Leipzig Fair Philately
For the better part of 1,000 years, merchants have gathered at the Leipzig Trade Fair to sell their wares. In modern times the Leipzig Fair (Leipziger Messe in German) has produced a wealth of philatelic collectibles including stamps, covers, collector cards, and cancels. There are many opportunities for the collector. A self contained Leipziger Messe collection, part of a larger Germany collection, and the start of a topical collection focused on fairs and events are just a few possibilities.
Leipzig is the second largest city in Saxony, Germany. It has been a center of trade in Europe as far back as the time of the Holy Roman Empire when it was located at the junction of two important trade routes, the Via Regia and Via Imperii.
The twice-yearly Leipzig Fair was established by Otto the Rich, margrave of Saxony, in the latter part of the 12th century. The fair evolved over the next few centuries. Merchants were guaranteed safe passage through Leipzig regardless of external wars or conflicts. The town became an increasingly important haven for trade. In 1507 Emperor Maximilian I granted the fairs an imperial charter, banning any competing fairs within 15 miles of Leipzig.
The fairs placed Leipzig in the center of early-modern European trade and by the 18th century the town had come to be known as the marketplace of Europe. In the early 20th century, about the time of World War I, the fair had grown to 30 fair-houses, elaborate affairs each featuring a network of courtyards, shops, and even living areas.
Philatelic collectibles can be found dating back to the late 19th century. In addition to contemporary commercial covers with appropriate markings to tie them to the fair, early collectible items include fantasy labels and private post stamps produced as souvenirs for attendees.
Official stamp issues begin in the years leading up to and including the World War II era. The Third Reich produced commemorative stamps promoting the fairs along with sporting and arts events as exemplars of German excellence. The Third Reich stamps were inscribed Deutsche Reich and featured the Leipzig Fair’s hallmark double M symbol, a feature which became tradition and a prominent part of Leipzig Fair Philately.
The production of commemorative stamps continued in the aftermath of the war, with stamps inscribed Deutsche Post appearing during the mid-to-late 1940s when Germany was divided into four Occupation Zones.
The German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik - DDR), was established in 1949 in what had been the Soviet Occupation Zone. Known in the west as “East Germany,” the DDR was one of half of a divided Germany. Saxony fell within the DDR, and the Leipzig Fair was embraced by the Soviet Bloc countries as a technology showcase and hub of trade. The production of stamps featuring fair themes continued with enthusiasm. In 1950-51, stamps were produced for the Spring Fair (Fruhjahrmesse) and in 1952-54 stamps were produced for the Autumn Fair (Herbstmesse). Thereafter, from 1955 until the reunification of Germany in 1990, stamps were produced for both fairs. In all, 154 different Leipzig Fair stamps were issued, making it the largest and longest running series of the DDR.
While reunification marked the end of Leipzig Fair stamps, the philatelic tradition continues. Collectors and clubs make caches to commemorate the twice yearly event and the privatized German Post Office (Deutsche Post) supplies customized stamps with fair themes for advertising customers.
1949 Semi-Postal stamp – inscription translates to: 1650 - Russian Businessmen at the Fair
1940 stamp from the Third Reich era.
1946 from West Sachen in the Soviet Occupation Zone.
Stamp Block from the 1965 International Stamp Exhibition
Souvenir cover from the 1986 Spring Fair (Fruhjahrmesse)
The tradition continues - a modern 2011 Leipzig Fair custom stamp from Deutsche Post advertising a model train hobby firm.
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