Stamps of Seebeck

Offers on the philatelic market can be divided into two segments: primary and secondary. The first of mentioned is dominated by the postal administrations, which have a monopoly right to issue stamps. The second segment is represented by the so-called philatelic agencies, that bought from some postal administrations their right to issue and sell the signs of payment. The first agency, that appeared on the primary philatelic market was the company, owned by Seebeck. There was even a special term - "Seebeck stamps". Stamp collectors were calling them by name of their "creator" - Nicholas Frederik Seebeck.


Nicholas Seebeck was born in Germany, where for a long time he owned a small company selling stamps. Arriving in the United States, he soon became one of the leaders of a respectable printing company.

Using the constant financial difficulties of Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and several other American countries, and in order to ensure himself and his company with the permanent orders and high income, Nicholas Seebeck on the behalf with the firm in 1889 suggested that the Republic of El Salvador on January 1 each year will be provided with the free stamps for their post offices. In return, the postal administration of El Salvador had to commit themselves to withdraw those stamps from circulation at December 31 every year. Each year, all unsold stamps will be returned back to Seebeck. He was also permitted to use the printing forms of the withdrawn stamps for the publication of new editions (in philately is called "remakes") in order to sell the new stamps to the philatelists from different countries.

In an effort to save costs on the production of stamps, El Salvador accepted the offer and signed an agreement for a term of 10 years. Within two years, similar agreements were signed by Nicholas Seebeck with Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador. Only Bolivia refused to sign such a deal.


Seebeck used his "right" to the fullest extend. Only in Nicaragua alone from 1890 to 1899 there was made 25 issues of the "Seebeck stamps" with a total of 233 copies! For El Salvador from 1890 to 1898 there was issued 28 series of conventional, internal, and postage stamps. Totally in four countries in ten years (1889 - 1899) there appeared about seventy series, which included a total of about six hundred fifty stamps! Exactly in this time there were several quite popular topics, most interesting - the Postal Union and the anniversary of Columbus' voyages. Collectors, who were interested in stamps from allover the world, had to lay out their money to Mr. Seebeck. After all, he was the one, who became the owner of the remains of the original stamps and also the cliches, and who opened a wide trading in many countries.

It should be noted that the stamps were printed in a very high quality (there was used the metallographic printing) and on a high quality paper with the bright colors. If we add to this the diversity of subjects and also the exotic names of the countries themselves, the low prices at which those stamps were sold to the philatelists, it becomes clear why they have enjoyed a great success with the novice stamp collectors.

Collectors in Europe and America soon realized what was happening, and made the machinations of Nicholas Seebeck known to the public. In 1894 in London, there was even organized a special society - the «Society for the Suppression of Speculative Stamps», which led the fight with the first stamp monopoly. The issue finally became known by mass-media and there was a huge and famous scandal. As a result, the postal administrations of the four Latin American countries have been forced to refuse from the contracts, that they signed with Nicholas Seebeck. The last "Seebeck stamps" appeared in 1893 - in Honduras, 1896 - in Ecuador, 1898 - El Salvador and in 1899 - in Nicaragua.

In 1899, Seebeck died, but his company for several years was continuously flooding the philatelic market with the "Seebeck stamps". Only a complete lack of interest in these "products" finally made the company to stop producing them. Until now, philatelists are not really serious about those stamps.