Stamp Wars

By in Classic stamps, History on September 25, 2014
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Btampwars Bolivia (Chaco War)Believe it or not, wars have been fought between countries over postage stamps!
Although it has been quiet on the stamp front in recent decades, we only have to go back to 1932 for a real stamp war. This occurred in a then rather volatile South America, specifically between Paraguay and Bolivia.
And what on earth was it over? The dispute concerned an area called Gran Chaco, which both countries claimed as their territory. The first weapons they used in the battle were postage stamps. Provocatively, Bolivia and Paraguay both issued stamps on which were printed maps showing clearly Gran Chaco within each country’s border.

Stampwars Paraguay (Chaco War)

Unfortunately, this rather peaceful beginning of the dispute may have actually provoked an escalation into the war that took place between the countries from 1932 to 1935. The disputed territory was economically important as it was thought to contain vast oil reserves. Paraguay was the eventual winner of the war and in a treaty signed in 1938 was awarded three-quarters of the Chaco region, with Bolivia receiving the remainder. Both countries now benefit from the oil and gas reserves in the area although, ironically, it was not until this century that they were able to exploit those resources.

Stamp issued to celebrate the Chaco Peace treaty

Stamp issued to celebrate the Chaco Peace treaty

A far as we know, the first stamp war dates back to 1896. The combatants? Venezuela and Great Britain. The reason? Literally a handful of Venezuelan stamps to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the death of (see portrait below) freedom fighter General Miranda. On these stamps was a map, which blatantly showed a large part of British Guyana within Venezuelan borders. There is much more to the story, which can be “Googled” or further investigated via Wikipedia. The main outcome is that Venezuela has been awarded a portion of the disputed territory.

General Miranda stamp

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