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...

Friday, August 2, 2013

Liberia 1915-1940

1915-16 Scott 136 2c on 15c indigo & black, red surcharge
"Vai Woman spinning Cotton"
Quick History
Liberia and Ethiopia are the only two countries in sub-Saharan Africa whose origins did not involve European colonization. In Liberia's case, the area was colonized by blacks from the United States beginning in 1821. See the Liberia 1860-1914 post for more details.
Topographic Map of Liberia
The Americo-Liberians, descendants of the original blacks from the United States, were in the power position in Liberia until 1980. Relationships with the natives were not always harmonious.

In 1915, the Kru people along the coast rebelled, and demanded annexation to Sierra Leone, a British colony on the north border. The United States had the USS Chester diverted to Africa from Turkey to help put down the uprising.

During WW I, Liberia attempted to remain neutral, but tilted toward the Allies. This ended the export trade to Germany, and the customs revenues that supplied major funds for the Liberian government. Liberia began having difficulty paying back loans, as they were totally dependent on export revenues for income.

But Firestone Rubber Company opened up one of the largest rubber plantations in the world in 1926, and eventually helped stabilize the government with a $5 million loan.

What about the stamp issues?

They continued during the early period, with major "exotic" issues released in 1918, 1921, and 1923. But there was a definite decrease in production between 1926-1936, with only a seven stamp issue released in 1928, and an overprinted 1918 issue brought out in 1936. I speculate that Liberia may simply not had the funds to print stamps during this period.

Finally, this post will have a small digression on the "art" of scanning stamp images.
1928 Official Scott O140 $1 red brown, black overprint
"Map of Africa"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has, from 1915-1940, 145 regular, 15 semi-postal, 19 air post, 19 registration, 7 military, and 85 official major stamp descriptions. Total = 290. Of those, 178 are CV <$1-$1+, or 61%. A nice collection can clearly be had by the WW classical enthusiast for minimal outlay.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Cents = 1 Dollar
1915 Scott 134 2c red "Liberian House"
In 1915 a small 2 stamp issue was released. Of interest, the above stamps shows a "Liberian house", which  probably does represent the common habitation of many of the Americo-Liberian descendants.

1915-16 Official Scott O76 2c on 15c claret & black, surcharged
"Vai Woman spinning Cotton"
During 1915-16, some 5 regular and 10 official stamps were surcharged as illustrated. One will note the official stamp, besides having an official overprint, are in a different color- here claret & black-, compared to the regular stamp indigo & black seen at the post header.

And look at the design-isn't it incredible? :-)

1915-16 Official Scott O80 10c on 50c brown & green, overprinted
"Men in Canoe"
Another example of the surcharged issue is shown above. I can't get enough of these beautiful stamps. ;-)

1915-16 Scott 144 20c on 75c red brown & black
"Liberian Village"
The scene shows a native village. Natives become citizens in 1904. The Americo-Liberians never constituted more than 5% of the population.

1915-16 Scott 153 1c on 2c lake & black  "Pres. Barclay"
Surcharge type b1, f1,: 10 types of surcharge
The 1915-16 1c on 2c is surcharged with a strip of 10 types. The f1 type above actually is normally inverted. ;-)
1915-16 Official Scott O88 2c on 5c ultramarine & black 
"S.S. Pres. Daniel E. Howard, former Gunboat lark"
Pic of strip of ten, red surcharged
A pic of strip of ten surcharges is shown for the official version of the 2c on 5c.  The CV for these various surcharged strip stamps is ~ $2+.

1916 Scott 159 10c on 24c rose red 
On issues of 1880 "Liberia"
In 1916, a three stamp surcharged set was issued, with CV $3+ for two stamps. Liberia must have been emptying out the stamp vaults, as the surcharge was put on the 1880 issue. ;-)

1917 Scott 160 4c on 25c yellow green "Liberian Star"
Another surcharged stamp from an 1892 issue is illustrated above.

1918 Scott 163 1c deep green & black "Bongo Antelope"
A major pictorial issue was released in 1918, with 13 stamps. This stamp of the Bongo is stunning.

Bongos are a mostly nocturnal large antelope of the dense African forests.

1918 Official Scott O99 2c red & black, blue overprint
"Two-spot Palm Civet"
The African palm civet are found usually in the treetops of deciduous and rain forest habitat. They eat fruits and small animals, and, in turn, are hunted by lions, leopards, giant snakes, and even crocodiles. ;-)

1918 Scott 167 15c black & dark green "Oil Palm"
The Oil Palm is the source of....palm oil! ;-) Ubiquitous, found in ice cream, soap, and biofuels, Oil Palm plantation demand is, even today, an economic opportunity for Liberia.

