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...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

French Morocco

1914-21 50c on 50c bister brown & lavender
Overprinted "Protectorat Français"
Quick History
Located on the northwest coast of Africa, the French had Offices in Morocco from 1891, but most of Morocco became a French Protectorate under the Treaty of Fez in 1912. This Protectorate lasted until 1956, when Morocco established independence.

French Morocco consisted of the area between Fez and Rabat and Casablanca south to Marrakesh , Mogador (Essaouira) and Agadir. The north of the country was actually a Spanish protectorate. Tangier was an "international" city with a French presence.

French Morocco Protectorate in 1912 ( light green)
Strictly speaking, the 'Protectorate" did not end the sovereignty of Morocco; the Sultan reigned but did not rule. Also, there was not much mixing of cultures; France practiced a version of apartheid in Morocco, building "Villes" next to "Medinas".

Arabic and Berber in Morocco
Today, about 90% of the population speaks Moroccan Arabic, with more than half able to speak Berber. French is the language of commerce and education. The Capital is Rabat, and the population was 4,400,000 in 1912.
1939 40c on 50c  dark blue green surcharged in red
"Kasbah of the Oudayas, Rabat"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic catalogue has 300 descriptions for regular, semi-postal, air post, air post semi-postal, postage due, and parcel post categories for the years 1891-1942. The coverage consists of 37 "French offices in Morocco" entries, with the rest for the "French Protectorate" era. Also, Morocco proper under the Sultan issued 14 stamps in 1912-13. Of the group, 172 or 55% are reasonably at <$1-$1+.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1902-10 3c on 3c red orange & 25c on 25c blue
Second surcharged issue during the "French Offices in Morocco" era
The "French Offices in Morocco" era began in 1891 with an eight stamp "Navigation and Commerce" surcharged issue. Three are valued @ $3+. The next issue, illustrated above, had 12 stamps; six of them valued @ $1-$2+.

1911-17 5c on 5c green & 10c on 10c rose
Red or Blue surcharge with Arabic script
A 12 stamp series was then issued between 1911 and 1917 with a surcharge/overprint, including Arabic. Nine of these stamps are valued between <$1-$5.

1914-21 15c on 15c orange & 25c on 25c violet
First French Protectorate issue: overprinted "Protectorate Française"
With the Treaty of Fez in 1912, the French presence was strengthened considerably as Morocco became a French protectorate. With that reality, stamps from the previous issue were overprinted "Protectorate Française". Ultimately, 17 stamps were produced; 14 of them valued @ <$5.

1918-24 issue: 1fr claret & olive green overprinted "Tanger"
Although most of Morocco was a French protectorate, some parts were not; including the city of Tangier.
Consequently, an 18 stamp overprinted "Tanger" issue was used from 1918-1924 for posting from the "international" city of Tangier. Thirteen are valued @ <$2.

1917 engraved issue: 5c yellow green 
"Mosque of the Andalusians, Fez"
In 1917 a 17 stamp engraved issue was produced featuring various "monuments" in French Morocco. Twelve stamps are valued at $3.50 or less.

1917 line engraved 15c dark gray 
1923-27 photogravure 15c dark gray
The 1917 issue was line engraved. The next issue of 1923-27 has some stamps with the same colors and scenes. Specifically, the 15c dark gray, and the 20c red brown are similar except the 1923-27 issue was printed in photogravure. Observe the difference in printing outcome with the two methods illustrated above.

1923 -27 issue: 25c ultra "City Gate Chelia"
40c orange red ""Koutoubiah, Marrakesh"
The 1923-27 issue borrows many of the same scenes from the 1917 issue, but usually is printed in a different color, other than the stamps mentioned previously. This 26 stamp issue was printed in photogravure, and has an identifying "Helio Vaugirard" imprint on the lower right margin of the stamp.

1933-24 issue: 5c brown red ""Roadstead at Agadir"
The 23 stamp 1933-34 issue featured eight scenes of Morocco in heavy ornamental frames. Twenty of these stamps are valued @ <$1, with the most expensive @$6.50.

