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...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Liberia 1860-1914

1898-1905 Scott O31 2c bister & black "Hippopotamus"
Official stamp overprinted "O S" in red
Quick History
Liberia, meaning "Land of the Free", is located on the coast of equatorial west Africa. The Capital is Monrovia, and the population was 1,500,000 in 1940.

Liberia has an interesting history, to say the least. I will only be able to touch on some highlights here, but a more in depth historical reading by the WW stamp classicist is well worthwhile.

1736 map with the "Grain Coast" labeled
The Portuguese originally called the area the" Pepper Coast" because of the melegueta peppers found there. Later, the Dutch, then the British established some trading posts on the then called "Grain Coast". But no real settlement occurred until 1821, when the first of the free Blacks from the United States arrived.

How did that happen?

Beginning in about 1800, the idea took hold that establishing a colony in Africa could be one solution for the then 100,000+ freed American slaves.

The motives, though, were both altruistic laudatory and racist.

• Some freed slaves and their descendants, and white abolitionists believed that life there would be more free and egalitarian then what would be possible in the United States.

• On the other hand, slaveholders did not want freed slaves around, as that could foment rebellion; and so often also supported the concept.

* And many whites, although finding slavery distasteful, did not want to associate with blacks. But supporting a noble concept to repatriate the freed slaves would be quite socially acceptable.

So in 1816, the American Colonization Society was founded to return free Blacks to Africa, where, by presumption, they would enjoy greater freedom.

Many prominent politicians, including Henry Clay, and James Monroe (whom the Capital of Liberia-Monrovia- was named) supported and promoted the society. Even Abraham Lincoln was generally in favor, but later changed his mind. Lincoln's biographer Stephen B. Oates noted that Lincoln thought it was immoral to ask black solders to fight for the Union, then remove them to Africa after their military service.

The freed American Blacks, some 3000 in the early years, and called Americo-Liberians, did indeed found a country in 1847, with governance modeled after the U.S. constitution. Ironically, they did not associate with the natives: and the natives rejected them also. At least nine insurrections had to be put down between 1856-1920.

Monrovia in the 19th century
The Americo-Liberians, never constituting more than 5% of the total population, literally governed Liberia from 1847-1980, when a bloody coup d'état occurred.

So what about the stamp issues?


If one was putting together a business plan during the classical era years to attract the most stamp collectors, what would one do?

• Put African safari animals, natives doing handicrafts, native abodes, and wild pictorial scenes on the stamps.
• Engrave them, and make many bi-colored in bright contrasting hues.
• Use the finest stamp printing firms and designers from London, Berlin, and New York for the stamp production.

You have Liberia. ;-)

Liberia's first stamp issue was in 1860 (representing "Liberia"), but the first bi-colored set came out in 1892. This was followed by long exotic sets produced in 1897, 1906, 1909, 1918, 1921, and 1923.

Then one almost doubles the production by the often different colored Official issue stamps. Finally, one has the many overprinted issues with a generous supply of errors and misprints.

Since there are many attractive stamps to review, I will publish two Liberian posts: the first covering 1860-1914, and the next covering 1915-1940.

Let's begin. 
1896 Scott 42 20c vermilion "Coat of Arms"
"The love of Liberty brought us here"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic catalogue, from 1860-1914, has 134 regular, 14 registration, 9 postage due, and 74 official, for a total of 231 major stamp descriptions. Of those, 127 are CV <$1-$2+ ( 55%). Clearly, there are many stamps available for the frugal WW classical collector.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Cents = 1 Dollar
1880 Scott 18 6c violet "Liberia"
The first nine stamps issued between 1860-1869 with the "Liberia" portrait are all rather expensive, with the cheapest CV $25. They vary in color, paper and outer frame line. Consult Scott for details as I don't have any. ;-)

The 1880 issue (illustrated above) are in new colors, have an outer frame line, and consist of 5 stamps. They all have a modest CV of $5. Scott states "counterfeits exist" without giving details.

1882 Scott 22 8c blue ; 1889 Scott 32 8c blue
The openings in the figure "8" have different patterns
In 1882, a two stamp set was issued with the denominations 8 cents and 16 cents. Note the 8c cent stamp from the issue above has slanted lines inside the "8".

Then in 1889, another 8 cent stamp was issued, this time with a network pattern inside the "8". Enlarge if necessary.

1885 Scott 24 1c carmine, on medium paper
1892 Scott 27 4c brown, on thin paper
In 1885, an 8 stamp issue was produced on "medium" paper, and perforations 11 1/2 X 10 1/2, 10 1/2. All but the highest denomination had a numeral design.

