Albania - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Albania, a small South Eastern European country spanning 10,600 square miles of land area and a population less than 4 million, is bordered by Greece, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and the Adriatic Sea. With its lowlands of the west facing the Adriatic Sea the country has rich bio-diversity and almost a third of it is blanketed in forests. Though it ranks high in poverty among its European peers with a GDP of less than $7000 (PPP), its literacy rate is outstanding at almost 99%.  The main industries are tourism, wine, olives, and silk.

Travel Resources:


The tourist friendly months for this country with Mediterranean climate are May through September with April and October serving as shoulder months. The popular cities are Tirana and Vlore. Skanderbeg Fortress, Ottoman Bridge, ancient mosques, cathedrals and ruins are among the top attractions of the land.



ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Albania by Bradt Travel Guides978-1841622460$18One of the only guides to Albania on its own. Good coverage of culture and history. Decent coverage of transport and hotels, although pricing details are missing. Maps of regions and towns.
Travellers Albania by Thomas Cook Publishing978-1848480759$13Suggested itineraries for walks and tours based on best sights from experts. Good coverage of people, geography, culture and history.
High Albania by M. Edith Durham978-1406828559$15First published in 1909, the book details the culture of the isolated northern Albanian high-lands in the early 20th century, with their blood feuds that killed generations of males.
Albania Road Maps by Freytag & Berndt978-3707905786$13
Adapter PlugB001FD80SU$4


Philatelic Profile:

The Turkish stamps of 1908 (Scott #132-138) and 1909 (Scott #151-160) depicting the “Tughra” monogram of Sultan Abdul-Aziz with an overprint of the double-headed eagles are the first stamps from Albania and were released in June 1913 (Scott #1 through 19). The catalog value of these issues run from the high 100’s to the low 1000’s. Excellent counterfeits make it tricky for an average collector to ensure what is available from a dealer or online marketplace is legitimate. The double-headed eagle seal, which also appears in the flag, the coat of arms, and the first stamps of Albania, is a representation of the seal of Skanderbeg. Double-headed eagle seals are a familiar symbol used by the Holy Roman Empire and by the Byzantine Empire during the middle ages. Many early stamps and newer anniversary issues celebrate Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, Albania’s valiant national hero, who resisted the Ottoman Empire from 1443 to 1468. Significant among them are the first anniversary of Albanian independence issues (Scott #35 - #52, Scott #41 - #46 and the ones with inverted surcharges – Scott #47a - #52b). The catalog values for these stamps are in the range of a few dollars to a few tens of dollars. Most other early stamps depict the double-headed eagle seal in different designs. The first significant design shift from these two themes occurred in the panoramic view of Gjirokastër, the historic town constantly occupied by Greece during early independence until the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 recognized it as part of Albania. The stamps (Scott #147 to 153) were issued in 1923 and they are valued fairly inexpensively at around the $10 range for the set. Several issues with different overprints on the same design were issued till 1925.

The country name Albania is inscribed in the stamps in Albanian as Shqipëria, but there are many variations on the spelling (roughly 10 exist). The similarity stops after the first three letters ‘Shq’. The classic period (till 1940) also saw issues of President Ahmed Zogu and King Victor Emmanuel III. Significant other themes include the “Albanian Eagle in Turkish Shakles” design of 1937 (Scott #278 and #279) that can be obtained in the $10 range and the architecture set of 1939 (Scott #320 to #323) for around $50 for MNH.

World War II themes dominated the issues in the 40’s. Noteworthy among them are the set of the 2nd anniversary of Albanian National Army of Liberation of 1945 (Scott #354 to #360), People’s Republic Issues of 1945 and 1946 (Scott #361 to #378), and the Souvenir Sheet of 1947 depicting the World War II martyrs and Qemal Stafa the founding member of the Albanian communist party (Scott #391 to #393). The former two sets both catalog for around $100 used while the latter for around $60 used – Mint copies catalog for roughly half these amounts.

Albania started issuing CTOs (Cancelled to Order) in bulk to dealers’ in1950 and these are not collectible. The designs from 1950 mainly revolved around communist themes as the country was strongly aligned with both Russia and China. Certain color varieties and imperforate versions of some of these issues have significant value. For example, the tourism issues of 1962 (Scott #630 to #633) has a catalog value in the $30 range for mint and double that for used (not CTO). Also, the imperforate versions of the space exploration issues of 1962 (Scott #621 to #624) in changed colors go for around $50 for mint or used.



From mid 60’s onwards, though stamp designs turned increasingly colorful, catalog values continued to stay low because of the mass production of Albanian stamps. Mint or postally used stamps sport a relatively higher catalog value. An example of a recent issue with significant catalog value (close to $30) is the 2004 paintings set of icons by Nikolla Onufri (Scott #2743 to #2745).

Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Albania were released in 1926 soon after Ahmed Zogu seized the presidency in 1925. There were a number of different denominations (bronze – 5 and 10 quindar leku, nickel – quarter, half, and 1 lek, and silver – 1, 2, and franga ar). The designs were by Guideppe Romagnoli and showed Lion Head, Eagle’s Head, Kings Arms, Alexander the Great etc in Obverse and Oak Branch, Olive Branch, etc in Reverse. Mintages were well above 500,000 for most of these issues and values start around $15 for Fine condition and go well into the hundreds for UNC.

Other numismatic items of Albania include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Gold Coins$100 and upThe first gold coins released in 1926 showed Ahmed Zogu and had low mintages (600 to 6000). The small 10 Franga Ari denominations (18.5, 3.2gm, 0.09 troy ounce) start around $100 for Fine and go in the $350 range for UNC. The 50 (27, 16.1gm, 0.47 troy ounce) and 100 (34.5, 32.3gm, 0.93 troy ounce) Franga Ari varieties go well into the 1000s for UNC. The former has very low mintage of just 600. There is also a 20 Franga Ari Skanderbeg issue from 1927 which is very rare – 100 mintage and 90% melted. Proofs from 1968 to 1970 in the 100 Leke to 7500 Leke denominations are very collectible and expensive.
Comemorative Coins$5 and upIssues from the 2000s start around $5. Older issues fetch upwards of $20.
Other Coins$2 and up1 lek UNCs from the 1990s start around $2. Higher denominations and older UNCs start around $10. Silver proofs from the 60s and prior dates with low mintage (5000 or so) fetch into the $50 range.
Paper Money$3 and up10 Leke and higher denominations UNC Banknotes from the 70s onward start around $3. Occupation issues from the 40s and specimen issues from the 200s start around $20.


Collectible Memorabilia:

War memorabilia, traditional folk costumes from all parts of Albania, artifacts made from silver, copper, bronze, pottery and ceramic and busts of Skanderbeg in the ceremonial helmet are the popular cart offs of Albania.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Communism Related Medals and other Memorabilia$3 and upPostcards and such go for a few dollars while gold medals from World War II time period fetch well into the 1000s.
Art$30 and upOriginal antique prints from the late 19th century start at around $30. Original color prints on subjects such as Albanian costumes and Scutari fetch a premium.
Traditional Clothes, and Accessories$5 and upColorful traditional clothes from the late 19th and early 20th century are in the market at upwards of $75.


Last Updated: 12/2015.

2 comments :

Aik said...

Is this a worldwide giveaway? Has this month's giveaway ended?

ks said...

Hi Aik:

We suspended the giveaway as of May. We will let everyone who participated in previous giveaways know when we restart it again.

Regards,

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