INTRODUCTION: The postage stamp is regarded usually as a small rectangular paper with an adhesive label issued by a government and sold in various denominations to be affixed to items of mail as an evidence of the payment of postage. Stamps have been also issued in other shapes or made of materials other than paper. New Zealand issued the circular stamps and Sierra Leone and Tonga produced self-adhesive stamps in the form of fruit. Bhutan issued a stamp with its national anthem on a playable record, and Switzerland once made a stamp partly out of lace. The industrial revolution and economic growth in Britain, in late 18th and early 19th centuries, urged a demand for a better postal service, which were then under the framework of British stagecoaches. On May 1, 1840 Britain issued the Penny Black with the profile of Queen Victoria printed on it. That was the world's first postage stamp. Few years after Britain issued the first postage stamp, the governments of other countries decided to follow suit. Switzerland, the United States, France, Russia, Japan, and Iran issued their first postage stamps in 1843, 1847, 1849, 1858, 1871, and 1875 respectively. Since the issuing of the postage stamps, the philately or the collecting and studying of stamps as a hobby has also become popular around the world.
EARLY EFFORTS IN IRAN: During the reign of Nasser-e-Din Shah (1846-1896) of Qajar dynasty, a postal system of paying a fee for mail prior to delivery was established under the supervision of premier Taghi-Khan-e-Amirkabir. The notice on the new postal service was published on February 12, 1851 in the 2nd issue of an official newspaper named Happening Events (in Persian: Vaghayeh Ettefagheeyeh). The notice read as follows: 'In the view to bring order and harmony in the postal system of Iran, it was decided that post offices to be established in Tehran and other important provinces and those who wish to send letter by mail should bring it to one of those offices and leave it with the postmaster'.
According to the 7th issue of the same newspaper, the postal service started on March 21, 1851. On October 29, 1851, a senior governmental officer named Sha'fi Khan was appointed by the premier as the first postmaster. In those years, the units of currency in Iran were as follows: 20-Shahis=100-Dinars=1-Gheraan=1-Rial, and 10-Rials=1-Tomaan. The postage fee for letters delivered in Iran was fixed at 5-Shahis for one letter and 20-Shahis for five letters or more in one envelope.
FIRST IRANIAN STAMPS: In early 1860s when Nasser-e-Din Shah came back from his visit to Europe, upon the recommendation of Ali Khan-e-Amindowleh, Ministe of the Post Affairs, an Iranian group of representatives was sent to Paris. The group was permitted to make inquiries for establishing a modern postal system in Iran to issue and to utilize postage stamps. Albert Barre, the famous French artist at the time, was approached by the Iranian representatives and commissioned to design a postage stamp for the country. Barre designed the first Lion Stamps of Iran and possibly the said Iranian group printed the stamps and delivered them from Paris to Tehran in 1868. Those stamps are known as Barre Essays. Some philatelists, however, believe that those essays were prepared by Charles Trotin, a member of the Money and Medallion Commission of France, and not by Albert Barre. The Lion Stamps were green and each valued 2-Shahis, and they were not issued to general public. The reason for the relative ban is unknown. Tow years later, in 1870 the same story happened for another postage stamp known as Baagheri design. And finally the Cardi stamp, which is considered as the first official stamp of Iran was issued in 1875. Cardi stamp known also as Rouletted stamp was firstly used between Tehran and its northern suburb of Shemiran in August 1875.
OTHER POSTAGE STAMPS USED IN IRAN DURING QAJAR ERA: Before Iran issued her first official postage stamps, there were also other stamps in circulation and in use in the country. The Indian Postal Agencies (IPA) were opened and supervised by British officers at Bushehr (1857), Bandar-e-Abbas (1867), and Bandar-e-Langgeh (1867). All local IPA used the stamps issued in India. In 1923, Reza Khan-e-Sardar Sepah (later as Reza Shah, the founder of Pahlavi dynasty in 1925) banned the activities and the usage of all stamps of IPA.
MODERN POSTAL SYSTEM IN IRAN: The modernization of postal system started in 1925 when a Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephone (PTT) was established in Iran. PTT along with its responsibilities to provide all services for mail, telephone, and telegraph was also responsible to design, print and issue the postage and other legal stamps. In 1966, the PTT initiated the usage of nationwide postal code system for delivery and made its operations faster. In 1990, a museum named as Post and Telecommunication Museum was established and the remains and the equipments from ancient Mail Carriers (in Persian: Chapaar or Barid) to the present System of Post were displayed. And on July 7, 2001 the name of the (PTT) was changed to the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT).
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
Abdoli Fard, F. (2004): Persian Stamps, in Persian, Tambr-hayeh Iran, ed., Hirmand Publications, Tehran, Iran.
Abdoli Fard, F. (2005): History of Postal Services in Iran, in Persian, Tarikhcheh-e Post dar Iran, ed., Tehran, Iran.
Saadat Noury, M. (2005): Online Article on First Iranians who Introduced the First System of Postal Services.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2005): Online Article on Postage Stamp.
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