Postage stamps and postal history of Bergedorf
Bergedorf issued only five stamps between 1861 and 1867. Bergedorf is the smallest field of German stamp collecting.
Due to its good geographic location, Bergedorf had already received postal services from the Hanseatic league early on. The city's postal connections to Hamburg were especially well developed at an early stage.
Since 1420, Bergedorf had belonged to both of the Hanseatic cities of Hamburg and Lübeck. Because Bergedorf belonged to both cities, the curious condition arose where Bergedorf's post could not be administered by either Hamburg or Lübeck. Therefore, Bergedorf formed its own tiny autonomous postal jurisdiction. Several other principalities also established postal departments in Bergedorf. In 1746, Hannover set up its own postal department in Bergedorf, which lasted until 1846. In 1785, the dynasty of Thurn und Taxis succeeded Hannover and established its own postal department, which was not closed until 1851. In 1839, Prussia finally opened a postal department in Bergedorf as well.
Finally in 1847, the Lübeck-Hamburgerische Postamt (Postal Department of Lübeck and Hamburg) emerged from the Prussian postal department. In the following years, this arrangement was extended and its region of influence enlarged. In 1856, further departments in Geesthacht and Kirchwerder were established.
After Hamburg and Lübeck had already issued their first stamps in 1859, Bergedorf followed in 1861. However, Hamburg's stamps were officially sold beside those from Bergedorf at the post office counters.
Bergedorf's own stamp issues
On 1 November 1861, five definitive stamps with values of ½, 1, 1½, 3, and 4 Schillings were issued in Bergedorf. These five values could satisfy the postal tariffs for all distance and weight needs of the time. At that time, only about 12,000 people lived in the whole postal region. The imperforated definitive stamps were printed when required and were valid until 31 December 1867. The stamps are square in shape. Besides the value, the country's name and the term "Postmarke", the centre of each stamp depicted one half of the coat of arms of each of Hamburg and Lübeck.
The Bergedorf stamp series is often referred to as a "growing series" because each value is a little bit larger than its predecessor. Thus, the 4 Schilling value looks twice as large as the ½ Schilling value. Together with the different paper colours of the values, the sizing helped to distinguish between the various stamps.
Unification with Hamburg
Effective 1 January 1868, Bergedorf was purchased by the Hanseatic city of Hamburg and passed completely into its ownership. On this date, the joint entry into the North German Confederation (the predecessor of the German Reich) took place. Since that time, the postal history of Bergedorf shares that of the North German Confederation. Bergedorf's five stamps were only valid until that day.
Karl Knauer: Bergedorfer Postgeschichte. 330 pages, 1961