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...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


1925 Scott 175 50c yellow green "View of Alexandretta"
Quick History
Syria, as it is known in modern times, is bordered by Lebanon, the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Israel.

1851 Ottoman Syria 
Eyalet of Aleppo, Eyalet of Damascus- includes the Sanjak of Jerusalem and Gaza
But the modern day Syrian lands had been part of a much larger Ottoman Syria within the Levant since 1516, and Damascus became the holy entryway for thousands of pilgrims on the hajj to Mecca.

During WW I, the Ottoman Empire  had sided with the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany, and was consequently occupied by both British and French troops.

A secret agreement was in place regarding how to divide the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula ( The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement). The British were allowed control of the lands from the Mediterranean Sea to the River Jordan, Jordan, southern Iraq, and the ports of Haifa and Acre. An "international administration" was to govern Palestine (We all know how that worked- or, more properly, didn't work out. ;-).

France assumed control of Syria and Lebanon, south-eastern Turkey, and northern Iraq.

Stamps were issued under French Occupation on November 21, 1919 overprinted T.E.O. "Territoires Ennemis Occupes".

French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon
More specifically, the French controlled the sanjaks of Lebanon, Alaouites (later Latakia), and Alexandretta (later Hatay), 

The vilayets of Damascus and Aleppo were allowed to have an Arabian Kingdom government. Stamp issues of the Arabian government were released between November, 1918, and January, 1920. 

But King Faisal I was deposed by French troops from Beirut in July, 1920. (Faisal was subsequently offered the crown of Iraq in 1921 under the Iraq British Mandate. He served as King of Iraq until 1933.)

The Syrian territory was then occupied by the French military. French surcharged stamps now were overprinted O.M.F. "Occupation Militaire Francaise".  

Subsequently, the territory was mandated to France by the League of Nations in July, 1922.

The States created under the French Mandate are reflected in the map illustrated.

Beginning in 1923, the French Mandate era initially had French stamps overprinted "Syrie - Grand Liban", then just "Syrie".

In 1934, an Autonomous Syrian Republic was established. Stamps were issued as part of the proclamation of the Republic on August 2, 1934.  France and Syria negotiated a "treaty of independence" in September, 1936.  But the French Legislature never ratified it. !!

France ceded the province of Alexandretta, which had been part of Syria, to Turkey in 1937. (In 1939, the newly named "Hatay" became a Turkish province.) Syria was not pleased.

Syria was under the hegemony of Vichy France until the British and the Free French occupied the country in July, 1941.

Full emancipation was not realized until April, 1946 when French troops left Syria.

The capital is Damascus, and the population was 2,800,000 in 1943.

Syrian Arab Republic 2013
Presently, the Syrian Civil War ( Syrian Government forces, Kurdish forces, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al-Nusra Front, Syrian opposition forces), which began in 2011, is fragmenting the country, and Syria, as such, has ceased to function as a state.

1937 Scott 263 10p on 100p red orange "Mosque at Damascus"
Stamps of 1930 Surcharged in Black
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Syria 1919-1943, 534 major descriptive numbers. Of those, 239 are CV <$1-$1+, or 45 %. Categories for Syria include regular issues, semi-postal, air post, postage due, and issues of the Arabian government.

Most of the stamps for the classical era of Syria are French derived, as France occupied the territory in 1919, and then was given a mandate in 1922. Partial Syrian autonomy began in 1934, but full independence did not occur until 1946.

Many of the earlier issues are overprinted/surcharged French stamps. Add the Arabian Government issues of 1919-20, and the country offers an intriguing mix of early stamps. And the later pictorial issues are well designed and attractive.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
10 Milliemes  = 1 Piaster
40 Paras = 1 Piaster (Arabian Govt.)
100 Centimes = 1 Piaster (1920)
1919 Scott 13 3m on 3c red orange 
Stamps of French Offices in Turkey 1902-03 Surcharged
T.E.O. = "Territoires Ennemis Occupes"
Issued under French Occupation
The first French occupation issue on November 21, 1919 consisted of ten surcharged 1900-07 stamps of France. The CV is rather high ($20+-$500+), and I don;t have any.

The next issue, illustrated above, consisted of ten surcharged 1902-03 stamps of French Offices in Turkey. These two releases were issued from Beirut, and used mainly in Lebanon.

