I recently acquired a small collection of Zeppelin Airmail stamps from a friend who fled Hungary during the ’56 Uprising. When he was preparing to leave Hungary, he combed through his stamp collection, picking the ones that were most valuable. He hoped, when they were safe over the border, he could use them for quick cash to pay for necessities. Nothing large could be taken, no luggage, no oversized bags or anything that would tip off authorities they were fleeing. Everything had to be small, portable and easily hidden. Stamps filled that order. He told me about going through his collection, picking what he hoped would be the most valuable and easily sold.
When he was safe in Austria, he went around to various shops trying to sell the stamps and was heartbroken to find out they were no longer worth as much. So many Hungarians had done the same thing, Austria was awash in them and the prices crashed. He didn’t have the heart to throw them away or sell them for next to nothing and hung on to them. He was attached to them – one of his few possessions that had made it over the border, everything else had been abandoned. The stamps crossed the frontier, tucked into an inside pocket, remained with him through his refugee claim and uncertain times waiting for resettlement and finally all the way to Toronto, Ontario Canada.
58 years later, he still had the stamps, tucked on a shelf, buried, not forgotten but rarely thought about. I was about the only stamp collector he knew and he gave them to me last month. I was and am thrilled to have them. I’m keeping the collection together, with a note about how they found their way to me, in hopes, the next owner, understands how valuable they really are. Sometime, the value can’t be found in a catalogue.
Graf Zeppelin Issues C24 and C25
These two Hungarian Zeppelin overprints were part of the group of stamps. Scotts cat C24 and C25 were issued to celebrate the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin’s visit to Hungary 29 March 1931. Well centred, used pair go, per set, for about $70 to $80 (Cdn). Mint copies are worth slightly less (unhinged mints of course bring a premium). This is one of those cases were used stamps, with good cancels are more attractive than mint ones. You can find a Zeppelin covers for as little as $60, with appropriate cachets and to well over $400. Always look at the cancels – I spotted one recently that had a 1927 cancel, so the C24 and C25 stamps and Zeppelin cachet were added years after the cover was sent. I only spotted it because I love cancels and am always peering at them carefully.
The 1p is orange with a black overprint, the 2p is dull violet with a bright green overprint. 58,598 pairs were printed and a relatively small number of imperforate sets were issued. I believe about 10,000 imperf pairs were printed, so they are worth substantially more. I’ve never seen a pair offered for sale, so I’m not really sure what the market price would be. Scotts pegs the price around $300 for the pair but there is always a weird disconnect between catalogued price and market price. The stamps were made available a few days before the Zeppelin’s arrival and were a hit.
The flight left it’s base in Friedrichshafen South Germany on 28 March @ 11pm and was spotted over Székesfehérvár the next morning at 7:15am. It reached Budapest 45 minutes later, landing 8 am, amid great excitement, at the Csepel Airport. The Mayor of Budapest and other dignitaries were on hand to welcome the crew, along with 20 – 30 thousand people according to contemporary journalist Miklos Magyar. Hard to say what the real number was, but judging by the photos, thousands made the trip to see the LZ-127. It always generated huge interest, wherever it went.
On Monday March 30, the airship flew passengers northeast to Miskolc, then direct south to Kisújszállás and off North West to Vác and finally back to Budapest. The day trip carried a number of notable Hungarians including author and journalist Frigyes Karinthy, Miklós Horthy’s son István, Defense Minister Gyula Gömbös, a number of journalists and Count László Almássy who’s name will be familiar to anyone who read or watched The English Patient. After the visit, the LZ 127 flew on to Děčín Czechoslovakia for a whirlwind tour.
If you collect airmail or anything flight related, you can always find a few fine copies of these Zeppelin airmail stamps on eBay or at auction. If you hit the right auction, you can often scoop one for under listed price. But, like all auctions, it depends on who is there. If a collector of Zeppelin material shows up, expect to spend too much.
For more information on the 1931 visit see http://budapestcity.org/02-tortenet/1931-zeppelin/index-hu.htm