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...

Thursday, January 14, 2016

South West Africa

1931 Scott 108 1/2p green & black "Kori Bustard"
Quick History
South West Africa, located between Angola and the Union (later Republic) of South Africa, was occupied in 1915, then administered by the Union of South Africa under a 1922 mandate of the League of Nations.

The 1915 South-West Africa Campaign
German South-West Africa had been a colony of the German Empire since 1884. It was invaded and occupied by South African troops on behalf of the British Crown and government in 1915 at the onset of WW I. (Of interest, there was sympathy for the German cause among the Boer population of South Africa, and a Boer Revolt (Maritz Rebellion) had to be put down.)

There is still much German legacy in South West Africa (now Namibia 1990), with 30,000 German descendants, German geographic names, buildings, businesses, a newspaper, and a radio station.

  Map of South West Africa, 1922
After WW I, as mentioned, South West Africa was administered by the Union of South Africa as a League of Nations Mandate territory under the Treaty of Versailles.

The capital was Windhoek, and the population was 344,00 circa 1940.

South African stamps were used from 1914 to 1923.

"South West Africa" stamps were introduced in 1923, using the stamps of South Africa, which were alternately overprinted in English or Afrikaans throughout the sheets.

Walvis Bay, the major port on the South West Africa coast, and the offshore Penguin islands had been part of the Union of South Africa (1910), and before Cape Colony (1878), through earlier annexation. The Walvis Bay enclave was transferred to South West Africa administration in October, 1922. Prior, the Walvis Bay enclave used Stamps of Cape Colony or the Union of South Africa.

Of interest, the Walvis Bay territory reverted to the South Africa Republic in 1977, and South Africa stamps were again used.  It was not until 1994, four years after Namibia became independent, that Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands no longer were under South African control, and became part of the new nation.

South West Africa (orange) and Union of South Africa (red)
During the period that the South West Africa lands were administered  by South Africa, the territory was essentially governed by South Africa as a fifth province- although not formally incorporated.  

Namibian (Guerrilla) War of Independence: Status 1978
Nations (in Red)  sympathetic to Rebels 
This would become a sticking point later, as South Africa's apartheid policy was enforced in South West Africa in 1948. The U.N. eventually took over responsibility, and the country, after a 1966-1988 guerrilla war, and much wrangling, as South Africa considered the territory essentially theirs, became independent as Namibia in 1990. (Walvis Bay and the Penguin islands remained under South African control until 1994.)

1931 Scott 112a 3p deep blue & gray black "Windhoek"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic 1940-1940 catalogue has, for South West Africa 1923-1952, 217 major number descriptions.  This, of course, grossly underestimates the number of stamps to be collected, as almost all of the numbers have an English script stamp and an Afrikaans script stamp, collected either as separate singles or as a pair. Some are actually collected as a strip of three. A quick accounting would suggest there are ~ 405 stamps to be collected during this era.

Of the 405 stamps total, 273 are CV <$1-$1+, counting as singles, or 67%. (Many would be much more expensive if collected as intact pairs.)

In fact, I recommend (if possible) for the WW collector to accumulate stamps as singles- much more cost friendly than intact doubles.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings = 1 Pound
1924 Scott 16a 1/2p green?
Setting I or Setting III? : Both!
From 1923-1927, stamps of South Africa  were overprinted alternately throughout the sheets in English or Afrikaans. The overprints are characterized by Scott into nine settings!! (Setting I-IX), depending on the script used (Type a-q), the width of the script (in mm) , and the space between the overprint script (in mm) on a stamp. !! Scott does a reasonable job of illustrating and describing the differences, so I will not repeat the catalogue information here.  There are 52 major descriptive numbers during this "nine settings" period.

That doesn't mean one can always place a stamp into a particular setting if one has a single English stamp. Scott has a note that the English overprint of Setting I (1923 Scott 1-12) is the same as that of Setting III (1923-24 Scott 16-27).

True, I prefer to collect single specimens because they are less expensive.  But, in this case, collecting Setting I and Setting III as pairs would prevent uncertainty.

