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...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


1880 Scott 6 1p maroon "Queen Victoria"
Typographed and Embossed
Quick History
The Gambia River on the west coast of Africa served as a portal for the slave trade; first by the Portuguese, then by the British. Three million slaves were exported during the three centuries that the transatlantic slave trade was operational.  The British, however, banned slave trade throughout its Empire in 1807. The military post of Bathurst (Banjul) was established at the mouth of the river by the British in 1816. Eventually, in 1888, Gambia became a separate colony, and the boundaries were set in agreement with the French Republic.

Initially, the British Crown Colony consisted of the colony ( Bathurst and surrounding area), while the rest of the territory up the Gambia River was a  protectorate. Stamps were issued ( the striking embossed Queen Victorias) in 1869.

The Capital was Bathurst (Banjul), and the population was 200,00 in 1931.

1922 Map of Gambia

Gambia gained independence in 1965, and joined the Commonwealth. Remarkably, although only 30 miles wide and the smallest country in Africa, Gambia  has been politically stable.

1938-46 Scott 136 2p gray black & ultramarine 
King George VI and Elephant Badge of Gambia
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic catalogue has, from 1869-1949, 146 major numbers, all regular issues. Seventy one catalogue for <$5, an "affordability" index of 49%.

The outstanding issue/design  are the embossed "Queen Victorias" from 1869-1893, a 19 stamp series. Thirteen are CV for <$20.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
1880 Scott 5 1/2p orange wmk 1 "Crown and C C"
The initial four stamps (1869 and 1874) are imperforate and expensive ($200+). But  examples of the seven stamp perforated 1880 issue can be had by classic collector for much less. The 1/2p, 1p, 2p, and 4p are CV for <$20. They have wmk 1, and also different colors than the subsequent 1886-93 issue.

As one will notice, they have an embossed head of the Queen. Definite Victorian eye candy. ;-)

1886-93 Scott 19 1sh violet
In 1886, eight more stamps were issued with different colors in the "embossed" format, generally with the wmk 2 "Crown and CA" found sideways. All eight stamps are catalogued for <$20.

Right: Pic of the usual upright wmk 2 "Crown and CA"
Left: a sideways wmk 2, with the tip of the crown peaking out on the right edge
The sideways wmk 2 stamps were printed with a pane of 15 on paper intended for a larger pane. Consequently, the wmk is misplaced, and somewhat hard to identify. Above, one will note the sideways crown peaking over the right edge of the stamp, while the "A C" letter can (with difficulty) be made out on the left of the stamp.

This might be a good time to suggest that owning the Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps 1840-1970 catalogue is a good idea for the WW classic collector. ;-) There are a number of variations that are mentioned (and illustrated) in the SG, but not in Scott. Although Scott does give the "sideways" wmk alert, SG gives us also the orientation of the sideways watermark as viewed from the back. Very helpful. :-)

1887 Scott 13 1p rose carmine
SON: Bathurst, Gambia
Although mint stamps are preferred by many, a nicely cancelled specimen that identifies the stamp did postal duty is O.K. with me.  Even better, a socked-on-the-nose cancellation (as above) is particularly attractive.

Color variations
1893 Scott 18 6p slate green
1886 Scott 18a pale olive green
The embossed Victorians come in a variety of shades. The six pence is listed in Scott with five shades. Illustrated above are two examples. I found two more "possible" shades in my collection.  But, unless the shades are quite different (as above), I find it difficult to "label" a shade. Perhaps, the SG catalogue color
guide would help? 

1898 Scott 27 1sh violet & green "Queen Victoria"
In 1898, Gambia had a eight stamp issue with the more typical colony design. Four of these stamps are CV for <$4. SG lists an expensive variety with a malformed or repaired "S" on the right "Postage" side panel. Check your collection. ;-)

1904-09 Scott 41 1/2p green "King Edward VII"
The "Baldies" exists as both wmk 2 (Crown & CA) & wmk 3 (Multiple Crown & CA)
Between 1902-05, a 12 stamp issue, with wmk 2, was issued with the "King Edward VII" design. Four of these stamps have a CV of <$4. Then, between 1904-09, 24 stamps with wmk 3 were issued. These stamps are overall less expensive, with twelve having a CV of <$4. Grand total: 36 stamps!

