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...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


1881 Scott 23 5c red &green "Quetzal"
Quick History
In 1821 the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, consisting of Chiapas, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras, declared itself independent from Spain, and part of the Mexican Empire. But two years later, all but Chiapas separated from Mexico, and the Guatemalan provinces formed the United Provinces of Central America. Then a civil war during 1838-40 broke the Union, with one of the leaders being Guatemala's Rafael Carrera. Carrera, backed by large land owners and the church, dominated Guatemalan politics until 1865.

Then in 1871, a "Liberal Revolution" occurred in Guatemala under the direction of Justo Rufino Barrios, who attempted to modernize the country, increase manufacturing, and introduce new crops, such as coffee.

The "Coat of Arms" stamps of Guatemala was issued the same year. In 1879, the iconic "Quetzal" design was first issued.

Between 1898-1920, Guatemala was under the dictatorship of Manual Estrada Cabrera, boosted by the support of the United Fruit Company. In 1901, the Guatemalan government hired the United Fruit Company to manage the country's postal service.

Bananas were the primary export of the United Fruit Company, today morphed into Chiquita Brands International. It's chief rival was the Standard Fruit Company, now Dole Foods.

As a result of the heavy handed involvement of these companies in central american governments, the American author O. Henry coined the pejorative term "Banana Republic".

The Capital is Guatemala City, and the population was 3,400,00 in 1943.

Map of Central America 1892
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic catalogue has, from 1871-1940, 299 regular issue, 123 air post, 15 postal tax, and  28 descriptions for the semi-postal, official, and special delivery categories (Total- 454). Of those, 134 of the regular issue, and 55 of the other categories are surcharged or overprinted (Total 42%) : emphasizing the abundance of this type of stamp for Guatemala.

Reviewing CV for 1871-1902: 43 of the 123 stamps are <$1, and 36 more (Total 79) are <$4, indicating the easy affordability of Guatemalan stamps for the WW classical collector.

And Guatemala was not a party to  the Seebeck postage issues, as were Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

Guatemalan stamps are quite attractive in my opinion, having been designed by the major stamp printing firms of New York and London primarily.

What Guatemala supplies to the philatelic equation are the many surcharged/overprinted stamps, often with various fonts or errors. Fascinating. 

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1871 Scott 2 5c light bister brown "Coat of Arms"
The first issue of Guatemala was a four denomination "Coat of Arms" production. The CV for mint is <$1-$5. Why so cheap?  http://www.guatemalastamps.com, the International Society of Guatemala Collectors web site, states that many of the early issues were remaindered and sold to stamp dealers. So these early stamps are genuine, but abundant. ;-)

1875 Scott 8 1/2r blue green "Liberty"
In 1875, a four stamp issue, "Liberty", was produced. As is typical for the early Guatemalan stamps, "Used" is more expensive than "Mint". Forged cancellations exist.

1878 Scott 11 1/2r yellow green "Indian Woman"
The four stamp 1878 issue featured in the highly attractive "Indian Woman" design. CV is <$1-$2, a few dollars higher for used. Very nice indeed.

1881 Scott 17 1c on 1/4r brown & green "Quetzal"
1881 produced the first four stamp surcharged issue, including the 1879 "Quetzal" design; an often seen motif for Guatemala. CV for the four stamps is an uncharacteristically high $5-$30. ;-)

1886 Scott 29 & 29c 100c on 1p vermilion surcharged
Note the different fonts
Many wrong letters and changes in fonts are noted for the five stamp surcharged issue of 1886 with the Justo Rufino Barrios vignette. CV for the set ranges from <$1-$1+.

1886 lithographed Scott 33 5c purple type I "5"
1888 engraved Scott 46 5c violet type II "5"
In 1886, a "National Emblem" design issue, with 11 denominations, was produced. Then, between 1886-- 95, an eight stamp engraved variety was issued. The 1c,2c, 5c,10c, 20c, and 25c denominations are quite similar, that the two issues can be confused. In fact, there was abundant confusion in my feeder albums, as well as dealer stock, with these issues. Scott states the the engraved issued are "sharper" than the lithographic ones. And the engraved issues, for the left top four lines, have a heavier impression than those below. Also, for the 5c denomination (illustrated above), the lithographic stamp only has a type I "5", while the engraved variety can be found with both type I and type II.

1886 lithographed Scott 34 10c red "narrow 10"
1890 engraved Scott 48 10c red "wide 10"
This example shows another difference between the two issues for the 10c denomination: namely a narrow vs wide "10". CV for the lithographic issue is <$1-$4+. CV for the engraved issue is <$1-$1+.

