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, November 21, 2012


1930 Scott 153 5a dark blue  & slate green
"Viking ship in Storm"
Quick History
To everyone around the world, a Happy Thanksgiving. ;-)

Iceland, unfortunately named, as the Gulf Stream warms the coastal areas to a temperate, if not balmy 56 degrees (13-14 degrees Celsius) in the Capital Reykjavik during the Summer, is a volcanic island country just south of the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic Ocean.  Settled by Norsemen and their Gaelic thralls (serfs) in the 9th century, the population had grown to 70,000 by the 19th century, barely sustained by subsistence farming and fishing.

Location of Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean
But prosperity after WWII has made Iceland one of the world's most developed countries, with now a Per capita income of $43,000. Population today is a modest 320,000, 93% Icelandic, the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

Iceland had been an exclusive Danish dependency since 1814. But in 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and some home rule. Stamp production was begun a year earlier with the Iceland "Numerals".

Iceland showing Road One, the main route around the island
In 1918, the Kingdom of Iceland became a sovereign state in union with the King of Denmark. After the 25 year agreement was expired, Iceland voted to become an independent republic in 1944.

Did you know? - The traditional Christmas Eve dinner might consist of hangikjöt (smoked lamb), Ptarmigan stew, mushroom sauce, boiled potatoes, peas, red cabbage, and rice pudding with raisins.

1902-03 Scott 59 50a blue & carmine, black overprint 
"I GILDI" = "valid"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has 229 regular, 6 semi-postal, 20 air post, 1 air post official, and 71 official stamp numbers for a total of 327 major stamp descriptions for the years 1873-1945.

Of those, 50 are CV <$1-$1+, or 15%. Although Iceland is not horribly expensive, it is definitely not cheap either for the WW classical collector, who has to compete at home and abroad for the popular Scandinavian area Icelandic stamps. But tastefully designed, and modestly produced, with wonderful engraved examples in a classic Nordic tradition, what's not to like?

A Closer Look at the Stamps and Issues

1897 Scott 21 3a orange "Small 3"
1901 Scott 22 3a yellow "Large 3"
The "Posthorn & Crown Numerals", popular also with Denmark and Norway, were produced on Iceland issues in 1873, 1876, 1882-88, and 1896-1901. For these 30 stamps, 9 are CV $3+-$30.

The 1873 issue had 96 Skillings = 1 Rigsdaler values. The 1876 issue switched to 100 Aurar = 1 Krona values.

Shown above are typical examples of the design, with the 3a here found in different numeral script sizes

1902-04 Scott 44 1k slate blue & yellow brown
"King Christian IX"
The Danish King Christian IX ruled Iceland also, and, beginning in 1902, a thirteen stamp bi-colored issue was produced with his portrait. CV for 7 stamps is $1+-$8+.

The "Posthorn & Crown Numerals" design, though, came back in 1902-03 with black or red overprinted "I GILDI" (valid) on 25 stamps. This issue has a CV of $1+-$3+ (unused) for 8 stamps. Other values go as high as $12,000+. !  A 50a blue & carmine with black overprint is shown at the beginning of this section.

1907-08 Scott 81 40a claret & violet
"Kings Christian IX and Frederik VIII"
The long (43 years) reigning Christian IX  died in 1906, and his eldest son Frederik VIII, already 63, became king. A nicely designed bi-colored issue showing the two kings, past and present, was produced. This 15 stamp issue has a CV of $1+-$6+ for 8 stamps.

Another issue of 7 stamps (CV $1+-$3+ for 3 stamps) was produced with this design in 1915-18. Since there are some "identical" stamps with this issue, the new watermark (Multiple Crosses) will differentiate these stamps from the earlier "Crown" watermark.

Left: "Crown" wmk 113; Right: "Multiple crosses" wmk 114
Shown above are the respective watermarks. 

But, if one wants to be lazy, the 1915 issue is Perf 14 X14 1/2, while the original 1907 issue is Perf 13. ;-)

Unfortunately, Big Blue includes no spaces for the 1915-18 issue.

1911 Scott 87 3a light brown
"Jon Sigurdsson"
In 1911, a 6 stamp issue, shown above, featured Jon Sigurdsson, leader of the Icelandic Independence movement during the 1850s. As it happened, in 1904 home rule was expanded for Iceland. CV for 4 stamps is $2+-$5+.

What a lovely designed embossed stamp!

