In 1843, Switzerland became the second country ever to introduce postage stamps; the UK was first in 1840. Early examples of Swiss stamps are therefore some of the most valuable and sought-after in the world. An exhibition showing off the delicate rarities is now running in Bern, as the nation marks 175 years of the Swiss postage stamp.
The stamp collection at the Museum of Communicationexternal link is worth several million Swiss francs. The 4-Rappen (4-cent) stamp, together with the 6-Rappen stamp – both of which can be seen in the exhibition – were the first to be issued throughout continental Europe. Today these are worth a small fortune.
Inscribed with "Local-Taxe" at the bottom, the 4-rappen stamp was intended to pay for letters posted within a city, while the 6-rappen stamp, inscribed "Cantonal-Taxe", was used on letters posted and delivered within canton Zurich.
Stamp art by Ferdinand Hodler
They were both designed with a pattern of fine red lines behind the numbers, to discourage counterfeiting. These stamps were popular from the start, but weren’t printed in large numbers. Nowadays they are scarce, their values ranging from CHF1,400 ($1,500) to CHF18,000.
The exhibition "EXTREMEexternal link" will show contributions from Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler, whose work was initially rejected as a competition entry in 1901 but was later accepted in 1937 as a special stamp with a surcharge added to help finance the military.
In the series #swisshistorypicsexternal link, we look back to the past and show pictures from Swiss art and culture.