The postage stamps of Malta are issued by the postal operator of Malta, MaltaPost. The country’s postal history starts in the early eighteenth century but the first stamp was issued in 1860 while Malta was a British colony.
Early days to 1922
A postal system began in Malta in the early 18th century with letters from the Knights of Malta to Rome and other parts of Europe. Most of the letters reportedly sent from Malta during the period of the Knights are addressed to France. The postal service under the Knights seem to have been carried out in Piazza Tesoreria in the building serving as La Casa del Comun Tesoro in Republic Street now occupied by the Casino Maltese. The Order’s last Commissario delle Poste in charge of the postal services had been Domenico Montanaro. He appears to have retained his position after the French occupation.
Napoleon set up a rudimentary system using an ink stamp simply marked (Malte). In truth, very few letters are recorded as emerging from French occupied Malta. However, internal letters between Maltese outside the French occupied areas are much more common. These letters do not bear any postal markings but rather parrallel pen marks indicating a road, or dashes meaning that the letter in question was to be dispatched by a mounted courier.
It appears that during the first few months of British rule, no Post Office existed. Domenico Montanaro had severed his connection with his appointed office. However he was back at his job as Scrivano della Posta in June 1801.
On 1 September 1802 Antonio Micallef was appointed Commissario della Posta, an office he held until 12 April 1804 when he resigned. Soon afterwards Domenico Montanaro was appointed Direttore della Posta.
A Packet Service was established on 3 July 1806 to carry mail from England to Gibraltar and Malta. Privately owned vessels, on contract to the Post Office, were to sail from Falmouth on the first Wednesday of each month. The first packet Agent in Malta was James Chabot. During the first half of the 19th Century both the British Packet Office and the Island Post Office were situated in rooms on the ground floor of the Casa del Comun Tesoro.
In 1841 the Packet Office was transfered to 197 Strada Mercanti, the ancient Banca Giuratale. The Island Post Office remained at 247 Strada Reale for several more years. On 1 April 1849 the Packet Office and the Island Post Office started functioning under one Head with Richard James Bourchier as Postmaster.
On 8 June 1853 a post office notice signed by R.J. Bourchier, Superintendent of Posts, heralded an experimental free daily post.
“As from 10 June, letters and newspapers may be forwarded between Valletta, Cospicua, Vittoriosa, Senglea, the Casals and the Island of Gozo by Daily Post (Sundays and holidays excepted). At present no postage will be chargedfor the same. The letters and newspapers for delivery will be exhibited in a glazed frame, in Valletta, at the Post Office and at other places, in the respective Chief Police Stations, where, on application, they will be delivered. The boxes for reception of letters and newspapers will be underneath the glazed frames.”
A supply of current British Stamps was sent to Malta in August 1857 but was not made available to the public before the first few days of September 1857. Prepayment of postage on letters was made compulsory on 1 March 1858 by order of the Postmaster General John S. Coxon.
On December 1, 1860, Malta issued its first stamp. This stamp was a halfpenny yellow and was re-issued 29 times in different perforations and shades until 1885, when Malta’s first individual set was released. This stamp was legal for Maltese inland postage only and the standard rate for island mail under one ounce until 1943, overseas mail had to use British stamps until 1885. The stamps could be purchased at the Post Office, Police Stations and at principal stationers.
The Superintendence of the Island Post Office passed to Roger Duke who on 1 November 1880 was given the title of Imperial Postmaster. In 1883, the Imperial Government consented to the transfer of the Post Office to the control of the Local Government.
The use of United Kingdom postage stamps in Malta was discontinued from 1 January 1885. According to the General Post Office Notice, signed by H.M. Postmaster Roger Duke, Great Britain stamps became useless for prepayment postage on correspondence posted in Malta and Gozo.
January 1, 1885 saw the release of Maltese definitives in the values up to 1/-. They were made available from 27 December 1884. The colours reflected Malta joining the Universal Postal Union and the halfpenny was the same as the 1860 stamp except it was green. The stamps were generic designs of Victoria like most British colonies, but also used the Maltese cross as a heraldic device. British stamps were no longer valid from this date except for postage in British military zones and mail, where British stamps were until 1979. A 5-shilling value complemented the set in 1886 and this was used until 1911. There was an additional of four values in 1899 which included a 2/6 and 10/- value being issued, both survived into the 1920s and a 1919 reprint of the 10/- is now Malta’s rarest stamp, being worth at least €3000 for a mint example, and €4000 for a used stamp.
