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, May 23, 2014

New Hebrides

French 1925 Scott 52 1fr (10p) carmine/blue
"Native Idols"
Quick History
The New Hebrides islands (now the nation of Vanuatu) are located in the South Pacific 300 miles (500 kilometers) north of New Caledonia. The islands were colonized by both the British and French in the 18th century, and mirabile dictu, rather than fighting over the colonial spoils, an Anglo-French condominium was formed in 1906.

New Hebrides (Vanuatu) in the South Pacific
What the Condominium meant practically is that two separate communities- the British and the French- existed on the islands with their own language and schools.
New Hebrides (Vanuatu)
And the stamp issues have an interesting twist. 

Initially, from 1908-1910, overprinted Fiji and New Caledonia stamps were used by the respective British and French communities. But, beginning in 1911, a joint issue was produced with the Coat of Arms design of both countries placed on either side of a "Native idols" central design. More joint issues were produced in 1925, 1938, and 1953.

The Condominium continued until 1980, when Vanuatu became independent ( although, even now, the French and the English communities maintain their own traditions and language).

The Capital is Vila ( Port-Vila), and the population was ~45,000 in 1940.

British 1910 Scott 16 1sh black/green
Stamps of Fiji, Overprinted in Black or Red
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized catalogue has, for British New Hebrides 1908-1953, 88 major stamp descriptions. For French New Hebrides 1908-1938, there are 76 descriptions. Total = 164.

Of those, 25 of the British and 18 of the French stamps are CV <$1-$1+, or  26% total. Raising the bar to CV $3+, yields 33 more stamps. Overall, New Hebrides is somewhat more expensive befitting a  British or French colonial  territory.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
100 Centimes = 1 Franc

We will review the British and French issues separately.

British New Hebrides
British 1908 Scott 5 6p violet & carmine rose
Stamps of Fiji, 1903-06, Overprinted, wmk 2
In 1908-09, stamps of Fiji 1903-06 were overprinted as shown. The first six stamps have the British Colonial watermark "Crown  and C A" (wmk 2).

British 1908 Scott 7 1/2p gray green
Stamps of Fiji, 1903-06, Overprinted
Wmk Multiple Crown and C A ( wmk 3)
Three stamps of the 1908-09 issue are on British Colonial wmk 3 paper. (If you need to refresh the memory about Colonial watermarks, see the Gibraltar post.)

Of the nine stamps total in the 1908-09 issue, six are CV <$1-$4+.

British 1910 Scott 13 2 1/2p ultramarine
Stamps of Fiji, 1904-11, overprinted in black or red
In 1910, seven stamps of Fiji 1904-11 were overprinted in black or red as shown. Five stamps are CV <$1-$4+. Interestingly, according to the Scott catalogue, the 1910 Scott 16 1sh black/green red overprinted specimen of New Hebrides (shown at the beginning of the "Into the Deep Blue" section above) was not released in Fiji (without overprint) until 1911. ;-)

British 1921 Scott 30 2p on 40c red/yellow 
On French 1911 Scott 16
In 1911, a joint issue was released. The British issue (10 stamps) naturally was scripted in English ("New Hebrides"), and had pence/shilling denominations. In addition, the "GR" for the UK was on the right side of the stamp, while the "RF" for France was on the left side. (I'm not showing an example of the issue here, but the differences between the joint issues should become clearer as the blog post is read.)

What I am illustrating here is what happened eventually- they ran out of certain stamp denominations after about 10 years of use, so had to surcharge remaining stamps.

In this case- in 1921- the British surcharged a French joint issue stamp for use in the English sector. Note the stamp has French script "Nouvelles Hebrides", the "GR" and "RF" are in reverse positions, and the denomination was originally in Centimes.

Of interest, the original French issue of 1911 can be found either with British Colonial wmk 3 " Crown and Multiple C A" (As the example above), or with a French watermark- "Wmk R F in Sheet". (Actually, only about 1/4 of the stamps in a sheet show the large double lined "R F" capitals: the rest show no watermark at all.) (I hope this will become clearer as the blog post progresses.)