Scott has a note in the Lebanon catalogue section:
"The French issued two sets of occupation stamps (with T.E.O. overprint) for Lebanon in late 1919. The use of these and later occupation issues (of 1920-24, with overprints "O.M.F.", and "Syrie-Grand Liban") were extended to Syria, Cilicia, Alaouites, and Alexandretta. By custom, these are listed under Syria"

1919 Scott 18 4p on 1fr claret & olive green
Stamps of French Offices in Turkey 1902-03
Overprinted "T.E.O" Vertically
The higher denominations of the 1902-03 surcharged French Offices in Turkey issue is shown here. Of interest, Scott has a note that Scott 16-20 were also used in Cilicia.

1920 Scott 22 2m on 2c violet brown
Stamps of France 1900-07 Surcharged
1920 Scott 26 2m on 2c violet brown
Stamps of France 1900-07 Surcharged in Black or Red
O.M.F. = "Occupation Miltaire Francaise"
The two issues of 1920 (four stamps) and 1920 (seven stamps) are similar, except the space between the overprint/surcharged script is wider for the first 1920 issue. Note the difference here.

The "O.M.F." script was used to reflect the fact that the French military was now occupying Syria after King Faisal I was deposed.

Emir Faisal with T.E. Lawrence to his left
Versailles Peace Delegation, 1919
Emil Faisal had helped the Allies in WW I, and was instrumental in creating the Arab government for greater Syria that was set up in Damascus in 1918 (under British protection). He was in favor of pan-Arab unity, and wished to have independent Arab emirates established. 

But when he was declared King of the Arab Kingdom of Syria on March 7, 1920, that move was rejected by the British and French, which wanted mandates for the Arab territories. There was a brief Franco-Syrian War, and the Syrian forces were defeated in the Battle of Maysalun on July 24, 1920. Faisal had to leave Syria.

The British, though, were having much unrest in Iraq with their mandate plans. They decided to permit a monarchy in Iraq, and Faisal agreed to be King of Iraq in August, 1921.

King Faisal proved to be an enlightened ruler, and he continued pushing his pan-Arab agenda. In 1933, he died of a "heart attack" at age 48. There was suspicion of arsenic poisoning.

1920 Scott 40 2p on 25c blue, Red Surcharge
Stamps of France 1900-21
Issue of 1920-22 Surcharged in Black or Red
A large 23 stamp issue was released 1920-22, surcharged in black or red, and using the 1900-21 stamps of France.

There were two printings. The second printing has a 1 mm space between "Syrie" and the numeral (illustrated). The first printing has a 2mm space between "Syrie" and the numeral.

1923 Scott 55 10c on 5c orange, Red Surcharge
Issue of 1920-23 Surcharged in Black or Red
The 1920-23 ten stamp issue uses a "centiemes" overprint surcharge, while the preceding 1920-22 issue uses "centimes".

1921 Scott 41 2p on 40c red & pale blue
Stamps of France, 1900-21, Surcharged in Black or Red
Issue of 1920-21
The higher denominations of the 1920-21 issue is shown here.

1921 Scott 89 10p on 5p violet brown
Black or Red Surcharge
On Stamps of the Arabian Government
In 1921, a nine stamp issue was released, using the Arabian Government stamps (Scott 85, 87-93).

1921 Scott 94 3p on 60c violet & ultramarine
Stamps of France, Surcharged
A re-design of the surcharge overprint on six stamps (compare to the earlier surcharge overprint scan image) is found on this 1921-22 issue.

1923 Scott 106 50c on 10c green
French Stamps of 1900-23 Surcharged
French Mandate
Beginning in 1923, Syria was no longer "occupied", but now was a "mandate", at least as far as the stamp issues reflected reality. The script now says "Syrie-Grand Liban". These stamps were also used in Lebanon, but, "by custom", are only listed under Syria.

French stamps of 1900-23 were surcharged, and seventeen stamps were released.

Note the normal "50c on 10c" surcharge on the green "Sower" stamp.

1923 Scott 106c 25c on 10c green (error)
Image scan from "Filling Spaces" blogsite
But Scott also lists an error, where the "25c" surcharge, normally applied to the 5c orange, was put on some 10c green stamps. The CV for this error stamp is $240. I wouldn't normally be showing this, as this is specialist territory, except for one thing.....

