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...

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Samoa 1877-1899 and the Express Reprint/Forgeries

1895 Scott 14b 2 1/2p rose "King Malietoa Laupepa"
Quick History
The Samoan archipelago is in the South Pacific Ocean, and is one of the centers of Polynesian culture, along with Hawaii  and the Cook Islands.

Polynesian culture includes the Samoan Islands 
The Samoan language is a specific dialect of Polynesian, and is understood and spoken today by about 470,000 people, about one half of whom still reside on the islands.

Before the advent of European influence on the the Samoan archipelago, the history of Samoa was linked with the Fiji and Tonga kingdoms.

1934 Map showing the central position of Samoa in the Pacific
But Samoa was too central of a location (known during the 19th century by mariners as the "Navigator Islands") to be ignored for long, and soon there was English, American, and German influences.

The Americans used the harbor of Pago Pago as a coaling station on Tutuila in 1877, and formed relationships with the local chieftains.

Apparently, there were only 130 Europeans residing in Samoa in 1877, mostly in Apia. Nevertheless, the Kingdom of Samoa "Express" stamps were also issued in 1877.

1896 Map of Samoa
The British had missionaries since 1830 from the Congregationalist London Missionary Society on the island of Savai'i.

Robert Lewis Stevenson lived in Vailima (near Apia, Upolu)  from 1889 to his death in 1894. He participated actively in Samoan politics, and wrote A Footnote to History: Eight Years of Trouble in Samoa, a non-fiction account of the Samoan Civil War among warring Samoan factions, aided and abetted by the three colonial powers interested in Samoa.

The third colonial presence, and a large one, was Germany. German firms formed large copra and cocoa bean processing operations on the island of 'Upolu.

Malietoa Laupepa
Malietoa Laupepa (1841-1898), who appears on a stamp issued in 1892 ( The stamp is the first one shown for the post), was a devout Christian by upbringing from 'Upolu. He was crowned King of Samoa by the German Empire, and the British and American consuls in 1881.

"Malietoa" is a title given to Samoan Chiefs, and literally means "great warrior". It is from an epic heroic tale when Tongan warriors said, as they rushed to their boats, "Malle To'a Malle tau".."brave warrior, brave fight".

As one can imagine, trying to maintain native influence vis-a-vis the three great colonial powers with their own agendas was difficult indeed for Malietoa Laupepa.

Samoan males, traditionally and when they are ready, will receive the pe'a ritual tattoo. Laupepa underwent the painful pe'a process in his forties.

Samoan male with pe'a tattoo, 1890s
The tattoo (tatau is a Polynesian word) covers the body from waist to knees. using bone, tusks, turtle shell, and wood as tattoo implements.

German, British, and American warships in Apia Harbor, 1899
Meanwhile, the colonial powers were sending combat troops in support of warring Samoan factions. This culminated in Britain and the U.S. using warships to shell Apia on Upolu island in March, 1899.

But a treaty was signed among the three colonial powers (Tripartite Convention of 1899) that divided the archipelago into German Samoa ( Savai'i, Upolu), and an American territory (Tutuila, Manua). (These divisions would eventually lead to Western Samoa (now Samoa), and American Samoa respectively).

Britain, as compensation for giving up "rights" to Samoa, obtained the Tonga group from Germany, and an advantageous change in the boundary between the German and British Solomon islands. Germany gave up any rights in Zanzibar.

The Samoan Chiefs and natives had little to say about it. 

To be continued with the next post.....

"Scott 6" 1sh orange yellow Express Reprint
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Samoa 1877-1952, 173 major descriptive numbers. Of those, 50 are CV <$1-$1+, or 29%. Most of the more inexpensive stamps are after 1900, while the 1877-1900 stamps are rather expensive for WW classical collectors.

Samoa is a complicated philatelic country with Kingdom issues (1877-1900), Provisional Government (1899), German Dominion issues (1900-1915), British Dominion issues (1914), New Zealand overprinted issues (1914-1935), and Western Samoa issues (1935-1952).

The Kingdom of Samoa (1877-1900) and Provisional Government issues (1899) will be covered with this blog post. The rest will be reviewed in the next post.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings = 1 Pound
100 Pfennig = 1 Mark (1900)
"Scott 1" 1p blue Express Reprint
Many classical WW collectors will have 1877-1882 Samoa Express Service stamps in their collection. A look at the catalogue, and the heart leaps, because most are valued in the hundreds!

