Iceland issued its first postage stamps in 1873, when it was still a dependency of the Kingdom of Denmark. These first stamps, like Iceland’s stamps to this day, were inscribed with the Icelandic name, ÍSLAND and the value, using the Danish currency system of 1 rigsdaler = 96 skillings. Official stamps were first issued in 1873 as well; these would often feature designs similar to regular stamps, and can be identified by the inscription (or overprint) ÞJÓNUSTU, ÞJÓNUSTA, or the abbreviated ÞJÓN.
Although Denmark gave Iceland a greater measure of autonomy in 1874, this was limited and didn’t seem to affect postage stamps. In 1876, Iceland changed its currency system to a decimalized one, 1 króna (plural: krónur) = 100 aurar (singular: eyrir). Thus, the 1873 series was the only time the Danish units were used on Icelandic stamps.
Iceland was given more autonomy in 1904, and again in 1918, though it still had a very close relationship with Denmark. Stamps continued to be issued and tended to show Icelandic images — people and places related to Iceland. During the years between 1918 and 1944, Iceland was officially a kingdom. Although the official name of the kingdom in Icelandic was “Konungsríkið Ísland”, postage stamps continued to use the simple inscription “Ísland”. The Kingdom of Iceland released its first air post stamps in 1928, and its first semi-postal stamps in 1933; several others would follow over the years.
During World War II, Iceland remained neutral, but was invaded in 1941 by Britain, who then gave control of Iceland to America. During this time, in 1944, the people of Iceland voted to become the Republic of Iceland; stamps continued to use “Ísland”.
Iceland, and the Icelandic stamp program, blossomed in the post-war years. Subjects on stamps echoed those of Greenland’s stamps, and continued to reflect Icelandic interests — volcanoes, geysers, national heroes, notable buildings in Reykjavík, et cetera — and the design and printing quality was fully modernized. Various souvenir sheets, joint issues, stamp-on-stamp items, and other collectibles have been issued and are easily found for sale. To this day, subjects commemorated on Icelandic stamps tend to overwhelmingly be directly related to Iceland, unlike many other countries who issue stamps featuring international pop stars, Disney characters, and the like.
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