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...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Congo (Belgian Congo)

1932 Scott 144 50c violet "Musicians of Lake Leopold II"
Quick History
King Leopold II of the Belgians was very interested in acquiring a colony for Belgium for the usual reasons: to enhance prestige for his small country, and to provide a source of income. But Belgium was not particularly interested in the monarch's ambitions. So in 1884, with the help of explorer Henry Morton Stanley, he privately acquired the Congo Free State for himself. The spoils were divided all around, as France took the north bank of the Congo river (Republic of the Congo; eventually part of French Equatorial Africa), and Portugal took land to the south (now part of Angola). Stamps with the portrait of King Leopold II were issued in 1886.

 The Congo Free State existed until 1908, when, after an expose and scandal about inhumane working conditions for the natives in the rubber industry, the King was forced to give up his interests. Then, the newly named Belgian Congo was officially annexed by Belgium. The Capital was Boma until 1926, then Leopoldville, and the population was 10,500,000 in 1944. Congolese independence from Belgium finally occurred in 1960.

Colonial Reality: The Congolese called  the authority of the Colonial State "bula matari", meaning "break rocks"; as it was an irresistible and compelling force.

1896 Map of Congo Free State
Big Blue Picture
Big Blue '97, on seven pages, has 138 stamp spaces for Regular, Semi-Postal, Air Post and Postage Due issues. The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has 226 major stamp descriptions. Coverage by Big Blue is 61%.

Belgium Congo stamps, for the most part, are "classic" African Pictorial issues featuring African animals (Elephants and Watusi cattle), natives (Bangala Chief, Ubangi Woman), landscape (Oil Palms), and transportation (River Steamer on the Congo River). Well designed  and highly attractive to the stamp collector, one would suspect from the beginning these issues were a not insignificant source of income for the Colony.

Big Blue has a nice selection indeed; and, although prices are sometimes moderately high ($2+-$10+), the Colony has no listing candidates for "most expensive  stamps in Big Blue". As usual, there are some inexpensive issues not found in Big Blue, and I list them at the end of this section under "Additionals".

But a warning: The 1894-1927 Belgian Congo stamp issues and designs are a minefield for the Big Blue collector. I was shocked that my acquired albums ALL had misplaced stamps for these issues. Let's take a closer look.

A) The 1894-1900 issue. (inscribed "Etat Independent Du Congo")
This is a nice pictorial issue which features natural scenes and landmarks, "Hunting Elephants", "Bangala Chief and Wife", and "Climbing Oil Palms". The 5c and 10c were issued in three different colors, while the 25c, 50c, and  I fr were issued in two colors. So, per usual, Big Blue only offers one space for each denomination.
But the larger problem is the next three pictorial issues-the 1909, 1910, and 1915- on superficial examination LOOK ALMOST IDENTICAL. The "key" to identifying the 1894-1900 issue is they are inscribed "Etat Independent Du Congo". The other three issues are inscribed "Congo Belge" So separating out the first issue is just a matter of being reasonably attentive.

B) The 1909, 1910, and the 1915 issue (inscribed "Congo Belge")
There are three 5c green & blacks (Scott 41, 45,60), three 10c carmine & blacks (Scott 42,46,61), two 15c ochre & blacks (Scott 43, 47)  and a 15c green & black(Scott 48), two 25c blue & blacks (Scott 49, 62), and two 50c olive & blacks (Scott 44,62); ALL of which need to be identified and put in their rightful stamp space. There  ARE design differences, of course, so pay careful attention to Scott's illustrations in the catalogue.

C) The 1923-24 and 1925-27 stamp issues.
These issues consist of head portraits of different tribal members, and illustrating daily activities such as carving wood and weaving. Unfortunately, Big Blue leaves many stamps in the series without a home because of specified date requirements (75c-Scott 101,102; 1 fr- 104,105,), or denominations without a space (Scott 96,106,107,108,109,112,114,). A pity.