1923 Scott 106c 25c on 10c green (error)
Given a space in Big Blue!
The error stamp is given a space in Big Blue, and has been there since at least the 1940s editions! For those that are collecting the stamps that have a space in Big Blue, well, here is your challenge- try to find one! (To say nothing about the expense ;-)

It is considered the scarcest stamp in Big Blue to find. (There are more expensive stamps in BB, but they are obtainable if one has the funds.)

Bob Skinner, of "Filling Spaces" blog fame, has several interesting posts about this stamp in BB.

Check out....


1924 Scott 131 1.50p on 30c red
Surcharged on 1923 Pasteur Stamps of France
In 1924, twelve stamps were surcharged as shown. Note that for the first time "Syrie" by itself is overprinted on the stamp. The 1924 stamps used either 1900-21 surcharged stamps of France, or the 1923 Pasteur stamps of France (here illustrated).

1925 Scott 155 3p on 60c light violet
Stamps of France 1900-21, Surcharged on 1924-25 Issue
The 1924-25 twenty-three stamp issue (using 1900-21 stamps of France, or the 1923 French Pasteur stamps) changes the surcharge, and, for the first time, includes Arabic script.

1925 Scott 185 25p ultramarine "Columns at Palmyra"
In 1925, the French did what they do best: a thirteen stamp pictorial issue featuring local scenes. All of the stamps have a different scene. The 10c dark violet is lithographed, but the rest of the issue uses photogravure.

Columns at Palmyra
The Great Colonnade was about a kilometer long, and built in the ancient city of Palmyra in the Syrian desert in the 2nd-3rd century CE. It was reportedly destroyed by ISIS in October, 2015. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was demolished, and the antiquities expert who looked after the Site was beheaded.

1930 Scott 186 1p on 3pi orange brown "Bridge at Daphne"
1926-30 Issue Surcharged in Black or Red on 1925 Issue
Between 1926-30, the preceding 1925 issue was surcharged with various denominations on thirteen stamps.

In ancient times, the Olympic games were held at Daphne (near Antioch). Little was left of the ancient city by the beginning of the 20th century, except a great aqueduct bridge. I could find no current evidence that this "Bridge at Daphne" still exists.

1930 Scott 218 1.50 bister brown , Photogravure
"Great Mosque of Damascus"
1930-36 Issue
Between 1930-36, another twenty-four stamp pictorial issue was released. CV is <$1-$1+ for twenty-one stamps.

The Great Mosque of Damascus (Umayyad Mosque) is located in the old city, and was built in 634.

1934 Scott 236 75c plum "Parliament Building"
Proclamation of the Republic
On August 2, 1934, a nineteen stamp set was released for the proclamation of the Republic. Syria wasn't quite independent, though, as French presence was still there.

1936 Scott 255 2p dark violet "View of Alexandretta"
Stamps of 1930-36 Overprinted in Red or Black
Industrial Exhibition, Damascus, May, 1936
Nine stamps from 1930-36 were overprinted as shown for the 1936 Damascus Industrial Exhibition. CV ranges from $1+-$3+.

1938 Scott 269 12.50p on 10p deep blue 
"President Hashem Bek el Atassi"
A three stamp issue, including this surcharged 12.50p on 10p, was released between 1938-43.

Hashim al-Atassi was a Syrian nationalist and President from 1936-39, 1949-51, and 1954-55.

He was the leading Syrian statesman for the Franco-Syrian treaty of independence of 1936.

When the French government refused to ratify the treaty, and ceded Alexandretta (now Hatay) to Turkey, he resigned.

1940 Scott 279 5p violet "Kasr-el-Heir"
A 1940 eleven stamp issue had four pictorial designs.

Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi
The castle of Qasr al-Hayr al-Sharqi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is in the Syrian desert, and was built in 728 CE.

1926 Scott B4 1p + 50c magenta 
"Mosque at Damascus"
Surcharged in Red or Black on 1925 Regular Issue
The surcharge from this 1926 twelve stamp semi-postal issue was for the relief of refugees from the Djebel Druze War. The Great Druze Revolt (1925-27) was an uprising across Syria and Lebanon against  French rule, who had been in control since WW I. The revolt was ultimately put down by the French. It left 6,000 rebels dead, and 100,000 people homeless.

1925 Scott C29 10p violet brown "View of Merkab"
Regular Issue of 1925 Overprinted in Green
The earlier Syria air post stamp issues ( 1920-1924; C1-C25) are handstamped or overprinted, and are rather expensive (CV tens-hundreds). There are also counterfeits of earlier 1920 handstamped varieties (C1-C6). I don't have any at the moment.

