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, March 1, 2012


1910-22 Scott 51 4c violet & deep blue "Fang Warrior"
A Bantu tribe in Gabon, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea
Quick History
On the west coast of Africa, Gabon became a French Colony in 1885. The Capital was Libreville, and the population was 400,000 in 1934. The name "Gabon" comes from the Portuguese "Gabao", meaning "cloak", the shape of the Komo River estuary by Libreville. Bantu tribes inhabited the area.  Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza explored the territory, and later became colonial governor.

Gabon had handstamped surcharged French Colonies stamp issues beginning in 1886. Then, from 1891 to 1904, Gabon was part of the French Congo. Gabon again issued their own stamps in 1904 with the "Navigation and Commerce" French colonial design. Although Gabon entered the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (along with three other colonies) in 1910, Gabon had their own stamp issues until 1936. Some of the later Gabon issues were overprinted "French Equatorial Africa".

After 1936, only French Equatorial Africa stamps were issued.

Gabon and French Equatorial Africa 1922

Gabon, as the Gabonese Republic, became independent from France in 1960.

Modern day Gabon, about the same territory as the French colony

More detail below about "French Equatorial Africa"....

French Equatorial Africa stamps were issued exclusively after 1936, but the name has existed since 1910. Initially, Gabon and Middle Congo with its military dependencies were politically united as French Equatorial Africa, although each colony had administrative autonomy and had their own stamp issues. Ubangi-Chari-Chad was made an autonomous colony in 1915, and then in 1920 Chad was made an autonomous colony. The four colonies listed above were administratively united as one colony in 1934, and consequently the separate colonies stopped their own stamp issues in 1936. So to summarize: French Equatorial Africa consisted of four dependencies; namely Middle Congo, Ubangi-Shari, Chad and Gabon.

1904-07 Scott 17 2c brown/buff "Navigation and Commerce"
The first non handstamped issue, consisting of 17 stamps
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue, from 1886-1889, and then from 1904-1933, has 183 major numbers in the regular, semi-postal, and postage due categories. 100 are less than $3 CV. "Affordability" Index is 55%.

Not very affordable are the handstamped ( "GAB" or "GABON") surcharged French Colonies issues of 1886-1889. They consist of 15 stamps, with the least expensive @ $65, but usually much more. They would interest the specialist, but probably not the world wide collector.

The next issue (17 stamps), from the years 1904-07 ,(illustrated above), is the well known "Navigation and Commerce" design. Seven are valued @ <$10.

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1910 Scott 36 5c olive gray & green "Fang Warrior"
Note the "French Congo" inscription
The 1910 series, consisting of 16 stamps, had local images, including "Fang Warrior", "Fang Woman", and "Libreville". This series, with the "French Congo" inscription, only lasted a short time. Consequently, the CV are more expensive than the subsequent series, ranging from $1+ for the 1c up to $300+ for the 5fr denomination. Seven are valued @ <$10. 

1910-22 Scott 50 2c black & chocolate "Fang Warrior"
Scott 50a "White paper"
Scott 50b 2c gray black & deep olive
The next series, consisting of 23 stamps, and issued almost immediately after the first series, had the same three designs. Note the "Equatorial Africa" inscription. Seventeen of these stamps can be had for <$2.

Generally the stamps are on dull cream paper. But some are issued on white paper (illustrated), are valued higher, and are given minor numbers by Scott. I only became aware of this when I noticed some paper color differences in my collection. 

Same with the 2c gray black & deep olive color variation illustrated above. I happened to notice a bit of subtle color changes in some stamps I had in my feeder collections. Only then did I realize these are minor Scott numbers. It might be wise to check your own collection for these "hidden" minor numbers. :-)

1926 Scott 90 10c dark blue & brown "Fang Warrior"
This series is overprinted "French Equatorial Africa"
The next issue (27 stamps), based on the previous designs, was produced between 1924-31, and was overprinted "French Equatorial Africa".  In addition, eight stamps were surcharged with new values between 1925-28. Twenty-five of these stamps can be had for <$2.

I'm not sure why these stamps were required to be overprinted, as they were already inscribed "Equatorial Africa". Perhaps they were used in other parts of French Equatorial Africa besides Gabon?

1912 Scott 74 5c on 15c gray surcharged in black or carmine
Check the spacing between the numerals: Here 1.5mm
Note: One can make out the Capital "Libreville" on the cancellation
As in other French colonies we have reviewed, the "Commerce and Navigation" design was surcharged in 1912. The surcharged issue had 13 stamps, and twelve of them are <$2. But the spacing between the numerals can vary. The wider spacing (2.25mm vs 1.5mm for the 5c) is given minor numbers in Scott , and are worth at least 5X as much. Worth checking out. :-)

1932-33 Scott 127 5c greenish blue 
"Timber Raft on Ogowe River"
This 24 stamp issue was short lived
The next major issue with a change in design occurred in 1932, but only lasted a few years, as Gabon's stamps were subsumed under the "French Equatorial Africa" designation after 1936. The  illustrations consisted of three designs: the one shown above, "Count Savorgnan de Brazza" ( the colonial governor), and "Village of Setta Kemma". The 24 stamps issue has fourteen valued at <$2.

So what do you think of this next stamp?

1936 Scott 2 2c black/rose
Overprinted "French Equatorial Africa"
I found copies of this series in three of my feeder albums in the Gabon section. True they were Gabon stamps. But they were issued in 1936, and are considered the first issue of French Equatorial Africa. There one will find the stamp spaces for this issue: a word to the wise. ;-)

Deep Blue
Deep Blue, on fourteen pages, has a space for all the Scott major numbers. The minor numbers that I've discussed ( "white paper" variations, subtle stamp color changes, spacing between surcharged numerals) do not of course have spaces. These additional stamps can go on the same page as the major numbers (if room), or be put on a quadrilled page.

