Post Code cancellations with 'Two Tiny Triangles'

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Every collector of Austria is now familiar with the modern form of regular postmarks issued after the 4-digit post code numbers were introduced on January 1, 1966. The first cancellers (our type P1) reached offices in Vienna at the end of January, but it took till the 14th of October to complete the coverage of all of Austria. They had (and as today's type P3 still have) a single circle, the name of the post office in the upper part, underneath it one or two letters or a combination of figures and letters to distinguish between the different cancellation devices used, the date and time in several (P1, P2) or one (P3) horizontal lines across the centre of the circle, and finally in large figures the postal code number of the respective Post Office.

However, among the 2384 (in April 1998) regular Post Offices in Austria there are 82 that deviate slightly from the normal pattern of postmarks. They can be distinguished by two tiny equilateral triangles, approximately 1 mm high, which are found to the left and to the right and just above the postal code number, with the triangles standing on their point and filled in solidly.

Postleitzahl map stamp
To explain the significance of these triangles we must first look at the structure of the postal code numbers. The first figure is called the leading (or routing) zone figure ('Leitzone') and normally it indicates the federal province in which the post office is situated. A commemorative stamp was issued (ANK 1231, 14 Jan 1966), depicting a map showing the zones.

The nine Zones:

  1. Vienna
  2. Lower Austria (east & south)
  3. Lower Austria (west & north)
  4. Upper Austria
  5. Salzburg
  6. Tirol & Vorarlberg
  7. Burgenland
  8. Styria
  9. Carinthia (and Eastern Tirol)

Lower Austria was divided into two parts according to the railway lines used! The second digit of the post code gives the routing area, the third the section, and the fourth the individual post office. In the case of Vienna, the second & third figures indicate the district (eg 10th district is 1100) except for the codes from 1300 upwards reserved for special uses such as the United Nations.

There are however a few exceptions, when a post office is situated such that its natural communications lead to a routing zone in a province different from the one in which it is itself located. For instance, the district of 'Eastern Tirol' is now completely separated from Tirol proper, after the ceding of Southern Tirol to Italy by the treaty of St Germain at the end of World War I. Although politically still part of Tirol, Eastern Tirol has much easier communication links to the province of Carinthia; therefore all post offices of Eastern Tirol have a postal code number that starts with '9' (Carinthia) rather than '6' (Tirol and Vorarlberg). Likewise the post office of St. Valentin in Lower Austria, having much closer communication links with Linz, the capital of Upper Austria, and being situated near the border of Upper Austria, carries the postal code number 4300 in spite of the fact that it is located in Lower Austria. Such exceptions from the general rule are indicated by those two tiny triangles and they therefore tell the postal clerk (and us as well) that the first digit of the post code is not identical with the 'leading zone figure' of the federal province in which the post office is located.

As an aside, it is unclear what practical use the triangles have anyway! Thus, the postmen in Lienz know that their mail goes out, and presumably comes in, via Karnten; this is quite clear from the postcodes 99--. Likewise, sorters whether manual or machine will separate mail by this 99-- code, and Herr Einer won't write triangles in the address! We conclude that the presence of the triangles is solely to prevent public outrage against the apparent assignment of East Tirol to Carinthia by giving it a postcode beginning with a 9 instead of a 6. The problem for collectors, that when the impression or the inking is feeble it is often very difficult to distinguish the triangles from the underlying design of the stamp, is just Life!.

A table of 'triangle' postmarks was derived from the 1998 official index of all Austrian postcodes (the Postleitzahlenversichnis) and follows.

 Province 'owning' the leading digit of the post code:
Geographical location of Post Office:BurgenlandStyriaLower AustriaUpper AustriaSalzburgCarinthia
Burgenland 59   
Styria1    1
Lower Austria   7  
Upper Austria  2 36 
East Tirol     21

Lienz Osttirolmesse

List of 'triangle' offices.

Burgenland with leading figure 2, which normally denotes Lower Austria
2423Deutsch Jahrndorf2475Neudorf bei Parndorf
2424Zurndorf2491Neufeld an der Leitha
2425Nickelsdorf, Leitha  
Upper Austria with leading figure 3, which normally denotes Lower Austria
3334Gaflenz3335Weyer, Oberösterreich
Lower Austria with leading figure 4, normally Upper Austria
4300St. Valentin, Niederösterreich4432Ernsthofen, Niederösterreich
4303St. Pantaleon, Niederösterreich4441Behamberg
4392Dorfstetten4482Ennsdorf bei Enns
Upper Austria with leading figure 5, which normally denotes Salzburg
5120St. Pantaleon, Oberösterreich5232Kirchberg bei Mattighofen
5121Ostermiething5233Pischelsdorf am Engelbach
5122Ach5241Maria Schmolln
5131Franking5242St. Johann am Walde
5133Gilgenberg am Weilhart5252Aspach, Innkreis
5134Schwand im Innkreis5261Uttendorf, Oberösterreich
5142Eggelsberg5271Moosbach bei Mauerkirchen
5143Feldkirchen bel Mattighofen5272Treubach
5144Handenberg5273Roßbach bei Mauerkirchen
5145Neukirchen an der Enknach5274Burgkirchen, Oberösterreich
5211Friedburg5280Braunau am Inn, Bahnhofstraße 32
5212Schneegattern5282Braunau am Inn - Ranshofen
5221Lochen5283Braunau am Inn, Salzburger Straße 88
5231Schalchen, Oberösterreich5360St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut
Styria with leading figure 7, which normally denotes Burgenland
Burgenland with leading figure 8, which normally denotes Styria
8382Mogersdorf8385Neuhaus am Klausenbach
8383St. Martin an der Raab  
Styria with leading figure 9, which normally denotes Carinthia
9323Wildbad Einöd  
East Tirol with leading figure 9, which normally denotes Carinthia
9782Nikolsdorf9953Huben, Osttirol
9900Lienz, Osttirol9961Hopfgarten in Defereggen
9911Thal-Assling9962St. Veit in Defereggen
9912Mittewald an der Drau9963St. Jakob in Defereggen
9913Abfaltersbach9971Matrei in Osttirol
9920Sillian9972Virgen, Osttirol
9932Innervillgraten9981Kals am Großglockner

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©Andy Taylor. Last updated 3 Jan 2014