On 1 January 1886, Ferdinando Vincenzo Inglott succeeded Roger Duke as Postmaster of the newly established General Post Office. Soon afterwards he and a representative from the Public Works Department viewed Palazzo Parisio in Strada Mercanti as an adequate replacement for the Banca Giuratale. A two year lease was entered into with the owners and after carrying out the most urgent repairs, the painting and decorating of its halls, Inglott had the new premises ready to open its doors to the public.
The General Post Office started functioning from its new home on Monday 17 May 1886. The room on the right was reserved for the sale of stamps and registration of letters. By the end of 1892 the whole of Palazzo Parisio had become a Government property.
Steamship communications between Malta and Gozo was inaugurated by s.s. Gleneagles on 13 June 1885. Sub Post Offices were also established at Rabato and Migiarro Gozo.
On 1 August 1890, the first Branch Post Office was opened at Cospicua to serve the Cottonera District. The Postmaster was Edgar L Bonavia, assisted by Giuseppe Mallia as Messenger. The Third Postal District was established with the opening of a Branch Post Office on 1 May 1885 to serve Sliema, St Julian’s and St George’s Bay. The Postmaster was Gaspard Grech, assisted by Postman Enrico Mallia and Temporary Postman John Fletcher. On 15 November 1897, the Fourth Postal District was established at Notabile with R.E. Peralta as Postmaster.
The Fifth postal District of Birchircara opened on 1 March 1898. The Postmaster was Giuseppe Gauci. Unfortunately this office closed down the following year on 30 April 1899 because of lack of business. Another short lived Postal District was that of Mellieha where a Branch Post Office was opened on the 29 March 1902. Like that of Birchircara it only lasted just over a year closing its doors on 10 May 1903.
Up until the end of December 1900 newspapers had continued to pass free through the post within the limits of the Islands. However Ordinance No XVI of 1900 instigated the charge of one farthing postage for each newspaper from January 1901. As a consequence 1901 saw the addition of a farthing stamp for newspapers with a view of Grand Harbour.
The overseas empire rate dropped to 1 penny in 1902 and the 2½d stamps were overprinted with the words “One Penny”. Each sheet had one error stamp with the words “One Pnney” on them and as it was a sheet of 120 stamps, these values attract a premium. However, it is thought that this was a deliberate error.
1903 saw the introduction of new low-value definitives to 1/- featuring Edward VII; again apart from Maltese crosses these stamps had little relevance with Malta. 1904 and 1905 saw watermark changes, the 4½ and 5d values had colour changes in 1905 and 1911, and the penny and halfpenny were also changed from two colour to one-colour stamps. 1911 saw all the remaining values changed to one colour and 4d and 1/- had a colour change. The 5/- value was introduced that looked like the lower values but was two-coloured. 1914 saw the start of the George V stamps, but these were similar to earlier issues and they were not fully issued until 1920 because World War I intervened.
The 3d value only arrived in 1920, so the 3d War stamp of 1918 was a 1903 Edward overprinted. The 1901 farthing stamp was replaced by an overprinted George V 2d stamp in 1921.
There were the Sette Giugno riots in 1919 that led to self-government in 1921.
Towards the latter part of 1921, the post Office was reorganised. As a result all village hanstamps were withdrawn. The Maltese Islands were now served by the General Post Office in Valletta and by Branches in Cospicua, Notabile, Sliema, Victoria and Migiarro. Migiarro Branch Post Office closed down in 1936.
1922 to 1964
1922 saw the George V definitives overprinted with Self Government, but this ruined the design and it didn’t last long. In April of that year a new set of stamps designed by Maltese artists featuring an allegorical depiction of Melita on the Pound and pence values and a depiction of Melita leaning on Britannia on the shilling values, was a welcome enhancement.
However in 1926 it was decided that separate revenue stamps should be issued and the set was defaced with the word “POSTAGE” on all values up to 10/-. To make it more complicated a new set of definitives appeared later in 1926, this time a very beautiful set showing George V and a shield on the values to 6d and a series of engraved scenes on the higher values to 10/- (No more pound stamps until 1957). But again the set was defaced with an overprint “Postage and Revenue” in 1928, when it was decided that revenue stamps were no longer needed. A 6d stamp was overprinted AIRMAIL in 1928 and was Malta’s first airmail stamp value, being in addition to the sea postage rate. 1930 saw this beautiful set reissued with “Postage and Revenue” in the legend. Malta had used a total of 7 sets of definitives between 1920 and 1930.
1935 saw the Silver Jubilee omnibus set and 1937 the Coronation set of 3 by Crown Agents for the Colonies. In 1938 a new set of pictorial definitives came out with George VI inside a cartouche with a rich scene around him. The farthing value was reissued like the 1901 version except with a modernised view of the harbour. The set went up to 10/- and many of the top values reused scenes from the 1926 set, except larger and brighter.