But reality for collectors is the stamps are either mostly reprints or forgeries. But, how to tell? I hope, after reading this presentation, that one is a little wiser.

I should say at the outset that I relied heavily on the www.filitelia.fi website and their Samoa Express Forgeries discussion and illustration. And, a Samoa Express Reprint/Forgery thread on www.stampboards.com was also very helpful.

So, before we get into that discussion, how did the Samoa Express Service stamps come about?

C.L. Griffiths, who had published the Fiji Times Express, needed a postal service for Samoa to distribute his new newspaper "Samoa Times".

The lithographic Express stamps were printed in Sydney, Australia by S.T. Leigh & Co., and the stamps were issued October 1, 1877 in time for the October 6th first printing and edition of the newspaper.

The Samoa Express service was discontinued late in 1881.

Those are the basic facts.

Now, it turns out that there are four "Types" of Samoa Express issues and stamps recognized.

Let's take a closer look......

Samoa Express Type I-IV
My 2014 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue has this illustration, and I am showing it here for educational purposes.

Note: Sources give slightly different perf measurements.

Type I: 1877- Perf 12 1/2 - 1p, 3p, 6p, -Line above "X" is unbroken, Upper right serif of "M" is horizontal. Printed in sheets of 20 (5X4), so only six stamps would be perforated all around, the other fourteen stamps would have at least one straight edge. Stamps were pen cancelled from October 1877 to March, 1878.  Type I is rare.

Type II: 1878-79- Perf 12 1/2- 1p.3p,6p,1sh,2sh,5sh, - Line above "X" is broken. Small dot near upper right serif of "M". Printed in sheets of 10 (5X2), so all stamps have at least one straight edge. Type II is rare.

Type III: - 1p,3p,6p,2sh,5sh- 1879- Perf 12 1/4; 1879-82- Perf 11 3/4:Note: Perfs are usually "rough"- Line above "X" roughly retouched. Upper right serif of "M" bends down, and joined to dot. Printed in sheets of 10 (5X2), except the 1p, which was printed in sheets of 20 (5X4). All non 1p stamps will have at least one straight edge, and the 1p stamp will only have 6/20 (statistical probability) with perforations all around. Type III is more common than Type I or II, but still outnumbered considerably by reprints.

Type IV: 1880-82 ,-Perf 11 3/4- 2p, 9p (2p never placed in use). Speck or dot of color on curved line below center of "M". The Type IV originals, compared to the Type IV reprints, are distinguished by color for the 2p, and "rough perf 12" for the 9p.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that a "dot" seen below the center of the "M" in Express stamps indicates "Reprint"- because that is a likely assumption. But, if you believe you might have an original Type IV 2p or 9p, then seek expert opinion. (There were also Type IV "remainders" (perf 11 3/4) from 1881 that were purchased by a stamp dealer after the discontinuation of the Samoa Express service, and distributed to the market. The colors are somewhat different between "remainders" and "reprints" See Samoa Express Forgeries website for specifics.)

Reprints are also Type IV! Reprints are almost always perforated on all sides ("uncommon" to "doesn't occur" for the originals).

Reprints tend to have whiter paper, and the perforations are 11 3/4 and 12 1/4.

The reprints were made by the original Sydney printers, but the sheet size was larger (40: 8X5). An estimated 50,000 sets (1884) and 100,000 sets (1892) were produced. Reprints far outnumber originals.

Let's look at a reprint more closely.

"Scott 1" 1p blue Express Reprint
This specimen (which was shown earlier)  has perforations all around- making it already statistically suspect. For Type III, only the 1p may show perfs all around; the other denominations will always have a straight edge. Let's take a closer look....

Samoa Express 1p blue Express Reprint
"M" Close-up
Note clearly the dot on the curved line below the center of the "M"? Reprint! Note also the upper right serif of "M" bends down. 

Samoa Express 1p blue Express Reprint
"X" Close-up
Note the line above "X" is roughly retouched- seen with Type III and Type IV and "IV" reprints. We have already determined that this stamp is a reprint.

