Status: Constitutional monarchy in northwestern Europe
Population: 10,040,995 (2018 estimate)
Area: 173,860 square miles
Currency: 100 øre = 1 krona ($1 US = 9.07 Swedish Kronor)
Sweden, a sparsely populated agrarian land, had little contact with the rest of Europe until the Viking era. Unlike the Norwegians, who turned their energies to the west, Swedish Vikings expanded eastward into Finland, opening trade routes into Russia, the Ukraine and even Asia. Their loyalty and fighting skills were so highly regarded that Byzantine emperors recruited Swedes for their Varangian Guards.
One of Sweden’s first stamps, an 1855 4-skilling banco light blue Coat of Arms, Scott 2.
The three Scandinavian states were ravaged by the plague prompting them to join together in the Kalmar Union. As this early experiment in Nordic unity became dominated by Denmark, the Swedes resisted. In 1520, the Danish King attempted to subjugate the rebellious Swedish nobles forcefully, resulting in the “Stockholm Bloodbath.” This helped to unify Sweden under Gustav Vasa, who defeated the Danes and declared an independent Sweden in 1523. As Gustav I, he freed Sweden from foreign domination, joined the Reformation, reorganized the military and introduced political reforms.
King Oscar II appears on an 1891 10-øre stamp, Scott 58.
By the middle of the 17th century, Sweden had become a major power controlling much of northern Europe with colonies in Africa and America—a role its limited resources could not sustain. In 1809, the Russians – with Napoleon’s encouragement – seized Sweden’s eastern provinces, including Finland. After Napoleon’s defeat, the Allies placed an unwilling Norway in a union with Sweden, which lasted until 1905. The Swedes adopted a policy of neutrality throughout the 20th century.
In 1925 a Lion guarded the Arms of Sweden on this 10ø stamp, Scott 119.
Among Vasa’s reforms was an unsuccessful attempt at a postal service. This first effort, limited to Official correspondence, placed a heavy burden on farmers who had to provide horses and lodging for mail carriers. In 1636, a new attempt was successful despite strong opposition from farmers. By 1648, there were 28 post offices. Although recommended as early as 1828, its first stamps came to Sweden in 1855, when Parliament introduced the “average postal rate” of 4 skilling. Five values depicted the Swedish coat of arms, followed in 1885 by the king’s image. A local postal service operated in Stockholm after 1838, and a new service in 1856 issued two stamps, but merged with the national service in 1862.
Influential statesman Axel Oxenstierna appears on a 1936 5ø stamp, Scott 251, for the 300th anniversary of Swedish Postal Service.
The government postal agency was privatized in 1994 and service was deregulated to authorize private postal services. More than 100 local mail services that followed often issued their own postage stamps, but many of these services have been short-lived.
This 1927 Stockholm-USA Consular Service cover is franked with a 1925 King Gustav V coil stamp, Scott 175.
In 2009, the Swedish postal service merged with its Danish equivalent in a holding company jointly owned by the two governments. Today traditional post offices are being replaced by “postal service points” in grocery stores and gas stations.