The image above brings up another point. Note the stamp on the left is heavily foxed (brown spots)? With a humid climate (such as Guatemala), or with poor stamp storage in a warm humid environment, one can see this result. "Foxing" is imperfectly understood, but one concern is it could be fungal growth, and "possibly" transmissible to other stamps or to the album paper. Unfortunately, not a lot (that won't harm the stamp) can be done. The heavily foxed stamp (or any foxed stamp) should be ideally replaced or removed from the collection.

Is there a quick way to tell the difference between a lithographic and engraved stamp?

Why yes! ;-)

Left: engraved 1c and 2c; Right lithographed 75c and 200c

If you recall, we already showed this technique for a Greek lithographed/engraved series. Put a piece of aluminum foil over the lithographed/engraved stamp, and rub on top of the aluminum foil with a pencil eraser until the perforated outline of the stamp is seen. If an image of the stamp is seen on the foil, one has an engraved stamp. If no image is seen, then one has a lithographed stamp. Works every time! ;-)

Now we will look at some surcharged issues between 1894 and 1901 on "National Emblem" stamps.

1894 Scott 55 10c on 200c "1894 14mm wide"
1894 Scott 52a 2c on 100c red brown "1894 12mm wide"
1894 saw the release of eight varieties of surcharged stamps (examples above). Pay attention to the width  of the"1894" overprint, which can vary.

1895 Scott 57 1c on 5c (red surcharge)
1898 Scott 76 1c on 50c olive green
The 1894-96 surcharged issue (example left)  had four stamps with CV <$1. The 1898 surcharged issue has eleven varieties, either in red or black surcharge, with a CV of $1-$9.

1900 Scott 98 1c on 10c red
1901 Scott 109 2c on 20c green
The surcharged issues continued ( 1899,1900,1901 dates) with five more stamps overprinted.
Two examples are shown above. CV ranges from <$1-$1+.

Understandably, when needing a certain denomination stamp that was in short supply, rather than requesting a new stamp to be printed by a foreign printing firm (expensive!), Guatemala would simply overprint their current inventory. Makes for fascinating study for collectors today. ;-)

1897 Scott 65 18c black/grayish white
"National Arms and President Reyna Barrios"
In 1897, a large fourteen stamp issue was produced for the Central American Exposition. Most are inexpensive (CV <$1), but the 75c and 150c denominations are CV $50-$100.

1900-02  engraved Scott 100 2c carmine "National Emblem type of 1886"
1903 Scott 126 25c on 6c light green "Surcharged on 1886-1900 issues"
Between 1900-02, nine stamps were engraved in new colors (left above) from the "National Emblem" design. CV ranges from <$1-$7+.

In 1903, seven stamps from this design were surcharged as illustrated. CV is <$1-$10.

Revenue stamps surcharged
1898 Scott 87 2c on 1c dark blue
1898 Scott 88 1c on 10c blue gray
1902 Scott 112 2c on 1c dark blue
During this period when the regular postage stamps were being surcharged, revenue stamps were also surcharged. The 1898 issue (2 stamps) and the 1902 issue (3 stamps) have a CV of $1+-$2+. The thin 1898 issue consists of nine stamps issued with both black and carmine surcharges. CV ranges from <$1-$9+.

In 1902, Guatemala issued their first major pictorial issue.

1902 engraved issue
The 1902 issue, classically designed and engraved, featured the National Emblem, scenes, and important Guatemalan edifices. CV is a modest <$1 for all of the ten stamps in the series.

As many of these stamps were subsequently issued with surcharges, I will show close-ups of the surcharged varieties. ;-)

1908 Scott 135 6c on 20c rose lilac & black "Cathedral in Guatemala"
1909 Scott 139 12 1/2c  on 2p vermilion & black "Barrios Statue"
1911 Scott 145 6c on 10c "Lake Amatitlan"
A three stamp  surcharged set was issued in 1908. CV is <$1. In 1909, four more stamps were surcharged; 3 out of 4 are CV <$1. 1911 yielded three more stamps (CV <$1-$9+).

1911 Scott 143 1c on 6c bister & indigo
"Gen. Granados": Note inverted surcharge
I am showing another example of one of the 1911 surcharged stamps as it illustrates a common occurrence: namely interesting variations in the overprint. Here the surcharge is inverted. 

