Postage stamps and postal history of Afghanistan

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This is a survey of the postage stamps and postal history of Afghanistan.

First stamps[edit]

A stamp marked "Kingdom of Kabul".

The first stamps appeared in 1871. They were round in shape, imperforate, and printed in black, with a crude lion's head, surrounded by Arabic script specifying one of three denominations. The lion, sher, represented the head of state, Sher Ali Khan, as he had been named for the bravery of a lion.[1] Many catelogues and early collectors incorrectly referred to these as "tiger" heads.[2] Cancellation was accomplished by cutting or tearing off a piece of the stamp. Cancellation by postmark was not introduced until 1891.[1] Initially somewhat large, subsequent issues kept the same basic design but were smaller each year, with the last appearing in 1878. Starting in 1876, the stamps were printed in different colors, each color corresponding to one of the main post offices on the Peshawar-Kabul-Khulm route.[3] Each design in a sheet was individually engraved, so the stamps vary considerably in appearance. Many of the Sher Ali issues are readily available, while some sell for hundreds of US$.

1-abasi stamp of 1892.

The defeat of Sher Ali by the British brought Abdur Rahman Khan to the throne in 1880, and the following year brought new stamps, still round, but with inscriptions in the middle instead of the lion's head. The era of round designs ended in 1891 with rectangular issues for the "Kingdom of Afghanistan". The three designs consisted entirely Arabic script, and were printed in a slate blue color. The 1892 issue featured the national seal consisting of a mosque gate and crossed cannons; it was printed in black on colored paper; at least 10 colors of paper were used, and there are many shades as well, even though all the colors had the same value. In 1894 simplified versions of this design were printed on green paper. The 1898 issues of the national seal on a variety of colored paper were not regularly issued.[4]

1 abasi, 1909.

In 1907 the first rouletted stamps were issued, along with imperforate varieties, depicting a whole mosque, with various surrounding ornamentation. In the 1909 issue the mosque was displayed inside an eight-pointed star pattern.[4]


15-poul imperf stamp of 1927, first use of Roman letters.

The first issue after independence came out on 24 August 1920, a design featuring the royal star of King Amanullah. The three denominations were also the first to use Latin script for the numerals as well as Arabic. Beginning in 1924, each year at least one stamp was issued in February to commemorate independence, a pattern that held steady, with few omissions, until the 1960s.

Parliament House on the 15p of 1939.

Afghanistan joined the Universal Postal Union in 1928; previously international mail required stamps of British India. In 1927, the first Roman letters had appeared on an Afghan stamp, the inscription reading "AFGHAN POSTAGE". This changed to the French "POSTES AFGHANES" in 1928, and remained in that form (with some deviations, as in the 1939 issue) until 1989.

The Afghan stamps of the 1930s and 1940s are rather plain affairs, mostly typographed, with large blank spaces in the design. The definitive series of 1951 was finely engraved by Waterlow and Sons, several featuring portraits of Mohammed Zahir Shah.

A large number of Afghan stamps appeared in the 1960s. Since the Afghan Postal Authority issued some stamps well below the minimal amount of postage, this was considered to be a scheme for making money from stamp collectors. The issues from 1960 on are not especially notable. Starting in the mid-1980s, many of the issues were clearly produced to sell to Western stamp collectors; for instance, the ship series of 1986 is not especially relevant in a landlocked country.

Civil war and after[edit]

The disruption of governance in the late 80s and early 90s due to civil war and the rise of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, led to stopping of stamp issues from 1989 to 2001, although the postal service continued to exist it functioned only haphazardly using existing stamp supplies. There are only a few postal items known from the 1996 to 2001 period.[5][6] During this interim period, many unofficial stamps were printed and distributed, which were disavowed by the Afghanistan postal service in 2000 under the Taliban, and subsequently in 2003 by the Karzai government.[7] Stamp production resumed when the Taliban regime was overthrown and the Afghan Postal Authority reconstituted.[8] The first issue of a postage stamp after the hiatus was the May 2002 stamp showing Ahmad Shah Massoud, a military general and national hero who defended Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 1980s and later led a resistance movement against the Taliban.[9]

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Kloetzel 2008, p. 251
  2. ^ The picture was referred to as "sher", which is generic Indo-Aryan for large wildcat, but which in Afghan Dari means "lion", and in Hindi means "tiger".
  3. ^ Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b Kloetzel 2008, p. 252
  5. ^ Pütz, Franz-Josef (2012). "Das Postwesen in Afghanistan: exotisch und spannend (III)" (PDF). Philatelie und Postgeschichte (in German) (339 (philatelie 418)): 49–51, page 50.
  6. ^ An input by the UN office for Afghanistan in Islamabad for the UN Secretary-General’s report on the anti-Taleban sanctions stated in June 2001 that the flight ban for the state-own Ariana airline also disrupted the activities of the Afghan Postal Services, which had been gradually restored and extended over the past three years. Ruttig, Thomas (29 March 2015). "Post Runners, Aerogrammes and the Big E-Mail Challenge: Scenes from 135 years of Afghan postal service". Archived from the original on 19 April 2015.
  7. ^ "Illegal Postage Stamps Issues - Afghanistan". Archived from the original on 11 December 2004.
  8. ^ Peter, Tom A. (30 October 2012). "Neither heat nor gloom ... Afghan post office delivers". The Christian Science Monitor. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012.
  9. ^ Kloetzel 2008, p. 276


  • Kloetzel, James E.; et al., eds. (2008). "Afghanistan". Scott 2009 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue. Volume 1 (165th ed.). Sidney, Ohio: Scott Publishing Co. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-89487-417-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Stanley Gibbons Ltd: various catalogues[not specific enough to verify]
  • Encyclopaedia of Postal History at the Wayback Machine (archived October 10, 2012)
  • Stuart Rossiter & John Flower: The Stamp Atlas
  • F. E. Patterson III, Afghanistan: Its Twentieth Century Postal Issues The Collectors Club, 1964
  • Cecil H. Uyehara and Horst G. Dietrich, "Afghan Philately 1871-1989" George Alevizos, Santa Monica, CA USA, 1995
  • John M. Wilkins RFD, "Afghanistan 1840-2002 Postal History Handbook, Revised Edition", The Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria (Australia), 2002.
  • Wilkins and Divall, "Afghanistan Revisted, Postal Stationery-Revenues-Forgeries", The Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria (Australia), 2005.
  • Robert Jack, "The Revenue Stamps and Printed Paper of Afghanistan", Robert Jack, ISBN 978-0-9562630-0-1, 2009

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]