1939-42 1fr chocolate "Cedars" & 2fr prussian green "Fez"
The 1939-42 issue had a much more "modern" design, compared to the previous issue, as one can clearly observe. This 37 stamp eight design series spills over until 1942, but is included in the Deep Blue pages. Big Blue has some of these stamps in Part I, and some in the Part II volume.

1922-27 25c deep ultra & 75c deep green "Biplane over Casablanca"
These denominations can be found in different types
The 1922-27 eleven stamp Air Post issue has some interesting types; specifically the 25c,50c,75c, and 1fr.
Some come with a hyphen in the "Helio-Vaugirard" imprint ( The 25c illustrated), or a thicker frame (The 75c above). Take a look at your collection for differences. ;-)

Deep Blue
French Morocco has 22 pages in the Deep Blue album,, and presently I have stamps on 18 pages. All of the Scott major numbers are represented.

1) The 1939-42 issue has 37 stamps, 12 of them issued between 1940-42. They are all included in the classic package download at the Bill Steiner website. So far so good. ;-)  But there are actually additional stamps issued later in the 1940's in the series. These stamps have no space (naturally) in Deep Blue, and can lead to confusion.

2) The Scott catalogue mentions, but does not list the Sultan of Morocco government stamp issue of 1912-13 in the "French Morocco" section. These are listed, however, under Morocco in the catalogue. There were 14 stamps issued, 10 of them between $1+-$9+ CV. These "Cherifien Posts Issues" are given space in Deep Blue.
1917-28 postage due 5c blue "numerals"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69 houses the French Moroccan stamps under "Offices in Morocco" in the France section. This was consistent with earlier Scott's catalogues (i.e., my '47 ), whereby French Moroccan stamps were also listed under the France section. But the 2011 Scott gives the French Moroccan stamps their own section, as most of the entries are for the "French Protectorate", not just "Offices" stamps.

Big Blue has 196 spaces on seven pages for the regular, semi-postal, air post, air post semi-postal, postage due, and parcel post categories. Coverage is 62%.

1) The coverage looks good for the inexpensive French Moroccan stamps.
2) The 1939 issue has 26 spaces (Deep Blue has 37 spaces), as BB cuts off coverage at 1940. Additional spaces for the issue, which continues into 1942 and beyond, can be found in the Part II volume of the International.

Simple Checklist

French Offices in Morocco



French Protectorate



Next page




Next Page



Next Page


Next Page

Air post
C2,C3,C4 or C5,C7,



Next Page

Parcel Post

Postage due





Next Page

Air post semi-postal



A) ( ) around a number indicates a suggested choice for a blank space.
B) Expensive stamps (Threshold $10):
Postage due
Scott J16 50c on 50c red $10+

1922-27 air post 3fr gray black "Biplane over Casablanca"
Out of the Blue
The French designers of Moroccan stamps had the good sense to make the issues culturally appropriate for this Arabic and Berber Islamic country. Certainly, much different designs are found here than for French India (Brahma-also appropriate), or French Guinea. In general, the British Colonial stamps do not show as much cultural design work for a country, as they are on purpose heavily themed with the British Monarch. 

Note: Maps appear to be in the public domain.

French Morocco - Bud's Big Blue

Would like a comment!


  1. I've taken to printing from the "World" set of Steiner pages much of the time, instead of the "Classic" set. My approach to classic collection (I see my collection as a snap shot of the world into which I was born in 1952) as incorporating the colonial aspects of that world. So, while I'm not consistent, if I have holdings from French or Spanish or Portuguese colonies into the 1940s and 1950s, I don't cut things off at 1940 and thus use the first section of the Steiner "world" pages, which often go to 1960 or 1970 or 1975. I don't print all the way to the end, but stop around 1955 or 1960, for the most part. Or I print them all out but don't plan on filling them, eventually weeding out the blank pages at the end.

    The problems with French Morocco even in the Steiner (Classic) pages illustrates the advantage.

