Bulgaria - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile


Bulgaria, located in Balkans in southeast Europe, is bordered by Romania to the North, by Serbia and the republic of Macedonia to the West, by Greece and Turkey to the South and by the Black Sea to the east. Bulgaria has a land area of over 42,800 square miles with a population of just over 7.5 million making it fairly densely populated at close to 170 per square mile. Bulgaria is strategically located and is a major hub in the transit of oil and natural gas from Russia to Europe. In spite of its mostly mountainous terrain, Bulgaria has a diverse climate with the Alpine and Balkan mountain ranges featuring cold winters and hot summers, temperate continental in the Danubian Plains, and Mediterranean (dry summers and mild wet winters) in the valleys and lowlands of the South. Bulgaria ranks as the lowest income member state of the EU. It is based on industry and agriculture – since the early 2000s, direct foreign investment increased every year, encouraged by its progressive policies.

Travel Resources:

Bulgaria has plenty of offer for the visitor – plenty of beaches along the Black Sea, riding trails along the Danube Valley, the Balkan mountains and the Valley of Roses, national parks, biking tours, mountaineering trips, skiing, and the list goes on. The best time to visit is dependent upon the goal. For skiing it is January, August for the beaches, and for exploring the country late spring, early summer works best and the Valley of Roses go full bloom in May. Traditional Bulgarian menu includes bread, yogurt and fresh milk, cheese, and meat and potato dishes seasoned with paprika, thyme, parsley, onions, tomatoes, fruits, grappa and red or white wine.


ResourceISBN or ASINBest PriceDescription
Bulgaria Eyewitness Travel Guide978-0756670139$16The photographs, illustrations, and map is the standout feature of this book. Walking tours and special events also covered well.
Bulgaria Travel Map978-1845375652$9
A Concise History of Bulgaria by Cambridge University Press978-0521616379$28Great historical introduction to the country and its people. Starts in the late 7th century (Khans, Boris I, Simeon the great, and Byzantine), and continues onto Ottoman Rule, National Revival, Consolidation of the Bulgarian State, Ferdinand’s Rule, the World Wars, Communist Rule, transition and the attainment of stability in the early 21st century.
Street Without a Name: Childhood and Other Misadventures in Bulgaria978-1602396456$17A memoir about growing up in Bulgaria during the communist era and the changes in the 21st century. The author Kapka Kassabova was born in Sofia and immigrated to England in 1990 at the age of seventeen. She went back to Bulgaria in 2006 – the 2nd half of the book is about her perceptions during her return visit. The book stands out because she doesn’t attempt to please anybody.
Bulgaria Grounded Adapter Plug – GUBB001FD5CZY$8


Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Bulgaria were the ‘Lion of Bulgaria’ set issued on May 1, 1879. The set of five stamps (Scott #1 to #5) used a single-color design along with black and white. Each stamp in the set catalogs between $75 and $500 MNH and from around $20 to $75 used. Following the currency change to Lev (from French franc equal valuation) in 1881, the stamps were reissued with new denominations and color schemes on April 10, 1881. That set (Scott #6 to #11) featured certain dual-colored designs. The catalog values range from around $15 to $400 for MNH and $3 to $40 for used. The same design was reused with the next issue of seven stamps on December 4, 1882. That set (Scott #12 to #18) is remarkably affordable at around $45 for MNH and $5 used. Surcharged varieties of these stamps were issued on May 1, 1884 and then again on April 5, 1885. These stamps (Scott #19 to #21 and #21b,c,d and 22) are very valuable but perilous for collectors to acquire them as excellent forgeries abound. The most valuable stamp in the set is Scott #20a (5s on 30s blue and fawn) which catalogs for around $2000 MNH or used. Different designs in the ‘Lion of Bulgaria’ theme continued until 1896 when a design using the ‘Coat of Arms’ theme appeared. That set (Scott #43 to #46) released on Feb 1, 1896 is also very affordable at around $7 MNH or used.

