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, November 27, 2015

Somali Coast (French Somaliland)

1894 Scott 3 50c on 1c black & red/blue
Red & Blue Overprint & Surcharge
Quick History
Somali Coast ("Djibouti", "French Somaliland") was a French protectorate and colony in the Horn of Africa on the Gulf of Tadjourna between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

The land is basically a volcanic desert, and is hot (32 degrees C (90 degrees F) annual temperature) and dry (125 mm (5 in) annual rainfall).

It has been traditionally been occupied by two nomadic groups: the Afars of the north, and the Somali-speaking Issas of the south. Both are Muslim, but have often fought against each other.

The first French settlement was Obock on the north end of the Gulf of Tadjourna, through a treaty with the local Afar Sultans in 1862, but not actually occupied until 1884. These agreements were strengthened between 1883 and 1887.

Obock issued their own stamps between 1892-1894.

So how was "French Somaliland" then formed?

1911 Map: French Somaliland on Gulf of Aden
(Located North of British Somaliland)
Then the port of Djibouti on the south side of the Gulf of Tadjourna was established in 1888, and provided a safer haven. The French protectorate- "Cote francaise des Somalis" (French Somaliland) was established in Djibouti in 1894 by Leonce Legarde, 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 1902.

French Somaliland 1922
The Capital was Djibouti, and the population was 44,000 in 1936.

Stamps were released in 1894 on overprinted/surcharged stamps of Obock. 

Initially the stamps were labeled "Djibouti", but the name was changed to French Somali Coast in 1902 ("Cote Francaise Des Somalis"), or "French Somaliland". 

With the advent of the (Franco-) Djibouti-Ethiopian Railway (1902 to Dire Dawa, 1906 to Adis Ababa, completed in 1917), the port of Djibouti grew to 15,000 and was the conduit for coffee exports out of southern Ethiopia.

The Colony was invaded by the Italians in 1940, and was occupied by the British in 1942.

The status was changed to a French overseas territory in 1946.

Republic of Djibouti Today
It was renamed the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas in 1967.

It became the independent country of Djibouti in 1977.

1894 Scott 13 25c rose & blue 
"View of Dijbouti, Somali Warriors
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Somali Coast (Djibouti) 1894-1940, 210 major number descriptions. Of those, 88 are CV <$1-$1+, or 42%. Most of the inexpensive stamps were issued after 1915, but there are 24 additional stamps with CV $2-$10 from 1894-1909.

As with any country with expensive overprinted/surcharged stamps, one needs to be aware that counterfeits can exist. I obtained most of these stamps from a specialized Somali Coast collection, but that does not guarantee authenticity.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Centimes = 1 Franc
1894 Scott 1 5c green & red/greenish
Overprint with Bar
For the first issue, five Obock stamps were overprinted or surcharged in 1894 for use in Djibouti. The stamps were handstamped in black, red, or blue. Two "Navigation and Commerce" stamps from this issue are found on this post- the 5c green & red/greenish illustrated above, and a 50c on 1c black & red/blue shown at the post header.

1894 Scott 6 1c black & claret
"View of Djibouti, Somali Warriors"
And in 1894-1902, a seventeen stamp typographed bi-color issue was released in a rectangular (14 stamps), triangular (1 stamp) and diamond shaped format (2 stamps). Two Somali warriors are placed on either side of a pictorial vignette. The issue is imperforate, but there are simulated perforations in the frame color. Nine stamps are CV $3+-$10+.

Note the issue is labeled "Somali Coast Protectorate" and "Djibouti".

I'm sure these designs got the stamp collector's attention. !!

1894-1902 Issue: Quadrille Lines printed on Paper
Note this issue (as well as the 1894 similar Obock issue) has quadrille lines printed on the paper.

1902 Scott 24 0.05c on 75c violet & orange
Blue Surcharge
Between 1899-1902, seven stamps from the preceding issue were surcharged in various ways. CV ranges from $5 to $400+.

1902 Scott 30 5c on 30c bister & yellow green
"Group of Warriors"
On 1894 Stamp of Obock- Black Surcharge
In 1902, seven stamps from Obock's issues were overprinted/surcharged for use in Djibouti. I wonder if this was, in part, to use up the extra stock of Obock stamps? (Obock was no longer issuing their own stamps.)

1902 Scott 36 4c blue & carmine "Tadjoura Mosque"
In 1902, an engraved bi-color fifteen stamp issue with three designs was released, perforated 11 1/2. In most of my examples, the perfs cut into the design on this issue.

Note the label "French Somali Coast".

1902 Scott 44 50c green & red orange 
"Somalis on Camel"
CV for this issue is $1+-$10+ for eleven stamps.

These small format engraved stamps, despite the impinging perfs and the "roughly drawn" design, are fascinating!

1903 Scott 54 15c orange brown & black
"Tadjoura Mosque"
A second set of these designs, but with the pictorial vignette in black, was issued in 1903 on fourteen stamps. Need or greed? ;-)

CV is $1+-$10+ for eleven stamps.

