Denmark (Danmark) is a Scandinavian country in Europe. The southernmost and smallest of the Nordic countries, it is south-west of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. The Kingdom of Denmark (Kongeriget Danmark) is a sovereign state that comprises Denmark proper and two autonomous constituent countries in the North Atlantic Ocean: the Faroe Islands (Føroyar in Faroese, or Færøerne in Danish) and Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat in Greenlandic, or Grønland in Danish). Denmark has a total area of 16,573 square miles (42,924 square kilometers), and a population of 5.7 million. The country consists of a peninsula, Jutland, and an archipelago of 443 named islands, with the largest being Zealand and Funen. The islands are characterized by flat, arable land and sandy coasts, low elevation and a temperate climate.
Danes enjoy a high standard of living and the country ranks highly in some metrics of national performance, including education, health care, protection of civil liberties, democratic governance, prosperity and human development. The country ranks as having the world’s highest social mobility, a high level of income equality, is the country with the lowest perceived level of corruption in the world, has one of the world’s highest per capita incomes, and one of the world’s highest personal income tax rates.
The earliest archaeological findings in Denmark date back to the Eem interglacial period from 130,000 to 110,000 BC. Denmark has been inhabited since around 12,500 BC and agriculture has been evident since 3900 BC. The Nordic Bronze Age (1800–600 BC) in Denmark was marked by burial mounds, which left an abundance of findings including lurs and the Sun Chariot.
During the Pre-Roman Iron Age (500 BC to AD 1), native groups began migrating south, and the first tribal Danes came to the country between the Pre-Roman and the Germanic Iron Age, in the Roman Iron Age (AD 1–400). The Roman provinces maintained trade routes and relations with native tribes in Denmark, and Roman coins have been found in Denmark. Evidence of strong Celtic cultural influence dates from this period in Denmark and much of North-West Europe and is among other things reflected in the finding of the Gundestrup cauldron.
The tribal Danes came from the east Danish islands (Zealand) and Scania and spoke an early form of North Germanic. Historians believe that before their arrival, most of Jutland and the nearest islands were settled by tribal Jutes. The Jutes migrated to Great Britain eventually, some as mercenaries by Brythonic King Vortigern, and were granted the south-eastern territories of Kent, the Isle of Wight and other areas, where they settled. They were later absorbed or ethnically cleansed by the invading Angles and Saxons, who formed the Anglo-Saxons. The remaining Jutish population in Jutland assimilated in with the settling Danes.
A short note about the Dani in “Getica” by the historian Jordanes is believed to be an early mention of the Danes, one of the ethnic groups from whom modern Danes are descended. The Danevirke defence structures were built in phases from the third century forward and the sheer size of the construction efforts in AD 737 are attributed to the emergence of a Danish king. A new runic alphabet was first used around the same time and Ribe, the oldest town of Denmark, was founded about AD 700.
From the eighth to the tenth century, the wider Scandinavian region was the source of Vikings. They colonized, raided, and traded in all parts of Europe. The Danish Vikings were most active in the eastern and southern British Isles and Western Europe. They conquered and settled parts of England (known as the Danelaw) under King Sweyn Forkbeard in 1013, and France where Danes and Norwegians founded Normandy with Rollo as head of state. More Anglo-Saxon pence of this period have been found in Denmark than in England.
Denmark was largely consolidated by the late eighth century and its rulers are consistently referred to in Frankish sources as kings (reges). Under the reign of Gudfred in 804 the Danish kingdom may have included all the lands of Jutland, Scania and the Danish islands, excluding Bornholm. The extant Danish monarchy traces its roots back to Gorm the Old, who established his reign in the early tenth century. As attested by the Jelling stones, the Danes were Christianized around 965 by Harald Bluetooth, the son of Gorm. It is believed that Denmark became Christian for political reasons so as not to get invaded by the rising Christian power in Europe, the Holy Roman Empire, which was an important trading area for the Danes. In that case, Harald built six fortresses around Denmark called Trelleborg and built a further Danevirke. In the early eleventh century, Canute the Great won and united Denmark, England, and Norway for almost 30 years with a Scandinavian army.
Throughout the High and Late Middle Ages, Denmark also included Skåneland (the areas of Scania, Halland, and Blekinge in present-day south Sweden) and Danish kings ruled Danish Estonia, as well as the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Most of the latter two now form the state of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany.