1930 postage due Scott J12 5c dark blue & olive
"Chief Makoko, de Brazza's Aide"
Many of the Postage Due issue designs are highly attractive
Big Blue
Big Blue,'69, on four pages, has 111 spaces for regular, semi-postal, and postage due stamps. Coverage is 61%. BB begins with the 1904-07 "Commerce and Navigation" issue (four spaces), and continues with better than average coverage, including 30 of the 33 possible postage dues. Kudos! :-)

I did notice a goof for the 1932-33 issue. The Scott 143 2fr brown red "Village of Setta Kemma", a $35 stamp!, is given two consecutive spaces: an illustrated space and a descriptive space. See image below.

1932-33 Scott 143 2fr brown red "Village of Setta Kemma"
A $35 value, BB has both an illustrated and a descriptive space for this stamp.

Other somewhat expensive stamps include 118, 145, J20, J21, J22, &J32; all for $10+.

Simple Checklist ('69 and "97)





next page

next page
140,137,138,139, 141,
*error in BB; 143 ($35) given two spaces.

next page
postage due





*error in BB; 143 ($35) given two spaces.
( ) around a number is a suggested blank space choice.
The '47/'41 editions definitely are arranged differently, but I did not do a formal evaluation

1932-33 Scott 126 4c green "Timber Raft on Ogowe River"
Nice designs on colonial Gabon stamps
Out of the Blue
I am impressed with the French inspired colonial Gabon designs. Very nice stamps indeed.

I am equally impressed with the very nice coverage of Big Blue, save for the printing goof.

Note: Maps appear to be in the public domain.

Gabon - Bud's Big Blue

Would like to hear from you - I need some comments!


  1. I have to say that the French did issue some of the best looking colonial stamps ever. Ignoring the obvious moral questions about colonialism (I would have had a great deal of difficulty buying these stamps when these places were still colonies), collecting these stamps offers both a fascinating historical record about "exotic places," as we once used to say, about the whole colonial experience, and all that is combined with some of the best looking stamps ever issued, I think.

    I have nothing against other nations' colonial stamps, but they too often were clearly afterthoughts and not given much design attention -- issues repeating the same portraits for colony after colony or mere overprints of home country stamps, and so on. France did this, too, of course, but to a great extent they didn't. They really seemed to try to design stamps which reflected the look, history, people, flora and fauna of the place they were issued for. Whether most of them were ever actually used in these colonies is a bit hard to say . . . but they sure look impressive.

    Compared for example to British colonial issues which repeat the monarchs head shot ad infinitum (hasn't that been done to death?) plus a small vignette of an animal, a landscape or some fruit or flowers, French colonial stamps are really "about" the place they're issued for. And French stamp design, in my opinion, ranks up there with the stamp designs of Sweden, Switzerland, Japan and others as some of the best in the world. My opinions anyway.

    Does Scott still issue the French Africa album, I'm wondering? Looking at these amazing pictures of French colonial stamps makes me think I should add French colonies to my collection. Just what I need -- more areas to collect. Great series of album related comments and pictures, by the way!

  2. And another comment (You asked!): Are you scanning images of your own stamps? They're amazIngly nice looking stamps. Or are these from some other source? I really like that they are enlargeable. Not sure what that's called in "computer speak," but it makes the whole consideration of each nation's stamps much more helpful to be able to actually look at more than a small catalog-size image which I find one of the major frustrations with catalogs. Thanks again.

  3. Drew- you are correct about the French.

    The French have a flair for design that is matched at times, but never exceeded by other countries. Then, they do not have a Monarch (Well,since Emperor Napoleon III) to put on their designs. And they made the sensible and brilliant choice to emphasize the local people and scenes on their stamps.

    Imagine this scenario. You are turning the page of the Scott catalogue, and,as it happens, it is a colony.

    What would you expect if it is a British colony?..

    Right, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII or King George V or VI. Classic ( Which appeals at times), but conservative. Yes there will be some local scenes for some 20th century stamps, tasteful and understated.

    How about a Portuguese colony?

    King Carlos and the Ceres series. ;-)
    One will have to read the inscription to see which colony it is.

    Any local people or scenes?

    Usually not.

    Bur then Portugal was not a "rich" Colonial power, and perhaps we should be grateful for the stamp legacy that was left. In fact, Portuguese colonies are relatively inexpensive.

    What about France?

    We know they will have some well designed series of local people or scenes, but we will not know more until we look at the stamps. And then Wow! The subject and design is really good, and pleasantly surprising.

    True, France,as well other colonial powers milked the stamp collector with very long series and some high value stamps. (The British were particularly egregious with high value stamps-showing the Monarch of course.)

    But for well designed, interesting colonial stamps,the French consistently please.

  4. Drew- you hit upon one of the features I like to emphasize with the Big Blue blog- and that is the beauty of stamps as miniature works of art.

    Putting stamps in albums is fun, but seeing a stamp enlarged in all it's splendor on the screen is almost shocking. The miniature engraver's art needs to be shared, along with the history of the era and the times that made it.

    I scan my stamps @ 1200 dpi, which allows for them to fill the screen if one wants. They can be turned into a desktop background, or saved for appreciation and study later.

    Interestingly, a number of visitors are drawn because they have happened to see one of stamp images out in the cybersphere. ;-)

    Only about 1% of the stamp images are not from my collection, usually because I didn't have any. ;-) I always indicate in the "Out of the Blue" section if a stamp image comes from the internet.