Zeppelin mail was mail carried on zeppelins, the German airships that saw civilian use from 1908 to 1939. Almost every zeppelin flight carried mail, sometimes in large quantities; the covers usually received special postmarks, and a number of nations issued postage stamps specifically intended for use on mail carried by the zeppelins.
First period, 1908 to 1914
The first zeppelin to carry mail was LZ 4, in July 1908, followed shortly by LZ 3. The early flights did not use any special markings; the first was an oval reading "LUFTSCHIFF / SIGNALPOST" around the edge and "Z III" in the center, used on LZ 6 (Z 3) from August to October 1909. By 1911 a number of different postmarks were in use; a typical example was a circle reading "AN BORD DES / ZEPPELIN / LUFTSCHIFFES", with a date in the center and the name of the zeppelin at bottom. These were actually applied on board the zeppelin while in flight, at a small postal station.
The zeppelins were taken into military service in 1914, and thereafter did not carry civilian mail, although military commanders had special handstamps applied to their mail.
Inter-war period, 1919 to 1939
In late 1919, LZ 120 Bodensee resumed flights and mail carriage, using postmarks much as before the war, until 1921 when it was given to Italy as a war reparation. LZ 126 carried mail briefly in 1924 before it was delivered to the United States and renamed the Los Angeles (ZR-3). The Los Angeles carried mail between Lakehurst, New Jersey, Bermuda, and Mayagüez, Puerto Rico several times.
LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin had a long and celebrated career. Within weeks of its first flight in September 1928, the Graf Zeppelin carried the first airmail to go directly from Germany to the US and vice versa. Germany issued special 2-mark and 4-mark stamps for the occasion. On the return trip, the zeppelin carried almost 52,000 postcards and 50,000 letters. In 1929, Graf Zeppelin circled the globe, with stops in Tokyo and Los Angeles. By the time it was taken out of service in June 1937, the zeppelin had made 590 flights, each flight carrying up to 12 tons of mail to and from dozens of countries around the world.
Although LZ 129 Hindenburg is most famous for its fiery end, for the 14 months of its existence, it carried considerable amounts of mail overseas, and many of those are readily available today. Most of the 17,609 pieces of mail on the last flight were destroyed in the fire, but a handful were recovered, and today are highly prized crash covers.
The LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin II was the last of the zeppelins to carry mail; it was in civilian service for only a few months, from October 1938 to August 1939, and made only 30 trips, all within Germany.
Zeppelin stamps were issued by a few countries to pay the postage for mail carried on Zeppelin flights during the late 1920s and early 1930s when Zeppelin's flew passengers and mail from Germany to other countries and on return flights. Some stamps were regular issues overprinted while other were specially designed.
|Argentina||1931||5¢, 18¢, 90¢||black overprint on 5¢, 18¢
red overprint on 90¢:492
|Bolivia||1930||5c on 10c, 10c, 15c, 25c, 50c, 1b||overprint "CORREO AEREO / R. S. 6–V–1930"
5c on 10c has additional "5 CTS." overprint
10c known in black and bronze overprint
50c known in red and bronze overprint:908
|Brazil||1931||2500r on 200r, 500r on 300r
2500r on 3000r
|overprint "ZEPPELIN / 2$500"
overprint "2.500 REIS":1025–26
|1932||3500r on 5000r
7000r on 10,000r
|overprint "ZEPPELIN / 3$500" :1025–26|
|Cyrenaica||1933||3l, 5l, 10l, 12l, 15l, 20l||Zeppelin and clouds forming Pegasus
Zeppelin and ancient galley
Zeppelin and giant bowman:668
|Egypt||1931||50m on 27m, 100m on 27m||bilingual overprint "GRAF ZEPPELIN / AVRIL 1931"
overprint error "1951 instead of "1931":979
|Finland||1930||10m||overprint "ZEPPELIN / 1930" forgeries are known
error "1830" for "1930":1112
|Germany||1928 -31||1m, 2m, 4m||stamps show Graf Zeppelin crossing ocean:163|
|1930||2m, 4m[note 1]||overprint "(logo) / SÜDAMERIKA / FAHRT":163|
|1931||1m, 2m, 4m [note 1]||brown overprint "POLAR– / FAHRT / 1931":163|
|1933||1m, 2m, 4m [note 1]||overprint "Chicagofahrt / Weltaustellung / 1933" for Chicago World's Fair flight:163|
|Greece||1933||30d, 100d, 120d||Zeppelin over Acropolis:427|
|Hungary||1931||1p||overprint "Zeppelin / 1931" on Turul carrying messenger stamp:766|
|Iceland||1931||30a||regular issue overprinted "Zeppelin / 1931":799|
|Italy||1933||3l, 5l, 10l, 12l, 15l, 20l||Zeppelin over pyramid of Caius Cestius:1166|
|Liechtenstein||1931||1fr, 2fr||1fr - Zeppelin over Naafkopf Falkniz Range
2fr Zeppelin over Valüna Valley:500
|1936||1fr, 2fr||Airship Graf Zeppelin:500|
|Paraguay||1935||3p on 4p, 4p||overprint "Cerreo Aéreo / (Zeppelin image) / ""Graf Zeppelin""
the Zeppelin image was handstamps while the text was printed:150
|Russia||1930||40k 80k||Zeppelin and "Call to Complete 5-year Plan in 4 Years"
for Graf Zeppelin flight from Friederichshafen to Moscow and return:706
|1931 32||10k, 15k, 20k, 50k, 1r||5 different designs imperforate and with varying perforations and watermarks - bogus perforations errors are known:706|
|1931||30k, 35k, 1r, 2r||North Pole issue with Graf Zeppelin and Icebreaker Malygin transferring mail
all imperforate and perforated:706
|San Marino||1933||3l on 50c, 5l on 80c, 10l on 1l
12l on 2l, 15l on 2.60l, 20l on 3l
|overprint "(Zeppelin image) / ZEPPELIN / 1933 / L. (value)."
also known inperforate:963
|Tripolitania||1933||3l, 5l, 10l, 12l, 15l, 20l||Mercury and Zeppelin:573|
|United States||1930||65¢, $1.30, $2.60||three different designs illustrating a Zeppelin:123|
|1933||50¢||for the Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair flight:123|
Notes, references and sources
- Counterfeits are known of these stamps
- James E. Kloetzel (editor) (2006). 2007 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue: Volume 1 A–B. Sidney, OH: Scott Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89487-375-X.
- James E. Kloetzel (editor) (2006). 2007 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue: Volume 2 C–F. Sidney, OH: Scott Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89487-376-8.
- James E. Kloetzel (editor) (2006). 2007 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue: Volume 3 G–I. Sidney, OH: Scott Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89487-377-6.
- James E. Kloetzel (editor) (2006). 2007 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue: Volume 4 J–O. Sidney, OH: Scott Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89487-378-4.
- James E. Kloetzel (editor) (2006). 2007 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue: Volume 5 P-SL. Sidney, OH: Scott Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89487-379-2.
- James E. Kloetzel (editor) (2006). 2007 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue: Volume 6 So-Z. Sidney, OH: Scott Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89487-380-6.
- Zeppelinpost Spezial-Katalog (Sieger) (in German)