Hindenburg Covers

Hindenburg transported large amounts of mail and valuable freight in addition to providing passenger service.  Hindenburg’s maiden flight to North America included 1059 kg of mail, primarily first flight covers destined for stamp collectors.  Later flights between Germany and North America carried between 90 and 236 kg of mail, including commercial mail as well as philatelic items, and flights within Germany and Europe also carried philatelic mail for collectors and zeppelin enthusiasts.

Note: The “Sieger numbers” mentioned below refer to the Zeppelin Post Katalog published by the Sieger-Verlag of Lorch/Wurttemberg.  The Sieger catalog is invaluable not just as a philatelic reference to zeppelin mail, but also as a historic resource, since the catalog contains a comprehensive list of all flights by German commercial zeppelins from LZ-1 through LZ-130.

First Flight to South America

First flight from Europe to South America, March 31-April 4, 1936. (Sieger 402A)

Hindenburg first flight cover, Europe to South America, March 31-April 4, 1936. (Sieger 402A)

First Flight to North America

Hindenburg carried its largest volume of mail (1059 kg in 60 mail sacks) on its first flight to North America.  The majority of this mail was philatelic (i.e., created as souvenirs, or for stamp collectors) rather than commercial, and because of the large quantity of mail, these covers are not generally valuable unless they are unique in some way, but they are wonderful (and easy to find) souvenirs of this historic flight.

Letter written by Lady Drummond Hay to Clara Adams, and posted on board.

Letter written by Lady Drummond Hay to Clara Adams, and posted on board.

Cover carried on Hindenburg's maiden flight from Germany to the United States. Sieger 406D.

Hindenburg first flight cover, Germany to the United States, May 6-9. 1936. (Sieger 406D)

Registered mail carried on Hindenburg's first flight from Europe to America (Sieger 406D)

Registered mail, first flight from Germany to America, May 6-9. 1936. (Sieger 406D)

hinden-sieger406d-2

First flight from Germany to America, May 6-9. 1936. (Sieger 406D)

Posted onboard Hindenburg during first flight to America, May 6-9, 1936. (Sieger 407)

Posted on board Hindenburg during first flight from Germany to America, May 6-9, 1936. (Sieger 407B)

First Return Flight from North America

These covers are also relatively common, as Hindenburg carried 824 kg of mail on this flight.

Hindenburg's (Sieger 409)

First return flight from America to Germany, May 12-14, 1936. (Sieger 409)

Carried on Hindenburg's first return flight from America to Germany, May 12-14, 1936. (Type III backstamp, Sieger 409C)

First return flight from America to Germany, May 12-14, 1936. (Type III backstamp, Sieger 409C)

Forged Hindenburg Cover

Forgeries of mail from Hindenburg’s first flight to North America are rare, because these covers are generally not valuable enough to justify forging.  But a well known forgery was created in 1938 by a German stamp dealer named Julius Bock, who claimed that these covers were flown to North America and back to Germany; in fact, they never saw the inside of a zeppelin.  Bock made the glaring error of franking the covers with the wrong amount of postage (.55 Rpf, a rate for printed matter that was not valid on this flight).  There are also errors in the lettering of the postmarks applied to these forged covers.

Forged cover sold by Julius Bock in 1938.

Forged cover sold by Julius Bock in 1938.

Genuine postmark on left, forged Bock postmark on right; notice shape of the "M" in Nordamerika and the "3" in 36. (click all images to enlarge)

Genuine postmark on left, forged Bock postmark on right; notice shape of the “M” in Nordamerika and the “3” in 36. (click all images to enlarge)

Sixth North American Flight

Frankfurt to Lakehurst, August 5-11, 1936, mailed from the Olympic Games in Berlin. (Sieger 428C)

Frankfurt to Lakehurst, August 5-11, 1936, mailed from the Olympic Games in Berlin and postmarked “Olympisches Dorf.”  (Sieger 428C)

Eight North American Flight

North America Flight, September 17-24, 1936. Posted at Nurnberg with NSDAP Party Day cancel, with enclosed letter. (Sieger 437B)

North America Flight, September 17-24, 1936.  Posted at Nurnberg with NSDAP Party Day cancel, with enclosed letter. (Sieger 437B)

I welcome comments and emails, but please note that for various reasons I don’t like to offer an opinion on the value or authenticity of zeppelin covers or other items of airship memorabilia.

