A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzabar

A is for Aden and Z is for Zanzibar... Now what is between? For the world wide classical era philatelist and stamp collector, a country specific philatelic survey is offered with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. Interested? So into the Blues...

Monday, November 7, 2011


1895 Scott 5 4g lilac brown "Lion of Judah"
Note the Anharic numerals!
Quick History
Ethiopia (or Abyssinia) lies in northeast Africa. The Capital is Addis Ababa, and the population was 10,000,000 in 1939. Stamps were first issued in 1895, and stamp issues and surcharges and overprints ( In Amharic) continued until 1936, when the Italians occupied the land.

Ethiopia has been a monarchy for most of its existence. It is one of the few countries in Africa to not be colonialized by a foreign power, except for the Italian occupation of 1936-41.

Ethiopia was under the reign of Emperor Menelik II from 1889 to 1913. But it was Emperor Haile Selassie who most influenced 20th century Ethiopia. Then known as Tafari Makonnen, he became Ras and Regent for Empress Zewditu I, and was the de facto ruler since 1916. After Zewditu's death, Tafari became Emperor Haile Selassie in 1930.

1919 Scott 127 8g olive green & black brown "African elephant"
The reprints are on brownish cracked gum, while the originals have smooth white gum
Big Blue Picture
Big Blue '97, on six pages, has 78 stamp spaces for regular, semi-postal, air post, postage due, and occupation categories. The 2011 Scott Classic specialized catalogue has 323 major stamp descriptions. Coverage by BB is 24%.

A) Ethiopia is a specialist's delight! Numerous overprints ( with errors), and not too expensive. I wouldn't mind delving deeper into Ethiopia.

B) BB only gives the BB collector the "tip of the iceberg". The major issues are given a space, but as stated in A), there is so much more.

C) Many of the major issues ( 1919 Scott 120-134, 1930 Scott 210-216, 1931 232-241, Air post 1931 C11-C17) in BB have reprints that are much cheaper. If one wants to be aware of them (and not pay too much for a "reprint"), one will need to be aware of the paper, ink and gum for each issue. The specifics are in the Scott catalogue.

D) Amharic script is tough to decipher sometimes, including the denomination. One will need to pay particular attention.

E) Plenty of stamps-mostly surcharge/overprinted- that are inexpensive (<$1-$2+), and did not make it into BB- I found 117! Details in the "additionals" section.

F) As mentioned, Ethiopian stamps for the most part are not terribly expensive: The most expensive stamp in BB is the Italian Occupation 1938 Scott  N7 1.25 l deep blue @ $12.

G) Fun with overprints! BB offers a section for the 1928 issue (Scott 155-164), that spawned 6! different issues with surcharges/overprints from 1928 to 1931. BB leaves two of them out entirely (15 stamps), but does give four issues some spaces (12) for the 1930-31 years. I follow the usual protocol of suggesting the same issue numbers for any blank spaces after an overprint illustration. Even after filling all twelve spaces, there is an additional 28! stamps that could be put in. ;-)

H) The 1929 Overprinted Air Post issue (C1-C10) is particularly interesting. The overprints come in three types. I include an illustration of the types for this blog.

Additionals.... (117 stamps total: <$1-$2+)
1908-36 surcharged/overprinted (39 stamps)
Note: I lumped a number of issues together here; below are issues I broke out by dates.

1909 Menelik portraits

1919 Pictorials

1928 Prince Tafari/ Empress Zauditu

1928 (Stamps of 1928 with various (two) overprints)
OP one: 165,166,167,168,169,170,171,172,173,174,
OP two: 175,176,177,178,179,
Note: BB does not have space for these 1928 OP.

1930-31 (Stamps of 1928 with various (four) overprints)
First OP: 182,183,184,185,186,187,188,189,
Second OP: 194,195,196,197,198,199,
Third OP: 203,204,205,206,207,208,209,
Fourth OP: 220,221,222,225,226,227,230,
Comment: Although these OP are given some space in BB, clearly BB could have provided a lot more space.

1931 (actually 1930)  Haile Selassie Coronation

1936 surcharged

Air post
1929 OP

Postage Due
1908 OP

1912-13 OP

1930 Scott 183 1m dark carmine & black "Empress Zauditu"
1930 Scott 190 1/8m orange & light blue "Prince Tafari"
1930 Scott 205 4m yellow & olive "Empress Zauditu"
These overprinted stamps have spaces in Big Blue
Big Blue Checklist
Note: I'm following BB's page layout; that is why the dates are out of sequence.
1894 Menelik II/Lion of Judah

1919 Pictorials
Note: Reprints exist: have brownish gum; originals have smooth white gum.

1909 Menelik portraits
87,88,89($1+),(<$1 eN)
eN=except noted

1931 (actually 1930)  Haile Selassie Coronation
Note: Reprints exist:  colors are more yellow and the ink is thicker and glossier. The original ink is dull and granular.

