The history of cancellations on Austrian Stamps is briefly reviewed, and the need is explained for a classification system covering the period since 1900. A suitable system is described in detail; it is sufficiently complex to cover most collectors needs but not excessively so. Since it logically extends the work of Klein, it shares his system's understandability and memorability, rather than being a series of codes where knowing one is no guide to the meaning of another. It provides a simple classification of all cancels used in the territory of the Empire up to 1918, and of today's Republic of Austria from then till the present day.
Back to Austrian Stamps Homepage
The cancellations and postmarks used before 1900 are well documented in Müller, Klein, Votoček and similar works (see references in part 3), the introductions to which describe the bureaucratic and political influences of the times. Language laws led to the introduction of some bilingual cancellations. The expansion of trade and the increase in literacy led to an increase in postal traffic, and to the need for improved efficiency in handling it.
Examination of any accumulation of 20th century used stamps shows a range of cancellation types. While 19th century cancels continued in use as the 20th century began, variations of the double circle began to appear with the date in a bar 'in front of' or 'behind' the outer circle. Roller and machine cancels were introduced. The boxed cancels acquired several partitions. During the Anschluss, German postal district codes were introduced: disappearing afterwards. An octagonal cancel appeared in 1948 and was used for some 15 years: it was used on money order cards and has a 4-digit code number (which is not a postcode). Postcodes proper, both hand and machine struck, were introduced in 1966. A wide variety of slogan, advertising, publicity and pictorial cancels also occurs.
|The standard references of Klein and Müller classify and illustrate cancellations on Austrian postage stamps up to about 1900. The codes are incompatible: the (fictitious) cancel illustrated would be a gEj in Klein's system and GS-fy in Müller's! Various authors have extended these classification systems, or invented new ones of their own. The best known is perhaps Votoček, covering the territory of today's Czech and Slovak Republics, but this is a listing rather than a coding system, and is thus not easy to remember when one is rummaging in a dealer's box! In it, the example might have been classified as E.202 In Stohl's book (see below) it resembles his 1k1.|
It would be of significant use to Austrian Philately to have a universal system to classify these cancellations. Studies of the development of cancels could be extended to cover the first usage of each type. One could list the types used at each office without having to describe them in words or pictures. The lists of Post Offices (particularly in the period 1880 - 1918) are also in need of a coherent published update: there were some 6200 open in 1900, over 14000 in 1918. Unfortunately, Klein states that all the relevant pre-1918 records are known to have been destroyed. BUT, Dr C. Kainz has discovered that many of the Stempelprotokolle (cancellation proof books) for the period to 1918 have in fact survived. See references.
Several partial extensions of Klein's system are used in Dr Fresacher's magnificent series of books 'Kärnten 80, 84, and 92'. Most however have BSt, RSt, and SSt for the three main types illustrated above, meaning respectively Brückenstempel, Ringstegstempel, and Segmentstempel. The coding is unfortunate, as the 'St' is redundant (we know its a cancellation!) and it also makes the code more of an abbreviation, but omitting it conflicts with Klein's B and S types. This extended classification seems popular in Die Briefmarke also.
A book written by Hans Stohl entitled "Postal Cancellations within the present boundaries of Austria from 1900 till today" sounds promising! Part A (published in 1997 by Verlag Pollischansky, Wien: ISBN 3-85407-046-2) covers date-town cancels; Part B-Z (published in 2004 by Verlag Pollischansky, Wien: ISBN 3-85407-052-7) covers a very wide variety of other types. Unfortunately, the classification system Stohl has adopted appears to us as so complex and non-intuitive that, while the book is a monumental compendium from which much useful information can be extracted, it does not, in our opinion, provide the way forward to that which we need - a universally useable, universally understandable system.
Klein describes the cancel by a code consisting of upper and lower case letters in the following order. The codes are only used if the corresponding feature is present in the cancel. It is assumed that day and month are always present. Klein's book gives full details. The system was devised for use on stamps issued from 1867 to 1890, which were all invalidated no later than 1900 when the currency changed.
|Typeface||a, g, ka, kg, s, d|
|Multiple frame lines||2, 3, ...|
|Main type symbol||B, D, DO, E, f, ff, K, L, O, S, X|
|Minor ornament(s)||*, **|
|Counter letter(s)||b, bb|
What is lacking is a universally agreed, systematic classification of post-1900 cancellations, adequately comprehensive but not excessively detailed. A study of the literature shows that there are so many incompatible codification systems in use that it is impossible to synthesise a new one that won't clash with something. So a new system is proposed, based on that of Klein. It is to be used for cancellation types first used on or after 1st January 1900. For pre-1900 types, including any which continued in use (or were introduced at a new office) after 1900, Klein's system should continue to be used, with two changes (F and i) and two additions (K2 and K3) - see below for details.