20 Comments on "Hindenburg Covers"

  1. rene snijder | April 7, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Reply

    I have a nice envelope from Germany to my grandfather with 4 different zeppelin stamps. It was dropped on THE LAST FLIGHT of the Hindenburg above Rotterdam Any clue of its value or who might have an opinion?

    Rene Snijder the Netherlands

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  2. Two part question. I’m looking at what appears to be a purely philatelic cover from the first North American flight. Top left corners says (in type) ‘Per L.S. “Hindenburg” Von Friedrichshafen’. Typical blue & green airship stamps but both cancelled May 4th in Friedrichstafen, which I understand was its home city/port. It’s addressed (in type) to an individual “c/o” a well known Canadian department (and catalog) store in Toronto Canada (‘Robert Simpson Company Ltd’). Backside has cancel stamp for New York, NY on May 9th, and General Post Office stamp. 1) Is the ‘Friedrichstafen’ origin cancel common with these covers? 2) Do you know if department stores might have facilitated the ‘ordering’ of these philatelic covers for stamp collectors at the time, perhaps through advertising, including perhaps catalog ads?

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  3. I have a letter, given to me by my mother, which travelled on the Hindenburg’s first return flight from Lakehurst to Frankfurt. Are there many such still circulating, or are they more rare.
    Thank you
    Collin

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    Dan Grossman Reply:

    That flight carried 824 kg of mail, including tens of thousands of letters carried on that flight. Most are not rare, but still a nice physical connection to a historic flight!

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  4. Richard Altman | May 10, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Reply

    One thing I will never understand is the first flight of the Hindenburg only had 58 kg of mail and was 1st transatlantic trip and first to have the new c57-8 stamps made just for Hindenburg and next flight to America had 2500 lbs more of mail and no printed mater like letters only post cards etc. so why aren’t the SA flight covers worth so much more since there were only about 1 sack of mail and was truly FDC and first day of issue of stamps and to America there was 60 sacks of postcards,hundreds of thousands which is why they aren’t worth much but the S.Amer. trip only had alittle mail and they aren’t worth anything just because flight wasn’t advertised but only alittle mail exists for this flight.Someone please explain this.

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    bill helbig Reply:

    Limited supply does not necessarily translate to huge demand. If one collects coins however, having a coin which was produced only in 100’s of thousands results in far greater demand since people value coins way above first day covers. Its all about what people value. In the US few people place a premium on history which is what Hindenberg mail represents. Much the same with political candidates. People are enamoured with celebreties and pop culture but place little value on qualified candidates which explains why Obama (who never even had a real job) is President, and why the Clintons will be moving back in soon.

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    Jim Graue Reply:

    LZ-129 1st SA Flight (H9) carried 61 kg of mail. LZ-129 1st NA Flight (H12) carried 1059 kg of mail. Why? In mid-1935, the Zeppelin South Atlantic service lost the rights to carrying regular letter mail (LC) to the much faster Deutsche Lufthansa (DLH) South Atlantic airmail service. The 61 kg flown by H9 was non-letter mail (AO), i.e, printed matter, business papers, samples, mixed sendings, etc., examples of which can be found, but in the profusion of H12.

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    Dan Grossman Reply:

    Let me just say that it is an honor to have Jim Graue — one of the true experts on aerophilately and zeppelin mail — comment on the blog. Welcome, Jim, and thank you.

