The Red Mercury is the rarest of Austrian newspaper stamps. It was issued for the mailing of newspapers in Austria and Lombardy-Venetia.
The first newspaper in Austria was published in 1605, and for many years newspaper publishers paid postal fees, in cash, to mail copies of their publications. Hence, on the advice of Edwin Mueller, the idea of issuing an adhesive stamp to prepay newspaper postal fees news.
An official Austrian postal decree dated Aug. 12, 1850, announced that a stamp would be produced for the exclusive use of publishers for franking newspapers mailed to subscribers. The stamp would pay the discounted inland postage rate within Austria and also in Lombardy-Venetia, created in 1815 and part of the Austrian Empire for newspapers, per copy and regardless of weight.
This is how Austria’s newspaper stamps first appeared in 1851. They depicted a profile of Mercury, the Roman messenger god, and were not denominated, the colour of the stamp indicating the value. Blue indicated the 6/10 Kreuzer rate for one newspaper, yellow for ten newspapers (6 kr), and rose for 50 newspapers (30 kr). The higher denominations franked wrappers of bundles of newspapers.
In 1856 a red stamp with the Mercury design was issued, which had the price of 6 Kreuzer. It was used to frank a bundle of 10 newspapers. However, it was soon superseded by a new design depicting Franz Joseph which came out in 1858, and only a few copies have survived.
The Red Mercury stamps are quite rare. An unused Red Mercury with original gum was auctioned for a hammer price of €40,000 plus commission, by Auktionhaus Felzmann (Düsseldorf) on 5 November 2015.
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