1903 Scott 59 50c green & black "Somalis on Camel"
Yes, this example is inverted.

Scott has a note: "Imperforates, transposed colors, and inverted centers exist in the 1902 and 1903 issues. Most of these were issued from Paris, and some are said to have been fraudulently printed."

1909 Scott 66 4c olive gray & black
"Tadjoura Mosque"
Most French colonies have, during the circa 1908-40 classical era, long runs of local scene or native pictorial issues, and Somali Coast is no exception.

In 1909, a sixteen stamp typographed issue with three pictorial designs was released.

For a treat, click on the "Tadjourna Mosque" stamp above, enlarge, and enjoy this little historical piece of art. !!

1909 Scott 72 35c violet & green 
"Somalis on Camel"
Camels are the traditional (and appropriate, considering the dry climate) means of transportation for the Land of Punt. But in the early 19th century, the Djibouti-Ethiopian Railway became a more efficient way to move trade goods.

1915 Scott 83 5c yellow green & green 
Between 1915-33, a three vignette bi-colored thirty-nine stamp issue was produced.

The French have a way with portrayal, don't they? ;-)

1915 Scott 94 30c black & blue green
"Somali Girl"
If I had to pick one stamp that displays the genius of Somali Coast designs, it would be this one. !

1915 Scott 118 5fr rose red & black 
"Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railroad Bridge"
This probably shows the Awash Bridge which was completed in 1914. It was destroyed by the Italian Army in 1941.

(Franco-) Djibouti-Ethiopian Railway
For more on the history of the Franco-Ethiopian and Djibouto-Ethiopian Railway, see this site

1922 Scott 120 50c on 25c ultramarine & dull blue
Blue Surcharge
In 1922, two stamps were surcharged in green and blue (shown). There were actually some 16 stamps surcharged between 1922-27. CV is a modest <$1-$2+ for 12 stamps.

1926 Scott 130 1.25fr on 1fr dark blue & ultramarine
Surcharged with New Value and Bars in Red
The 1924-27 six stamp issue was surcharged in either black or red. Really quite striking.

1940 Scott 147 3c slate green 
"Mosque of Djibouti"
The 1938-40 issue has 33 stamps and four designs.

1940 Scott 160 60c black
"Somali Warriors"
CV ranges from <$1-$2+ for the entire 33 stamp issue. 

1938 Scott 176 5fr brown & pale claret
"View of Djibouti"
The three highest denominations repeat the classic 1894 Djibouti issue design. The perfs are real this time, though. ;-)

1915 Scott B1 10c + 5c carmine & dark red
"Somali Girl"
The 10c carmine & dark red "Somali Girl" was used as a semi-postal in 1915.

1915 Scott J2 10c brown red; 1938 Scott J12 10c dark carmine
Two similar postage due issues: The eight stamp typographed 1915 issue & the 1938 ten stamp engraved issue.

1927 Scott J10 3fr on 1fr lilac rose 
Type of 1915 Issue Surcharged
In 1927, two stamps were surcharged using a type (different colors) of the 1915 issue.

Of interest, after the fall of France in 1940, French Somaliland was part of Vichy France. Free French and Allied forces entered the capital of Djibouti toward the end of 1942.

Deep Blue
1915-33 "Somali Girl" in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 18 pages for the stamps of Somali Coast 1894-1940, and includes a space for all the major Scott numbers.

1915 Scott 81 2c ocher & indigo "Drummer"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on five pages, has 130 spaces for the stamps of Somali Coast. Coverage is 62%.

The 1940s editions have the same coverage, except the 1938-40 issue coverage is arranged differently, and does not include an extra blank space (In the '69, I put Scott 177 there).

BB's coverage is quite good for the inexpensive stamps: I found only four stamps with CV <$1-$1+ that were not included.

And there is only one CV $10+ stamp required for the pages.








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Postage Due




A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1903 Scott 54 15c orange brown & black ($10+)
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) *172- In BB "henna brown", in Scott "dark orange".
D) *174- In BB "chestnut", in Scott "orange brown".
E) *175- In BB "dull red violet", in Scott "dull violet".

1939 Scott 167 1.25fr magenta 
"Governor Leonce Lagarde"
Out of the Blue
Although the colonial era is over, legacies remain.

For instance, the legal system in modern day Djibouti are a mixture of French civil law, Sharia (Islamic law), and Somali and Afar peoples customary law.

Note: Maps appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?


  1. Yet more proof that when it came to design, the French really were in a class by themselves as far as colonial stamp issues were concerned. Especially when compared to what the British would produce for most of the classical era, the French really did outshine them all.

  2. Am from Djibouti so it is impressive the work you did

  3. The Somali Coast stamp designs are quite simply brilliant! They are wonderfully exotic and intricately detailed. I especially love the 1894 views of Djibouti on quadrille paper. Its too bad that the early triangles aren't more affordable. At any rate, I plan on going deeper with this French Colony.