Costa Rica welcomed its first stamp 150 years ago

Costa Rica marks the 150th anniversary this year of its first postage stamps.

Before the adhesive postage stamp was invented, the recipient of a letter was expected to pay the tab.

A common consequence of this system was that the person on the receiving end would read the letter or open the package, then return it to the mail carrier with the explanation that they were unable to pay the cost of delivery. This allowed many to commit mail fraud, and the postal services inevitably lost money.

Country’s first stamp

To avoid this dilemma, Rowland Hill of Great Britain developed a more practical idea of a seal that one purchased before delivery. In 1840 the first stamp was printed bearing the effigy of Queen Victoria. It is today known as the “penny black” and is much valued by collectors.

In 1843, Zurich Switzerland adopted the stamp system and in 1847 the United States followed suit.

Sixteen years later, in 1863, Costa Rica put its own seal into circulation making this year in April the 150th anniversary of the country producing its own stamps.

The first stamps, the azaleas de medio real and the rojos de dos reales, and more are available for view in the Correos de Costa Rica museum located on the second floor of the downtown building. The peso, the country’s currency until 1896, was divided into eight reales at the time.

The post office building was built in 1917 and is praised by many tourists for its historic significance and grand presence on the surrounding pedestrian walkway. The building just underwent a major makeover.

The upstairs museum is a little known area, that houses a full collection of stamps from both Costa Rica and around the world.

It includes the complete set of the first four stamps printed. After the red and blue stamp came out, it was determined that they weren’t sufficient enough to satisfy the needs of the postage service. Two new values, the cuatro reales and the peso were printed at the end of 1863.

The museum also has models of morse code machines to depict the complete history and evolution of mail.

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