German post offices abroad

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A German stamp overprinted for use in China.

The German post offices abroad were a network of post offices in foreign countries established by Germany to provide mail service where the local services were deemed unsafe or unreliable. They were generally set up in cities with some sort of German commercial interest. In early use only the cancellation mark can identify their postal use aboad; such stamps are known as "Vorläufer" (forerunner) stamps.[1] Later stamps are identified by overprints even when not postally used. German abroad stamps started appearing in the late 19th century and reached their heyday at the beginning of the 20th century; they closed down during or shortly after World War I.

It was not unusual for countries to maintain such offices and Austria-Hungary, China, France, Greece, Italy, Romania, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States all did so. In the latter part of 19th century and into the 20th century, having extraterritorial post offices was one indication of a nation's international power.[2]

Stamps from German post offices abroad are popular with collectors and some are quite valuable. In a 2006 auction, a 40 Pfennig Germania hand-stamped "China" (Tientsin issue) stamp from 1900 realized 100,152 Euros.[3]

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