The Graf Zeppelins (and Why Stamp Collectors Love Them)
Graf Zeppelins are some of the most sought-after U.S. stamps. These airmail stamps are scarce because of their very small issue quantities and the fact they were on sale for five weeks and two days – and that was over 80 years ago!
The Graf Zeppelin dirigible was named after its designer – Count (“Graf” in German) Ferdinand von Zeppelin. An aluminum-framed, lighter-than-air craft, the Graf made its first dramatic trans-Atlantic voyage in 1928. That voyage saw three crew members dangling from the outside of the massive ship, trying to make crucial repairs during a raging storm in mid-Atlantic! That first trip was riddled with danger, but it ended successfully and those that followed were smoother.
On May 18, 1930, the Graf Zeppelin began its first round-trip voyage between Europe and North and South America. The Zeppelin airmail stamps were issued to commemorate the event and frank mail carried on it. Covers carried on that voyage bear the famous “Zeps,” documenting the importance of the giant aircraft in the development of world airmail service. It was only after the crash of the German airship Hindenburg that the Graf Zeppelin was taken out of service. Its history included many records, including the fact the Graf was the only airship to fly around the world.
The stamps and covers which resulted from the many flights of the Graf Zeppelin have fascinated collectors from that time on – and they always will.
The Zeppelin airmail designs picture the dirigible’s long journey over the ocean between Europe and the Americas, showing the giant airship traveling westward from Europe as well as eastward, back to its home port in Friedrichshafen, Germany. The Zeppelins and the mail they carried were an exciting chapter in the saga of airmail service in the early years of this century. Those years were a time of daring and courageous airmail pilots whose exploits were carried out in flimsy, unstable, heavier-than-air planes such as the Curtiss Jenny as well as the unforgettable Zeppelins.
All mankind took a giant leap into the future as these heroes defied gravity and piloted their crafts into the wild blue yonder. The Zeppelin stamps are historic artifacts from that exciting time. Like all postage stamps, they tell us wonderful things about our nation’s past.
The Golden Age of dirigible flight ended with the Hindenburg Disaster.