The first stamps of the independent state of Lithuania in 1918 have a peculiarity that is otherwise rarely – if ever – found in philately. The paper on which they are printed is “recycled”. Namely, the reverse of German military cards was used for their printing. How did this come about?
During the First World War, Lithuania was occupied by the Germans. Latvian rifle units were set up to fight the German invaders, while Latvian leaders began making calls for independence. Then, when the First World War ended, the time had come: Latvia declared itself independent. The beginning was difficult: a quarter of the country was ruined – a million people fled the country and did not return. Under these circumstances, printing an own stamp was a challenge, especially when – due to the war – the paper for it was missing. But necessity is the mother of invention:
The Latvian government has its first stamps printed on military cards left behind by the Imperial German Army! This was high quality paper. They use 79 different German cards of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and 62 different cards of Southern Latvia and Northern Lithuania.Thus, the first postal stamps can be issued on December 18, 1918. The stamps are printed on sheets in 12 rows of 19 stamps each. In total, only 11,956 sheets are printed, of which only 4,900 are perforated.
The stamp, designed by Latvian painter and graphic artist Ansis Cirulis, is based on the Latvian coat of arms. In the center a sun, with 17 rays representing the 17 Latvian districts. Three ears of corn and three stars, represent the three historical districts of the new nation.