While collecting Persian fiscal stamps for my Persia/Iran exhibit, I noticed the leaf underprints on some of the Persian tax stamps, and immediately I was able to establish a connection to the Austrian stamps, which from the beginning had exactly these leaf underprints. In 1854, stamps with underprints were introduced in Austria, continued in 1858 with a second edition in letterpress (typography) and copper printing (recess), and refined in 1859 with a third edition in copper print. As late as 1893 there were still stamp issues with these safety underprints. And the Austrian crownlands of Veneto-Lombardy and Hungary also used these stamps with the safety leaf underprint. But how did these unforgeable security underprints come about?
It is a badge of honour in the history of the Austrian financial administration, which deals with stamps. Austria was the cradle of the first revenue stamps. The invention of these stamps and their most important further development phases were based altogether on a verifiable independent conception: in Austria the basic idea arose to replace the old-established stamped paper with the ingenious English invention of the adhesive stamp, in a correspondingly altered form; and Austria was the first country that achieved this.
As well as being a pioneer in all the technical and legal aspects of the new process, Austria was always “one step ahead” as well. This success was probably due mainly to the fact that the supreme authority of the financial administration, the Ministry of Finance, never gave up the management of stamp duty. In doing so, the Ministry kept itself constantly in touch with the changing needs of the practice, and preserved this branch of service from the numbness which can occur when matters are entirely left to lower executive bodies.