Then in 1892, the issue was reprinted, this time on thin paper, and perforations 11, 12, 14 1/2. Scott does not break out the reprints, or give them a minor number, but the Steiner album has spaces for both issues. Because of the differences in paper thickness and perforations, it is quite easy to separate them out. CV is $2 for 5 stamps.

1885 Scott 31 32c deep blue 
"From Arms of Liberia"
The highest denomination of the issue has this interesting "Coat of Arms" motif.

1892-96 Scott Scott 45 4c green & black "Elephant"
Now we are getting into the interesting designs! The 1892-96 issue has 17 stamps, with several featuring the large safari animals of Africa.

1892 Official Scott O2 2c blue "Liberian Star"
The 1892 issue is also found as an Official stamp with the small "official" overprint. This stamp shows the Liberian star design.

1896 Scott 40 15c slate 
"Vai Woman in Full Dress"
Another 1892-96 issue stamp has a native featured as illustrated. The Vai people are found predominately in Liberia. Despite the appearance of a native on this 1896 stamp, indigenous people were excluded from citizenship until 1904.

1896 Scott 44 25c yellow green "Liberian Star"
Several of the 1892-96 issue has this finely engraved design. The issue was  engraved  by Waterlow & Sons Ltd. on paper watermarked with a "rosette".

1892-96 Scott 47 $1 ultramarine & black "Hippopotamus"
Who can't resist a stamp like this? ;-)  If one was interested in a topical collection, this would inspire!

1892 Official Scott O12 $5 carmine & black
"President Johnson"
The Official stamp version of the $5 denomination is overprinted "official" in red -somewhat hard to see. President Johnson, an Americo-Liberian descendant, was the first president born in Africa.

1893 Scott 50 5c on 6c blue green
The first surcharge for Liberia was issued in 1893, and used the 1892 6c blue green "Oil Palm". This surcharge printing has a number of minor catalogue numbers because of mistakes. Over the succeeding years, there would be many more surcharges- and mistakes. ;-)

1897 Scott 64 3c red & green  "Inland Postage"
Scott 64a- Has 10 pearls above "Republic Liberia", rather than 13
The 1897 "Inland Postage" illustrated above comes in two flavors. The Scott 64 has 13 pearls above "Republic Liberia". The second stamp (Scott 64a) has only 10 pearls. The Scott 64a was actually a reprint, never issued. "Used" copies, as the one above, are CTO.

1894 Official Scott O26 5c violet & green, overprinted
"Commerce", Globe and Krumen natives
In 1894, a triangular stamp, both imperforate and rouletted, and as a regular and an official type (but in a different color) was issued. This is the first triangular shaped stamp for Liberia, followed by others. Liberia knew what appealed to stamp collectors....and, well, capitalized. ;-)

1898-1905 Scott O28 1c lilac rose "Oil Palm"
1900 Scott 55 1c deep green 
1897 was the date of a new design issue for Liberia, and to do double duty as officials, they were also overprinted as illustrated. (Of interest, Scott says the officials were overprinted in black or red. This definitely looks like a blue overprint though.)

1900 Official Scott O32 orange red & black "Hippopotamus"
The designs had some more pleasing large animal portraits. And each animal design was printed in several different color combinations.

The 1898-1905 Official issue had 15 stamps, with a CV of <$1-$3+. Actually, the higher denominations also used the regular stamps from the 1892-96 issue.

1905 Scott 59 2c rose & black "Hippopotamus"
This post shows three "Hippopotamus" design stamps with different colors. Here's the third one. Liberia was producing six stamps if one includes officials out of this design. Why not? What's not to like? ;-)

The regular 1897-1905 issue had 10 stamps with a CV of <$1-$5.

1905 Official Scott O36 5c ultramarine & black  "Elephant"
The "Elephant" design had six 5c denomination stamps ( if one includes the official issue) with three color combinations. Exploitative, yes, but oh the design!

1902 Scott 91 75c on $1, surcharged in carmine
Can't get enough Hippopatomi? Here's a 1902 surcharged stamp with CV >$10. And actually, the overprinted official stamps (two of them) of this design, which were then surcharged as above, are CV $2000+. !
1903 Scott 94 3c black "Liberty"
1903 Official Scott O43 3c green, overprinted
The 1903 "Lady Liberty" was printed in black, as illustrated. Then the official stamp was printed in green and had an overprint. The overprint exists in either "red" or "orange red". This stamp must be the latter.

1903 Scott 96 15c on 24c olive green/yellow
Stamps of 1892 surcharged in blue
Three stamps of the 1892 issue were surcharged in 1903. CV is $3-$6+.