British 1924 Scott 40 3p on 1p rose red, wmk 4
Stamps of 1911-21 surcharged with new values as in 1920-21 issue
For comparison sake, here is an original 1911 British joint issue stamp that has been surcharged in 1924. Not all the characteristics of an English joint issue as outlined earlier.

BTW, this stamp is on colonial wmk 4 paper ( "Crown and multiple script C A"), while the other two 1924 surcharged stamps in this issue have watermark 3. ;-)

British 1925 Scott 44 2 1/2p (25c) brown "Native Idols"
In 1925, a new joint issue was produced: this time with both British and French denominations placed on the stamp. The British issue had nine stamps, while the French issue had eleven stamps.One could either buy a stamp with British or French funds.

For the British issue, seven stamps are CV $1+-$4.

British 1953 Scott 75 2fr red violet
"Island Couple"
The Scott Classic Specialized catalogue lists "British Commonwealth" stamps until 1952- or, in this case, until 1953. This is another joint issue with a French equivalent (although the Scott Classic catalogue only lists New Hebrides French stamps until 1938).

At any rate, the eleven stamp issue has three designs featuring local scenes: here, an "Island Couple". CV is <$1 for eight stamps.
British Postage Due 1925 Scott J2 2p (20c) gray
Type of 1925 Overprinted
Besides regular issues, both the British and the French overprinted regular issues for use as postage due.

In 1925, five 1925 regular issue stamps were overprinted as shown. 

French New Hebrides
French 1908 Scott 1 5c green
Stamps of New Caledonia, 1905
Overprinted in Black or Red
In 1908, the French used their colony of New Caledonia as a source of stamps for New Hebrides. Five stamps were overprinted as illustrated.

French 1908 Scott 5 1fr blue/yellow green
Stamps of New Caledonia, 1905,
Overprinted in Black or Red
Another example of the 1908 five stamp overprinted issue is shown above. CV ranges from $3+-$10+ for the issue.
French 1910 Scott 7 10c rose
Stamps of 1908 with additional overprint
In 1910, the five stamp issue of 1908 had an additional overprint applied: namely "condominium". CV is $1+-$10+.
French 1911 Scott 18 75c brown orange 
 Wmk 3, "Native Idols"
In 1911, as previously discussed, a joint British and French issue was produced.

But the French issue is found with two watermarks; each a major catalogue number. Eleven stamps of French design can be found on British Colonial watermark 3 paper, as the example above. Yes, a "French" stamp with the "British Crown" watermarked on the paper. ;-) CV ranges from <$1-$4 for eight stamps.

French 1912 Scott 23 10c red "Native Idols"
Wmk R F in Sheet
The other watermark found for the French 1911-12 joint issue is the "Wmk R F in Sheet"- actually on only about 1/4 of the stamps; the other stamps have no watermark at all. This eleven stamps issue has a CV of $1+-$2+ for five stamps.
 2011-12 French Joint Issue "Native idol"
Top: Wmk British Colonial 3 " Crown and Multiple C A"
Bottom: Wmk R F in Sheet
The watermarks for the French 1911-12 joint issue is shown here. Remember that the "Wmk R F in Sheet" will only appear on about 1/4 of the stamps in the sheet: the other stamps will have no watermark at all.

French 1920 Scott 34 10c on 25c blue/greenish
French New Hebrides 1910 Scott 8  surcharged
As mentioned earlier, by 1920 the Condominium was running out of the more popular stamp denominations, which required surcharging of previous issues. Here a 10c surcharge was applied to a 1910 stamp.

French 1925 Scott 53 2fr (1sh 8p) gray violet
Wmk R F in Sheet
In 1925, another issue was released in a joint format- this time with both British and French denominations listed on the stamp. Here is the French version. The eleven stamps have a CV ranging from <$1-$7.

