Luftschiff Expedition

German New Guinea

In 1913, Germany and England began planning a joint expedition to survey New Guinea by Zeppelin. The expedition was to be consist of a joint crew, and scientists from both countries. It was to be headed by Lt Paul Graetz, who had famously been the first man to drive across Africa in an automobile.

In order to promote and help finance the expedition, a series of vignette stamps was printed beginning in July 1913. These stamps were not valid postage, but could be purchased as collectors’ items or for use with valid postage.

The Luftschiff Expedition was scheduled for 1914, but was canceled due to World War I. The vignettes therefore never made it into widespread circulation, and are considered extremely rare. Used copies are even more rare.

Only four used copies are known to exist of Si I:

  • One copy with K1 “STU (TTGART) A1 … Feb 14” cancel ( Collection)
  • One copy with “CHARLOTTENBERG 5.1.14. 11-12 N” 2 S machine cancel ( Collection)
  • One copy with cancel “KLOSTER ZINNA 18 FEB 1914”
  • One on cover with additional 1 M. and 5 Pfg. Germania franking, canceled “STUTTGART 10.1.14”

The STUTTGART cover also contains the only known used copy of Si II.

Olive-green copies of the 2 Pfg. value are proofs, and are much rarer than the ultramarine 2 Pfg.  Proofs of 20 M and 1,000 M values also exist.

The 1,000 M proofs are known to exist in brown and red. This brown copy was acquired for this collection at Auktionshaus Christoph Gärtner’s 35th Auction, held in October 2016. It was previously on the market in 2005. A previously unrecorded red copy was also auctioned by Gärtner at the same auction.

A postcard was printed in 1913 allowing pre-order of the 2 Pf, 1 M, and never-produced 20 M values.  The specifics of its production and use are unknown.  At the time this copy was acquired from Gärtner in 2014, it was believed by Gärtner to be the only known copy in existence.  It was not used for its intended purpose, but appears to have been sent through the mail system, perhaps for philatelic reasons.

Additionally, the Verlag der Hilfsstelle für vaterländische Arbeit (Publisher of the Aid Agency for Patriotic Work) in Berlin produced postcards advertising the Expedition.