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, July 20, 2012

Griqualand West

1877 Scott 15 1sh green
Overprinted red "G" on Cape of Good Hope
Quick History
If it wasn't for the newly discovered Diamond Fields, neither Transvaal (The Boars), or Cape Colony (The British) would have been interested in this backwater area. The Griqua had settled there to avoid the Europeans, and called it Griqualand West. (There was also a Griqualand  East, but they never issued stamps.)

In the early 1870s, diamonds were discovered.  The Big Hole was dug by 50,000 miners using picks and shovels, and eventually yielded 2,700 kg of diamonds. Cecil Rhodes, founder of De Beers, began his career there.

Since the Griqua knew they would not be able to withstand the European onslaught, they asked for British protection, the lesser of two unpalatable choices.

A Protectorate was declared from Cape Colony in 1871. Then, in just two years, the British declared that Griqualand West would become a Crown Colony. Kimberley, which swelled to a population of 40,000 in 1873, was made the Capital.

Cape of Good Hope stamps were overprinted with a "G  W", or a "G", and were issued from 1874-1878.

In 1880, Both Griqualand West and Griqualand East were annexed to the Cape Colony.

Although stamp production for Griqualand West ceased, the remaining stocks of overprinted stamps were subsequently used for postal duties in Cape Town and Cape Colony.

1885 Map of South Africa with Griqualand West in the center
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic catalogue has 102 major number descriptions for Griqualand West. Of those, 5 stamps are CV $7-$10, 5 stamps are CV $10+-$20, 11 stamps are CV $20+-$30, 23 stamps are CV $30+-$50, and the rest are CV $50+.

Inexpensive they are not. ;-)

In fact, Big Blue has never had Griqualand West as a country in the album.

But the history, the "Diamond Rush" swelling of population, and the resulting need for postal services and stamps, seems too good to pass up entirely, in my view. Some world wide classical collectors may want to have at least a representative collection from this fascinating period.

So expense one can control if one wants only a representative selection.

The second challenge is a bit more problematic.


Since all of the Griqualand West stamp production consisted of, usually, a single letter "G" overprinted on an inexpensive Cape of Good Hope stamp, Forgeries abound.

It behooves the generalist collector to have Griqualand West stamps certified as genuine.  - A piece of advice, that I have not, as yet, heeded for the stamps illustrated in the blog. :-(   

A closer look at the stamps and issues

1877 Scott 16 1sh green with red "G" overprint
In 1877, a black "G" was overprinted on the 1p, while a red "G" was overprinted on the 1/2p, 4p, 6p,1sh, and 5sh values. Scott recognizes ( and illustrates) seven types of "G" script for these values. Obviously, the Scott number depends on the script type one has.

1878 Scott 71 1p rose with black "G" overprint
Note the Cape Town postmark?
In 1878, there were 29 more major numbers recognized by Scott, all with black overprint, and having nine different script overprints.

This particular stamps shows a "Cape Town" postmark. This might be a remaindered Griqualand West stamp being posted from Cape Town after 1880, a legitimate use. Or, more nefariously, a "Cape Town" postmarked stamp that a forger applied a big fat "G" on, and made a nice profit. ;-)

1878 Scott 102 5sh orange with black "G" overprint
This stamp is part of a 5 stamp grouping (Scott 97-102), which had the black "G" overprint applied. For some intuitive reason, I believe this overprint is genuine. ;-)  I'm not so sure of the other two examples.

Deep Blue
The Deep Blue album (Steiner) has 5 pages for Griqualand West, and follows the Scott catalogue sequence exactly.

Out of the Blue
Fascinating history of real world events represented by these pieces of paper. I should take my own advice about getting these certified though. ;-)

Note: Map, picture appear to be in the public domain.


Diamond Fields- washing the deposits


  1. Griqualand West is probably the ultimate dead country: all its stamps are so expensive that Big Blue has no spaces for them.

    Is Griqualand East a dead country, since it never issued stamps? Maybe it's undead.

    Your blog, much appreciated by me and many silent readers, reminds me of Les Harding's book Dead Countries of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Do you know it?

    One friendly suggestion: check the spelling of "Zanzibar" in your heading.


  2. Ken- I'm not familiar with the book -Perhaps I should be?

    Griqualand East- Alas never "born" as a philatelic country, so it doesn't even have the distinction as a dead country.

    Thanks for the heads up on "Zanzibar", now changed. I wonder how long I've had that misspelling up? ;-)

  3. Jim
    Nice stamps and write up. The whole Southern Africa area is a treasure trove of history and philatelic material. The Zulu nations, Boer Republics, British Colonies and Griqua states (not to mention the Portuguese or German areas colonal regions) are a facinating study. I have tried to put together a chart which follows the changes in the area to help me understand how nations changed. It can be found at my "Regional Transitions" page http://www.dcstamps.com/?page_id=1464. Just click the SOUTH AFRICA AREA. I would greatly appreciate any comments, or corrections anyone might have.

    Thanks again for an interesting site

  4. And a fantastic chart it is!

    What a great reference.


    For those that don't know, Michael is the author of "Dead Country Stamps", which is linked under the "Great Stamp Blogs and Websites" down the left column of this blog.

  5. Has there been any time when Cape of Good Hope stamps have been overprinted with a G by hand. I have a COGH 4p with a G overwritten by hand. The cancellation mark is an oval diamond with a number 4.
    Pat Stenfalt

    1. I'm not ware of the "G" overwritten by hand.

      If the "G" is overprinted, then this statement might apply..

      "This particular stamps shows a "Cape Town" postmark. This might be a remaindered Griqualand West stamp being posted from Cape Town after 1880, a legitimate use. Or, more nefariously, a "Cape Town" postmarked stamp that a forger applied a big fat "G" on, and made a nice profit. ;-) "

    2. Hello Jim,
      Thanks for the reply. The cancellation mark is a diamond barrel with a numeral 4 which according to the Stanley Gibbons catalogue makes it a cancellation from Griqualand West Junction of the Riet and Modder rivers.
      I think a question should be =If a forger could forge a cancellation mark why would he make such a poor attempt at a G What do you think?
      Pat Stenfalt

    3. Hello Pat
      Well, you may have something interesting there, the problem is proving it. ;-)

      Since I'm not an expert on this country ( or any other country for that matter), you will need to pursue this if you are interested with stampboards.com ( they have a Griqualand West thread somewhere) or a specialty site.

      Good Luck!


    4. Thanks Jim,
      I will do that

    5. Short of certify tion of a stamp ( someone's elce opinion), I use blowup of scanned stamps and look at relationship of cancel to overprint. Many forgeries one can see the OP ON the cancel (not good). It appears stamp one and three of your blog pass this test, while stamp number two avoids the cancel so is more likly to be a fake. Also look at the back. Typewritter ink seldom if ever soaks through. Many fakes OP do. Kind regards David

    6. Stamp #2 has a bit of the cancel that overlaps the overprint. For a closer look I would use a digital camera with lighting coming from the side to see if I could tell anything. See post http://bigblue1840-1940.blogspot.com/2018/05/closeup-study-of-stamp-surfaces-using.html