1928 Prince Tafari/ Empress Zauditu
Blank space: suggest 160 (<$1)

1930-31 (Stamps of 1928 with various (four) overprints)
Three blank spaces: suggest 191,192,193,(<$1)
Two blank spaces: suggest 201,202,(<$1)
Two blank spaces: suggest 218,219,(<$1)
First OP: Scott 180-189: Proclamation of King Tafari as King of Kings of Abyssinia under the name "Haile Selassie"
Second OP:Scott 190-199: Proclamation of King Tafari as Emperor Haile Selassie.
Third OP:Scott 200-209: Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie.
Fourth OP: Scott 217-230: Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie
Note: I have chosen the blank spaces following an OP to be of the same issue.
Note:There are 28 more OP stamps in the four OP issues that could  be put here. See them under "additionals"
Note: there are two additional OP issues from the 1928 issue (Scott 165-174, 175-179) that are not in BB.

(1930-31) Portraits/Pictorials 
Blank space: suggest 238 ($1+)
Blank space: horizontal space, but only vertical stamps left in series, so suggest 240($2+).
Note: Reprints exist: on thinner and whiter paper with heavy,caked and shiny ink; originals have ink dull and granular.


Air Post
1931 ( and 1929!)
C11,C12,C13,C14, (<$1)
Six blanks spaces: Suggest C15,C16,C17, ($1+-$2+);
 completed 1931 issue, so suggest OP 1929 issue!: C1,C2,C3,(<$1)
Note: 1929 issue has 3 types of OP.
Note: 1931 issue reprints exist: paper is thinner and whiter, while ink is heavy and shiny. Original ink is dull and granular.

Postage Due

Italian Occupation
N3,N4($1+),N5,(<$1 eN)
Note: N7 1.25 l deep blue ($12) most expensive stamp in BB for Ethiopia.

1929 Air Post C10 3t chocolate & green 
This OP does not have a ":" (colon) to end the lower line of Anharic letters
The other two OP types have the colon; and the OP is either 19.5 or 20 mm tall
Kinds of Blue
The'97 and '69 editions are identical.
The '47 and '41 editions are identical.

The '47/'41 edition has for the Air Post 1931 issue: 5 spaces rather than 10 spaces ('97/'69).  That leaves out suggested C16,C17,C1,C2,C3. Of interest, of course, is the blank spaces outrun the number of stamps in the issue in the '69/'97, and I had to add three of the 1929 air post series to fill out the blank spaces.

The '47/'41 edition for the 1930-31 OP 1928 issue has 10 spaces compared to 12 spaces in the '97/'69.
So drop two of the OP stamp choices in the '47/'41 ( see checklist).

The '47/'41 edition does NOT have the 1936 Italian occupation stamp spaces ( 7 spaces).

1936 Italian Occupation N7 1.25 l deep blue "Emperor Victor Emmanuel III"
Most expensive stamp for Ethiopia in Big Blue @ $12
Big Blue Bottom Line
Highly interesting stamps,designs, themes, and history (Haile Selasse). Because of numerous overprints and reprints, a specialist's delight.

Note: Maps appear to be in the public domain.

In the Comment section: I would like to hear from you!

Ethiopia Map modern day

Ethiopia Map- mid 1930's


  1. I came up with 54; am I missing a page or two?

  2. Hi trptjoe

    My '69 has has 4 pages with 49 regular, 5 semi-postal,7 postage due, 7 Italian occupation, and 10 air post stamps for 78 spacers.

    My '41 (under Abyssinia) has 1 1/2 pages with 46 regular, 5 air post, 7 postage due, 5 semi-postal stamps for 63 spaces. Of interest, the 1936 Italian occupation stamp section (seven stamps) is not present.

  3. I really enjoy this blog! It's amazing. I'm just now starting to add to my collection jumpstarted with a 1947 Scott Vol.1. Any hints on how to avoid buying counterfeits, or reprints? I'm sure many eBay dealers are fine, but there has got to be bad ones, too. Thanks.

  4. Hi cchutt

    Glad you like the blog- it is fun to be a classical era WW collector!

    As far as counterfeits and reprints.....
    * I do try to mention if this is a problem with an issue or a country. I do try to show a number of the common forgeries with the country blogs, so that might be helpful.

    * If you are not a member of APS, you might consider joining so one can shop at the APS store----there tends to be fewer (but not zero) counterfeits sold there. You can also return the stamps to them if you think you might have a counterfeit.

    * About ebay- I think experience with a certain dealer with good results is a plus.

    Good Luck!

  5. Thanks so much for the quick reply. Sound advice. I'll check APS.