The system is deliberately not made complex enough to codify every sub-type, such as one single-circle cancel from somewhere having larger sized type than the others in use in the same office at the same time. Nor do we note the reissue of a canceller with rearranged type but the same counter letter, as in this example from Die Briefmarke. Such detail can be given as textual comments in the rare cases where it is necessary.
The following are covered: (i) Austrian Empire till 1918; (ii) First and Second Republic of Austria.
And the following are excluded: (i) Special Cancels (for which see Wurth); (ii) Hungary (and areas administered by it) after 1871; (iii) TPOs, ship markings etc; iv) Lombardy and Venetia; (v) Non-provisional cancels first used by the successor states; (vi) Bosnia and Herzegovina; (vii) Levant; (viii) Meter Marks.
In a listing of the cancellations used in each province, a 'closing date' must be stated. The various names an office had are then grouped under its latest name. For example, a closing date of 1.1.1996 for Tirol would give a main entry INNSBRUCK 6010 with INNSBRUCK 1 as a variation. Posthilfstellen etc are listed under their parent office.
The cancel is described by a code consisting of upper and lower case letters (and a few symbols) in the following order. The letters are only used if the corresponding feature is present in the cancel. Details can be added as comments.
|Prefix denoting a special type||Q, H, M, n, R|
|Typeface||g, a, i, s|
|Multiple outer frame lines||2, 3, ..|
|Main type symbol||A, B, D, ..|
|Major ornament (including picture)||v|
|Minor ornament||b, d, p, s, t, *|
|Adjacent slogans, pictures and lines||+T, +V, +L, +W|
Each of the above coding aspects will now be expanded upon.
|Q||Provisional usage: (eg Austrian cancel used in Czechoslovakia with German name removed).|
|H||Hungarian variant (eg vertical line infilling in segments or year first in date) - possible on an Austrian stamp cancelled on arrival.|
|M||Machine or Roller cancel (eg with parallel or wavy lines, or a slogan or picture) with the date/time information applied as a single strike and not repeated.|
|n||Negative cancel (ie white letters etc on black background).|
|R||Continuous Roller cancel with cancel and lines/slogan, repeated right across the item. |
Continuous Roller cancels alternate the date/time information with slogans or lines, giving multiple impressions in a band across the cover. They often have top and bottom marginal lines. Many hand-applied examples are bent, as the roller veered or the Slivowitz went down! They are best regarded as a variant that can be exhibited by several of our cancel types, so are to be coded by prefixing the code with 'R'. They occur with 'CDS with wiggly lines'; with 'CDS with slogan' etc. Use prefix R alone, not RM. See subcode 's' (below) which covers the situation where the CDS is 'sideways'.
All type is assumed to be upper case non-italic sanserif unless otherwise stated. No code is given unless necessary: eg a cancel with Roman letters above sanserif would be coded "ag". No distinction is made between sanserif italics and roman italics: both are coded as "i" alone (not "ai" or "gi"), as in practice they are indistinguishable! The case is ignored in the code, but of course quoted correctly in the listing of the text of the postmark. The typefaces sufficiently common to require a code are:
This is a figure (2, 3..) giving the number of repetitions of the outer frame line. Eg, "2K" is a box with a double-lined border, not to be confused with "K2" which is a box with a single line border split into two parts by an internal line.
|These are cancellations with 'town propaganda': text and/or pictures which publicise a place, or commemorate some historical event associated with it. They are usually adjacent to the date/time part, but sometimes are within or around it. They can be made by machine or by hand, and can for example be large circles with words and picture(s) inside; continuous rollers with alternating CDS and word/picture box, often with top and bottom marginal lines; single CDS with slogan or picture. Indeed in principle any cancel could have such accompanying material. See here for a full discussion, examples, a translation of the 1971 introduction to the ongoing series of articles on Ortswerbestempel cancels in Die Briefmarke, and an explanation of why the description Ortswerbestempel cannot be used as part of our system to classify cancels.|
Note: a Y in the 'K?' column means that this type is included in Klein's system, and a (Y) that it is an extension thereof. In both these cases, all the conventions of his system apply: for example, if a K3 cancel includes the year, the code includes 'j'.