1912 Scott 147 1c on 20c rose lilac & black
1913 Scott 152 6c on 1p (green surch) "Monument to Columbus"
1916-17 Scott 157 25c on 2c  lake & black
Three more surcharged issues of various years are represented here.  The ten total stamps are each CV <$1.

Are you noticing a trend here? Guatemalan stamps are quite inexpensive. ;-)

1920 Scott 166 2c on 30c red & black "Radio Station"
1922 Scott 181 25c on 60c olive green & black "Maternity Hospital"
1922 Scott 185 12 1/2c on 3p green & black "National Emblem"
In 1919, a four stamp set was issued (CV <$1). Rather than showing them, I will illustrate some of the subsequent surcharged stamps produced from the issue. (Two birds with one stone. ;-)

The above stamp illustrations represent 1, 7, and 3 stamp issues respectively. The CV (save one) is <$1-$4.

The exception is the red surcharged 1922 25c on 60c olive green & black (Scott 182). The black surcharge is illustrated above, but the red surcharge has a CV of $120+. !

1920 Scott 169 25c green 
Telegraph stamp overprinted
Telegraph stamps were also used for postage. This 1920 stamps has a CV of <$1. Three additional Telegraph stamps surcharged for postage were issued in 1922 (CV <$1).

1922 Scott 190 25c on 15p "La Penitenciaria Bridge"
Surcharged 1921 issue
In 1921, a three stamp issue was produced (CV <$1-$10+).

The year 1922 saw a number of stamps ( 24!) surcharged. Illustrated above is one of the surcharged stamps, this one from the 1921 issue.

But it was not only the number (24) of stamps surcharged, but that a number of the surcharges had different fonts!

Scott illustrates nine different fonts found for the stamps surcharged "25" centavos (Scott 188-201, 14 different stamps). In other words, the "25" surcharge exists in 9 different fonts, although any one stamp might be found with 4-5 fonts.

Below are three different stamps, each with a different font.

1922 Scott 200 25c on 5p "Monument to Pres. Granados" Type V
1922 Scott 197 25c on 90c "Cabrera School" Type VI
1922 Scott 20125c on 15p "Mayan Stele" Type VII
Illustrated above is "25" Type V,VI, and VII font surcharge respectively. The left and right stamp are from the 1921 issue. The center stamp is from the 1919 issue. The CV for 13 out of 14 face different stamps with the least expensive font is <$1-$1+. The various font surcharges range from <$1-$10+.

1922 Scott 188 with three  fonts

This 1922 Scott 188 25c on 3p "National Emblem" stamp illustrates three different "25" fonts: namely Type I, II, and III reading top to bottom. They have a CV of 20 cents, 60 cents, and 60 cents respectively.

1922 Scott 193 with three more fonts

The 1922 Scott 193 25c on 1p "Monument to Columbus" again shows three "25" font types. They are Type V, VI, and VII from top to bottom. CV is 30 cents, 30 cents, $1+ respectively.

One can have a lot of fun with Guatemalan surcharges/overprints for very little cost. ;-)

1922 Scott 203 25c brown "National Palace at Antigua"
1924 Scott 211 25c brown re-engraved Perkins Bacon & Co
In 1924, Perkins re-engraved seven stamps from the 1902-22 issues. Although they differ in many small details ( Note the respective "25" numerals here), the most obvious mark is the imprint "Perkins, Bacon & Co. Ld. Londres". CV for the issue is <$1-$2+.

1924 Scott 216 15p black  "La Penitenciaria" Bridge
Also included in the 1924 Perkins re-engraved stamps is the "La Penitenciaria" design, first seen with the 1921 issue.

For some reason, I was quite fascinated with this stamp and the meaning behind the design. I imagined this depicted the Penitentiary, which no doubt is isolated. Then there is an elevated railroad bridge with a train that is entering the Penitentiary. The train may be the only way in or out of this enclosure. Is it bringing supplies or prisoners? What are the life stories of those incarcerated?

A little internet research yielded some of the answers...

"This bridge was built in 1894, during General Jose Maria Reyna Barrios' term of office, for the Southern railway. Its name comes from its location, next to the prison, or penitenciaria"

Perhaps I shouldn't have such an active imagination. ;-)

1926 Scott 224 1.50p dark blue "Barrios" Waterlow & Sons
1929 Scott 235 2c deep blue De la Rue
More London engravers were set to work re-engraving or engraving stamps. In 1926, there was an eleven stamp set based on the 1921-24 designs, and re-engraved by Waterlow & Sons, Ltd (CV <$1-$2+).

