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Latvia / Latvija rare postage stamps and collectible postal covers

Latvia, spelled Latvija in the local language (and on stamps), began to use its first stamps at the end of World War I. Its first series, issued in 1918, included stamps with the LATVIJA inscription and a value using the system 1 rublis = 100 kapeikas. This design was reused for several more denominations in 1919.

Prior to this, however, the city of Cēsis issued stamps inscribed with its German name, Wenden, for use in that part of Livonia, a larger area that was part of the Russian Empire and is today split between Latvia and Estonia.

Russian and German occupation, 1919

Also in 1919, both German and Russian forces occupied parts of Latvia, which is located in a strategic area between Estonia and Lithuania in northeastern Europe; both occupiers issued stamps. German occupation stamps were German stamps with the overprint LIBAU; it is debated whether these were ever actually used postally. Russia used the 1918 Latvian stamps with new overprints, and also Russian stamps with surcharges. They then produced a new set of stamps, inscribed in Cyrillic РУССКАЯ ПОЧТА, “Russian Post”. These are not obviously identifiable as Latvian to the layperson, but anyway the series of eight stamps was never used (though they are seen for sale to collectors).

Independence, 1919

Achieving independence in 1919, Latvia continued issuing its own stamps in ever-increasing numbers and designs. In 1922, the currency system was changed to 1 lat = 100 santims, and existing stamps were overprinted with these new units in various permutations. Latvian stamp issues continued until 1940 and the start of World War II.

Soviet and German occupation in World War II

In 1940, the Soviets again occupied Latvia, and they issued a set of stamps inscribed LATVIJAS PSR, an abbreviation of Latvijas Padomju Sociālistiskā Republika, the Latvian-language name of the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Things were not smooth for Russia, however; Nazi Germany invaded Latvia as well, and the new occupiers overprinted Russian stamps with ‘LATVIJA 1941. 1. VII’. After World War II, the Soviets took control of Latvia, which used regular Soviet stamps until 1991.

Independence again, 1991

When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Latvia immediately resumed issuing its own stamps. Again inscribed LATVIJA, the new stamps used a currency system of 1 rouble = 100 kopecks for the first two years of independence, before switching back to the lat and santim system. Souvenir sheets and other philatelic collectibles soon followed, and international collectors today have much to choose from. Take a look at our various subsections for certain types of Latvian stamps and postal collectibles for sale; the selection changes daily.

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