In 1397, Denmark entered into a personal union with Norway and Sweden, united under Queen Margaret I. The three countries were to be treated as equals in the union. However, even from the start, Margaret may not have been so idealistic—treating Denmark as the clear “senior” partner of the union. Thus, much of the next 125 years of Scandinavian history revolves around this union, with Sweden breaking off and being re-conquered repeatedly. The issue was for practical purposes resolved on June 17, 1523, as Swedish King Gustav Vasa conquered the city of Stockholm. The Protestant Reformation spread to Scandinavia in the 1530’s, and following the Count’s Feud civil war, Denmark converted to Lutheranism in 1536. Later that year, Denmark entered into a union with Norway.
After Sweden permanently broke away from the personal union, Denmark tried on several occasions to reassert control over its neighbor. King Christian IV attacked Sweden in the 1611–1613 Kalmar War but failed to accomplish his main objective of forcing it to return to the union. The war led to no territorial changes, but Sweden was forced to pay a war indemnity of 1 million silver riksdaler to Denmark, an amount known as the Älvsborg ransom. King Christian used this money to found several towns and fortresses, most notably Glückstadt (founded as a rival to Hamburg) and Christiania. Inspired by the Dutch East India Company, he founded a similar Danish company and planned to claim Ceylon as a colony, but the company only managed to acquire Tranquebar on India’s Coromandel Coast. Denmark’s large colonial aspirations were limited to a few key trading posts in Africa and India. The empire was sustained by trade with other major powers, and plantations — ultimately a lack of resources led to its stagnation.
Denmark’s postal history begins with an ordinance of December 24, 1624, by King Christian IV, establishing a national postal service . This service consisted of nine main routes, and was to be operated by the mayor of Copenhagen and several guilds. Initially the mail was carried by foot, with riders being used after 1640.
In the Thirty Years’ War, Christian tried to become the leader of the Lutheran states in Germany but suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Lutter. The result was that the Catholic army under Albrecht von Wallenstein was able to invade, occupy, and pillage Jutland, forcing Denmark to withdraw from the war. Denmark managed to avoid territorial concessions, but King Gustavus Adolphus’ intervention in Germany was seen as a sign that the military power of Sweden was on the rise while Denmark’s influence in the region was declining. In 1643, Swedish armies invaded Jutland and claimed Scania in 1644.
In the 1645 Treaty of Brømsebro, Denmark surrendered Halland, Gotland, the last parts of Danish Estonia, and several provinces in Norway.
The postal service was turned over to a Paul Klingenberg on July 16, 1653, who introduced a number of innovations, including mail coaches able to carry parcels, and service to Norway. He ran the service until March 14, 1685, when he handed it over to Count Christian Gyldenløve, a nine-year-old son of King Christian V. The Gyldenløve family continued in control until 1711; in 1694 new routes and rates were established. The state took over control in 1711.
In 1657, King Frederick III declared war on Sweden and marched on Bremen-Verden. This led to a massive Danish defeat and the armies of King Charles X Gustav of Sweden conquered both Jutland, Funen, and much of Zealand before signing the Peace of Roskilde in February 1658 which gave Sweden control of Scania, Blekinge, Trøndelag, and the island of Bornholm. Charles X Gustav quickly regretted not having wrecked Denmark and in August 1658, he began a two-year-long siege of Copenhagen but failed to take the capital. In the following peace settlement, Denmark managed to maintain its independence and regain control of Trøndelag and Bornholm.
Denmark tried to regain control of Scania in the Scanian War (1675–1679) but it ended in failure. Following the Great Northern War (1700–21), Denmark managed to restore control of the parts of Schleswig and Holstein ruled by the house of Holstein-Gottorp in 1721 and 1773, respectively. Denmark prospered greatly in the last decades of the eighteenth century due to its neutral status allowing it to trade with both sides in the many contemporary wars. In the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark traded with both France and the United Kingdom and joined the League of Armed Neutrality with Russia, Sweden, and Prussia. The British considered this a hostile act and attacked Copenhagen in both 1801 and 1807, in one case carrying off the Danish fleet, in the other, burning large parts of the Danish capital. This led to the so-called Danish-British Gunboat War. British control over the waterways between Denmark and Norway proved disastrous to the union’s economy and in 1813 Denmark–Norway went bankrupt.