1918 Official Scott O105 30c bright violet & black, red overprint
"Palm-nut Vulture"
Printed in a different color for the official stamp, the design shows a Palm-nut vulture. This Bird of Prey will feed on crabs, molluscs, and fish. But the usual diet is the fruit of the Oil Palm.

  1918 Official Scott O106 50c maroon & black, blue overprint
The Mudskipper, an amphibious fish, can walk on land with their pectoral fins. They are found in the intertidal zone. What a lovely stamp!

1921 Official Scott O119 15c black & green 
In 1921, a new issue was produced for regular, and, in different colors, for official stamps. The regular issue had 12 stamps, and the official issue had 11 stamps. CV for both issues is <$1, save for one stamp. Of interest, these issues were produced by the Imperial Printing Office in Berlin.

This might be a good time to suggest, if one wishes to examine in detail the classic stamps of Liberia, the Philately of Liberia website is recommended.

 1921 Scott 188 25c orange & black "Leopard"
Scanned with an Epson V600 scanner
Controls: Unsharp mask "low"; Color Control "low"; "Texture" box checked
This is one of my favorite stamps. How do you like the colors? Perhaps it has been not noticeable without comparisons, but I have a new Epson V600 standalone scanner. Highly capable, but my old HP Printer/fax/scanner wasn't too bad either. All of the previous scans for my blog were made by the HP.

Just for fun, here are some comparisons.....
Scan from HP -This has been used for all prior scans
I scan all images @ 1200. At that level of fine detail, it insures that the scans will not become obsolete in the future.
The Epson V600 scanner, with all controls disabled
The Epson V600 has many controls and adjustments. The risk is one can "overcook" the image, and make it frankly artificial, only vaguely resembling the image one sees by eye. Above is the image I have if all controls and adjustments are disabled in the scanner.

One will note there is a significant difference in color here between the HP and Canon scanners. Looking by eye, the true color (to me) is somewhere between the HP scan and the Epson scan.

I find the "raw" image from the Epson V600 scanner duller and darker than the stamp I see by eye.

After much experimentation, and resisting the urge to make the stamp more "vivid" than it is by my eyes, I've settled on the following controls....
• "Low" unsharp mask- this mildly sharpens the lines in the stamp, but does not create an artificial sharpening environment  as one would have with the controls on medium-high.
• "Low" continuous color control- the slider is way over to the left, and does not unduly "whiten" the stamp paper, or "brighten" or over saturate the colors. The slider on "medium" or "high" creates an overly vivid stamp (in my opinion). The whiteness of the paper increases, which leads to washing out of paper details. One will find examples of "enhanced" scans on the internet which only vaguely resemble the "naturalness" of the real stamp.
• The "show texture" box is checked. I like to see the stamp paper- its wrinkles, spots, and blemishes. That is what the "natural" stamp has that is 70-170 years old. ;-)

The stamps for Liberia were scanned with these controls in place. As always, I welcome comments. 

1921 Official Scott O122 50c green & black 
"Krumen in Dugout"
The Krumen people are found along the coast of Liberia and the Ivory Coast. They are not related to the Kru of the interior of Liberia. They have had a good reputation as sailors. In fact, their name might derive from a pidgin form of "crewmen".

  1921 Scott 191 75c red & black brown 
"Rapids of St. Paul River"

St. Paul River
The St. Paul River begins in Guinea, and travels through Liberia to Monrovia. Many of the original Americo-Liberians moved up the river from Monrovia to settle on land more suitable for agriculture.

1921 Scott 206 $1 red & black "Bongo Antelope"
The 1921 issue was also overprinted "1921", some 12 stamps. In addition, 2 stamps (the 2c red and 3c dull violet) from the 1915 issue were also overprinted. CV for the group is <$1-$2+.

1921 Official Scott O139 $2 orange & green, overprinted "1921"
The same "1921" overprint was applied to the different colored 14 official stamps of 1921. There had to be a reason- had the non "1921" overprinted stamps fallen into non "official" hands? I assume those closer to Liberian philately would know.

The Hornbill has a long down curved bill that is frequently brightly colored. I'm not sure of the particular species of Hornbill illustrated. Anybody want to guess?

1921 Scott 208 $5 carmine rose & violet, OP "1921"
When civil war broke out in Liberia in the 1980s, an estimated 19,000 elephants were killed by poachers, often for their ivory. It is thought that only 1,000 remain in Liberia. The conservation status of the African Forest Elephant in Africa is "Endangered".

