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...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

French Guiana

1905-28  2c blue "Great Anteater"
Part of the first pictorial issue
Quick History
French Guiana, on the north-east coast of South America, is still (beginning in 1946) an overseas department of France. It should not be confused with British Guiana (now Guyana) or Dutch Guiana (now Suriname), or even French Guinea (In Africa). Since the Treaty of Paris in 1814, the area has been under French influence. The Capital is Cayenne, and the population was 30,000 in 1936.

French Guiana
The Îles du Salut (Ironic name for this infamous place!) is where Devil's Island is located

From 1852-1946, a penal colony- known collectively as "Devil's Island" to the English speaking, bagne de Cayenne, to the French speaking world- was located just off the coast of French Guiana. It held political prisoners ( Those that opposed Napoleon III coup d etat), Alfred Dreyfus (1895), to thieves and murderers. Of the 80,000 prisoners sent to Devil's Island and French Guiana, very few survived  or were ever seen again.

Stamps of the French Colonies can be found surcharged or overprinted from 1886-1892. Thirty-one are described in the Scott catalogue, and all are rather expensive; the cheapest $30-$40.

1900 10c red "Navigation and Commerce"
SON: Saint-Laurent Du Maroni, a border town in north-west French Guiana
Into the Deep Blue
For the French Guiana specialist, there are the surcharged/overprinted French Colonies stamps of 1886-92. They are expensive, and I don't have any. ;-)  The first formal issue for French Guiana are the well known 1892-1904 "Navigation and Commerce" design, consisting of 19 stamps. An example illustrated above has a nice SON cancel.

The Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has 208 major stamp descriptions for regular, semi-postal, air post and postage due categories. Of those, 136 are <$5, many only <$1-$1+. "Affordability" index= 65%. Clearly, considering its rather infamous history, French Guiana is an interesting country for the WW classic collector.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1922 4c on 15c violet (green surcharge) "Great Anteater"
The 1905-28 issue had pictorial designs related to French Guiana, as opposed to the generic 1892-1904 "Navigation and Commerce" issue. Nine of the stamps featured the "Great Anteater" design illustrated above, and they all are inexpensive too. Isn't that a great design? :-)

The 15c violet stamp was also surcharged in four! different colors in 1922 as illustrated above.

1915 semi-postal 10c + 5c rose "Great Anteater"
The Anteater design was surcharged and also used on this 1915 semi-postal shown above. Nice!

1922 30c rose "Washing Gold"
The second design found on 18 stamps of the 1905-28 issue shows a native worker washing gold. Again, all these stamp are quite inexpensive (<$1-$1+).

1905-28 2fr blue "Palm Grove at Cayenne"
The last design on the higher denomination stamps for the 1905-28 issued had a palm grove pictorial scene. This design is found on nine stamps, with the most expensive valued ~$15. Altogether, the 1905-28 issue had 36 stamps, almost all within the reach of the Deep Blue/Big Blue collector. And the French do have a way with their stamp designs. ;-)

1912 Scott 88 5c on 4c claret/lavender with carmine surcharge
1912 Scott 87a 5c on 2c brown/buff with black surcharge
Spacing between numerals 1.5 mm and 2.25 mm respectively
Returning to the "Navigation and Commerce" design, in 1912 six different denomination stamps had a "05" or "10" surcharged placed. What is interesting, however, is the surcharges exist with different widths between the numerals. The major Scott numbers have numerals that are 1.5 mm apart, while the minor numbers are 2.25 mm apart for the "05" surcharge. In this case, the 2c brown/buff (Scott 87a) is valued @$21, rather than $1+. ! So check the spacing on your stamps-could be worth more. ;-) Of interest, even though the minor numbers are bolded, and are prominent in Scott, there is not a separate space provided in Deep Blue.

1929-40 10c magenta and brown "Carib Archer"
Part of a 43 stamp issue with three designs
The second major French Guiana issue began in 1929 and produced 43 stamps using three designs. The first design used on the nine lower denomination stamps featured the "Careb Archer". I would venture to say this is one of the more common French Colonies stamps found in older collections. I found one or more of these stamps in seven various feeder albums I have. ;-)  Not complaining-a nice stamp!

1932-40 25c dark red and dark brown "Carib Archer"
I found these overprinted "Careb Archer" stamps in three feeder albums. But the overprint is not listed in the Scott Classic Catalogue for French Guiana! What gives? A little internet research yielded the answer.

