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...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Orange Free State & Orange River Colony

Orange Free State
1894 1p violet "Orange Tree"
Quick History
The Orange Free State (Oranje-Vrijstaat), founded by Dutch (Boer) settlers in 1854, was located between the Orange and Vall rivers in southern Africa. The Orange river, by the way, was named for the House of Orange, the ruling Dutch royal family.

Orange Free State circa 1900
The Capital was Bloemfontein, the population was 100,000 in 1875, and the official language was Dutch.

The Boers, some 3000 strong, had initially left the Cape Colony area on "The Great Trek" to try to escape from British administration. They originally settled in Natal, but the British had then extended their reach there also. So they again moved in 1843 north to the lands that would become the Orange Free State.

Orange Free State "Coat of Arms"
The Xhosa and Zulu tribes were not pleased with the newcomers, but the Boers had superior firepower. Eventually, the British recognized the sovereignty of the Orange Free State in 1854.

Stamps were introduced for the Republic in 1868.

Diamond and Gold discoveries would make Transvaal, and to a lesser extent the Orange Free State, much more wealthy and financially secure. The Cape Colony and Cecil Rhodes began a concerted effort to annex the Boer Republics. 

The hard fought and bloody Second Boer War (1899-1902) lead to a British victory and the annexation of both independent Boer Republics. (This is fascinating history, but this is a stamp blog, so I will reluctantly stop here.)

British Cape Colony (blue), Natal (red)
South African Republic / Transvaal (green), Orange Free State (orange)
British Occupation stamps were created in 1900 by overprinting on the Orange Free State issues "V.R.I." ( Victoria Regina et Imperatrix), and surcharging them.

Also, in 1900, Cape of Good Hope stamps were overprinted "Orange River Colony".

Between 1903-08, Orange River Colony "King Edward VII" stamps were issued. 

In June, 1910, the Orange River Colony was joined with Cape of good Hope, Natal, and Transvaal to form the Union of South Africa. "Orange River Colony" stamp production then ceased.

Orange River Colony
1900-01 Scott 44j 1/2p on 1/2p orange
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Orange Free State & Orange River Colony 1868-1908, 76 major descriptive numbers. Of those, 28 are CV <$1-$1+, or 37%. Delightfully, many stamps of Orange Free State/ Orange River Colony are affordable for the WW classic era collector.

In addition, there are many Scott minor numbers listed, primarily for overprint errors. Although these errors are of interest to the specialist, the WW collector may find some in his/her own collection too.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
Orange Free State Pound
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
Orange Free State
1868 Scott 3 1p red brown "Orange Tree"
The first (and only) design for Orange Free State stamps was used between 1868-1900, and is found on twelve major issue stamps. Nine stamps are quite inexpensive  @ CV <$1-$2+. There are minor numbers for color variations.

Orange Free State
1894 1p violet "Orange Tree"
This 1p violet has a nice postmark from the capital, "Bloemfontein". I can imagine this issue would be an interesting specialization.

Orange Free State
1891 Scott 29 1p on 3p ultramarine
The rest of the Orange Free State era stamps- some 32 major descriptive numbers issued between 1877-1897- are all of the surcharged variety. Their CV tends to be fairly expensive ($10+- $50+), so I don;t have many.

But I do have this 1891 example with CV <$1.

1896 Scott 42 1/2p on 3p ultramarine
Another inexpensive example from 1896. As one can imagine, there are also a tidy group of minor numbers with surcharge printing variants.

Orange River Colony
1900-01 Scott 46e 2p on 2p violet
Arriving at the beginning of the British occupation, the "V.R.I." overprint comes in two major types. The March-April 1900 issue ( 12 stamps- major numbers) has the periods in "V.R.I." level with the bottom of the letters. CV ranges from <$1- $4 for seven stamps.

The 1900-01 "V.R.I." overprint ( 11 stamps- minor numbers) has the periods raised above the bottom of the letters:  this is illustrated here. CV ranges from very inexpensive (<$1) to very expensive ( $1,500).

