There is something awe-inspiring and romantic about an airship. And of all the lighter-than-air ships that have glided through history, Germany's Graf Zeppelin is held in the highest honor as being the most successful commercial rigid airship in the world.

History

Built in the hangars of Friedrichshafen, and stretching nearly 775 feet in length, the Graf Zeppelin's maiden flight occurred on September 18, 1928. After only six flights, the Graf Zeppelin was to become world renown as the first dirigible to cross the Atlantic, as well as the carrying of paying passengers. A ticker tape parade through New York City for its captain and President of Zeppelin, Hugo Eckener ensued following its arrival at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

It's second claim to fame was a commercial round-the-world flight in 1930 that took only 21 1/3 days to complete. At its three stops, Lakehurst, Los Angeles and Tokyo, the airship would draw at times hundreds of thousands of people to view this marvel of technology. However, funding was needed in order to counter the costs incurred for the world flight. Through an agreement with the United States, nearly half the funds needed were raised through the issuance of the U.S. Zeppelin stamp series.

By 1932, the Zeppelin Company was operating in the black, providing regular flights between Friedrichshafen, Lakehurst, New Jersey and Brazil. After the tragedy of its sister ship, the Hindenburg at Lakehurst on May 6, 1937, The Graf Zeppelin returned to Germany, only to fly once more before being dismantled in the Spring of 1940.

The Stamps

The series of three airmail stamps in denominations of 65 cents, $1.30 and $2.60 were issued to be used on mail carried on the first Europe - Pan American round-trip flight of the Graf Zeppelin in May of 1930. For mail traveling one-way, the postage for postcards was 65 cents and letters $1.30, whereas round-trip mail was $1.30 for postcards and $2.60 for letters. The series made its appearance on April 19, 1930, at which time 1,000,000 of each denomination were issued. They remained on sale for 50 days, afterwhich the remaining unsold stamps were destroyed.

  • The green 65-cent airmail stamp portrays the Graf Zeppelin on route across the Atlantic Ocean, apparently heading east towards the European Continent.
  • The $1.30 Zeppelin issue in brown has the airship traveling west between Europe and the American Continent, with the names of its destinations printed upon the tiny map.
  • The blue $2.60 stamp displays the Graf Zeppelin passing in front of the globe surrounded by heaven-like banks of clouds.
  • There remains a very strong demand for Zeppelin stamps by collectors. Prices for the series of three stamps vary, depending on their quality. Sets that have been used, that is, containing a cancellation mark in black on their face, can be purchased for around US $1,100., whereas a mint or "new" set which has never been mounted in a stamp book (Never Hinged) with good coloring and centering sells for around $2,100.

     

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