(scanned from actual specimens!)
|One inner segment, despatch information, and a 4-digit code.
These are found on stamps used on Money Order cards in the period 1946-60. Payment was for postage plus poundage, so specimens found do not relate to postage rates. They have a 4-digit number in large type which looks like a post code, but is actually the serial number of the office in a certain list. They always have the date and despatch information.
|Y||Each must be separately described or illustrated.|
|Y||Two concentric circles; the placename (often in two languages), counter letters, and ornaments (often stars) in the annulus between the circles; the date and despatch information inside the inner circle.|
|Double Circle 'Bridge'
|Two concentric circles with the inner circle completely broken by a horizontal bar containing the date (and despatch indicator if present).
These were introduced around 1904. The annulus contains the placename and the counter letter. They always have sanserif letters, the year, and nearly always a counter letter flanked by stars.
|Double Circle 'Ring'
|Two concentric circles with the inner circle containing a horizontal bar which contains the date (and despatch indicator if present).
These were introduced around 1904. The annulus contains the placename and the counter letter, which is rarely flanked by stars. They always have sanserif letters, the year, and a counter letter, but only rarely have one or more stars.
|Double Circle 'Segment'
|Two concentric circles, the inner appearing only as two segments above and below a horizontal zone which contains the date (and despatch indicator if present).
These were introduced around 1925. In the annulus between the segments and the outer circle is the placename and the counter letter. They always have sanserif letters, year, and a counter letter; but very rarely indeed have one or more stars flanking it.
|Y||Concentric ovals, otherwise as type D.|
|Y||Single circle enclosing the placename and the date and despatch information. 20mm or more in diameter.|
|Official Circular Handstamp||Official circular handstamps, first introduced in the early 1900s to replace type OA. Presumably intended for official Post Office correspondence & forms. Negative versions are presumably intended for wax seals on money letters etc. None have dates; some have counter letters.|
|Small Single Circle
|(Y)||As type E but less than 20mm diameter.
We have combined Klein's f and ff into a single type F. Although logically these are only a subtype of E, the distinction is retained for the convenience of traditionally-minded collectors. However, there is neither logic nor necessity to impose a further division at 18mm; and furthermore, cancels can vary in size depending upon on what they were struck.
|(Y)||Rectangular box, often with rounded corners.
The rectangular box coded by Klein as K can be found with internal horizontal partitions dividing it into two or three sections. K2 and K3 have been added for these.
|Y||Placename, often with date below, with no frame at all. (Yes, the original was blue!)|
|Y||Single oval, enclosing the placename and the date and despatch information.|
|Official Oval Handstamp||Official oval handstamps, introduced in the early 1880s (or earlier?). Presumably intended for official Post Office correspondence & forms. None have dates; some have counter letters. Known on stamps, maybe from telegraph useage.|
|Single circle, enclosing the placename with postcode, and the date and despatch information. See below for the definition of the subtypes and for examples.|
|Y||The placename etc are in horizontal rows separated and surrounded by typically 15 or 17 horizontal lines. The overall shape is a rectangle with the corners chamfered.
This can be found after 1900 with two, three, or four lines of information. However we do not suggest the addition of S2, S3, S4 to Klein's code.
|(Eg, a concentric set of 8 circles). Each is unique, so must be separately described or illustrated.
Don't confuse these with the "wavy line" part of a postcode cancel, common on loose stamps.
The modern Austrian postcode is treated as part of the name of the post office, not as an ornament. For example, GRAZ 2 became GRAZ 8020.
With the introduction of Post Codes in 1966, cancellers incorporating the four-figure Post Code became much more stereotyped, with Town Name at the top and Post Code at the foot of a single circle. Counter letter, day, month, year and time (all in numerals) were in the centre. At first both hand and machine types had these four elements in four lines; this is to be coded "P1" if a hand cancellation, "MP1" if by machine. Three examples of type MP1 follow.
Within about five years, however, the Day/Month/Year/Time were arranged in a single line across the middle. Again this was used for both hand and machine types regardless of whether the machine type had wavy lines or a slogan to the side. This is to be coded "P2" if a hand cancellation, "MP2" if by machine. Examples follow:
More recently, a variant of MP2 emerged with a line above and below the central element - probably for mechanical strength as this version has only been seen used with machine types. This is to be coded "P3" if a hand cancellation (eg on a loose stamp), "MP3" if by machine. A couple of machine examples follow.
