Collecting Postage Stamps from Bosnia and Herzegovina

While the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina, often abbreviated BiH, is long and complex, if you're collecting stamps, you only need to pay attention to the period from 1879 to 1919. For stamps used in the region for most of the 20th century, you'll want to search for Yugoslavian stamps, and stamps issued since the 1992 independence are rarely listed for sale to collectors.

Which Bosnia and Herzegovina stamps were issued first?

The history of Bosnia and Herzegovina postage stamps begins shortly after the region's occupation by Austro-Hungary in 1878 while the Bosnia Vilayet was still technically part of the Ottoman Empire. The first Bosnia and Herzegovina stamps were issued in 1879 and often appear in eBay listings. Their design remained unchanged for the next two decades, featuring a lithograph of the Austrian coat of arms and two-headed eagle, with the price of the stamp printed in the corners, ranging from 1 kreuzer to 50. The colour of these stamps varies depending on the printed value though the sequence of colours varied from year to year.

Stamps you might find in eBay's Bosnia and Herzegovina catalog

The original design continued into the first few years of the 20th century, with the addition of 1K, 2K, and 5K stamps that featured a negative image of the eagle. Beginning in 1906, a new series of stamps were issued, with "Bosnien Herzegowina" printed at the top with images of landscapes and monuments; transportation by automobile, carriage, and donkey; and, for the 5K stamp, the portrait of Franz Joseph I. The 1910 series continues the same design but with "1830-1910" printed at the bottom.

From 1912 to 1918, the military post printed postage stamps. The vast majority of these features Franz Joseph I, and all contain the text "K.u.K. Militär Post." The three letters are the abbreviation for "kaiserlich und königlich," the slogan of the Habsburg administration. This is followed on earlier stamps by "Bosnien Hercegowina" and on later printings by "28 Juni 1914," the date of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg in Sarajevo.

Why do some Bosnia and Herzegovina stamps have text printed over them?

While Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenians (later called Yugoslavia) in 1918, the kingdom didn't issue its own stamps until 1921. For the first few years, they simply overprinted Austrian-issued stamps in both Latin and Cyrillic characters, with the text "Drzava S.H.S." at the top, "Bosna i Hercegovina" at the bottom, and "1918" on both sides. Such overprinted new and preowned Bosnia stamps frequently appear on eBay.