Olymphilex 2000, Australia


st_olym00_cover_lThe catalog of exhibition















We have now entered the new millennium philatelically, and we also find ourselves in the year of the Sydney 2000 Olympics. This fact is being celebrated with numerous festivities, but there are also anniversaries associated with the first Olympic Games. One such anniversary is the centennial of the postal overprint in 1900 on the Olympic stamps of 1896. It was the first overprint to take place on Olympic stamps.
It is impossible to publish this study in full here due to the limited space of the Olymphilex 2000 catalogue, so this article summaries only the key issues.


The overprint AM [A(ΞIA) M(ETAΛIKH)] with a new value, was made in 1900 because of a currency adjustment of the Greek drachma to gold, and the “strong” European currencies. The Government, in order to fulfil its international postal obligations, had to adjust the postal rates “in gold”[A(ΞIA) M(METAΛIKH)]. Due to time restrictions, the preparation of new stamps was rejected, and the Government decided to overprint stamps of previous issues. In the autumn of 1900 issues of Hermes Heads were overprinted, and in December of the same year as well as in January 1901, five values of the 1896 Olympics (40 ΛΕΠTA; 1, 2, 5 and 10 ΔPAXMAI). This study examines the overprint A.M. on the stamps of 1896.











The purpose of these overprint issues was to cover the needs of postal money orders going abroad and parcel post needs. For this reason, the use of Olympic overprints on covers must be considered as philatelic rather than regular postal use.









The overprinting took place in two different, but close steps:

- The first overprinting with the Royal Decree of 14 December 1900 (published in the Government Gazette A289/18-12-1900): A.M. 25 ΛΕΠTA on 40 ΛEΠTA 1896, and A.M. 50 ΛEΠTA on 2 ΔPX 1896
- A few days later, with the Royal Decree of 30 December 1900 (G.G. A5/9-1-1901) the overprinting included the new values: 5 ΛΕΠΤA on 1 ΔPX, 1 ΔPX on 5 ΔPX and 2 ΔPX on 10 ΔPX 1896.
So, it is likely that the first day of issue of the overprints was the day of the Royal Decrees.


The original 1896 stamps were printed in large sheets comprising six sheetlets of ten stamps.

The ink used for overprinting was in different tones of red in contrast to the previous Hermes heads overprints where black ink had been used. This ink was very fluid, easily diluted, and in combination with the lithographic method of printing, it was inevitable that a few printing errors would appear, such as the disruption of letters, the appearance of dots, etc. The overprint elements appear in the formation of a three horizontal line placement as shown.

Examining the overprint closely, we observe that the total height for all the values is the same, although the width varies from word to word depending on the number of letters in each one:

ΛΕΠΤΑ = 11mm

ΔΡΑΧΜΗ = 14mm

ΔΡΑΧΜΑΙ = 16mm


Due to the simplicity and the method of printing of the overprint, errors should have been absent. However, there are at least six consistent errors which will be detailed below. There were also several other errors which are considered “coincidental errors” as they cannot be found on stamps of the same positions in other collections or on existing sheets of the Greek Postal Museum. This fact by no means reduces the demand for these varities, or their place in specialised collections of Olympic stamps. Due to lack of space in this publication, I will only refer here to the “consistent” or “regular” errors.


1. OVERPRINT 5 ΛΕΠΤΑ on 1 ΔΡΑΧΜΗ (five overprint and one perforation errors)

1.1 Gothic “M” Error

During the formation of the first overprinted line A.M. and due to a shortage of the letter “M”, a difference in the appearance of the letter “M” is observed. Out of a total number of 60, fifty-four of them are identical, six of them are of a different letter type called in typography Gothic or Elzevir. These six different “M” were located in positions 21, 22, 31, 32, 51, 52 of the full sheet of 60 stamps and, therefore, on the two first stamps of sheetlets 3, 4 and 6. On other sheets, the error of the Gothic “M” appears only in positions 21, 22, 51 and 52. Most probably not too much attention had been paid to the positioning of the letter on the plate, and after a few prints the difference in the letter “M” appeared but was corrected only in positions 31 and 32 (it is, of course, strange how and why the other four letters were not replaced; didn't they have them?). Moreover, there is an error of the error. The Gothic “M” of position 52 is a bit smaller than the rest, which seem to be identical.






fig.3, fig,4, fig,5

1.2 Double Overprint Error

The second error of the 5 Λ on 1 ΔPX value is the double overprinting of two sheets. This error is mentioned by all experts. Due to the very few printed, it is highly sought after. It is only found on these two sheets.







