Sadly for philatelists who stumble across the late 19th century stamp issues of El Salvador, they generally hold very little value. However, this takes nothing away from the intricate and stunning designs. The early issues were printed by the American Bank Note Company and Hamilton Bank Note Engraving and Printing Company in such great quantities that surplus stocks were widely used in the early 20th century for a series of overprints and surcharges.
El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, proclaimed independence from Spain in 1821. The country fought to resist annexation by Mexico and with the assistance and protection of the United States of America, became part of the United Provinces of Central America. Building on this relationship, the first stamps were issued in 1867 and printed by the American Bank Note Company of New York, a company with a history that dates back to 1795 as a secure engraver and printer.
The first issues featured an image of San Miguel volcano, one of the most active volcanoes located in the central eastern region of the country. The stamps were denominated in ½, 1, 2 and 4 reales. A large number of the stamps were stolen and in 1874 all remaining stocks were overprinted with a circular control consisting of a coat of arms. Between 1879 and 1887 stamps were printed in San Salvador. Whilst they feature the same volcano, these stamps are generally of a more simplistic design but of greater value to the collector. The printing contract returned to the American Bank Note Company from 1887 to 1889 with the first of these issues featuring the female figure of El Salvador in denominations of 3 and 5 centavos. The third stamp in the 1887 issue featured another image of a volcano and denominated 10c centavos.
By 1890, the printing contract had been transitioned to Nicholas F. Seebeck. Seebeck owned a stationary and printing business in New York and had established himself as a stamp dealer and cataloguer. In 1879, he began printing stamps for the Dominican Republic and the Colombian State of Bolivar. Seebeck sold his stamp business in 1884 and used the proceeds to buy a share of the Hamilton Bank Note Engraving and Printing Company. By 1890 he had developed a novel plan to print stamps for foreign countries at no charge. This arrangement was on proviso that the stamps were year-dated and invalidated at the end of each year with unsold stamps returned for sale to collectors.
El Salvador’s first stamps under the Seebeck contract were issued in 1890 and were similar to the earlier 1887 issue featuring the female figure of El Salvador. The year-dated issue of 9 stamps ranged in denominations from 1 centavos to 1 peso. The year-dated Seebeck issues continued until 1898 including issues featuring the volcano (1891), Colombus’ landing (1892), General Ezeta (1893), Liberty (1894), Coat of Arms (1895), Peace (1896) and the Union of Central America (1898).
To view postal issues of El Salvador, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.