1923 Scott 210 2c claret & olive gray
"First Settlers Landing at Cape Mesurado from U.S. Alligator"
In 1923, a five stamp set was issued in honor of the Centenary of the founding of Liberia. CV is <$1.

1923 Official Scott O146 15c yellow green & blue
In 1923, a 14 stamp pictorial regular issue was published. And another 14 stamp official issue in different colors was also published. CV is <$1 for 26 stamps, with another 2 @ $1+. These issues were also the work of the Imperial Printing Office in Berlin.

1923 Official Scott O147 20c violet & indigo
Two species of antelope are specific for Liberia: the white-shouldered duiker, and the zebra antelope. I can't tell you if one of those are portrayed on the stamp. ;-)

1923 Scott 221 25c orange red & brown
"West African Buffalo"
The African Buffalo or Cape Buffalo has never been domesticated, as its temperament is too unpredictable. This might actually represent the African Forest Buffalo, which "only" weighs 550-700 lbs. ;-)

1923  Official Scott O149 30c deep ultramarine & brown
"Grebos Making Dumboy"
The Grebo people refers to an ethnic group within the larger Kru people of west Africa. There are approximately 400,000 Grebos in Liberia. Dumboy is a quite traditional Liberian dough like mash made from boiled cassava, yam or plantain.

1923 Official Scott O149a 30c deep ultramarine & brown
Note the brownish paper
Both the official stamps and regular stamps in the 30c-$5 denominations (12 stamps total) can be found on brownish paper. Compare to the preceding O149 image. CV is still a modest <$1-$1+.

1923 Scott 224 75c gray & blue
"Carrying Ivory Tusk"
I found this in the internet:
"We are America's leading elephant ivory tusk dealers. As the largest buyers, sellers and ivory suppliers to the trade. We only purchase and sell legal, pre-ban (June 1989) elephant ivory tusk from estates, museums, investors and collectors within the USA."

Yet this past year, 39 tons of illegal ivory was seized worldwide, equal to 4,000 dead elephants.

Apparently, about 70% of the ivory is bound for China.

1923 Scott 225 $1 deep red & dark violet
"Rubber Planter's House"
The $1,$2, and $5 denominations are larger format stamps, and have that detailed frame work seen with German designed stamps.

Rubber plantations became one of Liberia's economic engines.

1923 Scott 227 $5 deep green & brown
"Grebo Houses"
What a fine looking stamp! Enlarge and enjoy. ;-)

1926 Scott 228 2c on 1c deep green & black, black surcharge
1927 Scott 229 "Bongo", red surcharge on stamps of 1918
In 1926-27, five stamps were produced by surcharging the 1918 1c "Bongo". The two regular stamp issues are illustrated, but there are also three official stamps produced.

1936 Scott 256 18c on $1, black surcharge
"Coast Scene"
In 1936, there were two issued sets of overprints/surcharges produced using the 1918 stamp issue. This is an example of the first set, which consists of 11 stamps. CV is <$1-$1+.

1936 Scott 266 16c on 75c carmine brown & black, black surcharge
"Mandingos", On Official 1918 issue
The second overprinted/surcharged set used the official 1918 stamp issue. This consisted of 12 stamps, with a CV of <$1-$2.

Note that, although there were a few surcharged stamps issued in 1926-27, and a small seven stamp set issued in 1928, no other new issues were produced since 1923. And these 1936 sets are surcharged on the stamp issue of 1918. The Liberians had a good thing going with their exotic issues, and then.....nothing. ;-)
As I speculated earlier, Liberia may not have had the financial means to produce more issues during this time

Map of location of Mandingos
The Mandigos or Mandinkas are a very large ethnic group (some 11 million today) in West Africa. They are Muslim.

1937 Scott 273 3c violet & black 
"West African Dwarf Buffalo"
The production of original stamp issues resumed in 1937 with this nice 6 stamp triangular set generally featuring native animals. The CV is <$1-$1+.

1918 Semi-Postal Scott B15 $5 + 2c dark brown
Liberia only had a 1915 issue (two stamp), and then this illustrated issue in the semi-postal category during the classical era. The regular issue of  1918 was used, and surcharged in black and red. It appears to be a Red Cross issue, although Scott does not say. The set has 13 stamps, with a CV of <$1-$6+ for 9 stamps.