1.3 Centre Perforation Error

The third error on the same value is one of centre perforation. It is not known if this happened during overprinting, or derives from a sheet of 1 ΔPX value of 1896, although until today (April 2000) such a variety is not known. In particular, we notice that in the case of double overprint (one sheet) it is even more difficult to come across. Personally, I have seen two blocks of four with this error, but never a bigger block nor a single stamp with centre perforation.







1.4 Latin “L” Error

Position 57 of the big sheet of 60 (that is the 7th stamp of the 6th sheetlet) features the Greek letter “Γ” inverted (that looks like the Latin letter “L”), instead of the letter “E” in the word “ΛΕΠΤΑ”. In this case, the word “ΛLΠΤΑ” was printed instead of “ΛΕΠΤΑ”.

1.5 Lower “Λ” Position Error

Position 28 of the big sheet of 60, that is the 8th stamp on the 3rd sheetlet of 10, bears the non-uniform word of “ΛΕΠΤΑ”. The letters were placed in such a way that the first letter “Λ” is lower than the straight line formed by the rest, “ΛΕΠΤΑ” instead of “ΛΕΠΤΑ”.






1.6 Gothic “Λ” Error

Position 35 of the big sheet of 60, that is the 5th stamp of the 4th sheetlet of 10, bears the letter Λ with a wider right line. The two legs of Λ are in a straight line, forming their ends similar to a GOTHIC “M” (as error 1.1).


2.1 Lower “Λ” Position Error

Appearance of the letter “Λ” in a lower position than the straight line formed by the rest of the word “ΛΕΠΤΑ”; unfortunately, the position location is not known. This might be coincidental, or there may have been a correction after a few printings, as the error is not found on the sheet in the Postal Museum. The only indication for this error is that it appears in the lower position of the sheetlet or sheetlets of ten stamps, but not in the last row, in positions 6 - 9, 16 - 19, ........., 56 - 59.











2.2 Double Overprint Error

It is most likely that only one sheet, with the value of 40 ΛΕΠΤΑ, was double overprinted. Only very few single mint stamps are known to exist today. Pairs, or blocks of four, have not appeared so far.










2.3 Overprint in Black AM/50/ΛΕΠΤΑ on Red ΑΜ/25/ΛΕΠΤΑ Error










This variety is the “black sheep” in the family of overprints on Olympic stamps of 1896. Its appearance adds a lot of question marks, although many researchers consider it to be authentic (since it was made with the same plate as the overprint AM 50 ΛΕΠΤΑ on 2 ΔΡΧ 1896 with the R.D. 14-12-1900), but not official.

This is also my opinion because:
the decree states the colour of the overprint as being red. However, the second overprint is in black, something which excludes a mistake.
There was never a Royal Decree issued which provided for the overprint 50 Λ on 25 Λ on 40 Λ 1896.

c) The simultaneous overprint of 25 ΛΕΠΤΑ on 40 ΛΕΠΤΑ with 50 ΛΕΠΤΑ on 2 ΔΡΧ, along with their distribution, helped some spirited people to create their own “works of art”. Kohl (page 267) opines that the double overprint was done during the original overprinting process as the stamps appeared at the same time as the other stamps. They found their way to the public via “philatelic” routes.

Additionally, the fact of this simultaneous overprint 50 ΛΕΠΤΑ on 2 ΔΡΧ entirely excludes the need for an “official” appearance of a similar value overprint in an insignificant quantity. NB: I underline similar question marks arising in regards to the 90 day prior (Sept. 1900) overprints 40 ΛΕΠΤΑ on other values (VLASTOS 146/146Γ and 151/151Γ) without any reason, since there was sufficient 40 ΛΕΠΤΑ material on both big and small Hemes Heads.

I would accept (even as a mistake) this additional black overprint 50 on 25 on 40 ΛΕΠΤΑ if it was on the same stamp that was overprinted vith the value of 50 Λ (ie on 2 ΔΡΧ 1896) but not on 40 Λ 1896. I conclude that due to lack of evidence, we can accept this stamp only as 'not issued', and not as a stamp that was sold by the Post Office. I don't see any reason why we would find it used. In mint condition it is of considerable value as long as it is not a fake.