This 1925 four stamp issue (illustrated) is overprinted in green. CV is $2+.

1929 Scott C35 1p magenta, 
Regular Issue of 1925 Overprinted Type "f" in Red or Black
The 1926 issue (four stamps) and the 1929 issue (four stamps) have a fine airplane overprint. Most are red overprints, although the one illustrated is in black.

1931 Scott 51 5p red violet "Plane over Deir-el-Zor"
The eleven stamp 1931 air post issue shows a plane over various Syrian scenes.

Deir-el-Zor is the largest city in eastern Syria, and is on the Euphrates River 450 km from Damascus.

It is also the site of the death marches during the Armenian Genocide in 1915-16. 150,000 were killed or starved here.

1937 Scott C75 3p rose red 
"Syrian Pavilion at Paris International Exposition"
An eight stamp set showing the Syrian Pavilion at the 1937 Paris International Exposition was released July 1, 1937.

1937 Scott C87 25p dark blue
"Omayyad Mosque and Minaret of Jesus at Damascus"
An eight stamp air post issue with two scenes was released in 1937. CV is <$1-$6.

Minaret of Jesus
The Minaret of Jesus is the mosque's tallest minaret. According to tradition, Jesus will descend from heaven and reach earth via the Minaret of Jesus. 

1940 Scott C95 50p dark violet 
"Bridge at Deir-el-Zor"
A 1940 seven stamp air post set featured a pedestrian suspension footbridge at Deir-el-Zor, which crossed the Euphrates River. It was built in 1927 by the French during the Mandate period.

It was destroyed in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War.

1931 Scott J39 15p black/dull rose "Lion"
There are many postage due issues (1920-1925: 37 stamps), but I am only showing the last one during the classical era: a 1931 two stamp production. 

Issues of the Arabian Government
1919-20 Scott 83 2m on 5pa violet brown 
(On 1914 Turkey Scott 256 "Leander's Tower)
Overprinted Inscription" "Syrian-Arabian Government"
From November, 1918 to January, 1920, British Military Occupation (E.E.F.) stamps (Palestine Scott 2-14) were used in central and eastern Syria.

But they were replaced by issues of the Arabian Government in 1919-1920.

The first some 80+ stamps in the Scott catalogue were Turkish stamps of 1913-18 handstamped or overprinted in various colors. They can vary from CV <$1- $500+.

1919-20 Arabian Government Scott 85 5m rose
This specimen is lithographed.

1919-20 Arabian Government Scott 90 1pi gray blue
This stamp and preceding illustrated one were part of the last issues of the Arabian Government. One can subsequently see them overprinted "O.M.F. -Syrie" with surcharges in 1921 by the French Occupation Government. (They are illustrated earlier in this post.)

Deep Blue
1926-30 Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 42 pages for the classical Syrian era, and there is a space for all the major Scott numbers. I added a quadrilled page to keep additional early French overprinted/surcharged stamps that had interesting cancellations, or that just caught my eye.

1940 Scott 278 2.50p dark green "Hotel at Bloudan"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on six pages, has 141 spaces for the stamps of Syria, or 27% of the total issue output for this era. Included are some stamp spaces from the Arabian Government.

The good news is there are only two stamps spaces requiring expensive stamps: but one of them (the 1923 Scott 106c 25c on 10c green "error surcharge") is CV $240!!!, and hard to find! I've been looking for five years, and have yet to obtain an example. I illustrate the error stamp in the "a closer look at the stamps and issues" section. Why the editors included this minor number expensive error stamp is puzzling, to say the least.

The not so good news is many inexpensive (CV <$1-$1+) early French surcharged stamps were not included in BB. I count 69 inexpensive regular issue and postage due stamps of the 1919-25 period that have no space.



83,84, 57,60,63,36,




Next Page

177,208* or 209,210 or 211,212 or 213,
214,216,218 or 219,220,


Next Page




Next Page

Air Post


C46 or C47,C48,C49,C50,




Next Page

(Air Post)


Next Page

Arabian Government


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1923 Scott 106c 25c on 10c green (error surcharge) CV $240 !!!
1934 Scott C62 10p bright violet CV $20+
B) *106c- the infamous "error" stamp space, where BB gives a CV $240 1923 25c on 10c green overprint error (should be 50c on 25c green) stamp room!!! This "error" stamp space has existed since the 1940s BB editions. !!!!
C) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
D) *208 or 209, 210 or 211, 212 or 213- BB has one stamp space for two colors.