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  5. I have been looking all over the web to find out if this rare or not.
    I have this stamp book with many US stamps and the owner was in the postal service in the USA.
    This Zeppelin Cover I have has the description as follows not on the cover, Special Cancellation. Jubilee of Light Stansa – S…..? of 250 – trips over South Atlantic, only given to officials of the organization June 1937.
    german stamps dated -2.6.1937 and the Brasil stamps dated 10V1-1937, has the print 250 Travessia Aerea Do Atlantico June 1937.

    cheers from NZ

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    Richard Altman Reply:

    easy go to the top of the page and click on Hindenburg and go to the Hindenburg page and it will list in order every flight the Hindenburg did incoluding all the rest flights around Germany and Switzerland and finally on march 31 they took it to s. Amer. as a shake down cruise which is a much longer trip than America trip zep was made for. On this olist you can figure out where the Hindenburg was at any time in any year for the first 1 1/2 of serv before crash. If the cancel is not on cover ,where is it,sounds like 1 of the LZ 127 flights when you start talking about allot of flights especially to south amer. since the LZ 127 flew for 9 years and quit 2 days after Hindenburg mess or would still be flying.The cover on ground says it took around five more days to get to destination so it flew on LZ127 to s. amer and then transferred to reg postal to deliver to consignee. send pic if you need any more info.Look for a good 36 Olympic Berlin flight to usa anytime in Aug from Germany to North America anywhere and also any during the Sept middle of from33 to 39 with reachs parteig on cancel as I save at leave one kind of every flight ,Nazi congress had the celebration every year in Nurnberg in Sept and any mail on zep from there will have the party cancel on outside of circle saying what I said in sentgence before,or 8 athlete stamps from Olympic games and not mailed from Olympics Dorf if possible as that is the Olympic village in german,I want one sent from the city of Berlin and not the games wth the Olympic red circle Schiff on it with the flag with circles on it or showing skyline of NY but no map. If you have one of these 3 get in touch and I will send you money thru paypal in a matter of minutes. Been trying to finish my collection for 20 yrs. Any good covers like Millionairs flight NY down coast to sc and back up to NY on afternoon is a classic one not worth much but aI would like to have it or an ashtray that they gave away. raltman@bham.rr.com on any info zep.also anyone got an old 2003 Michel blue zep cat English,swope new Sieger for it which is what everyone uses now. sold my old one,only sold for 40 new.will give a good deal on any stuff I am missing.

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  6. I have a first Day Cover Titled:
    First Day Cover Tipex Sheet
    First Flight Airship Hindenburg
    U.S. to GermanyIn

    In the center it has a Lakehurst Frankfurt-am-Main Trans -Atlantic First Flight Logo

    Postage:
    Lower right, Plate Block Plate Number 21557 New York, NY May 9-17 1936 Under Authority James A Fraley Postmaster General
    made up of 3c stamps
    Printed by the Treasury Department Bureau Of Engraving And Printing
    In Compliment To The Third International
    Same Post Mark as the one described below
    Top right, 6c Airmail embossed post marked New York May 9 9:30 AM 1936 Third Int. Philatelic Exhibition Sta.
    Middle: 3c Rhode Island Tercentenary stamp & 25c Transpacific Air Mail Stamp with same post mark described above

    Left Side: Post Mark Frankfurt(Main)BPA19 Mit Luftschiff Hindenburg Befordept
    dated 14.5.36-10

    Would like to email a copy for your opinion, have never found anything like this before. Very interesting Piece. Shows signs of aging (yellowing of envelope) but in VG+ condition.

    Thank You,
    Fred Holm
    Hanover PA
    csa1482@comcast.net

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  7. I don’t collect covers and cannot tell you how this cover became part of my US stamp collection as it carries only German stamps. It is a Hindenburg cover dated 23.3.36 (March 23, 1936). I determined the date by the cancellations (which also have “FRIEDRICHSHAFEN” and “(Bodensee)” on them. There are 3 stamps: 2 blue 40 (pfennige?) monoplane w/swastika on tail) and 1 grey/green 20 (pfennige?) soaring eagle w/swastika in the center of the sun. The only thing identifying it as having been carried on the Hindenburg is a small oval red hand stamp with “Luftschiff LZ 129” with “Mit” above and “befordert” below. Oddly the cover does not seem to have left Europe. What can you tell me about this cover? It is very clean, but not particularly attractive or unique in any way.