1904 Scott 99 2c on 4c green & black 
Three more stamps were surcharged in 1904. I picked this one to illustrate, so the post can show all three of the color combinations of this "elephant" design. ;-)

1906 Scott 101 1c green & black "Elephant"
Knowing a good thing when they had it, Liberia produced another issue in 1906 with 13 stamps. Leading off was....the elephant. ;-)

1906 Official Scott O48 5c ultramarine & black "Chimpanzee"
Overprinted in various colors
An official issue was also produced with an overprinted as shown. CV for the 13 official stamps is <$1 for every stamp. The "Chimpanzee" design had to be popular.

1906 Official Scott O49 10c dull violet & black , overprinted
"Great Blue Touraco" 
The official issue, although using the designs of the regular 1906 issue, were mostly in their own unique colors, in addition to the overprint.

Great Blue Touraco
Too bad the stamp couldn't have also printed the Great Blue Touraco in its native colors. ;-)

1906 Scott 105 15c purple & deep green "Agama"
Insect eating lizards were illustrated also- here the "Agama". Fascinating.

1906 Scott 106 20c orange & black "Egret"
The egret - there are various kinds, nor sure which kind- was featured on the 20c denomination.

 1906 Official Scott O55 ultramarine & black, overprinted
"Pigmy Hippopotamus"
The Pigmy Hippo, nocturnal, and reclusive, is found mostly in Liberia. There are fewer than 3,000 in the wild today because of loss of habitat.

1909 Scott 114 3c on 10c red brown & black, surcharged
The regular colored issue was surcharged in 1909 for inland use. Compare this stamp to the official stamp shown earlier.

1909-12 Official Scott O63 15c claret & black
Overprinted in blue, "Vai Woman spinning Cotton"
Between 1909-12, an 11 regular stamp issue was produced, and an 11 official stamp issue was likewise produced. Besides being overprinted, most of the official issue is also in a different color combination.

1909-12 Official Scott O64 20c bister & green
"Blossom and Fruit of Pepper Plants"
Recall that Liberia was called the "Pepper Coast" by the Portuguese. Of the 11 stamp official issue, all are CV <$1.

1909-12 Scott 123 50c green & black
"Men in Canoe"
The 11 stamp regular issue has a CV of <$1 for all members.

1909-12 Official Scott O68 75c purple & black
"Liberian Village"
The highest denomination of the issue shows a "native" Liberian settlement. But the truth is the Americo-Liberian population that ruled Liberia were housed in domiciles more like this...

Old Liberian Executive Mansion
The Americo-Liberians were used to the architecture of the antebellum south, and so built similar habitations.

 1914 Scott 131 2c on 25c brown & black 
"Circular House"
In 1914, five stamps of the pictorial issues of 1906 and 1909 were surcharged in black, and there were four additional stamps surcharged for the officials. An example is shown above. CV is $3+ for the regular issues, and CV $5+-$10+ for the official issues.

1894 Registration Scott F9 10c rose/blue (Robertsport)
A category not often seen, but Liberia has, are the Registration stamps. They are, one would think, for registered mail that requires special handling. The four 1894 stamps are for different towns or areas. The CV is $5. The earlier black colored registration stamps of 1893 can have a very high CV- up to $4,000+!

1903 Registration Scott F12 10c green & black (Harper)
"President Garretson W. Gibson"
The five issued 1903 registration stamps are all inexpensive, with CV <$1. President Gibson was born in Maryland, and his family emigrated in 1835. He returned to Maryland to study, and was a rector in the Episcopalian Trinity Church in Monrovia. He was also Justice of the Peace, Secretary of Interior, and Secretary of State. He was the last president of Liberia to have been born in the United States.

1892 Postage Due Scott J2 6c on 6c olive gray
1885 regular issue, surcharged
The only postage due issues for Liberia during the classical era were produced in 1892 and 1893. Illustrated above is one of the two stamp surcharged issue for 1892. CV is $4-$10+.

1893 Postage Due Scott J7 10c green/lilac rose
A seven stamp postage due issue was produced in 1893, and that proved to be the last one for the classical era. The design is as above. CV is $1-$3. Sorry for the crooked specimen, but the "straightening tool" didn't work in this case. ;-)

Deep Blue
Some of the spaces for the Official 1898-1905 issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 23 pages for the 1860-1914 era covered by this post. The Steiner does follow the Scott catalogue, so no difficulty putting in the stamps. What is curious, though, is the earlier issues (1860-1896) sometimes will have different color descriptions than those in the current Scott catalogue. For instance the 1880 Scott 18 6c "Liberia" is "dull purple" in Steiner, but "violet" in Scott. True, Steiner does not always follow Scott's color descriptions, especially for the British Commonwealth countries where Stanley Gibbons color descriptions are sometimes substituted. But I'm not sure at this time where the different color descriptions for Liberia were derived. 