3.1 The “O” Error

With this overprint there is only one basic error which repeats itself. During the printing of the number “O”, two types of  “O” were used, a wide and a narrow one, exactly as it happened 3 months before with the overprints on the small and large Hermes Heads.
Out of a total of 60 stamps per sheet, 22 have a wide “O” and 38 have a narrow one. Therefore as a variety we consider the one with occurs less frequently, that is the 22 wide “O”. Kohl and Trory agree that this variety/error is met in the following positions of the 60 stamp sheet: 1, 3, 14, 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 31, 32, 33, 36, 39, 41, 53, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59. These positions (with the exception of position 18) are also confirmed by the Postal Museum sheet.


4.1 ΔΡΔΧΜΗ Instead of ΔΡΑΧΜΗ Error










There is only one overprint error on the sheet of 60 stamps. This is the well-known error of “ΔΡΔΧΜΗ” instead of “ΔΡΑΧΜΗ”. The position of this variety is stamp 59.


5.1 ΔΡΔΧΜΑΙ Instead of ΔΡΑΧΜΑΙ Error

On this overprint we come across one error, as in the case of 4.1. That is “ΔΡΔΧΜΑI” instead of “ΔΡΑΧΜΑI”. The position is 57 (that is the 7th stamp of the 6th sheetlet of 10).


On this overprint issue of 1896 some minor errors appeared during 1900/01. They can be classified as follows:
Inverted letter
Part or total absence of a letter
Appearance of small dots or straight small lines








There are also a lot of fake overprints of interest. The space available in this article does not allow me to expand on the subject, however, the full study of this topic will be available later this year and I will be glad to send a copy free of charge to any interested collectors. With regard to fake overprints (which will be included in the full study) anyone interested can refer to the catalogue of Olymphilex Barcelona 92 where I have fully described them.











G. Brunei: Les Emissions de Timbres Grecs, Paris 1909
Dr. Hunk A. Arguropoulos: Kohl Briefmarken Handbuch: Griechenland, 1929O. Stiedl - F. Billing: Griechenland II. Billings Grossen Handbuch der falschungen, Wiena 1936
Tr. Konstantinides: Etude sur les timbres Grecs, Volume II, (Hellenic Philatelic Society, Athens 1937)Ernest Trory: Philatelic history of Olympic Games, Crabtree Press Ltd 1956

Sp. Raftopoulos: La filatelia ellenica nel Regno Olympico, Editioni diUrso, Roma 1964
Sp. Raftopoulos: as above, (Hellenic issue), Athens 1969Jose-Maria Solar Villa: Sellos Olympicos, Comite Olympico Espanol, Madrid 1967H. Konstantinis: The History of the Olympics issues 1896-1906 (Philatelic Library ERE, No 25, Athens 1974)
Jose-Maria Vidal Torrens: Post philately and Olympism, Comite international Olympique, Lausanne 1984


O. Rentzos: Falsifications on Hellenic stamps (Philatelia No. 11, 12/1924) S.I. Makrymihalos: A walk through a collection (Philatelia No. 374/1962) K. Antoniou: Overprints on the temporary Hellenic issues 1900-1901 (Philatelia, No. 374/1962)

P. Drossos: The overprints 1900/1901 (Philatelia No. 376/1962)

D. Giannoudis: Fakes of 2,5,10 DRH 1896 Olympics (Philoteliki Echo 88/1974)

O. Bortolato: Filatelia Italiana, May 1966

W. Wogelsgesang: Olympia Philatelie 6/1972


Olympia Briefmarken Spezial Katalog 1964, Enno Kullas, Aachen

Chr. Naltsas: Special Catalog of Hellenic Stamps (ΕΕΕ.ΤΉ765 Thessaloniki)

0. Vlastos: 1973 issues till to day


N. Garas: 10th Auction 23-28/4/1934, Athens

Robson Lowe: collection Adams 11.4.56

Steltzer: Sale 119, 1972 Different Hellenic auctions 1960 to present

D. Feldman: The last twenty years


Hellenic Philatelic Museum, Athens CIO Museum, Lausanne


I.M. Aggelopoulos, L. Barettoni, M. Bergman, 0. Bortolato, S. Carusso, G. Dolianitis, U. Mittolo, G. Papastefanou, F. Ringo, M. Tecardi, M. Tsironis

Also my contribution to Barcelona 92 Olymphilex Catalogue and to Vlastos “Comparisons of Hellenic Postal Stamps 1861-1923”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 February 2011 12:23