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    Richard Altman Reply:

    If it was in March of 36 it was on one of the 3 flights that actuall carried mail of its test flights before it went on its first trip to S. America on its first trip which they didn’t advertise but it was the real maiden flight and doesn’t get the recognition it should just because the Hindenburg was made for the America flight they didn’t want to go to SA but it was a longer trip and wanted to be a shake down cruise after all the German test flights like the cover you have. I have more details if you want them. It would be a nice cover to have,not allot of interest but would be different. let me know as since this is an old site I don’t want to waste my time it it isn’t running anymore. thx,rich

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    Richard Altman Reply:

    March 23rd wasthe first actual flight of the Hindenburg that carried any mail and all the flights before that was just test flights and after this flight they took to to s America and then the grand opening when they did the us run in may which turned out to be first and last. would like to see pic of this because I have one just like it that was on that first flight and if I remember right it just went from Frnkfurt to Fredrickshaven which mean port of Fredricks in German since the hangar was on the lask in county of Bonese on Lake so they could tgurn all the way around in a circle to always take off into the wind and was permanent parking slot for luftship. send me jpg to raltman@bham.rr.com and if you have any to sale I try to get one from every flight which is quite a number but amtrying before I die. Germany to other places are the ones so you always have the special cancel from Germany and the stamps also from 29 till 33 or so. Look forward tohearing from you,also can selli you the very first day of cover and issue of Hindenburg stamps and cover on the s American trip in march 31 1 1/2 months before NY flight and says on botton of cancel 1 fahrt(trip) in german

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  8. lewis panopulos | January 23, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Reply

    I have an item that was shipped to the usa on the von hindenberg on it’s first voyage. is there a list of what was sent so i could verify it. also there is a letter with it that says it was the first cutlery shipped by air. thank you lew p.

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  9. Thank you for the informative site. I’ve known about Zeppelin flights all my stamp collecting life, but it has been a confusing welter of information. I like the way your site helps makes some sense of this amazing period of airmail and postal history. — jal

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  10. Bruce Vincent | August 27, 2010 at 9:28 am | Reply

    Hi Dan, do you know which flights carried the least mail – i.e. which flight covers would therefore be the scarcest. Thanks for a great site. Regards Bruce

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    Dan (Airships.net) Reply:

    The smallest load of mail was the 4 kg carried on Flight 60 (March 23-March 26: Rio de Janeiro-Frankfurt). As a comparison, 213 kg of mail was carried on Flight 59, from Frankfurt to Rio, and 1,059 kg was carried on the first flight to North America.

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  11. This is an awesome collection. By far my favorite is the forgery, however. Unfortunately, I cant tell the differences in the 3’s that you pointed out. What is it? Im dying here.

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  12. Glenn Morgan | May 19, 2010 at 1:57 am | Reply

    Letter mail items could be “Posted on Board”.

    (a) Does this mean posted into an on-board letter box (briefkasten), or would items of mail simply be handed to a member of staff? I have never been able to ascertain.

    (b) Would this facility have been on all Zeppelin’s or just the Hindenburg?

    Confirmation would really be appreciated. A fascinating and useful website – thank you. GLENN

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    Dan (Airships.net) Reply:

    There was a letter-box in Hindenburg’s writing room, or letters could be given to a member of the staff on Hindenburg or Graf Zeppelin. There was also a letter-box in the hangar into which letters could be deposited for posting on board.

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    Glenn Morgan Reply:

    Your help is much appreciated. GLENN

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  13. can you tell me anything about a flight 8-8-36 from brennon germ. to the usa. the card has the zepp. flying over the ship . the ship is at full steam . the stamp is a mit LZ129nach Nordamerika 50 deutche thanks any information would be help full eric

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  14. Here is a link showing the passenger list of the Olympic June 23/24, 1936 flight.

    http://www.airships.net/wp-content/uploads/schmeling-passenger-list-web1.jpg

    Please note that this photo may have copywrite restrictions.