Additionals... ( 29 stamps)

Belgian Congo
1908 overprinted "CONGO BELGE"

1921 Stamps of 1910 with surcharges

1921 overprinted "1921"

1922 Stamps of 1915 (Belgian surcharges)

1922 (Congo surcharges)

1922 surcharged vertical bar

1925-27 Watusi cattle & other Pictorials

1931 surcharged
130,131,132,133($2+),137($2+),(<$1 eN)

1931-37 Pictorials

1938 Pictorials

Semi-postal stamps
1918 Type of 1910-15 surcharged

Air Post

The 25c  light blue & black "Inkissi Falls"
Upper stamp is the 1894 issue, while the lower stamp is the 1915 issue.
Big Blue Checklist
Independent State
1886 King Leopold II
Blank space: suggest 4 ($5+)

1887-94 King Leopold II
Blank space: suggest 10($2+)

1894-1900 Pictorials  (inscribed "Etat Independent Du Congo")
5c: 16 green & black(<$1) or 15 red brown & black($1+) or 14 pale blue & black($10+)
10c: 19 carmine & black($1+) or 18 greenish black & black($1+) or 17 red brown & black($10+)
15c: 27 ocher & black($1+)
25c: 21 blue & black($2+) or 20 yellow orange & black($2+)
40c: 28 bluish green & black($2+)

1894-1900 (continued) (inscribed "Etat Independent Du Congo")
50c: 23 olive & black($1+) or 22 green & black($2+)
1 fr: 25 carmine & black($5+) or 24  lilac & black($10+)

 Belgian Congo
1908 overprinted "CONGO BELGE"
33($5+), 31($5+), 32($10+)

1909 Pictorials (inscribed "Congo Belge")
General Note: The 1909, 1910, and 1915 issue designs are quite similar.
Pay careful attention. See Big Blue Picture for discussion.

1910 Pictorials (inscribed "Congo Belge")

1910 Pictorials (continued) (inscribed "Congo Belge")
49,50,,47,52,54, (<$1-$2+)

1915 Pictorials (inscribed "Congo Belge")

(1915) Type of 1910 Pictorials (inscribed "Congo Belge")

1921 Stamps of 1910 with surcharges

1922 Stamps of 1915 (Belgian surcharges)

1923-24 Ubangi woman & other Pictorials
*Note 88 5c "yellow" in Scott actually looks brown-orange in my samples.
*Note 100 75c red orange; BB offers no space (date restrictions) to 101 gray blue('25) and 102 salmon red ("26).
*Note 103 1 fr bister brown; BB offers no space (date restrictions) to 104 dull blue('25) and 105 rose red('26).
Note: BB doesn't offer some denominations space (Scott 96,106,107,108,109,112,114,)

1925-27 Watusi cattle & other Pictorials

1928 Sir Henry Morton Stanley
122($5+),123,124,125($1+), (<$1 eN)
Two blank spaces: suggest 127,128,($1+)
eN=except noted

1934 King Albert Memorial issue

1931-32 Pictorials

1931-37 Pictorials (continued)

1935 Four Belgian Kings

1938 Pictorials

Semi-postal stamps
1918 Type of 1910-15 surcharged


1936 Regular issue 1935 surcharged

(1936) Queen Astrid with Congolese children

1939 Pictorials Surtax for Zoological gardens

Air Post
*Note: 1930 issue

Blank space: suggest C14($1+)

Postage Due
Blank space: suggest J5(<$1)
*Note: "deep rose" in BB is "rose red" in Scott

5c green & black 'Port Matadi" and 10c carmine & black "Stanley Falls, Congo River"
Upper stamps 1910 issue, lower stamps 1915 issue
Can you spot the differences?
Kinds of Blue
The '69 and '97 editions are identical in content.

The '47 and '41 ( in comparison to the '69 and '97), are  MISSING:

Air Post

Blank space: suggest C14($1+)

The '47 and '41 ( in comparison to the '69 and '97) HAS this addition.

The '47 and '41 editions are identical in content.

1932 Scott 142 25c deep blue "Uele Hut"
Big Blue Bottom Line
If you like classic African Pictorials, you will LOVE Belgian Congo issues. Now, just put them in the right space. ;-)

Note: Map in public domain.

Belgian Congo Pt I: a closer look
Belgian Congo Pt II: a closer look
Belgian Congo - Bud's Big Blue

If you enjoyed this post, or have some information to share, or have some constructive criticism, please share your thoughts and reactions in the "comment" section. Thanks!

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