Postcodes with small solid triangles at "5 & 7 o'clock" are from places postally separated (eg by a mountain) from the rest of their Province. A well-known example is St Wolfgang (postcode 5360) which is in Upper Austria while its post goes via Salzburg instead of via Linz. Another is the whole of East Tirol. See here for more details of the triangle system! An example follows. Code triangles where present as "d" (from the german 'dreiecke') and their absence (when they should be present) as "(d)".
Restating the above for the sake of clarity:
It is assumed that (in the 20th century) the day and month are always present. Add "(j)" if the year is omitted, "o" for a completely undated handstamp.
Add an "e" if a despatch indication is present, "(e)" if it should be present (eg as in all Postcode types) but is omitted.
Eg large floral sprays, pictures of castles etc, forming part of the cancellation. Add a "v".
These are the various letters, numbers, stars and twiddly bits found usually at the base of the cancellation for a single place-name, or between the names for a bilingual name. Give details of any of these ornaments as a comment, if wished.
Slogans pictures and lines which are adjacent to (usually to the left of) the main cancel, which will normally be a single circle and often a Postcode, are coded thus:
|Full code |
|Short code |
|Full code |
|Short code |
Fuller details of variant or complex cancels may be put in the Comments column. Descriptive text can be used (eg "pale blue", "laurel wreath ornament at base"), and/or the following codes.
There is a distinctive group of specific cancellations used on mail deposited in collecting boxes (Postablagen, Posthilfstellen, or Poststellen), which are described in this section. An older example is:
which we would code aLo, and a more modern example is:
to which we have given the short-form code KE. See separate article on Postablagen for more information.
When using this system to classify and record cancels, the upper, lower, or mixed case of the lettering is ignored in the code, but of course quoted correctly in the listing of the text. A slash "/" is used to separate the lines, eg "ZADAR / ZARA" means ZADAR at the top and ZARA at the bottom, in upper case letters.
This table gives a simplified tabulation of the separate issues, for classification of cancel usage. Particularly post-1945, the divisions correspond to the major changes in cancels, so cover a wide span of dates. Numbers are from ANK, the Austrian Netto Catalogue.
This brief list provides an introduction to the subject. The APS library contains over 400 titles!
|E Müller||Handbook of the Pre-Stamp markings of Austria. (1960)|
|E Müller||Handbook of Austria and Lombardy-Venetia Cancellations on 1850-64 issues. (1961)|
|W Klein||Postal obliterations and other cancellations on Austrian Stamps 1867, 1883 and 1890: vols 1, 2. (1973)|
|Dr C Kainz||Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des Poststempels in Österreich; Österreichisches Jahrbuch, Dr R. Wurth. Vols IV:1981-VI:1983|
|Dr C Kainz||Die Stempelprotokolle, ibid, now renamed Österreichische Postgeschichte, vol XVI:1992|
|Ing E Votoček||MONOGRAFIE CESKOSLOVENSKÝCH ZNÁMEK vols 13, 14.|
Pre-1918 cancellations used in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. Informative introduction; english translation in the APS library. His volumes 16I and 16II on 1918-20 use of Austrian cancels in Czechoslovakia, 17I and 17II on Czech postmarks which replaced Austro-Hungarian ones, are also useful; they have brief english introductions.
|G Ryan||Cancellations of Hungarian offices on Austrian stamps. (1980)|
|G Ryan||Cancellations of Hungarian offices on the first issue of Hungary. (1988)|
|Dr R Wurth||Special postmarks 1864-1983. (1979 & supplements)|
|Dr H Fresacher||The Kärnten handbooks (coverage to 1945).|
|Dr Spacek||Die Briefmarke articles on provinces and towns.|
|Lessig||Cancels of Vienna and its suburbs.|
|Bér, Déak et al||Handbook of the Hungarian Pre-stamp mail|
|Kühnel||Postablagen in Österreich|
|C Bianco||Postgeschichte Südtirols - postal history of South Tirol till 1978|
|M Brumby||Dalmatia (APS 1997)|
Several of the examples have been used elsewhere, but are repeated here because their coding was probably not mentioned, and certainly not explained.
This is a continuous roller cancel with alternating CDS and word/picture box, with top and bottom marginal lines: so the code has the prefix 'R'. The CDS is a postcode with lines above & below the date/time, so is coded P3; also it's sideways so the code is suffixed 's'. The accompanying box contains a small picture and many words so is coded +V. The final code is therefore RP3s+V.
