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DENMARK

Wavy Line Stamps


If you've ever gone through a pile of used stamps that includes issues from Denmark you will no doubt have come across the wavy line definitives. This are the oldest stamp series in Denmark still in production and second oldest in the world after Norway's "Post Horn" stamps.

A public competition was held in 1902 to find a new stamp design that was simple to understand and easy to print. Architect Julius Therchilsen came up with the winning design which was accepted after the minor addition of a few hearts. Most of the elements in his design were derived from the Danish coat of arms: the lions, crown and hearts. Three broken wavy lines on the stamp represent the three main waterways in Denmark.

1905 2-øre 1963 15-øre 1983 200-øre 2005 25-øre
1905
2-øre
1963
15-øre
1983
200-øre
2005
25-øre
1905 Design 1932 Design 2000 Design

In this close-up of the top right corner of three representative stamps you can easily see how the printing technology advanced during the life of this stamp series. On the left is the original letterpress design. The updated recess-printed or engraved design is in the middle and the latest recess-printed design is on the right. In the latest design, the hatch lines are diagonal instead of vertical and horizontal, permitting better ink transfer which allowed for the re-introduction of the hearts to the design.

Printing of the new stamps began in 1905 by H.H Thieles bogtrykkeri in Copenhagen with the 2, 3 and 4 øre stamps. These were made using the letterpress method. The stamps were very popular and were reissued over the years in increasing values and varying colours, to keep up with inflation.

In 1932 Denmark Post decided to start printing their own stamps on new recess-printing machines. The original design did not translate well to this process, particularly the reproduction of the hearts and lions. The lions were redrawn and the hearts removed. Also, a double circle around the stamp value was added. The first of these new stamps was issued on 1 July 1933.

2000 Design
(a)
Philatelic Overprints
(b)

2000 Design
(c)
2000 Design
(d)
2000 Design
(e)
2000 Design
(f)
  1. Block from a booklet of charity stamps printed in 1938. The wavy line stamps are printed with unusually large margins to match the size of the Queen Alexandrine stamps in the same pane.
  2. In 1937 and 1938, overprinted 10 and 5 øre stamps were issued for philatelic exhibitions
  3. Wavy lines stamps were occasionally overprinted with new values
  4. The porto overprint, meaning "postage due"
  5. Postfærge (postal ferry) overprinted stamps were for use exclusively on postal ferries. These stamps would be affixed to the freight letters that accompanied the cargo onboard the ferry.
  6. Wavy lines stamps were often included alongside other stamps in booklets as "make up" values

Over time, as postal rates increased, new values were added and lower or lesser used values were dropped. The colours were changed from time to time. The series has always included the lowest national printed paper rate (today this is a second class letter weighing 50g). This stamp is normally green in color although there have been exceptions. The series popularity was at its peak in the 1930’s and 40’s.

In 1981 the lowest printed paper rate increased to 100-øre and this presented a problem for the wavy line. The numerals had to be re-designed to make space for the extra digit. After that, the stamp design remained unchanged until it was "re-born" for its 100th anniversary in 2005. Printing technology had progressed considerably since the 1930’s and the original design, complete with hearts and single circle, was again issued. By this time the lowest printed matter rate was 450-øre.


First self-adhesive wavy lines

The first wavy line self-adhesive issues

In 2009 Denmark Post purchased a new intaglio and offset printing press that allowed them to produce self-adhesive stamps. To this day, the wavy line design remains virtually unchanged from its first issue in 1905. Having such a long history means there are several variations to look for: slight changes to the print or colour with some combinations of color, value and print being less common than others.




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