The Danish-Norwegian union was dissolved by the Treaty of Kiel in 1814; the Danish monarchy “irrevocably and forever” renounced claims to the Kingdom of Norway in favor of the Swedish king. After the dissolution of the union with Norway, Denmark kept the possessions of Iceland (which retained the Danish monarchy until 1944), the Faroe Islands and Greenland, all of which had been governed by Norway for centuries. Apart from the Nordic colonies, Denmark continued to rule over Danish India from 1620 to 1869, the Danish Gold Coast (Ghana) from 1658 to 1850, and the Danish West Indies from 1671 to 1917.
The first steamship carrying mail was the SS Caledonia, which began carrying mail between Copenhagen and Kiel on July 1, 1819.
A nascent Danish liberal and national movement gained momentum in the 1830’s; after the European Revolutions of 1848, Denmark peacefully became a constitutional monarchy on June 5, 1849. A new constitution established a two-chamber parliament. Denmark faced war against both Prussia and Habsburg Austria in what became known as the Second Schleswig War, lasting from February to October 1864. Denmark was defeated and obliged to cede Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia. This loss came as the latest in the long series of defeats and territorial loss that had begun in the seventeenth century. After these events, Denmark pursued a policy of neutrality in Europe.
Industrialization came to Denmark in the second half of the nineteenth century. The nation’s first railroads were constructed in the 1850’s, and improved communications and overseas trade allowed industry to develop in spite of Denmark’s lack of natural resources. Trade unions developed starting in the 1870’s. There was a considerable migration of people from the countryside to the cities, and Danish agriculture became centered on the export of dairy and meat products.
The first Danish postage stamps were introduced on April 1, 1851, by a law passed on March 11. The first value was a four (Fire) rigsbankskilling stamp printed in brown, a square design with a crown, sword, and scepter in the center. This was followed on May 1 by a 2 rigsbankskilling value in blue using the denomination as the design. Both stamps were typographed, watermarked (with a crown), and imperforate, and distinctive for having a yellow-brown burelage printed on top of the design. The 2rbs prepaid the local postage rate in København, while the 4rbs was the national rate. Four rigsbankskilling stamps were introduced on May 1, 1851 for use in the Duchy of Slesvig.
The design and first printings were made by M. W. Ferslew, but he died and the subsequent printing was by H. H. Thiele, whose firm printed Denmark’s stamps for the next 80 years.
In 1854 the currency was renamed to just skilling and rigsdaler, and new stamps were printed, still square and using the coat of arms, but with the new currency names, and the inscriptions abbreviated so that they could be read as either Danish or German (FRM instead of FRIMAERKE for instance). Values of 2s, 4s, 8s, and 16s were issued at various times from 1854 to 1857. In 1858 the dotted pattern in the background was replaced with wavy lines, in 1863 a larger crown was used in the watermark and the stamps were rouletted.
Along with postage stamps, the use of numeral cancellations was adopted, consisting of a number with several concentric circles, each number corresponding to a particular post office. “1” was Copenhagen, “2” the office in Hamburg, “5” Aarhus, and so forth.
The Second War of Schleswig in 1864 was a traumatic loss for Denmark, and immediately after it a new issue of stamps featured the traditional symbols of royalty more prominently than the previous issues. Values of 2s, 3s, 4s, 8s, and 16s came out between May 1864 and 1868. These were the first Danish stamps to be perforated.
In 1870 the first of the long-running “numeral” issue appeared. The design was an oval with the denomination in large numerals in the center, surrounded by an ornate frame in a different color. The frame is very nearly symmetric, but not entirely, and the sharp-eyed can identify the stamps with inverted frames. Some of the inverts are quite common, the employees at the printing plant presumably also having difficulties knowing which way was up.
In 1873, the currency was changed to the decimal kroner, which necessitated new stamps. The perforation spacing was changed in 1895, and the watermark in 1902. Meanwhile, in 1882 the Universal Postal Union standardized on particular colors of stamps for international mail. The “Arms type” was designed to meet this requirement; the 5 øre printed in green, and the 20 øre in blue, followed up in 1885 by a 10 øre in red.
In 1904, King Christian IX became the first king of Denmark to be depicted on a stamp. In the following year, a new type of numeral design appeared for the lower values — denomination in an oval with three wavy lines on each side, representing the three waters separating the largest Danish islands. This design proved so popular that variations on it remained in use into the twenty-first century.