    One can print the Classic pages to their end, then go into the World pages for the same country and print the first few pages as needed. But because the Classic pages for, say, Algeria, might end with a half page for the regular issues followed by BoB and the World pages for Algeria take up at the beginning of a new page in 194_ regulars and then again for 194_ BoB, you get a gap between the Classic and World segments. So it's easier, usually, to print from the World set.

    But then, perhaps it's better just to cut things off consistently with 1940 if one wants to be a True Blue classicist. For myself, I kind of like the idea of including the colonies of the 1940s and 1950s era. It's part of the world that disappeared in the 1960s.

    And, while continuing on into the 1940s and 1950s makes for consistency for the colonial powers and their world, it's just the opposite with the Soviet bloc countries. If one continues into 1940s with Hungary or Germany, one gets into BRD, DDR and the whole Cold War mess. So, my solution: don't care a whit about consistency. Go past 1940 for the colonies, stick with 1940 or 1945 for the main European countries. . . Just let the history and geography of the issuing country determine the cutoff.


  2. "Just let the history and geography of the issuing country determine the cutoff."

    Dennis, a great point! The "classic" edition goes to 1940 ( 1952 for commonwealth), and is the same as the Steiner "world" set, except the "world" set continues beyond those dates.

    I agree wholeheartedly that "1940" is arbitrary for many countries. If one is interested in the later 1940's or even 1950's, go for it! I might do that myself for selected countries in which I take a particular interest.


  3. I'm very inconsistent with my cutoff dates, usually printing from Steiner's "World" pages for the same reason Dennis gives. For some countries, I find the most "natural" stopping point, for me, is just after independence. So for instance I include the first page of Lesotho at the end of Basutoland. Just to give a sense of "what came next" and lend a sense of narrative continuity to the history that stamps portray.

    I have grouped my pages into binders geographically, ignoring alphabet. So my binder for Morocco starts with Morocco Agencies, then German offices in Morocco, Spanish Morocco, French Morocco and finally independent Morocco up to about 1960. When I get around to it, I also intend to make pages for the private local posts of the 1890s and early 1900s, which are catalogued by Yvert.

    I like this arrangement because it gives a better sense of how complex that area was philatelically, and how all the European powers tried to keep a finger in the pie, so to speak. A person living or traveling to Morocco in the 1900s had a fascinating range of postal options, and I want my collection to reflect that.

  4. Matthew

    Your geographical approach makes a lot of sense.

    I think both you and Dennis make a valid point: The natural stopping point for classical or colonial collecting is often not 1940. Clearly, for many stamp issuing territories, it is much more satisfying to continue into the 1950s and perhaps beyond.

    The Steiner "classical" pages is wedded to the 1940-1940 (-1952 British Commonwealth) Scott Classic catalogue and their cutoff.

  5. I am completely enamored with the French culturally appropriate stamp designs for their colonies, and find myself going back to pick up more. In fact, I wholeheartedly agree with the comments on this thread that it well worth collecting the early years of the independent republics that were formerly French Colonies. These stamps are often beautifully engraved as well.

    In particular 1917 Moroccan Monuments Issue is a big fave with me. The line engraving for this issue truly makes these stamps pop, and to my eyes, they appear rather 3D-ish. In addition, they are certainly much scarcer than the subsequent issue. In contrast, the blank skies and lack of texture make the stamps of the later photogravure issue appear flat. For some odd reason, the majority of eBay sellers misidentify these stamps and consistently list the photogravure stamps of 1923-1927 as the 1917 issue issue.

    1. Good comments Gina. Generally, I much prefer line engraving, but there are occasions where photogravure provides great results. See my current blog post with the Dutch Indies semi-postals...

    2. Indeed, photogravure offers a clean modern look that is often quite refreshing. In fact, I am tempted to dive in deeper into the Dutch Indies semi-postals.

      However, IMHO, the 1917 line engraved Moroccan Monuments Issue is much more vibrant than the 1923 photogravure redux.

    3. Gina, yes absolutely the 1917 > 1923 issue.

      But I think we both agree that photogravure issues sometimes offers pleasant surprises.