1912 Scott 94 20a pale blue
"Frederik VIII"
But Iceland still had a Danish King, and a 7 stamp embossed issue was likewise produced in February, 1912, just several months before Frederik VIII's death. CV for this higher denomination issue is $10+-$20 for 3 stamps.

Subsequently, in 1918, Iceland gained full sovereignty, but in a direct union with King Christian X, who also had a dual role as King of Denmark.

1920-22 Scott 111 5a green "Christian X", original portrait
1931-33 Scott 185 1k dark blue & light brown, redrawn portrait
In 1920, a 20 stamp issue was initiated with the portrait of  Christian X, now the King for the Kingdom of Iceland. CV for 12 stamps is $1+-$3+.

In 1931, the portrait was redrawn, with the horizontal lines much closer and finer. This 12 stamp set has some similar colored stamps, so attention to the oval and portrait is needed. CV for 6 stamps is $1+-$4+.

1925 Scott 144 7a yellow green
"Landing the Mail"
The first wide horizontal format five stamp set for Iceland was issued in 1925. This interesting scene was on the 7a and 50a values. The CV ranged from <$1-$9+.

1930 Scott 156 15a deep ultramarine & blue gray
"Vikings naming land"
Perhaps one of the most interesting issues I've come across collecting WW classic, is this 15 stamp lithographed set issued in 1930. With a classic Norse frame "wood block" design, the vignette has several Viking scenes, "gathering wood", "Iceland woman in national costume", "Winter-bound home", "Woman spinning", and "Map of Iceland". Nine stamps have a CV of $4-$10. The top five denomination stamps, though, have a CV of $50+-$90+.

Do yourself a favor, and enlarge this stamp (and the Post header stamp from this series), and just enjoy!

1933 Semi-postal Scott B1 10a + 10a red brown
"Shipwreck and Rescue by Breeches Buoy"
Not many semi-postals issued by Iceland during the classical era, but the few that were are fascinating indeed. The receipts for the surtax were used for the purpose depicted on the four stamp engraved set: namely "Rescue work", "Asylum for tuberculous children", and "Asylum for the aged". The CV for each stamp is $2.

1928 Scott C1 10a red, overprinted
The first Air Post stamp for Iceland was issued in 1928, and is depicted above.  CV is $1+. I really am fond of Air Post stamps that are overprinted with an airplane. ;-)

Also, you may have noticed this is a pic, and not a scan. I find close-up pics of stamps have a three dimensional aspect to them, which seems to be lost with scans.

1902 Scott O15 5a orange brown & black
"King Christian IX"
Iceland issued comparatively many Official stamps (72 total), and they can look quite similar to the regular issue. The right side script here says "PJONUSTA" ("Service") rather than "FRIMERKI" ("Stamp"), which is inscribed on the regular issue.

The 1902 issue had seven stamps in the set, with five stamps CV $3+-$4+.

1907-08 Scott O35 15a light blue & gray
"Christian IX, Frederik VIII" 
Likewise, the official stamps in the 1907-08 eight stamp issue have "PJONUSTU" inscribed up the left side of the stamp, rather than "FRIMERKI", which is substituted in this position on the regular issue. Both the regular and official stamps of this design have "FRIMERKI" inscribed on the right side of the stamp. The CV for this issue ranges from $2+-$8.

1920-30 Scott O46 50a violet & gray
"Christian X"
A ten stamp Official issue was produced beginning in 1920, as shown above. CV is $1+-$4+ for eight stamps. Although the "official" stamp design is similar to the regular issue as mentioned, the Officials generally have different color schemes for the same value stamp.

Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 26 pages for the Iceland issues, and follows the Scott catalogue format.

The 1937 King Christian X  "25th Anniversary" Issue in Deep Blue
Meanwhile, Big Blue manages to have Iceland on 5 pages. Is it worth it? I vacillate at times between preferring Big Blue's compact nature versus Deep Blue's (Steiner) leisurely expanded and comprehensive coverage.

1940 Scott 282 20a crimson "Trylon and Perisphere"
New York World's Fair
Big Blue includes a CV $125 stamp of this set
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on five pages, has 113 regular, 4 semi-postal, 30 official, and 14 air post stamp spaces. Total is 161 spaces, and the coverage is 49%.

There are some expensive stamps for Iceland in Big Blue.