Inini and French Guiana
Inini  was basically the interior of French Guiana- essentially wild. Supposedly, the population was 5,000 in 1941, and the Capital was Saint-Elie. It was administered separately by the French from 1930-1946. During this time, postage stamps of French Guiana were overprinted like the "Careb Archer" stamp shown. The stamps must have frequently ended up in packets for collectors, and now are found in older collections.

On further investigation, Scott does list 58 overprinted stamps under "Inini" in the catalogue for the years 1932-40. Big Blue has 2 pages with 48 stamp spaces. Coverage by BB is 83%.  Since Inini was in reality a territory of French Guiana, I am including them here.

1940 1fr black & violet blue "Shooting Rapids, Maroni River"
Second design in 1929-40 issue
Eighteen stamps for the 1929-40 issue have this design-Nice! Almost all can be had for <$1-$1+.

1929-40 3fr brown red & red violet 
"Government Building, Cayenne"
Third design for issue
Can you imagine a British or an American stamp with this color combination? ;-) Sixteen stamps for the series had this image; almost all again available for <$1-$1+. 

One could seriously argue, no doubt, why a Colony with 30,000 population, with many of them illiterate, needed a 43 stamp issue? They didn't. ;-) But there is no denying the stamps are attractive.

Deep Blue
Bill Steiner designed 15 pages for French Guiana, and I have stamps on 12 of them. He follows the Scott catalogue with a space for all the major numbers. The only pages that are mostly out of my league are the overprinted early "French Colony" stamps: two pages.

I wish he did provide space for the Scott 87-93 bolded minor number "Navigation and Commerce" surcharged varieties that have a different spacing between the numbers on the overprint. See illustration elsewhere.

Finally, the 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has 15 stamp entries for the 1921 "Societe De Transports Aeriens Guyanais" issue; a pioneering airmail service like the well known Colombian "SCADTA" airmail service. Spaces are not found in Deep Blue. But a moot point, as valued from $750-$3000. ;-)

1933 Air Post 2fr orange "View of Cayenne"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on five pages, has 125 spaces for regular, semi-postal, air post, and postage due categories. Coverage is 60%.

Beginning with the  1892-1904 "Navigation and Commerce" issue (eight spaces- most expensive $10), BB provides a very nice representative selection. I suspect these stamp spaces, inexpensive and attractive, have always been popular with BB collectors.

Simple Checklist





Next Page






Next Page





Next Page


Next Page

Air post

Postage due




A) ( ) around a number signifies a suggested blank space choice.
B) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
Scott 35 5c green/greenish “Navigation and Commerce” $10

Scott 159 1.75fr lilac rose “Products of French Guiana” $10+

Scott B3 1.75fr +50c bright Ultramarine “Curie” $10+

1929 Postage due 20c green & rose red "Royal Palms"
Who says postage due designs can't be interesting?
Out of the Blue
The design attractiveness of the French Guiana stamps contrasted with the 80,000 prisoners who (mostly) found their last days on "Devil's Island" is difficult to reconcile.

Maps appear to be in the public domain.

French Guiana - Bud's Big Blue

Enjoy the post? Would like to hear from you!


  1. Hi, I just came across this blog and am really enjoying it. I also use Steiner pages for classic worldwide, have been working on the collection off-and-on for about 10 years... still don't have all the pages printed out, much less filled ;-)
    The nice thing about Steiner is you can use his template to print new pages for stamps he doesn't include.
    Speaking of Guyana, did you see this? Very interesting bit of history. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/16/the-loneliness-of-the-guyanas/

  2. Thanks Matthew for the tip- an interesting and apropos read.

    I too have a long way to go before the collection is fully in Steiner. :-)

    But the journey is what this blog is about- Welcome!

  3. While I was buttoning up my detailed labeling effort for my Lighthouse Album pages of French Guiana, I was quite surprised to discover that my French Guiana Sc 53 was postmarked "CONAKRY, FRENCH GUINEA"! While I possess a Chad Sc 22 with a "BANQUI, UBANGI-CHARI" CDS in my collection, this was not surprising since these two colonies shared a common border and each were members of the French Equatorial Africa Federation . Anyway, it is certainly an intriguing philatelic enigma.