrian stamp, cut, 1850.
Stamps (official postage stamps): First introduced in Austria on June 1, 1850 and the first set of Austrian stamps issued in the same year (with coat of arms). In 1851 the world´s first newspaper stamps were issued. Of all these stamps which show the head of Mercury and which are without any declaration of value, the vermilion issue of 1856 is regarded as the rarest and most precious Austrian stamp. The stamps of the 1858 set showing the portrait of Emperor Franz Joseph (embossed printing) were the first serrated Austrian stamps. Over a period of more than 50 years coats of arms, the portraits of the Emperor and Mercury remained the only subjects on Austrian stamps. They were mainly produced in letterpress, later also in intaglio technique. To prevent forgeries watermark paper was used until 1890, later fibre paper was used; from 1901 to 1904 the stamps were given a coat of varnish on diagonal stripes, from 1908 to 1913 glossy chalk-surfaced paper was used, and from 1920 to 1936 paper with a chemical additive which turns red when treated with an alkaline liquid was used. Later a special form of engraving (the picture was engraved into a plate and then removed) was introduced.
Until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise in 1867 Austrian stamps were also valid in Hungary, where they were used even after the establishment of sovereign postal rights until 1871; for this reason the stamps had no inscription. The Austrian stamps for Lombardy (until 1859) and Venetia (until 1866) had the same motifs but the value was indicated in Italian currency; similar rules applied to the Austrian post offices in the Turkish Empire ("Levant"),of which 79 existed until 1914. Austrian stamps were also valid in Liechtenstein; in 1912 they were replaced by stamps with the inscription "Imperial Austrian Post in the Principality of Liechtenstein" which were withdrawn from circulation in 1918. From 1879 Austria issued separate stamps for the occupied territory of Bosnia and Hercegovina (military post).These stamps revolutionised stamp design; the set of stamps showing landscapes designed by K. Moser led in 1906 to a new trend in designing stamps as miniature works of art, which has since then been imitated all around the world. Moser also created the set of stamps issued on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1908 (portraits of the sovereign). The last set of stamps issued in the monarchy was designed in 1916 (imperial crown, portrait of Emperor Karl, coat of arms); in 1918/19 the word "Deutschösterreich" (German-Austria) was printed in black letters over these stamps. The 1922-1924 issue (with denominations up to 10,000 crowns on account of inflation) shows stylised symbols (ear of corn, pliers and hammer, female portrait) according to designs by W. Dachauer. In New York one stamp of Dachauer´s Nibelung set (1926) was awarded the prize of the most beautiful stamp in the world. Until 1938 further stamps, e.g. the charity stamps, were designed by R. Junk, G. Jung and H. Ranzoni, Hans, the Younger. The latter also created the first set of stamps of the Second Republic. This set was issued by the interim government in Vienna and was only valid in the Soviet occupied zone, while the zones of the Western powers used stamps which were brought to Austria (as well as to Italy, France and Germany) by American troops. Later these stamps were overprinted with the word "Porto" and used up in the whole country as surcharge stamps. Along with these stamps the remaining stocks of German stamps (overprinted with the word "Austria") were used. The first permanent set of stamps of the Second Republic was issued in 1945/46 and showed landscapes according to the designs by A. Chmielowski. Due to the currency reform at the end of 1947 this set had to be printed in another colour (same colour for groschen and schilling). All stamps which have been issued so far can still be used to prepay a letter. Several designs on permanent sets of stamps: national costumes (since 1948, drawings by J. Seger), different buildings (from 1957, designs by A. Pilch, H. Strohofer, O. Zeiller), beautiful Austrian landscapes (from 1973, by O. Zeiller), Austrian monasteries (since 1984, by O. Zeiller, W. Pfeiler).
From 1853 to 1900 there were special newspaper stamps, from 1973 to 1983 separate telegraph stamps, in World War I armed forces' stamps, and from 1916 to 1921 express stamps. In 1894 the first surcharge postage stamp (usually called "penalty stamp") was issued; in 1918 the first issue for air mail (as overprint for the route Vienna - Crakow - Lvív - Kiev). The issue of separate stamps for air mail ceased after 1953; the last newspaper stamps were issued in 1922.
All Austrian stamps are printed in the National Printing Shop where stamps for many other countries are also produced. Austrian stamp design has never adhered to any particular art movement since Austria has excellent stamp designers and engravers. As well as high artistic quality, Austria's stamp issuing policy and the excellent services of the Austrian post for stamp collections are reasons for the popularity of Austrian stamps.
Stamp of Bosnia-and-Hercegovina-set of the Austro-Hungarian post, in 1906.
Stamp of the set issued on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the reign of the Emperor Franz Joseph I, in 1908.
Stamp of the First Republic, in 1934.
Stamp of set of landscapes after World War II, in 1945.
Stamp issued on the occasion of Austria's accession to the European Community, in 1995.