1936 Scott C71 5p red violet "Plane over Homs"
Air Post Stamps of 1931-33 Overprinted in Red or Black
Damascus Fair, May, 1936
Out of the Blue

The French occupation and mandate were not popular in Syria. Syrian nationalism eventually won out. One can follow the historical tide through the stamp issues.

Note: Maps and image pics appear to be in the public domain. Thanks to Bob Skinner, of "Filling Spaces" blog fame, for permission to use his image scan of the 1923 Scott 106c 25c on 10c green (error) stamp.

Comments Appreciated!

Syrian Civil War January, 2016
Population in %
Red: Syrian Government (66%); Yellow: Kurds (Rojava); Gray: ISIL (15%); 
White: al-Nusra Front; Green: Opposition


  1. an interesting philatelic history of a nation now shattered almost beyond belief. Unfortunately another of the legacies of the post-World War I treaty system that has come home to roost in our own time. So much destruction and barbarity, it will be decades, once peace is restored, for Syria (however it is reconstituted) to recover.

    1. Gene- I think you've summed it up accurately, sadly.

  2. Great blend of political and postal history. And that for a country that has such a complex history. My compliments!

  3. this is the first time I have ever seen some stamps here; thanks a lot

    1. Glad that you found it useful and new for you, mamoun.

  4. Hello,i found a red syrian stamp with a cancellation.It has the city of Homs on it. What really atracted my attention is the way the name of Helio Vaugirard is printed backwards. The print says # HELIO DRARIGUAV # I have looked everywhere on the net for some info and cant seem to find it anywhere.Maybe u can help me find out some info.

    1. Interesting. I don't know if you have a minor error or a major find. ;-)

      I would suggest joining one if the major stamp forums ( Stamp community Family or others) and post a scanned image of your stamp and ask the question.

    2. Hello, I just acquired the same stamp with the same issue--a Homs stamp with Vaugirard printed as inverted text (like a mirror image). I also don't know if this is remarkable or not. Did you ever learn anything about yours?

    3. No, I have no further information. Since you seem to have a similar, if not identical stamp with the mirror image letters, it probably exists with a number of copies.

  5. Syria 106c is featured prominently in this 1978 Washington Post article. Forgive the poor OCR

    1. Yes, that article was a great inspiration when I began filling Big Blue.

      I still don't have Syria 106c.

    2. Interesting, my 2009 Scott lists it as 106a (170.00 mint), but that old article and your post lists it as 106c

    3. The '47 and '75 Scott catalogue lists the error as 106c.

      But my 2010 (and your 2009) catalogue lidtd the error as 106a.

      Then the 2011, 2014, 2017 Scott again lists the error as 106c.

  6. Just checked my 1930 copyright version of the Scott International Junior album and it, also, includes the 106c error stamp. Also, in checking back through older catalogs including Scott Classic for 2000 and 2006 it was numbered as 106a in those catalogs while the Scott Class 2017 shows it as 106c as do the 1944 and 1971 Scott catalogs. I, also, checked the Scott Grand Award album and found that it starts Syria with 1930 issues so avoids including the stamp. Just unearthed a Scott Brown for 1920-29 and it, also, includes the stamp.

    1. albumfilling- you are correct that the minor number in Scott has varied back and forth between 106c and 106a.

      The larger question is why Scott was so fixated on giving a space to this stamp in so many of their albums. It is, after all, an error stamp, but there are many other error stamps in the catalogue that never merited a space. A puzzle.

  7. Jim and all, I'm very happy and proud to announce that I've scored a Syria 106c!! Not in my hand yet, but there was a MNH one listed in Rasdale's auction this past weekend. I actually bid about twice CV on the stamp, but I may have been the only bidder, and snagged it for the opening bid at $120. With 18% buyers fee and shipping, it ended up costing me $149 and change, and I was tickled to death to win this lot. I'll put an image out there on SCF when it's in my hand, but just wanted to gloat here a little bit!
    Ray McIntire

    1. Congratulations Ray! I know Bob of "Filling Spaces" Blog Fame considers Syria 106c the rarest stamp in BB. I don't have one but Bud does. Enjoy!

    2. Ray, congratulations. This was a good year for 106c. Cherrystone auctioned another one in July.