This is a Double Circle Ring, code DR, with despatch information (coded 'e'), 2 stars, and a counter letter (coded 'b'). The lettering is non-italic sanserif (coded 'g'). The date has the year (coded 'j'). So it's a code gDRjeb** which takes the short-form code DRe**. It is flanked by 8 parallel straight lines so add suffix +8L. Final coding: DRe**+8L.
This improbable-looking example is traced from a stamp cancelled on a Parcel Card! It's a Single Circle with year, despatch, counter letter and 2 dots/stars: code gEje**. Suffix +22W I suppose, though it would be better to explain it in a comment!
This is the more usual appearance of a stamp cancelled on then removed from a Parcel Card. It's probably a bridge cancel, type DB, though as often happens the distinguishing part of the marking is just off the cancel!
This large circle with words and picture inside is an Ortswerbestempel, as it happens, but for cancel classification purposes it's a single ring cancel with town name in sanserif, in-ring slogan seriffed, in-ring picture, date with year & despatch: so it's a gaEjeb+V.
This is a continuous roller cancel with alternating CDS and word/picture box, with top and bottom marginal lines: so the code has the prefix 'R'. The CDS is a postcode without lines above & below the date/time, so is coded P2. The accompanying box contains a small picture and many words so is coded +V. The final code is therefore RP2+V.
This is a continuous roller cancel with alternating CDS and wavy lines: so the code has the prefix 'R'. The CDS is a postcode without lines above & below the date/time, so is coded P2; also it's sideways so the code is suffixed 's'. There are 6 accompanying wavy lines, coded +6W. The final code is therefore RP2+6W.
This is a single-strike roller cancel with CDS and picture-with-words: so the code has the prefix 'M'. The CDS is a postcode with lines above & below the date/time, so is coded MP3; also it's sideways so the code is suffixed 's'. The accompanying box contains a picture and words so is coded +V. The final code is therefore MP3s+V.
This is a postcode cancel with counter letter, day/month, year, despatch time in four lines, so is a type P1. It is accompanied by 5 wavy lines, coded +5W, so acquires the prefix M and the full code MP1+5W.
This is a postcode cancel with counter letter, day/month/year, and a short line where the despatch time ought to be, so is also type P1, slightly different in layout from the previous example, and with '(e)' in the code because of the missing despatch time. It is accompanied by a picture with words, coded +V, so acquires the prefix M and the full code MP1(e)+V.
This is a postcode cancel with counter letter above day/month/year/despatch time in a single line in the middle, so is type P2. It is accompanied by a slogan, coded +V, so acquires the prefix M and the full code MP2+V.
This is a postcode cancel with counter letter above day/month/year/despatch time in a single line in the middle, with a line above & below them, so is type P3. It is accompanied by 5 wavy lines, coded +5W, so acquires the prefix M and the full code MP3+5W.
This is a postcode cancel with counter letter above day/month/year/despatch time in a single line in the middle, with a line above & below them, so is type P3. It is accompanied by a slogan, coded +V, so acquires the prefix M and the full code MP3+V.
On the left is a postcode cancel with counter letter above day/month/year/despatch time in a single line in the middle, with a line above & below them, so is type P3. Because it is from LIENZ, it should have small triangles at "5 and 7 o'clock", so '(d)' is added to the code which is P3(d). On the right is the same example with the triangles reinstated, so coded P3d. See here for more details of triangles!
This is a postcode cancel with counter letter above day/month/year/despatch time in a single line in the middle, with a line above & below them, so is type P3. Because it is from St Wolfgang, it should have small triangles at "5 and 7 o'clock", and it does, so d is added to the code. To the left is a 'picture with words' which is coded +V. The whole cancel is applied by machine, not a hand-held canceller, so earning prefix 'M'. The final coding is thus MP3d+V. See here for more details of triangles!
This is a Special Cancellation, so is not covered by our system.
This is a Postablage cancel, used in 1938. The letters are partly serif and there is no date so our code is aKo**. See the Postablage article for explanation!
This is another Postablage cancel: PHSt-Postcode type, our code KE. See the Postablage article for explanation!
This is a 3-section box, code K3, with sanserif type, date in the middle, and counter letter with stars in the bottom. So our code is gK3jb**.
|Back to top of page||Back to Austrian Stamps Homepage|
©Andy Taylor. Last updated 4 Jan 2014