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, October 17, 2014


1892 Scott 23 2c on 15c blue 
Stamps of French Colonies
 Handstamped with additional Surcharge
Quick History
Obock was a French seaport on the Gulf of Aden in eastern Africa, and across from the British port of Aden. It was the first French settlement (colony) in the region through a treaty with the local Afar Sultans in 1862. These agreements were strengthened between 1883 and 1887.

Obock, 1896
All of the lands north of the Gulf of Tadjoura were known as Obock. By 1885, there were 800 inhabitants in Obock. 

The reason for the settlement? The French wanted their own coaling station for steamships (the Suez Canal had opened in 1869), as they did not want to rely solely on the British Aden coaling station.

Stamps were issued beginning in 1892, and consisted of French Colonies stamps that were handstamped "Obock". Stamp issues continued until 1894.

Djibouti, Obock, and the Somali Coast (French Somaliland), 1922
Then the port of Djibouti on the south side of the Gulf of Tadjoura was established in 1888, and provided a safer haven. The French protectorate- "Cote francaise des Somalis" (French Somaliland) was established in Djibouti in 1894, and the administrative capital was moved from Obock. The port of Obock was included in the new French Somaliland, and began to use the stamps of the "Somali Coast" in 1901.

The population subsequently declined to about 500 in 1911. So ends the glory days of Obock.

1892 Scott 36 10c black/lavender
"Navigation and Commerce"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Obock 1892-1894, 83 major descriptive numbers for the regular and postage due categories. Of those, only 5 (6%) are CV $1+. If one raises the CV bar to $20, then 35 ( 42%) qualify. Clearly, Obock's stamps are fairly expensive.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Centimes = 1 Franc
1892 Scott 4 5c green/greenish 
Stamps of French Colonies
Handstamped in Black
The initial eleven stamp issue in 1892 consisted of the stamps of the French Colonies handstamped in black as shown. Four stamps have a CV of $20+.

1892 Scott 12 4c claret/lavender
Stamps of French Colonies
Handstamped in Black
There was another handstamped issue of nine stamps produced in 1892 as illustrated here. Note the "Obock" postmark. Five stamps are CV $10+.

1892 Scott 21 1c on 25c black/rose
Stamps of French Colonies
 Handstamped with additional Red Surcharge
Four of the preceding 1892 handstamped stamps were surcharged in various denominations and colors (red, blue, or black) to provide an additional eleven stamp issue in 1892.

1892 Scott 24 4c on 15c blue
Stamps of French Colonies
 Handstamped with additional Black Surcharge
The surcharged issue has a CV of $10+ for five stamps.

1892 Scott 40 30c brown/bister
"Navigation and Commerce"
1892 was a very productive year for Obock (stamp wise), as the fourth issue consisted of the familiar "Navigation and Commerce" stamps. "Obock" was printed on the stamps in red or blue, and the thirteen stamp set has a CV of $1+-$3+ for five stamps.

1894 Scott 53 25c black & blue "Somali Warriors"
A 1894 issue of 18 stamps- 13 with the "Somali Warriors" design (shown above), 5 with the triangular "Camel Scene" design ( not shown)- is interesting indeed. It is imperforate with "fake" perforations. ;-)

1894 "Somali Warriors" Issue
Quadrille Lines printed on Paper
The back of the stamps have quadrille lines. Twelve of the stamps in the issue have a CV ranging from $1+-$9

BTW, there were three surcharges produced in 1902, but they are listed with the stamps of the Somali Coast..

Deep Blue
1892 Handstamped & Surcharged Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has five pages for Obock. and includes a space for every Scott major number.

1892 Scott 15 15c blue
Stamps of French Colonies
Handstamped in Black
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on two lines of one page, has 12 spaces for the stamps of Obock. Coverage is 15%. Considering the expensive nature of Obock stamps, the limited coverage is probably justifiable.

Obock in Big Blue
The Obock section shares a page with  "Nyassa" and "Prussia" in the '69 edition. The earlier 40s editions have Obock on the last page of the "Nyasaland Protectorate" section. The coverage appears to be the same for all editions.

Of note, "Obock" is not included in the Table of Countries in the '69 edition.

The coverage includes three spaces for the 1892 handstamped French Colonies stamps: the type illustrated and heading the "Big Blue" section above. All three of these stamps are CV $10+.


12,13,(14), 32,33,34,35,(36),



A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1892 Scott 12 4c claret/lavender ($10+)
1892 Scott 13 5c green/greenish ($10+)
1892 Scott (14) 10c black/lavender ($10+)
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.

1892 Scott 43 75c violet/orange
"Navigation and Commerce"
Out of the Blue
The little town of Obock now has about 20,000 population, a  blip on the world scene. But in the philatelic sphere, it will be remembered and even cherished.

Note: Maps appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?
Obock Today


  1. Obock is one of those French colonies that I have tended to avoid because there are a lot of forged overprints/surcharges (a problem that most French colonial overprints from the pre-Commerce & Navigation era seem to have in abundance). What approach do you take with these overprints, just hope for the best, get them expertized? DJCMHOH

  2. Good question DJCMHOH

    Forged overprints/surcharges are beyond my ken.

    I think that is a very good reason to join a Specialty society, to have access to their literature and overprint/surcharge forgery experts.

    But I just muddle along, hoping for the best.

  3. Thanks for this article Jim.

    As always it's a joy to read - so well researched, well written and great pics to top it all off.

    I have to admit that my knowledge of Obock as a place and as an issuer of stamps had been zero before I read this. Always great to gain a bit more philatelic (and geographic) knowledge!


  4. Peter-
    Likewise your Rainy Day Stamps website is delightful to read- one of my favorites!


  5. Jim,

    I noticed one of your "Obock" overprints is curved. Is that unusual? How would it become curved?

    1. Hi Chris

      These are hand stamped on the stamp, and the Scott catalogue shows the hand stamp for these issues (Scott 1-11, J1-J4) is "curved". ;-)