French 1938 Scott 56 10c dark orange "Beach Scene"
In 1938, another British and French joint issue with a "Beach Scene" was released. The British issue had 12 stamps and the French issue had 12 stamps also. But by 1938, the French franc had declined relative to British currency, so a currency of "gold francs" was used for both issues.

Deep Blue
1925 French New Hebrides Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 16 pages for New Hebrides, and provides spaces for all the major numbers found in the Scott Classic Specialized catalogue.

British 1925 Scott 41 1/2p (5c) black "Native idols"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69 has two pages and 47 spaces for New Hebrides. Coverage is 29%.

BB's layout provides spaces for the French variant, then the British type- back and forth. The French spaces number 29, while the British spaces are 18.

Unfortunately, BB provides no spaces for the earlier 1908-1910 British overprinted Fiji issues. I'm not sure of the reason, as they have approximately the same value as the French overprinted New Caledonia issues- which are given a space.

There are no stamps with CV $10 or higher.


1908-10 (French)

1911 (British)

1925 (British)

1911 (French)*
11 or 22, 12 or 23,
13 or 24, 14 or 25, 15 or 26, 16 or 27,

1925 (French)

Next Page

1938 (British)

1938 (French)


A) Expensive Stamps ($10 threshold):  None
B) (  ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) * 1911 (French)- choices are British Colonial wmk 3 vs French wmk R F in sheet
French 1910 Scott 9 50c carmine/orange
Stamps of 1908 with additional overprint
Out of the Blue
An interesting experiment in governing a country. It required three governments: one British, one French, and one joint administration. Fortunately, the joint administration was responsible for the postal service.

One could decide if one wanted to be under the British common law or the French civil law.  There was also a Native Court to handle cases under Melanesian customary law. And the Judge of the Native Court was appointed by neither the British or the French..... but rather by the King of Spain. !  

Note: Maps appear to be in the public domain.

I like comments!


  1. For some additional information on the final inglorious days of European colonial rule in Vanuatu/New Hebrides, see

    You can't make this stuff up. I happened upon this column searching for information about why the King of Spain had the authority to name the presiding judge of the Native Court. From what little websurfing I was able to do, it appears that no one really knows or at least no one is willing to admit that he knows.


    1. The answer lies in the formation of the condominium whereby in the articles agreed by both the French & British, the King of Spain was appointed as a "third umpire" as it were and it remained that way.

      Both the British (Australian) & French settlers had come by land in New Hebrides under dubious circumstances. A court to hear disputes over land issues was part of the condominium arrangements. Naturally there had to be an independent arbitrator because the English feared the French would simply validate French claims & vise versa. Almost as an after thought the natives were given some ability to lodge a complaint.
      These disputes did not last for years; they lasted for-ever.
      In any event the King of Spain agreed to be the third umpire and it remained that way.

    2. Thanks Jeff for the explanation. The French and the English are like oil and water.....

  2. LOL

    One of the best reads I've had in a long time.

    Thanks Dennis. ;-)

  3. I understand the idea of a neutral presiding judge; I was just curious as to "why Spain" rather than one of the other European monarchs. Yes, there's the Spanish 17thc "discovery." I suppose that's the reason. I was hoping at least to find confirmation of that hunch when I went surfing but most of the histories I found simply repeated the fact with no explanation. But in the process I learned about the John Frum cargo cult, so it was worth the time spent surfing.


  4. Great discussion, Jim. Apparently the reasons for the King of Spain's involvement are obscure. Interestingly, though, the Dutch were also involved, making is a truly international court, at least in the European sense. There was a Dutch registrar and a Dutch advocate for the natives. Further, when the King of Spain could find no one suitable to be the court's president, the Dutch were asked to nominate someone. I'm doubtful that the indigenous fared better as the result.

  5. Thanks Bud and Dennis for the additional comments. It gets more interesting all the time. ;-)