Then in 1929, a twelve stamp set was newly engraved by T. De la Rue & Co (CV <$1). As one can note from the portraits here, they look superficially similar to the 1926 set.

Both issues have the respective name of the printer inscribed below the stamp image.

1926 Scott 229 15p black "La Penitenciaria" Bridge
The "La Penitenciaria" Bridge stamp appeared for a third iteration; this time re-engraved by Waterlow & Sons. What a classic design!

1930 Scott 247 1c on 15p black surcharged in red
Finally, in 1930, the "La Pentenciaria" Bridge stamp was used for a 5 stamp surcharged issue.  The stamps were used to commemorate the opening of the Los Altos electric railway.

1932 Scott 2583c carmine rose
"Mayan Stele at Quirigua"
This stamp is interesting for several reasons.

First, except for a 1921 issue, there has been very little reference to the Guatemalan Mayan heritage and archaeological sites on Guatemalan stamps.

Southern Mayan areas with Quirigua placed.
I would expect that modern Guatemalan stamps would pay more attention to the Mayan heritage, but the truth is the earlier stamps during the classical era pretty much ignored it.

The second interesting aspect this stamp has is the blatant advertising assertion "Guatemala produces the best coffee in the world".  That may be, but why on a Mayan themed stamp?  ;-)

1935 Scott 269 5c blue green & brown
"Telegraph Building and Barrios"
In 1935, a nine stamp set was produced, most referencing Justo Rufino Barrios. He seems to be held in the same esteem, as "Father of the Country", as George Washington is for U.S. citizens.  CV for the set is <$1-$4+.

1939 Scott 294 3c red orange & turquoise green  "Quetzal"
A five stamp set with various designs (including a Mayan Calendar) was issued in 1939. CV is <$1-$5+. The familiar "Quetzal" design was included, as illustrated.

But look at the cancel! In four languages, and no doubt extolling Guatemala's beauty, marketing was alive and well in 1939 Guatemala.

Now we will turn to the air post issues...

1929 Scott C2 5c on 15p black
A five stamp surcharged set was produced in 1929 as the first air post stamps of Guatemala. The set featured the now familiar "Puente De La Penitenciaria" stamp. CV ranges from <$1-$2+.

Of note, save for one example, all of the air post issues between 1929-1934 (13 issues, 27 stamps) are surcharged regular issue stamps. CV is <$1-$8+, with most @  <$1-$3. 

1934 Scott C27 15c ultramarine with red surcharge
The air post stamps are often divided into "Interior" or "Exterior" categories, depending on if the mail flight is domestic, or leaving the country.

1935-37 Scott C32 2c orange brown "Interior" air post
"Lake Amatitlan": Overprinted with Quetzal in Green
In 1935, an "Interior" air post issue  was produced, all overprinted with the  green quetzal. Interesting! This overprinting (either with the quetzal or a plane) continued for the next several issues.

This Fifteen stamp set is CV <$1-$10+.

1937 Scott C63 30c rose red "Exterior" air post
"Dock at Port Barrios": Overprinted with Quetzal in Green
An "Exterior" air post set was also produced consisting of 23 stamps. CV is <$1-$20+.

1937 Scott C72 "Interior" 4c citron  "Lake Amatitlan"
1937 Scott C82 3c red violet & red brown "National Printing Office"
In 1939, both an "Interior" (10 stamps) and an "Exterior" (12 stamps) issue was produced with an overprinted airplane in blue and black respectively. CV for the sets are <$1-$10+.

One should note that Guatemala produced 123 air post stamps between 1929-1940, compared to 299 stamps for all the regular issues from 1871-1940.

1939 Scott C103 "Interior" 4c rose pink & yellow green 
"Drill Ground, Guatemala City"
1939 Scott C112 "Exterior" 2c light green & black 
"Sanitation Building"
The overprinted quetzal in green made a reappearance with the 1939 "Interior" (11 stamps) and "Exterior" (12 stamps) issues. CV for the stamps are <$1-$1+. The sets depicted many Guatemalan landmarks.

1937 air post semi-postal Scott CB2 6c + 1c black violet
"Lake Amatitlan": 1st Philatelic Exhibition
Guatemala did not issue a lot of semi-postal stamps, but here is a set for the 1st Philatelic Exhibition in 1937. The set consisted of four overprinted air post stamps. Value of the stamps are <$1.