During World War II Malta was heavily bombed and the island was awarded the George Cross. In 1943 postage rates increased and 6 low values from the 1938 were reissued in new colours to show rate changes. Malta issued the usual omnibus issues right up to Independence including Peace, Wedding (a one pound value) and UPU.
Late 1948 saw the 1938 pictorials reissued with a “SELF-GOVERNMENT 1947” overprint, Malta had lost it originally in 1936 when infighting led to the British reasserting control. A further reissue of these stamps occurred in 1953 when standard postage rose to 1½d and 6 values were again reissued in new colours, still overprinted. In 1948 Elizabeth II moved to Malta to live with the Duke of Edinburgh at the naval base and a set was issued in 1950 commemorating her visit. There were also sets in the 50s commemorating Catholic anniversaries, the royal visit and coronation.
1957 saw the first George Cross set designed by Emvin Cremona, Malta’s greatest ever stamp designer. He used an abstract post cubist style that would dominate most stamps of the 1960s and 1970s including two definitive sets.
The QEII definitives were issued in steps between January 1956 and 1959, and featured beautifully engraved designs up to one pound. This set was used up to 1965 and seen as the finest definitives issued for Malta, they are scarce in the higher values now.
1964 to 1974
Malta gained full independence in the Commonwealth on September 21, 1964. A set of 6 values was issued for this event, but two earlier sets (Hospitals and Brucellerosis) from 1964 also are counted in this period, as all issues from 1963 back are considered primarily Crown Agents designs, whilst later stamps are uniquely Maltese. Cremona designed virtually every set up to 1971, and these sets are all very cheap but highly collectable. Christmas stamps start in 1964 and have focussed mostly on Nativity scenes and Malta joined Europa in 1971, producing a set every year. The 1965 definitives showed the History of Malta to 1964 and are considered some of the finest ever issued.
In late 1968 all issues were now in Maltese as opposed to English and this survived to the present day (Since 1988, some English has reappeared on issues and now its about half and half Maltese/English).
In 1972 Malta brought in a decimal system of 10 mils = 1 cent, 100 cents = 1 Maltese pound (Lira). A new issue of definitives was less successful than the 1965 set.
By the mid 70s Cremona’s designs were looking dated and tired.
Palazzo Parisio had been the seat of the General Post Office for 87 years when on 4 July 1973, the GPO was transferred to the building on the opposite side of the street – the Auberge d’Italie. The Central Mail Room, the Registered Letter Branch and the Poste Restante moved to the Upper Baracca Hall in Castille Place. The Parcel Post Office had been operating in the new building in Victory Square Valletta since 18 November 1963.
1974 to date
In the late 1980s, Branch Post Offices and Sub PostOffices mushroomed all over the Maltese Islands. In fact no less than 15 Branch Post Offices and 24 Sub Post Offices were opened between 1982 and 1992.
In 1994, a Report from the British Postal Consultancy Service recommended that the post Office should be run commercially. As a result, Posta Limited came into being on 1 October 1995 to run the General Post Office in Valletta, the Parcel Post, its Branch Offices and its Sub Post Offices in Malta and Gozo. Postal Codes were introduced and it was planned to centralize the administration of both the Central Office and the Parcel Post in a new building at Marsa.
Late in October 1997 the Parcel Post Office, the Central Mail Room, the Philatelic Bureau and the Postal Administration were transferred to 305 Qormi Road Marsa. The Valletta Counter Services started to operate from Dar Annona in Castille Place; the Valletta Postmen Section was transferred to the ex Valletta Branch Post Office in Old Bakery Street and the PO Boxes moved to theb Auberge D’Aragon Annexe in West Street. In August 2003 the PO Boxes were relocated to the new and more convenient premises at the Valletta Market Complex in Merchants Street.
All postal operations are now centralised under one roof at Marsa.
On 1 May 1998 the postal services in the Maltese Islands were taken over from Posta Limited by a new Company, Maltapost plc. This publicly listed company was owned by the Government of Malta (40% of the shareholding), Mid-Med Finance Ltd (30%), Mid-Med Life Assurance Co Ltd (15%) and Maltacom plc (15%)
On 31 January 2002 Maltapost plc was partially privatised with the Maltese Government selling 35% to Transcend Worlwide Ltd.
In 2004 Malta joined the European Union and in 2008 the Euro was adopted. Maltapost marked these events with stamp issues.
Lombard Bank now has the majority shareholding in MaltaPost p.l.c.