In 1907, the Christian IX design was updated with a portrait of the new King, Frederick VIII. In 1912, several types of stamps were surcharged to 35 øre. In the same year, Denmark’s first pictorial stamp was a 5-kroner issue depicting the Copenhagen General Post Office. King Christian X appeared in profile between 1913 and 1928, in a long-lived series that featured a number of color and value changes.
Denmark maintained its neutral stance during World War I. After the defeat of Germany, the Versailles powers offered to return the region of Schleswig-Holstein to Denmark. Fearing German irredentism, Denmark refused to consider the return of the area without a plebiscite; the two Schleswig Plebiscites took place on February 10 and March 14, 1920, respectively. On July 10, 1920, Northern Schleswig was recovered by Denmark, thereby adding some 163,600 inhabitants and 1,538 square miles (3,984 square kilometers).
In 1918, a need for 27 øre value resulted in surcharges on newspaper stamps. On October 5, 1920, Denmark’s first commemorative stamps, a set of three pictorials, marked the reunion of northern Schleswig with Denmark following a plebiscite. In 1924, commemoratives were issued for the 300th anniversary of the postal service, and in 1926 the original two designs were adapted for an issue noting the 75th anniversary of their introduction.
In 1927. a set of six stamps depicted a caravel, modeled after an old engraving. The 1927 set was typographed; from 1933 to 1940 the design was reissued with the use of engraving instead. The engraved design was soon changed to reduce the left-side margin, with the “Type IIs” having only one column of squares between sail and frame line, where the “Type Is” have two columns.
In 1939, Denmark signed a ten-year non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany but Germany invaded Denmark on April 9, 1940, and the Danish government quickly surrendered. World War II in Denmark was characterized by economic co-operation with Germany until 1943, when the Danish government refused further co-operation and its navy scuttled most of its ships and sent many of its officers to Sweden, which was neutral. The Danish resistance performed a rescue operation that managed to evacuate several thousand Jews and their families to safety in Sweden before the Germans could send them to death camps. Some Danes supported Nazism by joining the Danish Nazi Party or volunteering to fight with Germany as part of the Frikorps Danmark. Iceland severed ties to Denmark and became an independent republic in 1944; Germany surrendered in May 1945; in 1948, the Faroe Islands gained home rule; in 1949, Denmark became a founding member of NATO.
During World War II, Germany occupied Denmark, but the stamp program gives no evidence of that. A new series depicted Christian X full-face instead of in profile, and continued in use after the war. However. mail was subject to German postal censorship. In 1946, a new design appeared for high values; the three lions of the state seal. Like the wavy lines design, this design remained in regular use for the highest denominations into the 1990’s.
Denmark was a founding member of European Free Trade Association (EFTA). During the 1960’s, the EFTA countries were often referred to as the Outer Seven, as opposed to the Inner Six of what was then the European Economic Community (EEC). In 1973, along with Britain and Ireland, Denmark joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) after a public referendum. The Maastricht Treaty, which involved further European integration, was rejected by the Danish people in 1992; it was only accepted after a second referendum in 1993, which provided for four opt-outs from policies. The Danes rejected the euro as the national currency in a referendum in 2000.
In 1976, Denmark handed over responsibility for the postal service in the Faroe Islands to Postverk Føroya. Greenland gained home rule in 1979 and was awarded self-determination in 2009. Neither the Faroe Islands nor Greenland are members of the Union, the Faroese having declined membership of the EEC in 1973 and Greenland in 1986, in both cases because of fisheries policies.
Constitutional change in 1953 led to a single-chamber parliament elected by proportional representation, female accession to the Danish throne, and Greenland becoming an integral part of Denmark. The center-left Social Democrats led a string of coalition governments for most of the second half of the 20th century, introducing the Nordic welfare model. The Liberal Party and the Conservative People’s Party have also led center-right governments. In recent years the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party has emerged as a major party — becoming the second-largest following the 2015 general election — during which time immigration and integration have become major issues of public debate.
Scott #945, issued on September 19, 1991, is definitely the only stamp in my collection to portray dog excrement. I’m not certain if any others have ever been released but I couldn’t imagine this as a pursuable topical! The 3.50 krone red engraved stamp is part of a set of two issued under the theme of “Keep Denmark Clean”. While this value pictures a man cleaning up after his dog, the blue 4.75 krone value depicts litter being picked up. Both stamps are perforated 13.