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 by the blog author, Jim Jackson, with two albums: Big Blue, aka Scott International Part 1 (checklists available), and Deep Blue, aka William Steiner's Stamp Album Web PDF pages. In addition, "Bud" offers commentary and a look at his completely filled Big Blue. Interested? So into the Blues...

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Nicaragua - Bud's Big Blue

Arms of Nicaragua (United Provinces of Central America), 1823-25
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Nicaragua’s stamps fill more pages in my Big Blue than those of any other country – 19 original album pages and 22 supplement pages. Why? Overprints and double overprints, anomalies (inversions, color shades, imperfs, misperfs, fold-overs), trial proofs, official stamps, unofficial officials, and split currency areas (silver in the east, paper money in the west). Add to these the irrelevant and unusable stamp values produced by Nicolas Seebeck, Nicaragua’s favored printer in the late 19th century. Nicaragua album pages fill quickly with many redundant mint images.

This excess, however, is not without attractiveness and historical interest. Take, for instance, the frequent appearance of the liberty cap, el gorro frigio, sometimes hoisted on a pike atop a mountain and sometimes floating mid-air.

El gorro frigio

The roughly conical cap with a floppy top originated in ancient Phrygia. It was adopted during 18th century American revolution as a symbol for freedom from colonial oppression, although the ancient cap had nothing to do with freedom. Nevertheless, Nicaragua follow suit.

Scott #s 1 dark blue, 54 slate, 103 violet, 305 green and chestnut, o128 carmine
(Remember to click on an image to enlarge it)

On stamps, the cap hovers over the five volcanic mountains that represent the five Central American countries -- Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Usually the cap is very small, as on Scott #o128, and easily mistaken for a crucifix or overlooked altogether.

Scott# 54, cap magnified

Beyond the USA and Nicaragua, many countries in Central and South America have adorned stamps and coins with Phrygian caps, including Mexico and Argentina.

Liberty with a Phrygian cap on a pike, USA one cent, 1795

 Scott #305 has a close resemblance to the Nicaragua coat of arms – a triangle showing a free floating, glorified cap, as well as the water of two oceans, perhaps a hope-inspired rainbow, and the five mountains. A second cap can be seen below the triangle in an image similar to Scott #54.

A particularly interesting and treacherous area of Nicaraguan philately is the local stamps of Cabo Gracias a Dios and Bluefields. These are mostly regular Nicaragua stamps overprinted for use in the eastern part of the country where currency was denominated in silver; they’re treacherous because the double and sometimes triple overprints are expensive and easily faked (Scott’s catalog says so).

Scott #s 2L50 violet, 2L1 plum, 2L16 plum, unlisted yellow, 2L31 slate

Cabo Gracias a Dios is thought to have been named by Christopher Columbus in 1502 in thanksgiving for deliverance from rough seas, perhaps a hurricane. The above scan shows four hand-stamped Cabo overprints, the most impressive being the yellow one peso with a clear Cabo cancellation. Sadly, Scott doesn’t list it as a legitimate stamp. So, I tend to regard it as a fancy flimflam. But then, there are hundreds of unlisted and unauthorized hand-stamped surcharges.

Bluefields, located south of Cabo on the Atlantic coast, derives its name from Abraham Blauvelt, a Dutch pirate in the early 17th century. The stamps commonly have two overprints, a capital “B” for Bluefields and “Dpto Zelaya” for the Province of Zelaya, the latter overprint being the smaller. Inking and clarity vary greatly.

Scott #s 1L22 carmine rose, 1L2 vermilion, 1L3 green, 1L13 violet, 1L67 blue and black

 Largely isolated from the rest of the country, Bluefields was only recently connected by a highway to the western part of Nicaragua. Railways in eastern Nicaragua were a political dream (although a philatelic reality). Ferrocarril de Nicaragua never delivered mail (or anything else) to Bluefields or Cabo.

Hence the double irony of Scott #s 1L109-1L123: locomotives are featured on the one series of stamps issued specifically for purchase with the silver coins of eastern Nicaragua, a place without trains. Moreover, in 1912, the year after this series was issued, Ferrocarril de Nicaragua changed its name to Ferrocarril del Pacifico de Nicaragua. A gesture of honesty, I suppose. The last effort to extend rail service to the Atlantic succumbed in 1909, never to be revived.

Scott #s 1L111 orange brown, 1L119 brown and black, and 1L120 olive green

The philatelic locomotive is generic, not a likeness of Nicaraguan rolling stock. Produced by Waterlow and Sons of London, this series must have been printed in excessive numbers for, within a matter of months, they were overprinted for use in the silver-bereft western part of Nicaragua. Regardless, the series has become popular with collectors.

Recently, appreciation of Nicaragua’s stamps has grown, in large part, because of the pioneering work of the Nicaragua Study Group, NICARAO, and their website http://www.bio-nica.info/NICARAO/00-NICARAO.htm. Beginning specialists and even worldwide collectors will find their work helpful. For a discussion of Seebeck’s impact on Nicaraguan philately, see https://www.linns.com/news/postal-updates-page/seebeck-made-many-cheap-stamps-for-collectors.html.

Census: 568 in BB spaces, 28 tip-ins, 603 on supplement pages.


Jim's Observations

Nicaragua was one of the Central American countries that agreed to let Nicholas Frederick Seebeck and the Hamilton Bank Note Company print their stamps in exchange for unlimited reprinting rights.

From 1890-99, regular, postage due and official stamp sets were printed yearly. Even today, most of these stamps can be had  "mint" for pennies.

The good news for classical WW collectors is most stamps of Nicaragua are inexpensive even today- if you can find them. !



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Comments appreciated!




4 comments:

  1. Very interesting and comprehensive posting for these issues!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ray McIntire, Springfield, TNJanuary 30, 2022 at 10:21 AM

    Bud, another great post, and thanks so much for doing this for us. At the same time, I'm still convinced after seeing pages for Nicaragua (and when you posted Colombia) that it's such a shame that Scott didn't include the Colombia States and Zelaya/Cabo for Nicaragua. It makes my '47 more difficult to complete but I can't imagine collecting these countries without the States. Thanks again! Ray

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  3. Yes, Scott should have consulted collectors more widely before chopping out Colombian and Nicaraguan states. I've thought of buying those pages from a '47 compyright album and inserting them in my '69 album, but haven't done it yet.

    The pages that come with the various editions sometimes differ even when the date is the same. Not all '47 editions are alike, and the same is true for all other BB albums, I've found.

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