1906 Scott 66 1p on 3sh
In 1906, two of the wmk 2 "Baldies" were surcharged. A fine example with a "Bathurst" postmark is shown above.

1912-22 Scott 81 1sh black/green "King George V"
Beginning in 1912, a 17 stamp wmk 3 "King George V" was issued. Thirteen are found for less than $4.

1921-22 Scott 95 10p yellow green & carmine rose 
This issue has wmk 4, the Multiple Crown and Script CA
A short lived 10 stamp wmk 4 "King George V" issue was produced in 1921-22. Eight of the stamps are <$3 mint, but generally much more for genuine used.

1922 Scott 122 7 1/2p violet/yellow "George V and Elephant"
A wmk 3 variety
In 1922, an attractive new design for Gambia was produced as illustrated above. The first issue (wmk 3), in 1922, had four stamps; while the second issue (wmk 4), from 1922-27, had nineteen stamps. Ten have a CV of <$4.

Besides the omnibus issues, the next major stamp production were the King George VI 1938-46 stamps, featuring the Gambian symbol, the Elephant (see illustration). Of the sixteen stamps, thirteen are catalogued for <$3. 

Deep Blue 
Naturally the Steiner eight pages for Gambia have a space for all the major numbers. The advantage, (compared to a representative album like Big Blue), is particularly acute if one happens to be deep in an issue.

Deep Blue's coverage of the embossed Victorians is, well, deep. 
Illustrated above is Deep Blue's layout for the 1880-1893 embossed "Queen Victoria" stamps. Very nice. :-)
There is even room to add a couple of cancelled examples to the mint specimens already on the page.

So having space for any major number stamp always a good thing? Not always.

The 1904-09 "Baldies" in Deep Blue
Rather lonely?!
What about then, not being deep in an issue? Well, the Steiner will expose one's meager holdings mercilessly.    OTOH, since seven "empty" spaces here are CV <$3, a great visual incentive to fill more spots is presented. ;-)

1924 Scott 113 1sh violet/orange "George V"
Big Blue
Big Blue, "69, on two pages, has 41 spaces for the 1886-1938 regular stamps. Coverage is 28%. The most expensive stamp appears to be the 1927 Scott 108 4p carmine/orange "George V and Elephant" @ ~$12.

How did Big Blue fare with the above discussed coverage of the embossed Victorians and the "Baldies"? Poorly in the first case (embossed Victorians), and thankfully, a small representation in the second case ("Baldies"). ;-) Let's take a look.

For the embossed "Queen Victoria" stamps, Big Blue provides no spaces for the 1880 issue, and only two spaces for the 1886 issue. As I have 12 stamps, clearly Deep Blue's spaces are welcome.

Winner: Deep Blue

 Two spaces for the "Baldies" in Big Blue
Sweet and cozy!
Deep Blue has 36 spaces for the "Baldies": Big Blue? -Two spaces! But I filled Big Blue with my meager two stamp collection.

Winner: Big Blue

Simple Checklist



28 or 41, 29 or 42,

70 or 87, 71a* or 71 or 88, 72 or 89, 73 or 90, 91, 75,76,77 or 92,




Next Page


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1927 Scott 108 4p carmine/orange "George V and Elephant" >$10
B) ( ) around a number is a suggested choice for a blank space
C) *71a is the (now) minor color (1p scarlet) that is the designated color in BB.  But I have included  the (now) major number (71 1p carmine) as a choice. In fact, I will be including the (now) major number as a choice as a general rule in the checklist.

1922-27 Scott 110 6p claret "George and Elephant"
Out of the Blue
Particularly nice colony designs. Gambia is close to the top on my favorites list.

Note: map appears to be in the public domain.

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