Below are other relevant stamp issues of Bulgaria over the years:
  1. A set of three stamps (Scott #70 to #72) released on August 29 1902 to commemorate the four Battles of Shipka Pass of 1877. The battles were fought between the Russian Empire aided by Bulgarians and the Ottoman and paved the way for the Liberation of Bulgaria – the Russo Bulgarian victory led to the establishment of a Bulgarian state with the Treaty of San Stefano, whereby Ottoman Empire was deprived of a part of its territory and Bulgaria was established. It took another thirty one years for Bulgaria to gain full independence. The design shows a fighting scene in the battles of Shipka Pass in three different colors and denominations. The set catalogs for around $10 MNH and about $3 used.
  2. A set of twelve stamps (Scott #89 to #100) released on February 14 1911 showing Bulgarian local scenes of historic significance and Tsar Ferdinand. The designs show Tsar Assen’s Tower (Assen Dynasty of the 12th century), City of Veliko Tarnovo (Old Bulgarian capital), Isker River of Western Bulgaria, Rila Monastery (founded in the 10th century and located in the North-Western Rila Mountains, it is Bulgaria’s largest and most famous Eastern Orthodox monastery), Monastery of Holy Trinity, and View of Varna (largest city on the Black Sea coast of Eastern Bulgaria). This beautifully diverse set catalogs for around $60 MNH. A used set is remarkably affordable at around $5 and is a great starter set for newbie collectors.
  3. A set of seven stamps (Scott #237 to #243) released on September 18, 1931 to mark the Balkan games. The designs show gymnast, soccer, riding, swimmer, victory, fencing, and bicycle race. The set catalogs for around $150 MNH and $55 used. A sister set with new colors was also issued on January 5, 1933. This set is special in that it was sold only at the philatelic agency. For this reason, the set (Scott #244 to #250) is very valuable and catalogs for around $650 MNH and $225 used.
  4. A set of six stamps (Scott #267 to #272) released on June 14 1935 to mark the fifth Balkan Soccer Tournament. The set features soccer game, Cathedral of Alexander Nevski, soccer team, symbolical of vctory, player and trophy, and the trophy. This set is fairly valuable and catalogs for around $325 MNH and $130 used. Another set to mark the eighth tournament of the Yunak Gymnastic Organization held in Sofia (July 12-14) was released on July 10, the same year. That set (Scott #273 to #278) of six stamps is also valuable and catalogs for around $200 MNH and around $90 used.
  5. A set of four stamps released on April 26 1939 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Bulgarian State Railways. The set (Scott #346 to #349) is very affordable and catalogs for around $5 MNH and around a dollar for used. The set features early locomotive, modern locomotive, train crossing bridge, and Tsar Boris in cab.
  6. A set of eleven stamps released on August 9 1946 to commemorate Bulgaria’s participation in World War II. The designs show attacking troups, grenade thowing soldier, and attacking planes. The set (Scott #512 to #522) is surprisingly affordable at around $2 for MNH or used. This can form another marquee set for newbie collectors.
  7. A set of nine stamps (Scott #798 to #806) released in 1953 showing early architecture. The designs show woodcarvings at Rila Monastery, woodcarvings and carved ceilings in Tranovo, and carvings at Pasardjik. The set catalogs for around $7 MNH and $2 used.
  8. A set of three stamps (Scott #926 to #928) released on February 10 1956 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the National Library. The designs show the library seal, Krusto Pishurka, and Bacho Kiro (a man of letters as well as a revolutionary). The set catalogs for around 60c either MNH or used. From 1956 onwards, Bulgaria started issuing sheets in canceled to order form. These stamps have very little value compared to postally used ones.
  9. A beautiful set of eight stamps (Scott #1395 to #1402) released on April 20 1965 the “Birds in Natural Colors” theme. The designs show bullfinch, European golden oriole, common rock thrush, barn swallow, European roller, European goldfinch, rosy pastor starling, and nightingale. The set catalogs for around $6 MNH and $4 used. A sister set of six stamps (Scott #1403 to #1408) was also released on June 10 1965, this time in the “Black Sea Fish” theme. That set catalogs for around $2 MNH and around a dollar for used.
  10. A set of five stamps (Scott #2229 to #2233) released in April 1975 in the “Regional Costumes” theme. The designs show Gabrov costume, Trnsk, Vidin, Gocedelchev, and Risen. The set catalogs for around $2 MNH and a dollar for used.
  11. A set of fourteen stamps (Scott #2779 to #2792) released on August 10 1981 to mark the 1300th anniversary of the first Bulgarian state. The set catalogs for around $5 MNH and $3 used. A couple of souvenir sheets (Scott #2793 and #2794) was also released and those catalog for aroud $1 and $2 respectively for MNH and 50c and $1 respectively for used.
  12. A set of four stamps (Scott #3955 to #3958) released on September 24 1996 in the “Steam Locomotives” theme. The set catalogs for around $1. The designs show steam locomotives circa 1836, 1847, 1848, and 1876. Another set in the general transportation theme was released on June 1 1999, this time featuring Bicycles. The set (Scott #4079 to #4082) catalogs for around $1 MNH or Used. The designs show large front-wheeled bicycle, multi-gear bicycle, BMX racing bike, and mountain racing bike. A third set showing Airships was released on July 3 2000. The set (Scott #4147 to #4150) of four stamps catalogs for around $2 MNH or used. The designs show Le Jaune over Paris, Hansa over Cologne, Norge over Rome, and Graf Zeppelin over Sofia. 
Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of Bulgaria were gold coins from the Second Bulgarian Empire starting around 1200 AD and continued for around two centuries. Only few of the first coins have survived and most of them are in museums. Following a gap of nearly 500 years when Bulgaria was under Turkish rule, Bulgaria started issuing coins in 1881 under Turkish Suzerainty. The first coin was made of Bronze and denominated in Stotinki (100 Stotinki = 1 Lev) and showed wreath denomination and date in reverse and a coat of arms design in obverse. The coin has high mintage (~5M) but is still valued at around $100 for the Proof version.