1939 Official Scott CO1 1c orange & olive brown 
Overprinted air post: "President Arosemena, Panama"
Air Post Official stamps were issued in 1939 with a six stamp set. This utilized the 1938 air post stamps featuring the presidents of the countries of Central America, and was issued for the 1938 Central American Philatelic Exhibition held in Guatemala. CV for the air post official stamps are $1+.

1940 special delivery Scott E1 4c orange overprinted in red
Only one special delivery category stamp was issued by Guatemala during the classical era, and this is it. ;-) The stamp paid for a motorcycle messenger between Guatemala City and Coban. CV is <$1.

Official 1929 Scott O12 25c dark blue "National Emblem"
Official stamps were issued in 1902, and perforated or handstamped "Oficial" stamps can be found between 1912-1926.

These attractive triangular official stamps ( seven in the set)  were issued in 1929. CV is <$1-$1+.

Postal Tax 1919 Scott RA1 12 1/2c carmine "National Emblem"
The first postal tax stamp for Guatemala was issued in 1919, and is shown above. CV is <$1.

Then  in 1927, a  1c olive green "G.P.O. and Telegraph Building" postal tax stamp (RA2) was issued for collecting funds to build a postal office in Guatemala City.

1936 Scott RA4 1c olive green overprinted in blue
"115th anniversary of the independence of Guatemala"
The 1927 1c olive green postal tax stamp was then overprinted X 10! to mark the year, or for various commemorative events. Illustrated above is one of those overprinted stamps (RA4). The CV for the 10 overprinted postal tax stamps is <$1.

Note this stamp shows the four language cancellation with a reference to the season of spring.

Deep Blue

Part of Deep Blue's first page for Guatemala

Deep Blue (Steiner) has 38 album pages for Guatemala, and I have stamps on 36 pages. ;-)  Deep Blue follows the Scott catalogue with spaces for all major numbers. Regretfully, the Steiner does not include extra spaces for the various 1922 "25" overprinted fonts (Scott 188-201). A quadrilled page may be needed.

1911 Scott 142a 5p red & black "Pres. Cabrera"
The Dictator Inverted
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on 11 pages, has 212 spaces for regular, 56 spaces for air post, 7 spaces for official, 8 spaces for postal tax, 4 spaces for semi-postal, and 4 spaces for air post semi-postal stamps: Total 291 spaces.

Coverage is 64%.


• There are no stamps that cross the $10 threshold even with 291 stamp spaces.

• As one would expect, there is only one space for the overlapping 1886 lithographed and 1886-95 engraved "National Emblem" issues. There is no spaces for the four 25c-100c denomination stamps (CV $1+-$3). Perhaps the BB editors thought the CV was too much?

• BB generally does well with the 19th century issues, selecting the inexpensive stamps. The more expensive CV stamps ($4-$8) are not chosen for inclusion.

• BB generally has good coverage of the overprinted early 20th century issues. BB does not include, however, the 1922 "25" overprinted Scott 196,197,200,201 (CV <$1-$1).

• Inexplicably, BB leaves out most of the 1926 Waterlow & Sons re-engraved stamps. (Scott 219,221,223,224,226,227,228, -CV <$1-$1+)

• Other stamps left out: 239,240,241,244,298, 299: But generally BB has "good" coverage here.

• Air post stamps missing: C16,C40,C42,C70,C72,C73,C80,C81,C82,C85,C106-C109,  the 1939 issue C111-C122, and C123. (All CV <$1)
Also 1940 Special Delivery Scott E1 (<$1) missing.






43,32 or 44, 33 or 45, 46,47,34 or 48, 35 or 49,


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142,141, 144,145,143,


1918 (actually 1913)








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Air Post




C20,C21 or C22,C23,C24,C25,




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C52,C54,C56 or C57,C59,


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Official Stamps

Postal tax stamps
 -13 stamps- for 8 blank spaces)

Next Page


Air post semi-postal

A) Most expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None
B) (  ) around a number indicates a blank spaces choice.
C) See "Observations" before checklist for additional information.

1939 Scott 295 3c olive bister & turquoise green "Quetzal"
Out of the Blue
Guatemala has lovely engraved stamps from the major New York and London printing firms, many overprinted stamps which can be a field for in depth study, no Seebecks, although forgeries do exist, and.....inexpensive!

A great and rewarding country for the classic collector. ;-)

Note: Maps appears to be in the public domain.

Comments would be appreciated. ;-)


  1. Jim,
    291, with 212 regular stamps. The regular pages of my '97 have 33-33-31-36-36-27 and 16 spaces.