Wmk 177 "Springbok's Head"
This might be a good time to show a "Springbok Head" (Wmk 177) watermark, found with the overprinted 1923-30 issues. Nice! I didn't show watermarks during the South Africa post blogs, because there was no need for specific stamp identification. The other watermark found for the South West Africa stamps is "Multiple Springbok's Head" (Wmk 201), with several "Heads" on a stamp.

1926 Scott 86c-d 1p carmine & black
Setting VIII
In 1926 , an overprinted issue using Type "p" and "q" OP types was released for the 1/2p, 1p, and the 6p South Africa Se-Tenant stamps. The English and the Afrikaans script OP can either be found on their respective English or Afrikaans stamp (major number), or the opposite (minor number) - as illustrated here. 

1927 Scott 97 1p carmine & black
In 1927, the 1926 South Africa Scott 23-26 1/2p, 1p, and 6p were overprinted with Type "r" at the foot.

The "SWA" overprint, used for both English and Afrikaans script stamps, was introduced in 1927, and can be found in Types r-u. The "SWA" overprint, in its various forms, was henceforth used during the rest of the classical (-1952) era.

1931 Scott 109 1p red & indigo "Cape Cross"
1931 was an auspicious year for philatelic South West Africa, because a 12 stamp engraved pictorial bi-color issue was released (a 1 1/2p denomination came later in 1937).

For me, this issue is the highlight of classical era South West Africa.

Cape Cross is a small headland on the inhospitable northern Skeleton Coast in the South Atlantic of South West Africa (now Namibia). Diogo Cao, Portuguese explorer, reached Cape Cross in 1486, and left a Cape Cross Padrao. The original Padrao was removed in 1893 by Captain Becker of the German Navy, and sent to Berlin. It was replaced later by a stone replica.

The area is known now for the Cape Fur Seals Reserve.

1931 Scott 111 2p dark brown & dark blue "Bogenfels"
The "Bogenfels" (German: "arch rock" ) is about 180 feet (55 meters) high, and is located along the coastal Namib desert of South West Africa (Namibia).

It is in a (now) restricted diamond mining area. Combined with the Namib Desert ("vast place"), which consists of arid gravel plains and sand dunes, and not much else, the "Bogenfels" is not easy to visit. ;-)

1931 Scott 115 1sh blue & violet brown "Bush Scene"
If one collects singles, rather than intact pairs for the issue, the CV ranges from <$1-$3+ for 11 "pairs" (22 singles).

1937 Scott 129 3p bright blue & black
"George VI"; Coronation Issue
The 1937 George VI coronation issue- eight stamp "pairs", must have been widely distributed in the philatelic trade, because I have plenty of unused pairs in my feeder albums, and the CV is <$1-$2 for pairs. This wonderful stamp design shows there is no correlation between "value" and intrinsic aesthetic appeal.

1945 Scott 153 1p rose pink & chocolate
WW II Victory of the Allies
The WW II victory of the the Allies was marked by a three stamp South Africa issue, that was then overprinted for South West Africa. In fact, all the regular South West Africa issues from 1941-1952 are merely  overprinted ("SWA") stamps of South Africa. 

1924 Scott J20 6p gray & black
Setting IV
Postage Due stamps for 1923-1927, like the regular issues,  also used various overprint settings. Most overprints were on postage due stamps of South Africa, but a few used Transvaal postage due stamps.

1938 Scott O17 1 1/2p violet brown "Mail Transport"
Overprinted in Red
Official Stamps were issued for South West Africa during the 1927-1952 period by overprinting in English and Afrikaans, as shown. Use of official stamps ceased in 1955.

Deep Blue
1937 Coronation Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 23 pages for the stamps of South west Africa for 1923-1952. The spaces, naturally, provide room for the (usual) double pair, or two singles. All of the major descriptive Scott numbers have a space.

1931 Scott 114 6p olive brown & blue "Luderitz Bay"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on four pages, has 103 spaces for the 1923-1939 stamps of South West Africa. As many stamps are actually a double (English and Afrikaans stamp), the major descriptive numbers in BB are 55.

