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...

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sierra Leone

1933 Scott 154 1p brown & black 
"Slave Throwing Off Shackles"
(Cline Town, now part of Freetown, was formerly known as Granville Town)
Quick History
Sierra Leone ("Lioness Mountains"- Portuguese/Spanish) is located on the tropical West African coast between French Guinea (now Guinea) and Liberia.

West Africa up to 1914
Sierra Leone (British Territory): Dark Pink-1880; Light Pink- 1914
Under British protection, freed African-American slaves were transported to Sierra Leone in 1787 after the American Revolutionary War, and founded Granville Town. Ironically, but not surprising, the settlement was opposed by the indigenous Temne and Mende peoples.

Freetown was founded on March 11, 1792 with the settlement of 1,200 Black Loyalists, who came via Nova Scotia.

Beginning in 1808, following the British Empire's abolition of the slave trade in 1807, thousands of liberated people from confiscated slave ships were brought to Freetown.

The Sierra Leone Company, formed by abolitionists, then turned the territory over to the African Institution in 1807 (recognized by the British Crown).

The returning freed Blacks, adopting the southern U.S. (western) habits in culture and dress, and mostly Christian (Methodist), formed the Krio (Creole) people, with Krio as the trading language. They were the Black ruling and educational elite. Naturally, conflict eventually developed with the native peoples of the interior, who were mostly Muslim. Today, the Krio people comprise about 4% of the population.

English is still today the official language, but Krio is the trading language for all ethnic groups.

1933 Scott 155 1 1/2p orange brown
"Map of Sierra Leone"
In 1896, the British expanded into the interior, and declared the additional territory a British Protectorate.

Conflict with the native peoples (Temne-Mende) escalated, leading to the Hut Tax war of 1898.

In 1924, Sierra Leone was administratively separated into a Colony (coastal area and Freetown), and a Protectorate (the interior, dominated by ethnic tribes and chiefs).

Freetown was and is the capital, and the population was 1,800,000 in 1940.

U.N. Map of Sierra Leone
In 1951, a new constitution was developed, and the Colony and Protectorate merged, under the brilliant leadership of Sir Milton Margai, an ethnic Mende.

Sierra Leone gained independence on April 27, 1961, and remains a member of the British Commonwealth.

The 1991-2002 Civil War left 50,000 dead, 2 million refugees, and the infrastructure in ruins.

Today, Sierra Leone is both rich in resources (diamonds, third largest natural harbor in the world), and poor (70% are below the poverty line, Ebola outbreak, WHO Life Expectancy-age 46- last (194) among all nations).

1891 Scott 27 2 1/2p ultramarine "Queen Victoria"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Sierra Leone 1859-1949, 194  major descriptive numbers. Of those, 51 are CV <$1-$1+, or 26%. As Sierra Leone is a British Colony, the stamps are relatively expensive. Neighbor Liberia, with many pictorials, has 55% of its stamps @ CV <$1-$1+, as a comparison. Also, there is a 1897 nineteen stamp overprinted fiscal issue which have stamps in the CV $200-$47,000 range.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings - 1 Pound
1893 Scott 24 1 1/2p violet, Wmk 2, "Queen Victoria"
The first issues (27 major numbers) for Sierra Leone featured this design/motif from 1859-1993. The issues are separated by watermark (unwmk, wmk 1- sideways and/or upright, wmk 2), and perforation ( 12 1/2, 14).

The 1 1/2p violet shown above is part of the 1883-93 eleven stamp issue with wmk 2, " Crown and C  A".

All issues of Sierra Leone were typographed by De La Rue until 1932.

1897 Scott 34 1/2 p lilac & green "Victoria"
A thirteen stamp "Victoria" keyplate issue was released between 1896-97. CV ranges from $1+ - $9+ for eight stamps.

1903 Scott 65 1p violet & carmine, Wmk 2
"King Edward VII"
In 1903, a similar keyplate thirteen stamp set was issued for King Edward VII. The paper shows wmk 2, "Crown and C A".

Wmk 2: "Crown and C A"
Wmk 3: "Multiple Crown and C A"
Wmk 4: "Multiple Crown and Script C A"
There is no getting around the fact that one needs to be familiar with British Colonial watermarks if one wishes to properly identify the stamps. Fortunately, the watermarks are usually easy to see.

1904-05 Scott 77 1/2p violet & green, Wmk 3
"King Edward VII"
Another very similar "Edward VII" issue (13 stamps), but on wmk 3, was released in 1904-05.

