Hungary,  Charity Stamps

Before the First World War, Hungary was one of the foremost industrial powers of Europe, easily forgotten when it was yoked in with rural and backward looking Austria as the ‘Austro-Hungarian Empire’. This display is of the charity stamps of Hungary between 1913 and 1939. All of these stamps cost a charge extra to the figure of value shown which prepaid postage. They are some of the earliest attempts to raise funds to help through stamps.


In 1913 the River Danube broke its banks below Budapest causing vast flooding to one of Hungary's most populous areas. The charge of 2 filler at a time when postage was 16 or 20 filler was a tiny contribution and these stamps were well used. The tiny design is actually of a landscape of level plain with trees and the derrick over a water well, which is typical of the Hungarian interior. The bird above, the Turul, is a creature of Hungarian myth. In the foreground is the ancient Hungarian Crown with its broken cross of St Stephen. This design, without the label, had been in use since 1900. Postmarks show usage in all Hungarian-ruled parts of the Empire, which may now be in Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia and Croatia. I think these are very collectable.

This copy of the 30f shows it was registration, note the tell-tale blue crayon marking.


We next have new surcharges of 2 filler war tax for war widows and orphans. Hungarian troops fought as part of the Imperial forces, mostly on the Russian front in the Ukraine and Poland.

17 values were surcharged, all in red except for the 10f, which had of course to be something else. But why green?


This issue was completed in 1915 with surcharges in new settings that would fit the regular definitive stamps.

In 1916 a fund-raising definitive appears. The 3 designs come from 2 famous designers: 



and Haranghy with their distinctive styles. Haranghy gives us an exciting view of the Turul, sword at the ready and broken cross on his crown, ready to fight back from its mountain lair! The surcharge is still only 2 filler. 

The Big Show 


The following year there was an Imperial exhibition, patronised by the Archduke, who styled himself, as the inscription states, “Joseph military leader”. It was held on an island in the Danube in Budapest. The regular harvester definitive stamps were overprinted for use in the post offices within the exhibition. This time the surcharge to help the war was a whole Crown, an enormous amount in 1917.


In 1918 the defeated monarchy collapsed. All stamps and stationery in use were overprinted to mark the new Republic.

Lost Prisoners



Perhaps 600,000 prisoners of the Russians were still waiting in Siberia, trapped by the Civil War. Most did not survive the experience and many endured discrimination from the Russians who could easier communicate in Slavic languages with the other nationalities of the Empire.

These stamps were rationed, and sold at double face-value, they are inscribed to the effect that ‘Our blood needs our help to come home’.

Petofi the Poet


Petofi became the national poet of Hungary; changed his family name from Petrovics (of Croatian origin) to the purely Magyar form, Petofi, for which he was disowned by his father. Mystery surrounds his death - it was in the battle of Segesvar, 1849, but his body has never been found since. Many pretenders emerged over the next thirty years. 

Note the appalling inflation that had taken hold of this defeated nation by 1923, rates seem to have by this issue multiplied 100 times. Funds were raised by charging double for the stamps.

Parents and Children

It is not clear who these stamps, from 1924, were to help. Again they were charged at double the face-value. The inscription on the back, which is again I think an innovation in the world of stamps, gives us no help, in translation it just tells us the money will go to charitable purposes. Well, that’s OK then … 



By 1930 the currency had been revalued so that 10,00 Crowns would be exchangeable for 1 Pengo, again divided into 100 Filler. This issue reminds us of Hungary’s Catholic Saints, Imre and Giselle. 

Return of the Empire [briefly]

 These stamps celebrate the return of areas lost after the defeat of 1918, which are now southern Slovakia and Southern Ruthenia [in Ukraine]. This return was only made possible by Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, and tied the Hungarian regime in to dependence on the Nazi invaders. 

On the 6 filler                             

is one of the 4 monuments in Liberty Square Budapest set up in memory of Hungary's losses in each compass direction. So this one, to Slovakia, is on the North side. I am not sure what happened to these monuments. There has been some coming and going over the years in Liberty Square. Happily, Hungary has open borders now in every direction except to the Ukraine in the North-east, so much of the pain of living the wrong side of a border is, in this part of Europe, behind us.


 Munkacevo Castle is now in Ukraine, but was a guard to the pass through the Carpathian mountains.


Regent Horthy, at the head of his troops, crossing the Danube (the current border) to take possession of the north bank of the city of Komarom, from an actual photograph.


The Cathedral of Kosice, Slovakia [Kassa], built during the middle ages, most easterly Gothic cathedral in Europe. It is illuminated each evening and was a national shrine.

Hungary used this form of collecting money for the peoples in the returned territories, hence "Magyar a Magyarert" (Hungary for the Hungarians) appearing in the design of each stamp. This is the first time the complete word "Kiralyi” for ‘monarchy’, appears in place of "Kir.” - a bit ironic as for some years Admiral Horthy had ruled as Regent and in no sense had Hungary functioned as either a constitutional or an absolute monarchy. (It didn’t have a navy either, to speak of, as since the war it had no coast.)