The 1900-01 raised "V.R.I." overprints also have numerous ( minor number) printing variants. One is shown later in the blog post.

It might be advantageous to check one's collection for possibilities.

1902 Scott 56 1p carmine rose
Overprinted on Cape of Good Hope Stamp
The "Orange River Colony" was declared by the British on October 6, 1900, although guerrilla warfare continued until 1902. In 1900 ( two stamps), and in 1902 ( this stamp illustrated) were overprinted as shown on Cape of Good Hope stamps. The CV for the three stamps is <$1.

1902 Scott 57b 4p on 6p on 6p ultramarine
Note inverted "1" on this stamp
In 1902, three stamps were additionally surcharged. This example is interesting, because it shows an example of the numerous printing variants found for the Orange Free State/ Orange River Colony overprinted/surcharged types.

Here, an upside down "1" was substituted for the "I".

1903 Scott 61 1/2p yellow green "Edward VII"
Watermark 2 Issue
The Orange River Colony received their own proper stamps in 1903-04 with the "Edward VII" nine stamp issue. CV is <$1-$2+ for eight stamps.

This issue is characterized by the Colonial Watermark 2, " C A and Crown".

1907-08 Scott 71 1p carmine "Edward VII"
Watermark 3 Issue
A Watermark 3 "Multiple C A and Crown" issue of four stamps was produced in 1907-08. The 1/2p, 1p, 4p, and 1sh denominations can only be differentiated from the earlier 1903-04 issue by checking the watermarks Refer to the Gilbraltar post if a review of the British Colonial watermarks is needed.

In June, 1910, the Orange River Colony was joined with Cape of Good Hope, Natal, and Transvaal to form the Union of South Africa. However, the stamps of the provinces were still valid for postage up to January 1, 1938, when they were demonetized.

Deep Blue
1900-01 surcharged issues under British occupation in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has five pages for the Orange Free State and the British occupation (Orange River Colony), and includes a space for all the major numbers. In addition, the Steiner has eleven spaces for the minor number 1900-01 Issue ( where the periods are raised above the bottom of the letters). Nice!

1900 Scott 54 1/2p green
Overprinted on Cape of Good Hope Stamp
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, has Orange River Colony (Orange Free State) on one page, with 31 spaces. Coverage is 41%. The page is  located between "Oltre Giuba" and "Palestine".

The 40s editions have Orange River Colony located between "Panama" and "Papua". There are only 22 spaces on 2/3 page in those editions.

True-  the '69 editors cut out a number of smaller countries and BOB issues. But, in other cases (such as here), there is better coverage. ;-)


(Orange Free State)

29, (31),


(Orange River Colony)


61 or 70, 62 or 71, 63,64,65,66 or 72, 67, (68 or 73),


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1890 Scott 8 6p carmine rose ($10+)
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) *1900- the illustration in BB shows the major number "V.R.I.", where the periods are level with the bottoms of letters. The minor number variety (1900-01), where the periods are raised above the bottom of the letters, may be put into the spaces also-  but perhaps they are not quite as ideal, considering BB's illustration. ;-)
D) * 1903-08- either wmk 2 or 3 are eligible.

1907 Scott 70 1/2p yellow green "Edward VII"
Watermark 3 Issue
Out of the Blue
The stamps for Orange Free State and Orange River Colony are tangible small pieces of history for a time, era, and place when one of the more horrifying wars that mankind has waged took place. (Neither the Boers nor the British come out looking particularly good IMHO.)

Note: Maps, "Coat of Arms" image, and war image pic all appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?

British Casualties- Battle of Spion Kop-1900


  1. Would the VRI not stand for Victoria Regina Imperatrix? Or did they actually use the masculine forms?? Just curious.


  2. Yes, Victoria would have had the female form.

    Victoria Regina et Imperatrix

    Thanks Dennis!

  3. Just a small typo: "The first (and only) design for Orange Free State stamps was used between 1968-1900" - should be 1868.