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, April 28, 2015

Rio de Oro

1907 Scott 21 4c red "King Alfonso XIII"
Quick History
Rio de Oro, geographically along the Atlantic ocean in the southern portion of Spanish (Western) Sahara in northwest Africa, became a Spanish protectorate in 1884 (Berlin Conference).

Rio de Oro
The capital was Villa Cisnernos, and the population was reported to be 24,000.

The reality is there is no gold there (despite the name), and the landscape is bleak indeed, with essentially no precipitation, although fog is found along the coast.

The small port town of Villa Cisnernos (now Al-Dakhla) had to import drinking water.

Rio de Oro became part of  Spanish (Western) Sahara in 1924
Between 1901-04, Spanish stamps were cancelled "Rio de Oro". Major colonial stamp issues for Rio de Oro proper were released in 1905, 1909, 1919, 1920, and 1922: all with the visage of King Alfonso XIII. Surcharged or overprinted issues can be found for 1907, 1908, 1910, 1911-13, and 1917. I suspect, of the total 149 stamps issued, very few were actually genuinely used.

 The landscape of Rio de Oro
Rio de Oro became part of Spanish (Western) Sahara, along with Saguia el-Hamra, in 1924.

Spain actually held on to the territory until 1975, when it was then split between  Morocco and Mauritania influence. Eventually, Morocco assumed administrative control of most of the territory.

The dispute continues. The United Nations considers the lands to be a "non self-governing territory", and has urged a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi population.

1908 Scott 39 15c on 25c deep green
Issue surcharged in Red, Violet, or Green 
(Color here should be red, but looks maroon to me) 
Into the Deep Blue
The 2011 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Rio de Oro 1905-1922, 149 major numbers. Of those, 69 are CV <$1-$1+, or 46%. Raising the bar to CV $3+ adds 27 more stamps for a total of 96 or 64%. Clearly, Rio de Oro has many inexpensive stamps. And, of interest, Scott values unused higher than used for all stamps, although I suspect genuine used are actually not that common.

As I have found for a number of other Spanish colonies, WW collections, at least in North America, tend to not have many stamps from Rio de Oro. Unpopularity, unavailability, or "Out of sight, out of mind"? I suspect all are factors. If one wishes more "Rio de Oro" stamps, despite their cheap CV prices, one will need to hunt for them.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Centimos = 1 Peseta
1907 1c claret "King Alfonso XIII"
In 1905, a 16 stamp Spanish colonial issue, and in 1907, another 16 Spanish colonial stamp issue (illustrated above) was produced with the visage of King Alfonso XIII. (Actually, all the stamps for Rio de Oro have an Alfonso XIII portrait.)

I notice the issues are identical in denomination and general design with the same issued stamps of 1905 and 1907 Spanish colonial  Fernando Po, except for a change in color. 

Thirteen of the 1907 Rio de Oro issued stamps are CV $2+.

1908 Scott 38 10c on 50c black violet
Handstamp Surcharge in Red
Two stamps in 1907, and again in 1908, were handstamped surcharged as shown.

1908 Scott 41 15c on 1p orange
"Surcharged in Violet"
(Color looks blue to me)
Also, five stamps were handstamped surcharged in 1908  as above in red, violet or green.

These handstamped surcharged stamps all have a higher CV ($20+-$40+ unused) than the 1907 original stamps (CV $9-$16 unused). And my examples don't quite have the right handstamp color listed in Scott. Although my examples may be genuine, the specimens would be easy to create with a fake handstamp. 

And that brings up a general caution about overprinted/surcharged stamps, most especially handstamped ones...

It is quite difficult as a WW generalist to develop the expertise to tell genuine from fake overprinted stamps. (Sure, one may be able to do it for a certain country, but then there is the next country, and the next country....get the point? ;-)

Caveat Emptor

For myself, I don't mind picking up a "representative" collection of overprinted stamps provided I didn't pay much for them. Yes, some could be fake, but many (most) are not worth getting certified because of the modest CV. 

And some WW collectors have chosen to avoid overprinted/surcharged stamps entirely if the overprinted variety have a higher CV than the originals- there are plenty of non overprinted  to collect. 

Back of 1908 Scott 40 15c on 75c orange brown
Control Numbers in Blue
This might be a good time to remind ourselves that Spanish colonial stamps frequently have control numbers printed on the back.  All of the Rio de Oro stamps are in this category.

1909 Scott 49 10c orange red
"Alfonso XIII"
The 1909 issue, shown here, had 13 stamps, and a CV of <$1 for 10 stamps. The same design was used for Spanish Guinea in 1909, and probably reflects the landscape there more than arid Rio de Oro.

1912 Scott 82 4p claret "Alfonso XIII"
The 1912 issue had 13 stamps, and has a general design, seen also with Spanish Guinea. Remarkably, 11 stamps are close to minimum CV.

1914 Scott 90 25c dark blue "Alfonso XIII"
The 1914 issue has 13 stamps with a CV of <$1 for 10 stamps. Not that common in WW collections, though.

1919 Scott 121 30c green "Alfonso XIII"
A 13 stamps issue was released in 1919 with the above design, shared with other colonies. CV is <$1 for 10 stamps. 

1922 Scott 147 30c deep rose "Alfonso XIII"
As Rio de Oro was nearing the end of autonomy as a separate stamp issuing colony, a 13 stamp issue was released in 1922 with "Western Sahara" included on the identification tablet. CV is <$1-$1+ for 11 stamps.

In 1924, the colony was absorbed into Spanish Western Sahara, and Rio de Oro's stamp production ceased.

Deep Blue
1922 Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has seven pages for Rio de Oro, and has a space for all the major Scott numbers.

1909 Scott 51 20c dark violet
"King Alfonso XIII"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on three lines of one page (shared with Quelimane), has 24 spaces for Rio De Oro. Total coverage is only 16%. 

All of the spaces in the BB album for Rio de Oro can be filled with CV <$1 stamps. But BB leaves out another 31 stamps which also have a CV of <$1. This might reflect the unpopularity- or perhaps unavailability- of the obscure Spanish colonies for Scott's (primarily) North American collectors.

The coverage in the 40s editions are the same.

But perhaps we should be grateful for any coverage at all. ;-)


Because the Index, or Table of Contents for Countries in the '69 BB ( and also my '92 BB edition) does NOT include a listing for Rio de Oro, although, as said, one will find the coverage on the same page as Quelimane.









A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None

1919 Scott 123 50c brown
"King Alfonso XIII"
Out of the Blue
A paradox.

Prices are cheap- which implies "common", yet not many examples are found in collections.

Note: Maps and pic appear to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Hello, found one nice lot on ebay. Stamp retail is not cheap. I suspect scott has undervalued Rio de Oro.
    As usual a very useful blog. Kind regards David

    1. My understanding is Spanish colonies are more available in Europe. U.S. sources- not so much.

      Thanks for the nice words David.