An expensive corner of Big Blue's Real Estate
New York World's Fair Issues
1940 Scott 235 2k (dark) gray, overprinted CV $125
1939 Scott 216 2k dark gray CV $62+
As one can see, BB requires the Scott 216 2k dark gray "Statue of Thorfinn Karlsefni" for $62+ unused; then also includes the same stamp (Scott 235), this time overprinted "1940", for CV $125.

But it doesn't stop there.
* The 1882-98 Scott 17 20a blue ($60) is included, while the somewhat less expensive 1898 Scott 28 20a dull blue (($40+) is excluded because of BB's color criteria.
* 1882-98 Scott 18 40a red violet ($47+)
* 1930 Scott 157 20a rose red & salmon ($47+)
* 1932 Scott 175 75a greenish blue ($35)
* 1931-33 Scott 186 2k chocolate & dark green ($90)
* 1901 Scott Scott O11 4a gray ($40)
* 1928 Scott C2 50a gray & violet, overprinted ($70)
* 1930 Scott C6 35a olive green & brown ($55)
* 1930 Scott C7 50a deep green & deep blue ($55)
* 1930 Scott C8 1k olive green & dark red ($55)

Then there are an additional 31 stamps with CV $10-$30.
(These stamps are listed in the "comment" section below the checklist.)

The expensive stamps are really not the fault of Big Blue (I rather like that BB includes a healthy chunk of Iceland), but rather the realities of high prices in the catalogue today for this country.

Although as stated, BB does provide a nice selection, it does leave out the 1915-18 seven stamp Perf  14 X 14 1/2 wmk Multiple Crosses issue, and most of the redrawn 1931-32 "Christian X" issue (seven stamps).
One might want add space for these additions.

I have listed some more dilemmas and cautionary notes in the "comment" section.


15 or 21*, 23, 9 or 16 or 24, 10 or 25, 11 or 26, 17*, 18, (29),






Next Page

108,109,110, 111 or 112, 113,114,115,




1931-32 (redrawn)*


Next Page







Next Page


Official Stamps

O4 or O10, O11, O5, (O6)

O16, O17, (O18),

O35, (O36),



Next Page

Air Post





A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1897 Scott 21 3a orange ($10+)
1899 Scott 23 4a rose & gray ($20+)
1897 Scott 25 6a gray ($20+)
1882-98 Scott 17 20a blue ($60)
1882-98 Scott 18 40a red violet ($47+)
1900 (Scott 29) 25a yellow brown & blue ($20+)
1902-04 Scott 39 16a chocolate ($10)
1902-03 Scott 55 16a brown ($30)
1912 (Scott 97) 2k rose ($30)
1920-22 Scott 125 50a dark gray & claret ($10+)
1930 Scott 155 10a dark violet & lilac $10)
1930 Scott 157 20a rose red & salmon ($47+)
1931-32 Scott 172 35a ultramarine ($10+)
1932 Scott 175 75a greenish blue ($35)
1931-33 Scott 186 2k chocolate & dark green ($90)
1939 Scott 216 2k dark gray ($62+)
1940 Scott 232 20a crimson ($10)
1940 Scott 233 35a bright ultramarine ($10)
1940 Scott 234 45a bright green ($10)
1940 Scott 235 2k dark gray ($125): BB has the color as "gray"
1898-1902 Scott O10 3a yellow ($10+)
1901 Scott Scott O11 4a gray ($40)
1876-95 Scott O5 5a brown ($10+)
1876-95 (Scott O6) 10a blue ($10+)
1930 Scott  O53-O60, overprinted (eight stamps), each ($10+)
1928 Scott C2 50a gray & violet, overprinted ($70)
1930 Scott C3 10a deep ultramarine & gray blue ($20+)
1930 Scott C4 15a orange brown & dull blue ($30)
1930 Scott C5 20a bister brown & slate blue ($30)
1930 Scott C6 35a olive green & brown ($55)
1930 Scott C7 50a deep green & deep blue ($55)
1930 Scott C8 1k olive green & dark red ($55)
1934 Scott C17 25a dark violet ($10+)
1934 Scott C19 1k dark brown ($20+)
1934 Scott c20 2k red orange ($10+)

B) A (   ) around a number indicates a suggested blank space choice.

C) *21- the 1897 3a orange (Small "3") space excludes the 1901 Scott 22 3a yellow (large "3"), because of BB's color criteria. I have an example illustrated of both stamps at the beginning of the "A Closer Look at the Stamps and Issues" section.

