Introduction to the Groszy overprints

From Złoty to Groszy

On 28 October 1950, the Polish currency was revaluated. 100 old Złoty was equalled to 1 new Złoty. 1 Złoty makes 100 Groszy, so 1 old Złoty became 1 new Groszy.

Official Groszy overprints

On 29 October 1950, the Polish ministry of post announced that from 6 November 1950 all mail had to be stamped with new currency stamps. The period between 29 October and 6 November was too short for all post offices to be stocked with revalued stamps. There was nothing else left to do but use provisional handstamps to make overprints of the new currency. As of 6 November, all stamps had to be provided with this new "Groszy"-overprint. The length of the overprint had to be at least 15 mm and the "Groszy" text had to cover the old Złoty denomination. Official Groszy overprints were produced at postal districts: Central stock house, Warsaw, Gdańsk, Katowice, Kraków, Łódź, Lublin, Olsztyn, Poznań, Szczecin and Wrocław, each city having a different overprint. On 30 May 1952, the validity of Groszy overprints ended and all handstamps, damaged or not, had to be sent back to the central stock room. With this measure, philatelic supervision was simplified and all handstamps were arranged by their type of overprint. There are 34 variations of official Groszy overprints.

Click here to see images of all variations of official Groszy overprints.

Slight differences can be found between overprints of the same type. The shape and the size of an overprint depend on the direction and force applied with the handstamp. Moreover, the rubber handstamps were subject to wear. Consequently, the given size of an overprint can vary approximately 1 mm.
Only valid stamps were allowed to be overprinted. Some stamps that had already lost their validity were overprinted at the expense of the post and also at the expense of collectors. Groszy overprints made on stamps that were invalid on 6 November 1950 are worthless.

Until 6 November 1950, it was allowed to use "old" stamps but mail could only be stamped for three times the old face value.


Local Groszy overprints

When the delivery of a handstamp failed or when a handstamp was damaged during use, homemade handstamps were locally produced in a large number of designs, sometimes using the abbreviation "GR" instead of "GROSZY" while all official handstamps produced a "GROSZY" overprint (in full). However, "GROSZE" was used in Szczecin and several variations of "GR", "Gr" or "gr" were made. There were no rules at all. The character design was not prescribed, resulting in a large number of character variations in upper case, lower case or mixed case with heights varying between 12 and 22 mm. The Groszy text of the overprint had to cover the old Złoty denomination, but hardly anyone actually paid attention to this. Overprints were made in all directions: Horizontal, vertical, diagonal, upside down, etc. Every possible direction can be found on Groszy-overprinted stamps, especially with the early overprints. Later, the overprints were generally placed at one of the stamp's edges. The lack of rules applied even for the colour of the overprint. In general, the overprint ink was black or violet and less occasionally red, blue or green. Intermediate colour tones occurred because of refills of the inkpads. All variations of overprint character design, upper/lower case, positioning or colour do not influence the market value of Groszy overprinted stamps. Not even when the overprint was made twice or turned upside down. Every type of Groszy overprint could easily be produced for speculative philatelic purposes. Groszy overprints made on stamps issued after 6 November 1950 are worthless. If genuine, they were probably made by accident in the overprint rush. Stocks of old but valid stamps all had to be overprinted. Groszy overprints made on stamps that were invalid on 6 November 1950 are also worth nothing. Note that not all types of Groszy overprints were made on all stamps and that plenty of forgeries exist. There are 12 variations of local Groszy overprints.

Click here to see images of all variations of local Groszy overprints.

On 4 January 1951, stamps that were not Groszy-overprinted were made valid again for domestic mail only, but the face value had to be divided by 100.

How do I know which Groszy overprint types I have?

Until now, 48 different types of Groszy overprints are known. The Polish Fischer stamp catalogue shows 26 types of official Groszy overprints numbered T.1. through T.26. (34 diferent overprints including variations) and anoter 12 local types of Groszy overprints numbered T.27 through T.42.
The German Michel stamp catalogue lists the 26 official types of Groszy overprints as Type 1-26 and mentions that there are 21 local Groszy overprints, catalogued as Type 27-48 (there are two variations of Type 27).

Official Groszy overprints were produced by 10 postal districts: Warsaw, Gdańsk, Katowice, Kraków, Łódź, Lublin, Olsztyn, Poznań, Szczecin and Wrocław.

The official overprints can be divided into three main groups with different capital letter use:
1) All capitals: Katowice, Kraków and Lublin.
2) First letter capital: Olsztyn, Warsaw and Wrocław.
3) No capitals: Central stock house, Gdańsk, Poznań, Szczecin and Warsaw.

Only Łódź, type 7, used the abbreviation "gr" and therefore can not be put in one of these three groups.

Group 3 can be subdivided as follows:
3a) The letter "g" is equal to the number "9" (Central stock house, Gdańsk, Poznań types 11-14, 16, 19 and 20, Warsaw type 25).
3b) The letter "g" typographic, made from a circle and an oval attached to eachother with a bow (Łódź type 5 and 6, Poznań type 9, 10, 15, 17 and 18, Szczecin type 21 and 22, Warsaw type 25).

Click here to see images of all variations of Groszy overprints (both official and local).

Sources and literature:
Die Währungsreform in der Volksrepublik Polen, St. Adamski, A. Roskowski, 1950.
Groszy overprints, written and published by Władisław Kolakowski, 1952.
Die Wärungsreform in Polen 1950, Groszy Überdrucke, Stefan Petriuk, 1982.
Fischer stamp catalogue 2001.
Michel stamp catalogue 2001/2002.
Stamp exhibition of Groszy overprints, collected by A. Haan, The Netherlands.