 "Scott 6" 1sh orange yellow Express Reprint
The dot of color below the center of the "M" in a reprint is sometimes fairly subtle- one has to keep a high index of suspicion. Not uncommonly, when I come across a collection of Express stamps that have been scanned by their owner and put up for viewing, I can spot the subtle "dot" that indicates "reprint". ;-)

Well, what about forgeries?

APEX Certificate: Fournier  Express Forgery
"1879-92 Scott 8a 5sh yellow green" 
A stamp buddy of mine submitted this 5sh yellow green in anticipation it was a Scott 8a with CV $725. When he received the bad news, he gave the specimen to me, as he was aware I was interested in forgeries. I told him he could have saved some money if he had showed it to me first. ;-)

5sh yellow green Express Fournier  Forgery
The first thing one will note is there are perforations on all sides. That condition doesn't exist for 5sh originals, because they will have at least one straight edge. The perforation is 11 1/4.

But this stamp looks different than the reprints, what is going on? Forgery?

Samoa Express 5sh yellow green Fournier Forgery
"M" Close-up
There is no dot of color under the center of the "M", so this is not a reprint. The right leg of the "M" is rather thick, and the pearl dots between the curved lines seem larger also.

Samoa Express 5sh yellow green Fournier Forgery
"X" Close-up
Note the line above "X" is "roughly retouched", as if it is a Type III, but the horizontal lines along either side of the "X" are rough and thick.

The clincher is the colored pearl dot below the white line on which the "X" rests is not complete or surrounded by white! This is the necessary and sufficient sign that the stamp is a Fournier counterfeit.

Of interest, there can be found two subtypes of the Fournier forgery, consisting of either large or small letters in the value tablet (My example is the large letter subtype).

The Samoa Express Forgery website calls the Fournier forgery "Forgery 1". (It seems sites/experts for Express stamps use different numerals for forgery types, so one needs to specify which site/expert one is using for nomenclature.)

Francois Fournier 1846-1917
Geneva, Switzerland
I've touched on Fournier before, because his forgeries can be found for many countries during the classical stamp era.

From my Brazil 1889 Postage Due post....

"He saw himself as a champion of the "little man"- who could then own a beautiful and rare stamp at a fraction of the price of a genuine specimen. He rejected the pejorative "forger": rather, he was quite proud of his "art objects". His 1914 price catalogue listed 3,671 forgeries (not all produced by himself).

After he died, the Geneva Museum of History acquired his stock (thereby preventing some 800 pounds of forgeries from entering the philatelic marketplace). Representative examples were mounted in 480 special albums, and sold to interested parties for $25 apiece in 1928.

These Fournier albums are still floating around the philatelic landscape, and one can do an internet search and see visual examples of his forgery work."

So how can one quickly tell that an Express stamp is a Fournier forgery?

Glance at the first colored pearl dot below the white line on which the "X" rests, and if it is not complete or not surrounded by white, you have the determination! 

"Neudruck" stamp on back of 5sh Fournier Forgery
Was there any other sign that the 5sh yellow green might be a forgery?

Turning the stamp over.....

This is not an "expert" or "dealer" mark. "Neudruck" in German means "Reprint", or, in this case, "Forgery". ;-)

Samoa Express 3p vermilion "Clubfoot"  Forgery
Another common counterfeit is the so-called "Clubfoot" forgery. The effort is thought to be a product of another forger who have met before, Nino  Imperato of Genoa, Italy, who was active in the 1920s.
(Another Specialist stated this was a Spiro forgery, so I guess it is not settled.)

The perforations are 11 1/2.

Samoa Express 3p vermilion "Clubfoot"  Forgery
"M" Close-up
It is called the "Clubfoot" forgery because of the inward bending leg of the "M"(the leg next to the "O"), and the shape of the "foot". But, more importantly, the dot pearls are wide and evenly distributed. The originals and reprints have two dot pearls directly below the "M". Diagnostic!

Check the pearls on a suspect stamp, and if widely and evenly spaced, think "Clubfoot" forgery.

The Samoa Express Forgery website calls the "Clubfoot" "Forgery 2".

Samoa Express 1p blue "Taylor" Forgery
Now, I have a special treat for you, an illustrated forgery that even the Samoa Express Forgeries website doesn't show (They call it "Forgery 4"). It is only found with the 1p "blue" denomination, and is thought to be the work of S. Allan Taylor of Montreal/Boston. There are only ~ 8 copies that are known.