The following are the services provided by the Mail division of MaltaPost p.l.c.
services for collecting, sorting, transporting and distributing domestic and international mail, including a registered and insured postal service;
delivery and receipt of all items of mail between all countries worldwide;
direct mail services, principally for business customers, including: document management and scanning; invoice processing; printing; folding; labelling; and enveloping;
additional services for business customers including the provision of a business reply service and unaddressed advertising mail;
fast, trackable and secure delivery both within Malta and Gozo and worldwide provided by two of the Company’s service lines, Express Mail Service and MaltaPost Express International.
full service PO Box facilities in various localities, including related scheduled pick-up and delivery services;
local door-to-door distribution services, including: warehousing; and fulfilment and distribution services of sundry merchandise;
philatelic products ranging from traditional stationery to stamp albums and personalised stamps are offered internationally through the Company’s Philatelic Bureau;
other services in addition to standard postal services provided through the Company’s retail network, including: the payment of utility bills and licences; tax collection; ticket sales; communication cards;
postal and other general stationery; and local and international money transfers;
additional services offered by 27 sub-post offices and 431 stamp vendors.
The Company is undergoing a modernisation programme of the branch network to improve the facilities at post offices and provide a suitable platform for continued growth, and plans to diversify its revenue basis by enhancing its existing product range, including the provision of low cost financial services.
On 27 February 2002, a set of five stamps commemorating Maltese films was scheduled to be issued. The set, designed by Richard J. Caruana and printed by Bundesdruckerei, was withdrawn the day before it was to be issued. The stamps were already printed, the leaflets were distributed to the post offices, and even the first day covers were prepared. The stamps, leaflets, and first day covers were destroyed, and no copies are known to have survived. The actual reason why these stamps were not issued is not known.
The stamps had the denominations of 6c, 12c, 22c, 27c and 50c. The 6c was to commemorate the film ‘The Malta Story’ (1953), the 12c ‘Shout at the Devil’ (1975), the 22c ‘Popeye’ (1980), the 27c ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ (2002), and the 50c ‘Gladiator’ (2000).
Malta’s first miniature sheet was issued on 8 November 1971, featuring the Christmas set.
The first stamp that was issued in miniature sheet format only, and not in sheet format, was issued on 30 January 1980. It was part of the fourth and final issue of the Flemish Tapestries series (1977–1980). Miniature sheets for the FIFA World Cup were issued for each Cup from 1978, with the exception of 2002.
The highest value of a miniature sheet with a single stamp was Lm2/€4.66. It was issued in 2007 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Caravaggio in Malta. On 30 July 2010 this miniature sheet was overprinted “4TH CENTENARY OF THE DEATH OF CARAVAGGIO 1610-2010” in gold lettering on the margin and with a serial number. This is considered as Malta’s rarest miniature sheet, as most were issued in Commemorative Folder No. 3 (of which only 2000 were issued). The remainder of the sheets were sold on first day covers and limited numbers were available at a premium from Castille Square BPO (Valletta), Victoria BPO (Gozo) and the Philatelic Bureau (Marsa). In fact, only 3 examples are known postally used. Both the folders and the sheets were withdrawn one day later, on 1 August. This miniature sheet is now catalgued at €50.
On 29 December 2009 a new definitive issue featuring periods in Maltese history was issued. All the values were issued in Malta’s largest miniature sheet, with a combined face value of €11.42. This was therefore the highest combined face value of a Maltese miniature sheet. On 23 May 2011 the miniature sheet was reissued with MaltaPost’s new logo in the bottom right-hand corner.
Prior to issuing separate postal stationery, Malta used British stationery. The first items of postal stationery to be issued by Malta were in 1885 when postcards, newspaper wrappers and registration envelopes were issued. Post paid envelopes were first issued in 1900 and the only new type of postal stationery to be issued by Malta were aerogrammes which were first issued in 1969. Malta never issued lettercards.
Malta ½d Queen Victoria newspaper wrapper used from Valletta to Tripoli, postmarked 21 November 1898
Only three different newspaper wrappers, all with a value of ½d, were produced. One in 1885 with the head of Queen Victoria, one in 1902 with the head of King Edward VII and one in 1913 with the head of King George V. All of them exist overprinted SPECIMEN.
Up to 2002 a total of 48 different registration envelopes have been identified as having been produced. Eight of these also exist overprinted SPECIMEN.
16 postcards have been produced up to 1944, and this figure includes reply postcards. 17 of them exist overprinted SPECIMEN. Apart from these 34 postal cards and 32 occasion cards were also produced up to 2013.
The post paid envelopes were first issued on 4 May 1900, 3 different envelopes, were the only ones to be produced for the island until 16 September 2002. Since then MaltaPost has issued postage paid envelopes with both local and foreign rates. At least 21 different postpaid envelopes have been issued since 2002.
Six different aerogrammes have been issued up to 1991, but only two were pre-paid, and these were issued in 1971.