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...

Friday, September 2, 2011


1913-39 Scott 44 4c black & brown 
"Man Climbing Oil Palm"
Quick History
Between the 17th and 19th century, the land on African's west coast by the Gulf of Guinea was ruled by the Kingdom of Dahomey. The area was known as the slave coast, because of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In 1892, the slave trade was banned, and France made it a possession. The stamps of the French colonies, "Navigation and Commerce" stamps inscribed "Golfe De Benin", were used from 1892-1894 in "Benin". Consult the "Benin" country blog for this era. The French annexed the Dahomey colony proper in 1894, with "Benin" part of this new colony. Dahomey was then governed as an administrative unit of French West Africa. So to clarify, from 1894 to 1960, Dahomey was part of French West Africa. The Capital was Porto Novo, and the population was 1.200,000 in 1937.

This might be a good place to list all the colonies that were a member of French West Africa (French: Afrigue occidentale francaise, AOF).  French West Africa was a federation consisting of the colonial territories of Dahomey,Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan, French Guinea, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, and Niger.

From 1899-1905 the "Navigation and Commerce" stamps inscribed "Dahomey et Dependances" were issued. Beginning in 1906, "Dahomey"  was inscribed on French West African stamps.

In 1960, Dahomey became independent. After some years of Marxist-Leninist dictatorship and turmoil, it was renamed the Republic of Benin in 1991.

Update note: DJCMH's Philatelic Blog on Benin-Dahomey gives a in depth historical discussion of the formation of Benin-Dahomey, and a review of his collection in this area. Worth a read!

1901 Scott 1 1c black
"Navigation & Commerce"
Big Blue Picture
Big Blue '97, on 6 pages, has 84 stamp spaces. The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has 143 major stamp descriptions. Coverage by Big Blue is 59%.

Dahomey's most iconic issue as part of French West Africa is the 1913-39 "Man Climbing Oil Palm" design found on 54 stamps. This multiple bi-colored with interesting color combinations in the best French tradition is indeed attractive. Other stamp issues of Dahomey are more generic and shared by other French colonies. This includes the "Navigation & Commerce" design, the 1906-07 "General Faidherbe" design et al,  the Colonial Exposition, Paris International Exposition, Caillie, New York World's Fair, and Air Post stamps.

Big Blue has very good coverage approaching 60%. The prices for Dahomey tend to be in the $1+-$2+ binning category, although no stamps listed for >$10 in Big Blue. I could only find 13 additional stamps that were priced  for <$5 that are not in the album. They are listed below. The rest of the catalogue- some 40 stamps- are over the $5 limit, reflecting of course the popularity of French colonies.


1913-39 "Man climbing Oil Palm"

Postage due

1906-07 Scott 21 10c carmine (blue)
"General Louis Leon Cesar Faidherbe"
Dahomey shares this design with the Ivory Coast, Mauritania, and Senegal
Big Blue Checklist
1901-04  "Navigation and Commerce"
1,2,3,4($2+),5($2+),6,($1+ eN)
eN=except noted

1906-07 "Gen. Louis Faidherbe"
17,18,19($2+),($1+ eN)
Blank space: suggest 20 or 21($2+)

1912 Surcharged on "Navigation and Commerce"
32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39($2+), ($1+ eN)

1913-25 "Man climbing Oil Palm" 
Bi-colored ; and inscribed "Afrique Occidentale Francaise" & "Dahomey"
50,51*,54($1+),55,57($1+),60,62,(<$1 eN)
63,65($1+),(<$1 eN)
*Note 51 20c "gray & chocolate" in BB is " gray & red brown" in Scott.

(1922-25) surcharged on "Man climbing Oil Palm" 

1925-27 "Man climbing Oil Palm" 

(1925-27 "Man climbing Oil Palm" ) surcharged

1926-33 "Man climbing Oil Palm" 
53,59,73,77($1+),(<$1 eN)

1937-38  "Man climbing Oil Palm"

1937-40  "Man climbing Oil Palm" 

1937 Paris International Exposition Issue

1939 Caillie Issue

1939 New York World's Fair Issue



Air Post
C3,C4,C5($1+),(<$1 eN)

Postage due
Three blank spaces: suggest J12,J13,J14,($1+)

1937 Scott 102 30c dark green
Paris International Exposition Issue
Kinds of Blue
The '97, '69, '47, and '41 editions are all the same in content, although there are differences in layout.
Specifically, "Man climbing Oil Palm" issues of 1913-25 are together in the '97 and '69 editions,while split into 1913-17,1922, and 1922-25 segments in the '47 and '41 editions. The 1925-27, 1926-33, 1937-38, and 1937-40 "Man climbing Oil Palm" sections are the same for all editions. Presently, Scott has lumped all the 1913-39  "Man climbing Oil Palm" issues all together in the catalogue.
There is a "singularity" in the '97 edition. The first page for the 1901-1925 year issues has two different sized fonts for the descriptive stamp spaces; a small one and a large one. Neither appear to be the same as the font used in the '69 edition.

1940 C2 2.90fr dark red
Big Blue Bottom Line
Not inexpensive, but not expensive either with designs in the best classical French tradition. The "Man climbing Oil Palm" stamps are iconic.

Note: I've switched from taking close up pictures of stamps with my camera to scanning the stamps. They each have their advantages. I can more easily get a larger image with the camera, and I believe the stamps sometimes appear more three dimensional. And since this is a blog about Big Blue, I can show the stamp in the album.
The scanner produces more accurate colors and  generally more clarity, and appears more "neat".  But the image is smaller and has a"flat" dimension. I would appreciate feedback to which you find more useful or attractive.

Jim Jackson

Time Line: Benin, Dahomey, Part of French West Africa, Dahomey, Benin

Note: Map in public domain.

Note: If you have a comment to share, I would like very much to hear from you!

Note: Prices are binned; for an actual price, consult your Scott catalogue.


  1. Do you know whether it is possible to get a mint copy of the Dahomey 10c surcharged on 50c brown with RED lettering? It could be scarce and so may need a certificate in case there are forged overprints out there. Could you tell me roughly what it might cost? I live in Malaysia and do not have access to a catalogue at the moment.

    Thank you. Tony Finch

  2. Hi Tony

    Are you talking about the 1912 10c on 50c brown/azure?

    The Scott catalogue has..

    Scott 39 surcharged in carmine, but name in black - $2.25 mint, $2.40 used.

    Scott 40 surcharged in carmine, but name in red -$1,050 mint, $1,100 used.

    I would imagine the stamp with the red lettering would come up at auction or for sale from time to time, but clearly is quite rare. Yes a certificate would be important.

    Hope this helps.

  3. I do prefer the scanned stamps. It's easier to look at smal details since camera shots seems to get blurred in detail.

  4. Well, as you can tell from all the subsequent posts, I've stayed with scans, not least because of the advantage you listed.