A Brief History of the
Cyprus Stamp

Cyprus' postal history reflects the island's turbulent history and as such is rich and interesting. It could be said that Cyprus' postal history is the most interesting of all Commonwealth countries.

 

Period before 1878

The postal history of Cyprus begins with the Venetians. They were the first to organise postal communications. Letters from dignitaries of the time, from merchants, from Embassies and Consulates were taken by their own ships to all towns of the Mediterranean. The first known letter sent from Famagusta to Constantinople bears the date 17/8/1353. Many other letters followed but without postmarks. Instead of postmarks appear the initials "C.D.G.= CHE DIO GUARDI", God is guarding it.

In Turkish times we come across egg-shaped postmarks with the words: VENDAMAR and in the middle the lion of ST. Mark of Venice. The confidentiality of the letters in those days was secured by means of sealing-wax. In the meantime in 1845-1864 appear the first hand-made stamps. During that period postmarks were used for the fist time by the Austrian Post Office Lloyd of Larnaca.

At the time letters travelled with great slowness and in complex conditions and the result was a continuous increase of expenses. The problem was aggravated when the settlement of postal fees among states was to be made. The problem was radically solved by the postage stamp. The first was issued in England on 10/1/1840 and depicted Queen Victoria. The idea for using the postage stamp belongs to the English educationist Rowland Hill (1795-1879).

In Cyprus the first modern stamps appeared in 1864 and were stamped with the known circular postmark "LARNACA DI CIPRO" again from the Austrian Post Office. Big stamps of Turkish issues of that period are also found. Those stamps were used in the island by the Turkish Post Office of Cyprus which opened in Nicosia in 1871 and closed in 1878. It must be pointed out that in those seven years only few letters were sent from Cyprus with Turkish stamps since the Turkish population of the island was illiterate.

 

Period of British Postage Stamps 1878-1960

On 8/7/1878 Cyprus came under British administration. On the 27th of the same month a British Post Office opened in Larnaca while the Lloyd Post Office closed down six months later after continuous service of 33 years. After that Post Offices were opened in all towns with postmarks bearing the date and the corresponding characteristic numbers of 942 Larnaca, 969 Nicosia, 974 Kyrenia, 975 Limassol, 981 Paphos and 982 Famagusta. A general characteristic of the time was that all Post Offices on the island operated under the control of the General Post Office of England and that the postage stamps of a total of 10 values used on the island were the same British postage stamps issued from 1858-1880.

From 1/4/1880 - 30/6/1881 British stamps of the time were overprinted "CYPRUS". The overprinting was done at the Government Printing Press in Nicosia.

From 1/7/1881 until 1928 Cypriot stamps were issued with the Royal portraits of Victoria, Edward VII and George V. The stamps of these series were called "De La Rue Key Plate" from the name of the company that issued them. They are all monotype and depict only portraits of the respective kings bearing the words "Postage and Revenue". The 1 stamp of the series 1922-23 and the 5 stamp of 1928 may have lot a lot because of their monotonous appearance but have gained a lot for being rare.

From 1928-15/8/1960 the royal portraits are phased out and Cyprus postage stamps depict scenes which are related to Cypriot reality.

On 16/81960 Cyprus became an Independent Republic. On that particular day a commemorative series of 3 stamps was put into circulation while the Definitive series of Queen Elizabeth was overprinted in Greek and Turkish with the words "CYPRUS REPUBLIC".

The Republic, through the Department of Postal Services, began issuing on a regular basis a limited number of series each year aimed at covering postage revenue and at the same time projecting through stamps the history, cultural heritage and natural attractions of Cyprus.

From 1960 to the present 7 definitive series of stamps have been issued consisting of 97 stamps, 157 commemorative series comprising 496 stamps and 7 series of refugee stamps with 7 stamps.

 
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