A few years ago, I’m doing some research and I ran across a website devoted to stamps from Dead Countries.
My interest level shot through the roof and since, dead countries have been a real interest in my general worldwide collecting.
What are dead countries?
For stamp collecting, in the most basic sense, a dead country is a country that no longer exists or no longer issues stamps as that entity. A lot of entities fall into this classification.
The Soviet Union is a dead country. Old colonies. Countries that literally no longer exist – South Vietnam and North Vietnam for instance. Now it is just Vietnam. Confederate States of America.
It also doesn’t mean the entity no longer exists, it just doesn’t exist as a stamp-issuing entity. I have stamps from the Kingdom of Hawaii and the Republic of Hawaii.
Hawaii still exists, it is just now part of the USA and no longer issues its own stamps.
The reverse works as well. Poland has been an independent nation for many years, however, in World War II it was conquered by Germany. The Germans issued German Occupation of Poland stamps. Many people count those occupation stamps as “dead country” stamps.
My own criteria
When I was collecting dead countries as a specialty, I was pretty liberal in my definition of dead. End of colonial rule, overthrow of a king, annexation, conquest, two entities joining, transitional governments, and occupation forces all made my list.
Truth is, the list boiled down to “whatever I wanted.” I took a strong interest in pre-Soviet Union, including some armies that fought the Bolsheviks. I also enjoyed digging into some of the German independent states, and to this day I still enjoy collecting colonial Africa.
The wrench in the collection
According to the stamp collecting publication Linn’s Stamp News, Iceland is now a dead country. Philatelically speaking of course. Iceland is still very much alive and well as a nation. It is that, according to Linn’s, they will no longer issue stamps.
One of my specialty countries, Haiti, is in the same boat. Haiti still fully exists as a nation (barely), but has not issued stamps in well over a decade. Are they dead in terms of stamp collecting?
At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter much. Stamp collecting is about different things to different people, and that goes for dead countries as well.
If you enjoy it, more power to ya.