D) *17- the 1882-98 Scott 17 20a blue ($60) is included, while the 1898 Scott 28 20a dull blue (($40+) is excluded because of BB's color criteria.

E) *1902-03- I have excluded some very expensive stamps as choices ($1,600-$12,000). If you want to put them back, be my guest. ;-)

F) *1907-08 Perf 13, wmk Crown issue is included. But excluded entirely from BB is the 1915-18 seven stamp Perf  14 X 14 1/2 wmk Multiple Crosses issue!

G) 1931-32 (redrawn)*- unfortunately, the other stamps in the issue (Scott 176-179, 182-184,) are excluded. The 1e, 3a,4a,6a,25a,30a, & 40a are all the same colors as the original 1920-22 issue, but are redrawn, and not the same as the originals. IMHO, They should not be put in the 1920-22 spaces. Add these stamps to a quadrilled page or equivalent.

H) O45* is the 20a yellow green & gray "Christian X" stamp. Be aware there is a 1931 redrawn Scott O68, same color, that is not given a space in BB.

1934 Scott C18 50a red violet
"Plane over Thingvalla Lake" 
Out of the Blue
Denmark is one of my favorite countries, and now this! I'm becoming a Scandinavian philatelist.

Help Me!

(No, I don't really want any help ;-)

Note: Maps, photo of Iceland appear to be in the public domain.

Iceland - Bud's Big Blue

Comment? Please Do!

Satellite view of Iceland in January


  1. I concur that Iceland has produced lots of magnificent looking classic stamps.

    I noticed your copy of Scott#144 has partial Tollur cancel. I simply love revenue (or in this case customs duty) usages as this. Great item :)

  2. Great pick-up Keijo.

    I noticed the unusual cancel, but wasn't sure if it was a revenue or not. Now I know- customs duty.


    BTW, Happy Thanksgiving (A very big family holiday in the U.S.)

  3. Thanks :) Though we don't actively celebrate Thanksgiving day in Finland, it's creeping in as a 'concept' same way as most US-based holidays (such as Halloween etc).

    But back to stamps... These Tollur cancels are funny in a sense, that depending on the stamp, their value can go either up or down. With your item, Facit gives a 30% drop for items with Tollur cancel :(

  4. Ha-ha. Well, the Tollur story is definitely worth $2.25. ;-)

  5. Excellent write-up on one of my favorite stamp-issuing countries, one I've been collecting new and used for many years. As part of the popular Scandinavian region, as you noted, its stamps are not the cheapest in the world but they have a rugged older quality that is very appealing and Iceland's newer stamps are very beautiful, mostly scenes of local flora and fauna and towns and artwork and so forth from Iceland.

    Two corrections. You've written, "The left side script says "PJONUSTA" ("Service") rather than "FRIMERKI" ("Stamp")" beneath the 1902 Official stamp where it's actually on the right side.

    And you've noted right afterwards, "Both types have "FRIMERKI" inscribed on the right side of the stamp" just after the 1902 and 1907-08 Official stamps, but there is no "FRIMERKI"at all on the earlier of these two stamps. Unless I'm misreading in one or both of these cases which I might be. Someone's likely to save this and be confused.

    A great write-up with good information throughout, and I enjoyed enlarging the Viking and other stamps. Wonderful stuff. Thanks again.

  6. I should have added my question to the previous posting: What are you referring to when you refer to Big Blue's "color criteria"? This appears to be their leaving out certain stamps because they repeat colors already included or some other inclusion or exclusion factor I must have missed in one of your earlier postings. An explanation would be helpful. Thanks.

  7. Thanks Drew for the nice comments.

    The first correction-I've corrected. Thanks :-)

    The second correction- I changed to
    " Both the regular and official stamps of this design have "FRIMERKI" inscribed on the right side of the stamp.", as I was referring (here) to the similarities of the 1907-08 regular and official design. Hope that clarifies.

  8. Color criteria....
    "The 1882-98 Scott 17 20a blue ($60) is included, while the somewhat less expensive 1898 Scott 28 20a dull blue (($40+) is excluded because of BB's color criteria."

    Color Criteria is the color that Big Blue asks for the space, here "blue". That then excludes the "dull blue" example.

    For a more complete explanation on color specification or criteria, see:

  9. Iceland is plagued with forgerys of it early issues. Near very stamp of the number issues, all of the early overprints etc. Still I enjoy the stamps of iceland. I added a page as some of the BOB area is not in my album.
    I enjoy all your write-ups and iceland blog is a winner