Numismatic items of Bulgaria include:


ItemPrice RangeDescription
Coins$1 and upCommon UNCs start around $1. Recent mint proofs and year sets start around $10. Commemorative Silver Proofs start around $30. Bimetal and colored proofs start around $50. Rare 19th century silver coins in VF start around $100. Gold coins go well into the 100s and 1000s depending on troy ounce weight and mintage.
Exonumia$30 and upLibrary anniversary plaques, vintage telephone tokens, Communist Brass Medals etc start around $30. Rare 19th century medals go into the 100s.
Paper Money$2 and upCommon UNC banknote Levas start around $2. Levas from the 50s and 60s in VF start around $30. Older notes in VF, Rare Dates, Error Varieties etc start around $100.


Collectible Memorabilia:

War memorabilia, arts and antiques are the sought-after items from this country. Though rose oil is an export item, the packaging is not pleasing to all the tourists. In any case, it is an excuse to capture the essence of the trip in one’s own camera.


ResourcePrice RangeDescription
Pins, Badges, Medals and Plaques$10 and UpSoviet era pins and badges start around $10. Kingdom of Bulgaria orders and medals start around $100. World War Uniform Jackets and authentic royal memorabilia go well into the 100s and 1000s.
Art$5 and UpPrints of 19th century historically relevant photos start around $5. Communist propaganda posters and oil paintings showing local scenes from the period go into the 100s.
Antiques$10 and upEarly 20th century maps start around $10, eighteenth century maps go for upwards of $30, and wooden flasks, bronze pewter, etc go well into the 100s.


Last Updated: 12/2015.
 

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