A four century union with Denmark, whereby Norway was little more than a Danish dependency, was dissolved in 1814 when Norway was ceded to Sweden. Although a constitution was adopted in 1814 declaring Norway to be a "free, independent, and indivisible realm", Norway did not achieve complete independence from Sweden until 1905.
Norway's postal fees during the early 1800s exceeded the general public's means. Fewer than 500,000 items went by post throughout Norway in 1850. An act which called for the introduction of postage stamps and a greatly reduced uniform local rate of 4 skilling per half-ounce regardless of distance became law on June 7, 1854. The country issued its first postage stamp, a 4 skilling blue stamp featuring Norway's coat of arms, on January 1, 1855. Although sought after by collectors today, this first stamp was not well received at the time due to the many flaws in its printing. A Norwegian newspaper even described it as "ugly, plain and improper." In December 1856 stamps with a design featuring King Oscar I were issued with 4 skilling and 8 skilling values. Throughout this period of Norway's history, all the kings featured on Norway's stamps were Swedish kings, who reigned over Norway as well as Sweden.
Norway issued its first posthorn design in 1871. The posthorn series has the distinction of holding the longevity record for consistency as the design is still in use today! Over the years it has changed currency, lettering, printer and printing methods, but the basic design remains the same—the posthorn.
Norway gained complete independence from Sweden in 1905 when Sweden, fearing war with Norway, recognized it as an independent constitutional monarchy. In 1906 it issued its first stamps, which featured an image of the new King of Norway, King Haakon VII. The country issued its first commemorative stamps in 1914, commemorating a century of independence from Denmark. It issued its first airmail stamp in 1927 and its first semi-postal stamps in 1930. The latter stamps depicted the North Cape and the sur-tax was given to the Tourist Association.
Nazi Germany overran Norway in 1940 Norway, and thenceforth Norway's definitive stamps were overprinted by the Germans with a "V" for Victory. This overprint inspired the Norwegian resistance to use the "V" for the phrase "Vi vill vinne" (We will win), which was spread throughout occupied Norway and also featured on a stamp issued by the Norwegian exile government in 1944.
The Nazi occupation government issued several stamps, some featuring the Norwegian Vidkun Quisling, who had betrayed Norway. His name became a by-word for 'traitor'. Norway was liberated on May 8, 1945, and all stamps issued during the Nazi occupation were withdrawn from sale and banned from postal use as of May 15, 1945. Since then Norway's stamps have featured a multitude of themes, often depicting the country's culture, citizens, and the current royal family. From its first issue in 1855 to the current multicolor commemoratives, Norway's stamps present an attractive arena for both advanced and beginning collectors.