It is actually a rather good forgery, except that it shows a large curlicue on top of the "S". ;-)

Special thanks to Mikeg of Ile Bizard, Quebec, Canada (stampboards forum) for permission to use his stamp and scan of the Taylor forgery.

Wmk 62 "N Z and Star (Wide apart)" Type 3 (7 mm spacing)
The next issue, the "palms" issue (45 major and bolded minor numbers), is known with three forms of watermark 62: Wide N Z and wide star, 6mm apart (1886-87); Wide N Z and narrow star, 4mm apart (1890); and Narrow N Z and narrow star, 7mm apart (1890-1900). My collection only has the 7mm apart wmk.

The issues also come in perf 12 1/2, 12 X 11 1/2, and 11. To do an adequate investigation with this issue, one will need to do watermarking and perf guage evaluation.

1895 Scott 11e 1p green "Palms"
Perf 11; Type 3 wmk 62 (7 mm spacing)
The "Palms" design was first produced in 1886, and was printed by the New Zealand Government Printer for John Davis, a photographer from Apia. He supposedly was appointed by King Malietoa, and was supported by the Americans and the British.. It was also under his watch that the Express stamps were issued. His post office was never recognized by the UPU, so some consider these "Kingdom" issues to be "local". His postal service ceased when the German Imperial Government Post Office opened on March 1,1900.

1898-1900 Scott 26 2 1/2p on 1sh rose
Black Handstamped Surcharge
In 1895  and 1898-1900 seven stamps from the "palm" issues were surcharged. Some were handstamped like this example.

1898-1900 Scott 29 2 1/2p on 1sh rose carmine
Red Typographed Surcharge
Others were given typographed surcharges.

1898-1900 Scott 30 3p on 2p red orange, green surcharge
1895 Scott 25b 3p on 2p orange yellow, black surcharge
It sometimes pays to review one's collection. I noticed this time the overprints were different, and I suspected an overprint forgery. But closer review showed the green surcharge stamp was actually an 1898-1900 Scott 30, rather than the Scott 25 3p on 2p orange, where it was placed. Another space filled!

1899 Scott 36 6p maroon, blue overprint
The last "Kingdom" eight stamp issue was an overprint announcing a change in government, a result of the Tripartite Convention of 1899. The CV is much less expensive for unused ($2).

In 1900, the islands were partitioned between the U.S. and Germany.

And we will continue this historical and philatelic story with the next post.

Deep Blue
1895-1899 Issue in Deep Blue; Perf 11
Deep Blue (Steiner) has three pages for the 1877-1900 Issues of Samoa. Included are spaces for the three perforation varieties for the "Palms" issue: 1886-92 Perf 12 1/2 ; 1887-92 Perf 12 X 11 1/2; 1895-99 Perf 11.

1904 Scott 23 5p vermilion "Flag Design"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on two pages, has 70 spaces. Of those, 23 are for the 1887-1899 Kingdom issues. Fortunately, there are no spaces for the Samoa Express stamps. ;-) There are 10 spaces for the 1900-15 German Dominion issues. Then there are 37 spaces for the British (New Zealand) Dominion and Western Samoa issues.

Coverage is 40%.

There is only one stamp @ $10 required for the spaces. The 1877-1900 "Palm" issues have many expensive stamps, depending on perforation and wmk 162  types.  But I found minor numbers that are less than $10.


1887 (-1900)








Issued under German Dominion

57 or 70,58 or 71,59 or 72,60,61,62,63,

Next Page

Issued under British Dominion









A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1894 Scott 23 3p vermilion $10)
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.

1899  Scott 32 1p red brown
Stamps of 1866-99 Overprinted in Red or Blue
Out of the Blue
If this blog post has increased your interest in Samoan stamps, you might be like to check out the website of the Fellowship of Samoa Specialists.

Note: Maps and Malietoa Laupepa, Samoan male with tattoo, Apia Harbor 1899, Samoan Archipelago pics all appear to be in the public domain.

Special thanks to Mikeg of Ile Bizard, Quebec, Canada (stampboards forum) for permission to use his scan of the "Express" 1p blue S. Allan Taylor of Montreal/Boston forgery.

Additional Note: If one is interested in the Samoa Express originals/remainders/reprints/forgeries, there is a Samoa Express thread on the Stampboards forum that is worth visiting.