    Regards, /M

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  15. As a Freemason I have just received a first day cover issued by the Masonic Stamp Club of New York post mark New York May 9th 9.30 am 1936 also franked THIRD INTERNATIONAL PHILATELIC EXHIBITION STATION with Anton Huber & Sohn
    Briefmarken-import-export
    Munchen 13, Nordendstrabe 40
    L.P.H.V. Berlin, A.S.D.A. New York etc.
    As well as an Lakehurst frank first flight- Frankfurt am Main and stamps on the back franked with an 0 I am not a stamp collector but would like to know more about it., as well as the masonic connections Thankyou in anticipation Jim

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  16. I am a philatelist and specalise in Irish related items. The cover I have was supposed to have gone from Lakehurst by the Hidenburg and was posted from Boston, Mass to Bray, Ireland.
    But it has an “Insufficient postage for Air Mail / dispatched *.*.* by mail” cachet, over-stamped with an extra 6c stamp.
    Had this of had the correct amount, would this have flown out on the flight of the 26th June 1936? The postmark is for 22nd June 1936.

    Regards, Eddy

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  17. This website is very interesting – thank you for all the work put into it.
    Recently my uncle, who is 85, gave me a letter that was addressed to my deceased father, similar to the ones shown on the website. It appears to be a first flight envelope as on the back it has stamps indicating it arrived in New York May 9, 1936. My father was around 11 years old at the time but I know he collected stamps so perhaps this was for his collection. I have no desire to sell it but is it of any value to someone other than myself?

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    Dan (Airships.net) Reply:

    Thank you for your kind comments!

    For various reasons I don’t offer advice about the authenticity or value of particular items, but as a general matter, covers from the first flight to North America are not especially valuable in monetary terms (although there are exceptions) because so many were carried. They are wonderful historical souvenirs, though.

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    david helms Reply:

    hi dan . in terms of airship history, what do you consider to be valuable that can be purchased? thanks for a reply.

    david

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  18. I have three postcards that involve the airship “America.” One shows Mr. Vaniman holding his mascot, Trent, another shows Trent with his head and paws sticking out of a basket, and the final shows “America” deploying a life boat after completing 1008 miles in 72 hours. Each of these are unused and in excellent condition. I purchased these 10-15 years ago from an estate that also included railway schedules, Cunard flyers, old menus, and ephemera from the American Medical Assoc. I have methodically read and looked at everything I can find both hard copy and on line to no avail. Value? Best way to market? Thank you for your assistance!!!

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  19. I have a post card from the ’36 Olympics, with Hindenburg postmarks June 24, 1936. The address side has a print of the stadium by Georg Fritz. The back side has multiple stamps, some of them with airships, and the autographs of 6 passengers: Gretchen Cron, boxer Max Schmeling, Adm’l M. Bird (?), Edwin Beinecke, ___ Beinecke, and Herman Cron. It seems these six people were travelling together and signed the card as a souvenir; it was never mailed.

    I’m intrigued by the combination of the Olympics, the Hindenburg, and the famous and near-famous people who signed it. (Was this Schmeling’s victory home-coming after his match with Joe Lewis?)

    With these autographs, this is probably a unique item. Can you give me any idea of its value? Condition is fair-good.

    This site is fascinating. I’m looking forward to seeing the passenger lists posted.

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    Dan (Airships.net) Reply:

    Thank you for your post. The people who signed your card were all passengers on Hindenburg’s June 23 crossing from Lakehurst to Frankfurt, under the command of Hugo Eckener. German Boxer Max Schmeling had just knocked out American Joe Louis in the 12th round of their famous fight on June 19, 1936 at Yankee Stadium in New York, and was returning to a hero’s welcome in Germany, including a meeting with Hitler. I will post a complete passenger list from that flight when I get a chance, but the passengers included Mr and Mrs Edward J. Beinecke (a Yale graduate who was the head of the Sperry and Hutchinson company, famous for their S&H Green Stamps), Mr and Mrs Herman Cron (a well-known big game hunter who owned a hunting lodge in the Black Forest of Germany), and Mr Adriel Bird.

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  20. Gary Funderburk | March 27, 2009 at 9:00 am | Reply

    I have a framed piece of mail, canceled at the Olympic Village with eight different Olympic event stamps. It was sent to Gustave Eiseman, Board of Trade, Kansas City, Mo. The cancellation date is 5 June 1936. If you would like a photo, let me know where I can email a copy or I can send a URL to download it.

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