1936 Air Post Scott C3D 4c orange & black
"Waco Plane"
For Liberia's first air mail service of February 28, 1936, this nice triangular 6 stamp set with one design was issued. Of interest, Scott had to use C3A-F for the catalogue numbers as C3 ((1936) and C4 (1938) were already used.  CV is <$1.
1938 Scott C11 30c gray black "Albatross"
A ten stamp air post set was released in 1938 with bird or airplane designs. This attractive set is CV <$1.

1919 Registration Scott F19 10c rose & black
"S.S. Quail on Patrol", (Robertsport)
The registration stamps, some shown earlier in the Liberia 1860-1914 post, continued with this 5 stamp issue, with a town or region specified on the stamp. CV is $1+.

1921 Scott F25 10c claret & black, overprinted "1921"
"Gabon Viper", (Buchanan)
In 1921, a 5 stamp set with the "Gabon Viper" design was issued. CV is $3+. Then, also in 1921, the set was overprinted as illustrated. CV is $6+. The issue can have the "1921" inverted (as shown), and carries no special value.

1924 Scott F34 10c gray & violet
"Canoe in Surf", (Robertsport)
In 1924, a five stamp registration issue was released, and each stamp has an interesting pictorial design. CV is <$1.

1916 Military Scott M6 1c on 1c emerald & black "Coffee Plantation"
Surcharged on 1909-12 official stamp, "LFF"
In 1916, seven Military stamps were issued, four surcharged on regular stamps, and three on official stamps.
Four of the stamps are CV $3+-$4+, the three others are CV $100+-$400!

Note that "LFF" and "1c" is double printed here. There were a lot of printing errors with these issues.

"LFF" represents the initials of "Liberian Frontier Force". These surcharges were applied in Monrovia in 1916, when 800 troops were sent to squash a Krus uprising. The regular stamps were intended for the soldiers, and the official stamps for the officers.

Deep Blue
The 1936 Provisional Overprint on 1918 Official Issue in Deep Blue
The Deep Blue album (Steiner) has 34 pages for 1915-40 Liberia, and follows the Scott catalogue exactly. In fact, the Steiner also offers spaces for the 1923 issue 12 space minor number regular and official "Brownish paper" varieties. Nice. 

1921 Official Scott O140 $5 green & blue, OP "1921"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on five page for the 1915-40 era, has 52 regular, 7 semi-postal, 16 air post, and 15 registration stamp spaces. There is, in  addition, 2 spaces for military stamps buried within the regular stamp spaces. As mentioned in the 1860-1914 post, the '69 editors cut out two pages of official stamp spaces, so the '69 has no coverage for officials. (On the other hand, the '69 has air post C12,C13,C14, which are not in the 1940s editions.)

Total (1915-40) = 92 stamp spaces. Coverage is 32% for the time period.

• No stamp spaces for this time period reach the $10 threshold
• Since the '69/'97 editions do not have spaces for the official issues, supplementary pages are advised.
I include in the checklist the official stamp spaces included in the 1940s editions.
• I found some 74 stamps total with CV <$1-$1+ that are not included in the '69 or the 1940s edition officials. More specifically, there are  no spaces for the "1921" and "1936" overprinted issues, both regular and official, some 43 stamps with CV <$1-$1+. One might need even more supplementary pages. ;-)


1914 (Actually 1915)


Military Stamps (Not labeled in BB)

1918 (Regular category again)


Next page



Next page


1936 (air mail- not labeled)

1937 (regular issues again)

Next page

Registration Stamps


Next page

Semi-postal stamps

Air Post


(Following in the 1940s edition, but not the '69)

Official (1915-40)

Next Page





A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): none
B) *1938 Air Post- The 1940s editions do not have spaces for C12,C13,C14,
C) See "Observations" discussion for more comments.

1940 Scott 277 3c dark blue "Coastline of Liberia"
"100th anniv. of the founding of the Commonwealth of Liberia"
Out of the Blue
Liberian stamps are inexpensive with outstanding designs. A joy and a delight for the WW classical era collector. So much fun it ought to outlawed. ;-)

Note: Maps, pics appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?


  1. Excellent images :)

    And excellent link to Liberia site :)

    What else can I say other than thanks again ;)


  2. Thanks Keijo. :-)

    Liberia was particularly pleasing to do because of the colorful images and subject material.

    And the new scanner- well, it is always nice to have a new toy. ;-)

  3. Nice stamps and Blog, Congratulations !!!

  4. Enjoyed your Postmail blog also!


  5. Excellent blog. Detailed information and great pictures. Unique work. Compliments, and all the best from northern Italy.

  6. Thank you Roberto- glad you found it useful.