The World's Biggest Hyperinflation
Hungary 1945-46, illustrated through Philatelic Material
By Peter Kr. H. Bech (Denmark)

Postal History
Faeroese Postal History 
Hungarian Hyperinflation
Soviet-Lithuania 1947-90
Encased Stamps
Dutch Silver Stamp 
A Jewel on a Stamp
TPG Post 
Azad Hind 
Christmas Island 
Nordic Swans

Kaulbach Island 
Canadian Nat. Symbols
Barcelos Rooster
Private - Personalized 
Swarovski Crystals 
St. Zeno 
St. George
St. Patrick 
St. Valentine 
Mother's Day  
Father's Day  
Seven Wonders 
Four Seasons

Hidden Messages
Gothic Alphabet

Philatelic Art Mews
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek
National Portrait Gallery
Bjřrn Wiinblad


Hungary, bordered by Slovakia, Ukraine, Austria, Slovenia, Yugoslavia, Croatia, and Romania, is a country of 93.032 square km, inhabited by c. 10,1 million people.  The inhabitants, in Hungarian "Magyars", immigrated from the lands east of the Caspian Sea around 896, considered by the Hungarians as the year of establishment of the nation.  

Historical Background
Inflation, page 1        Inflation, page 2
Adópengö, page 1        Adópengö, page 2

The Hungarians are strong people, hardened through times by Turkish occupations, later by the Austrian Habsburgs.  Their strength is well described through this anecdote:  When the Italian nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi had performed the first fission, one of his students asked him:  "But, Professor, are there people in the world that would survive this?"  Fermi answered:  "But of course, they are still around, they are Magyars". 

In 1848 the Hungarians revolted against the Austrians, who were supported by the "Holy Alliance" established after the Napoleonic wars between Russia, Prussia and Austria.  In 1864 Russia and Prussia agreed on going to war against Denmark, and already two years later Bismarck's Prussia had become so strong, that he defeated Austria in the Battle of Sadova south of Prague.  

  • German postcard 1898, showing Otto von Bismarck, German chancellor.  Scan by courtesy of Ann Mette Heindorff.

This brought the Austrians to discuss what would happen if Prussia and Hungary sided up and eventually pressed Austria from two sides.   

They simply arranged themselves with the Hungarian leaders to have the Emperor Franz Joseph crowned with the Crown of St. Stephen in 1867 as King of Hungary, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire that lasted until the end of WWI was peacefully established.  

  • Modern postcard sent from Hungary to Denmark, showing the Crown of St. Stephen (in Hungarian Istvan), the National Treasure of Hungary. 

Emperor Franz Joseph passed away in 1916, and his nephew Charles was now crowned as King Charles IV (Scott # 105).  He abdicated in November 1918 and left for Switzerland.  He did try a couple of times to regain the Hungarian Throne, but left for Madeira on a one-way ticket, where he died in 1921.  

  • Hungary 1900.  Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916), wearing the Hungarian Crown.  Scott # 63.

  • Hungary 1916.  Coronation on 30th December 1916 of King Charles IV (1897-1922).  Scott # 105.  

  • Hungary 1916.  Coronation on 30th December 1916 of Queen Zita (1892-1988). Scott # 104. 

In 1919 Béla Kun established the so-called Counselor Republic following Soviet communist ideas.  He was in power only for about 4 months.  

  • Hungary 1919.  Two stamps from the Counselor Republic, overprinted on Scott # 189 and 193.  The term "Magyar Tanácsköztársaság" means "Hungarian Soviet Republic".  Scott # 215 and Scott # 218.  

  • Hungary 1966.  Béla Kun (1886-1939), founder of the Hungarian Communist Party.  Scott # 1735.