Have a comment?

Samoan Archipelago


  1. Great post Jim. I have long considered the Samoa Express issues to be out of cope of my collection as I am to much of a generalist to be able recognize the forgeries. Now I may have to reconsider ;-)

  2. Glad you liked it Gerben. Collecting Samoa Express reprints, and even a forgery or two is kind of fun, as long as one recognizes what they are.

  3. Hey Jim,
    I likely wouldn't pay the $100s for the genuine Express stamps (although not all are that expensive), but I thought it might be fun to try to hunt down all the various forgeries and reprints and of course label them properly in my album. Do you actively collect any forgeries from any countries or just hang on to those the might come your way?

    What's your thoughts on how much one should expect to pay for the various Samoa Express forgeries and reprints? There are some 1p forgeries for sell online for $10 and one clear reprint for $100 (I suspect the seller thinks it's genuine?). I certainly wouldn't pay that for a reprint and I would think $10 is too high for a forgery too. What your thoughts?

    1. Sure- having a small collection of Express reprints and forgeries shouldn't be too hard to find. I don't think I paid anything specifically for the stamps as they where already in some feeder albums I had.

      As far as collecting forgeries, I will if an issue particularly intrigues me, otherwise I just take what comes my way.

      The problem with forgeries is they often are presented as genuine, with naturally genuine prices. ;-)

      I don't have any hard and fast rules for how much I will spend on forgeries, it depends on the situation. But for an expensive genuine, $10 for a forgery would be O.K.

      I might pay more for a forgery if I think I can share it on a blog post, and so would be good discussion material.

  4. Jim,
    I have one Express stamp that doesn't seem to fit either Fournier or Clubfoot forgeries or doesn't appear to be a reprint. I posted a scan on SCF. I'd appreciated it if you can take a look when you have a chance.


    1. Chris- I still think it is a Type IV "reprint".

      It has perforations all around. It is not a Type III, as the 2p would have at least one straight edge.

      The dot of color can be quite subtle. Your scan isn't good enough to tell for sure.

      Type IV vs Type IV "reprint".

      The odds are it is a reprint, but you can send it in for a cert if you are curious. ;-)

    2. Thanks Jim for your comments. That is a 1200 dpi scan, but this stamp looks noticeably "faded" compared to my other reprints. I looked under the M with a very high power magnifying lens and didn't see any hint of a spot.

      What distinguishes a Type IV from a Type IV reprint?

    3. The Type IV originals, compared to the Type IV reprints, are distinguished by color for the 2p.

      The reason I think it is a Type IV is the upper right serif of "M" bends down- seen with Type III and IV, but this is not a Type III as it is perforated all around.

      Like climbersteve, I believe there is a subtle "bump" off the curved line- Type IV.

      From Blog..
      "For the purposes of this discussion, I am assuming that a "dot" seen below the center of the "M" in Express stamps indicates "Reprint"- because that is a likely assumption. But, if you believe you might have an original Type IV 2p or 9p, then seek expert opinion. (There were also Type IV "remainders" (perf 11 3/4) from 1881 that were purchased by a stamp dealer after the discontinuation of the Samoa Express service, and distributed to the market. The colors are somewhat different between "remainders" and "reprints" See Samoa Express Forgeries website for specifics.)

      Reprints are also Type IV! Reprints are almost always perforated on all sides ("uncommon" to "doesn't occur" for the originals)."

    4. Oh, and the fact that the stamp is faded will fade the dot as well- perhaps to nothing. ;-)

    5. Yes, perhaps that is what happened. I will include it in with my reprints.

      Thanks for the help...

  5. Hi Jim

    Rereading your Samoa post, I once again thoroughly enjoyed myself. What a great post. I'll link to it from my upcoming Samoa profile. Just a little typo: in the list of countries the post appears as Samoa 1977-1899.....

    1. Appreciate the kind words Gerben.

      Oh, those typo grinches. !! I fixed it- Thanks!

  6. Hello, I have a SAMOA EXPRESS FIVE SHILLINGS stamp # red, not green, is it a known forgery ? I have picture at disposal. Thank for your help. Best. Laurent Mühlemann Switzerland

    1. I would presume it is a forgery. If you wish, you could upload an image of the stamp to one of the stamp forums for further opinion.