1907 Scott 91 1p carmine "Edward VII"
Edward VII received a third issue, albeit with different (mono) colors or paper tints, on thirteen more stamps between 1907-10.

Reviewing the 39 Edward VII stamps issued in total between 1903-10, 22 are CV <$1-$9.

1912-24 Scott 105 1 1/2p orange 
 Wmk 3, Die I, "George V"
The George V era got underway with a nineteen stamp issue between 1912-24. This issue is on wmk 3 paper, and is Die I.

1912-24 Scott 108 3p violet/yellow , Wmk 3
"King George V and Seal of the Colony"
The (mostly) higher denominations (eight stamps) have this large format design. I particularly enjoy the elephant drawing on the Seal of the Colony.

1926 Scott 123 1p violet, Wmk 4, Die II, "George V"
1923 Scott 123a 1p violet, Wmk 4, Die I
The eighteen stamp 1921-27 "George V" issue is on wmk 3 paper. Note the illustrated design is found with Die II for this issue, except the 1p violet can also be found with Die I (shown here).

I've covered the Die I/Die II differences before: if one needs a refresher, take a look at the Fiji blog post. Also, the 2014 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue shows the differences rather nicely on page 38A (Introduction Section).  

1932 Scott 149 1sh red brown "Rice Field"
The 1932 thirteen stamp definitive issue was engraved, and the lower denomination nine stamps (by Waterlow) show a "Rice Field" scene. Rather nice, Yes?

1933 Scott 156 2p violet 
"Old Slave Market, Freetown"
The 1933 "Wilberforce Issue" of thirteen engraved specimens , each with their own unique scene, some with bi-color, is, no doubt, the most arresting stamps of the Sierra Leone classical era.

They commemorate the abolition of slavery in the British colonies, and the death of William Wilberforce, abolitionist, in 1833.

William Wilberforce (1759-1833)
Unfinished portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1828)
Wilberforce became an Evangelical Christian at the age of 26 in 1875, which profoundly changed and affected his moral outlook. He became the leading advocate in Parliament for abolition of the British Colony slave trade. This was effected in 1807 (allied with the Quakers, who had 40 seats) with passage of the Slave Trade Act.

Great Britain used its influence to pressure other nations to follow suit. The United States likewise abolished its Atlantic slave trade (but not the domestic slave trade).

1938 Scott 178 4p red brown & black "Freetown Harbor"
Between 1938-44, a sixteen stamp issue with two designs was released. CV ranges from <$1-$3+ for thirteen stamps.

Although our coverage for the classical period ends here, I would be remiss if I didn't mention where Sierra Leone went philatelically after independence in 1961: In short, off the deep end from 1964-1971. ;-)

(If you don't know what I mean, check the stamp "specimens" for this era. ;-)

Deep Blue
1932 Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 15 pages for the Sierra Leone stamps of 1859-1949, and includes a space for the the major Scott numbers.

1933 Scott 157 3p ultramarine "Fruit Seller"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on two pages, has 59 spaces for the stamps of 1884-1938 Sierra Leone. Coverage (subtracting the eleven post 1940 stamps in the Scott 1840-1940 catalogue) is 32%. Although the coverage is not generous, considering the relatively high valuations for this British colony, it is certainly a reasonable selection for the WW collector.

The coverage is located between "Siam" and "Somalia" in the '69, and between "Somaliland Protectorate"  and "Somali Coast" in the 1940s editions.

The coverage is the same for the 1940s editions as the '69..

Remarkably, BB manages to have all spaces under CV $10. (No expensive stamps!)




64 or 77, 65 or 78, (66),


103 or 122, 104, 105, 106 or 125, 107 or 126, 109 or 128, 108,




Next Page






A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold): None
B) (  ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) *1912-21: Wmk 3 vs Wmk 4 choices

1944 Scott 181A 1sh 3p orange yellow "Rice Harvesting"
Out of the Blue
I find the colonial history of Africa fascinating. And the 1933 Wilberforce stamps are clearly one of the better colonial issues ever released.

Note: Maps, Wilberforce image portrait, and Freetown drawing appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?

Freetown 1856 by John Leighton Wilson


  1. The Wilberforce Issue is indeed one my favorites of the
    classical British Empire issues. With regards to Sierra Leone's output of the 1964-1971 period, I must confess that as a young collector, that I was thrilled by those innovative die cuts, and gold foil stamps At least those stamps were relevant to Sierra Leone and were not portraying distant Olympic games or artwork in the Louvre.

    1. Yes, the Wilberforce stamps are all that is good in classical era collecting. :-)

      I agree the innovative Sierra Leone stamps were a gem.