1894 Scott 52 5c carmine & black 
"Commerce", Globe and Krumen natives
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on two pages, has 52 spaces for the regular stamps of Liberia during the time period covered by this post. The specific coverage is for 1880-1913. There is no postage due coverage, and no coverage of registration stamps during this time period.

More importantly, there are no spaces for official stamps, a very important part of Liberia's output. 

Perhaps BB editors expected that the overprinted officials could go in the "regular" spaces? And recall, there are a not insignificant number of official stamps that have a different color compared to the regular issue.

A major fail.  :-(

Overall coverage for this time period (1860-1914) is 23%. If one excludes official stamps (74), then the coverage is 33%.

A look at an older edition- specifically the 1941- tells a different story.

There, an 1893 postage due stamp space, and  five 1903 registration stamp spaces are included.  More importantly, there are two pages of spaces for Official stamps. Of those, there are 24 official stamp spaces available for the era covered by this post.

Clearly, the Official category- two pages (One full page-front and back) was eliminated by the '69 editors.

But, for the purposes of the checklist, I will "put back" those spaces of official stamps that were included in the '41/'43/'47 editions.

Observations (Covers the 1860-1914 era)
• Only one stamp for Liberia in BB crosses the $10 CV barrier- and just.
• I found 36 additional stamps (CV <$1-$1+) for regular and official (in addition to the '41/'43/'47 edition inclusions) that are not in BB: specifically 9 regular and 27 official stamps.
• In view of the fact that Officials are not included in the '69, and there are 36 more stamps that are quite inexpensive, several supplementary pages might be advised.

(Covers up to 1914)




33,34,35,36,52 or 53,




Next Page







End of Page

(The following are not in the '69, but are in the '41/'43/'47 editions)

Registration Stamps

Postage Due







A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1881 Scott 21 3c black ($10)
B) (  ) around a number indicates a blank space choice
C) *57,60- were issued in 1896 (actually 1897), which is the date BB specifies. True, there where same design stamps with different colors issued in 1900 and 1905, but I elected not to include them in these spaces because of date. And 58 and 61 are given spaces later in BB.

1898 Scott O34 5c lake & black "Elephant"
Out of the Blue
If one isn't attracted to the classic Liberian issues, well, then I can't help you. ;-)

Note: map, photos appear to be in the public domain.

Liberia - Bud's Big Blue

I would love a comment!


  1. It almost sounds at times as if taking pages from an old earlier edition of the Big Blue or International Junior (used copies available on Ebay) to add to the later edition would solve a few problems. Here, the earlier "Officials" pages in the earlier 1940s editions are back to back and could easily be removed from one and added to the other. Or add a blank page for the Officials and others. But yes, their removal hurts the logic of the Liberia stamps which used so many Officials. It would be like dropping the Air Mail pages from some of the Central American countries which used them so often or the Semi-postals from Belgium. Done to streamline the album and for the sake of keeping it to one volume for as long as possible, I assume.

    As for Liberia the country, what a strange place. It had foreigners "re" settling a region they had never lived in before and, in turn, ruling over the native population while speaking English and living as much as possible like the Americans they really were. It made little to no sense, but made many American feel better, as you say.

  2. Thanks Drew for the comments

    If Scott-Amos had the energy and interest, they would take the presently flawed BB and do a major upgrade for the WW classical era collector. We can all wish... ;-)

  3. In re O28, the official oil palm that you think might have a blue overprint, Yvert says that the 1c, 5c and 50c have blue overprints. I'd go with your gut, and Yvert, over Scott.


  4. Cjd- Thanks! I guess I am not colorblind after all. ;-)

  5. The '97 puts 1914-1937 back in: page one - 1914-1921 (23 spaces), page two - 1923-1940 (19 spaces), and page three - 1928-1937 (18 spaces, adding up to 60 spaces). The layout is exactly the same as the earlier editions. Unlike the earlier edition, Semi-Postals have their own page (7 spaces), as does Air Post (10 spaces). Registration has its own page, but is bumped up from 5 spaces to 15 spaces. The Postage Due slot is gone, as are the Officials. For my own collection I cannibalized the Official pages from an older album, but I don't count them in my tally, of course. It's just nice to have a place to put the stamps!

  6. Hello, been a while. However I aquired a nice liberia collection on scott international pages. The older pages are really flimsy and toned. It's not unusal for me to add a few blank pages to many country's. Libera is a good example.if I had the old official Libera pages (which I don't 😧) I would have them scanned and printed on new better pages. (Likly a copyright issue ) Regards David

    1. David - congrats on the nice Liberia collection - one of my favorite countries. Hopefully, you can end up with a nice presentation.

  7. Hello, Talk about karma! I bought a small liberia stamp collection. It arrived on international pages and the last page was officials! Plus a space for one postage due and five regeration stamps on an other page! I'm pleased and will upgrade the pages for my international collection.