There are 171 major descriptive numbers for 1923-1939 in the Scott catalogue, and therefore coverage in BB is 32%.

There are ~ 311 individual stamps to collect for the 1923-1939 era. Coverage- using this criteria- in BB is 33%.

Expensive stamps in BB: There would be more, but I am only pricing out singles, not intact pairs.

With that, there is only one stamp (1931 Scott J90 6p gray & black) with CV $10+.

BB gives no spaces to Officials.

a= English; b= Afrikaans

1english-1afrikaans, 2english-2afrikaans, 3english-3afrikaans, 4english-4afrikaans,




Next Page



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Air Post
C5a-C5b, C6a-C6b,

Postage Due


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1931 Scott J90 6p gray & black ($10+)
B) As noted, a= English; b= Afrikaans stamp in the checklist.
C) *1923-24- BB shows an illustration for Setting I. That is why Scott 1-4 was selected for the spaces. Be aware that Setting I English stamps (as singles) will look identical to Setting III English stamps. (If one wishes to be sure, collect Setting I as pairs.)

1931 Scott 113b 4p brown violet & green "Waterberg"
Out of the Blue
Much like Australian philately, South African sphere stamp collecting (the earlier colonies, South Africa, and South West Africa) is a philatelic world to itself, is highly attractive, and is ripe for specialty concentration. I feel the pull! Alas, as a WW collector, I will reluctantly move on.

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

Have a comment?


  1. Very interesting and well researched site.

  2. Your History section seems to become less and less 'Quick'. Nice!

    1. Gerben- the way I organize my posts, I usually spend several hours on one day just creating the "Quick History" section- which, for me, is the most difficult of all the sections to put together. I struggle with it a bit, and even dread it. ;-) Fortunately, with your SWH website, I know it will be thoroughly covered by you. :-)

  3. Very attractive stamps, although I think even more so when collected as a pair. I love these unique collecting situations (such as Israel's tabs) which really liven things up.
    Not sure I understand about the strips of three you mention. I see Scott 144-152 are listed as a strip of three but not explained why. Were these printed in small panes of three?

    1. Thanks Bob for the comment. Yes, stamps in pairs are lovely indeed.

      As far as strips of three- see South Africa 1942-43 Scott 90-97 for explanation. The 2014 Scott Classic catalogue shows strips of three. Has to do with the stamps having perforations and rouletting- both!

    2. Hi BobC.. There were only three issues of triple stamps in South West Africa..

      The 1st type were overprinted in black ink with "SWA" on South African Union WWII War Effort Stamps. These triples were referred to as "Bantams" During WWII there was a shortage of paper and in an effort to save paper the "Large Wars" issues were re-designed and three narrow stamps were printed with normal perforations and then separated (as Jim described) by vertical rouletting. They are best collected as triples. There are some valuable varieties to be found!!

      The Second issue of triple stamps were "Swart" Commemoratives printed in 1968 (I don't have scott numbers), they are collected in horizontal triples as the inscription was printed in three languages english, afrikaans & german on the adjacent stamps.

      The 3rd Issue was printed in 1978 to commemorate "Universal Sufferage" and are printed in Mini-Sheets of 9 stamps, again English, Afrikaans & German Inscriptions were overprinted on strips of 2nd Definitives (6 values 4,5,10,15,20 & 25c)

      I hope that all makes sense :)..

    3. Thanks anon- you DO know your South West Africa! :-)

    4. Anon is actually Dave, who is interested in the South Africa philatelic region.

      Thanks Dave! I did not publish your reply as it has your email address as you know.

      Good luck with the Davo album and the eBay sale!

  4. I have a lot of stamps from 1979-1984 from SWA, RSA, VENDA, TRANSKEI, LESOTHO, don't don't know where to find information on them. Any advice?

    1. Since I collect only to 1952 for British Empire, I'm not a good source for advice. ;-) Perhaps look into Stanley Gibbons catalogs that cover the present and former British Empire more thoroughly?