In November 1919 Admiral Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya (Nicholas Horthy) came to power through a Coup d'Etat.  Budapest was besieged on 26th November, and Béla Kun dismissed.  Miklós Horthy re-established the monarchy and nominated himself as regent, holding regency until 1944 when he involuntarily left for Germany.  Hungary ended up as a Kingdom without a king, governed by an admiral without a navy.  Until after WWI Fiume was the naval base for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 

  • Hungary 1919.  Entry of the National Army in Budapest 1919.  Overprint on Scott # 179.  Scott # 208.

  • Hungary 1938.  Admiral Miklos Horthy (Nicholas Horthy).  Scott # 527.  Scan by courtesy of Jay Carrigan (USA).

In the meantime Adolf Hitler had taken power in Germany as "The Fuhrer".   Having annexed Austria and the German speaking part of Bohemia, Horty realized that he could do the same without any other risk than Chamberlain waiving his umbrella, declaring "Peace in Our Time"; he simply occupied ancient Hungarian land that had belonged to Hungary before WWI, in Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Carpatho-Ukraine, without objections from Germany and Italy.  From a philatelic point of view special "returned" ("Visszatért") cancels were used in each of these territories. 

When Hitler invaded Russia in 1941, neither Horthy nor the Hungarians had forgotten who Austria had sided up with against them in 1848, and in 1942 Hungary joined the war in Russia as a German ally.  This step proved fatal for Hungary.  When Horty realized that the Axis Powers were about to loose the war, he initiated negotiations with the Allied Forces for a separate armistice.   

  • Hungary 1930.  Admiral Miklós Horthy.  10th anniversary of his election as Regent.  Scott # 445.  Scan by courtesy of Jay Carrigan (USA).

  • Hungary 1939.  Admiral Miklós Horthy.  Idem for the 20th anniversary of his election.  Scott # 556.  

When Germany invaded and occupied Hungary in 1944, Horty chose to establish a pro-German Hungarian government, rather than a purely German government, at the same time trying to surrender to the Allies.  His plan failed and he was instead arrested by the Germans.  By the end of WWII he was captured by the American Forces in Bavaria and held in protection custody until the end of 1945, and then released.  He lived in exile in Portugal until his death in 1957.

A harsh time was to come for Hungary.  By the end of WWII Hungary was a totally destroyed and indebted nation.  The Allied Forces bombed Hungary from their bases in Italy, and what was not destroyed by the Allies, was destroyed by the Germans as they were driven back by the Russians.  The Hungarian gold reserves had been stolen by the Hungarian Nazis and brought to Germany. 

  • Hungary 1970.  Souvenir Sheet displaying a panoramic view of Budapest 1945 and 1970, and Soviet Cenotaph.  Scott # 2018. 

Off topic it may be of interest to know that Admiral Horthy's son Istvan (Stephen) Horty, born 1904, died in a plane crash 1942, during an air battle over Russia.  A stamp was issued 15th October 1942.  In 1943 the same stamp was issued as a semi-postal (Scott # B170), for the aid to the Horthy National Aviation Fund.  

  • Hungary 1942.  Death of Istvan Horthy, son of Miklós Horthy.  Scott # 600. 

  • Hungary 1943.  Censored cover from Budapest to Copenhagen, franked partly with Scott # 600.

  • Hungary 1942.  Magdalene Horthy, mother of Istvan Horthy.  Imperforated.  Semi-postal for the benefit of Hungarian Red Cross.  Scott # B150. 

 Historical Background
Inflation, page 1        Inflation, page 2
Adópengö, page 1        Adópengö, page 2

This article is based on the author's physical stamp exhibit, shown in Denmark 2003, for which he was awarded the National Vermeil Medal.  The article first appeared in the Danish Philatelic Magazine (DFT) No. 8/2003.

It is translated by Ann Mette Heindorff and published on this website with permission of the author and the editorial staff of DFT.   Many thanks to Mr. Jay T. Carrigan (USA), for proof reading.  Contact the author Peter Kr. H. Bech  for any questions or further information. 

Unless otherwise credited, all illustrations are the property of the author.   

Revised 02 nov 2006 
Copyright © by Ann Mette Heindorff
All Rights Reserved 

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