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...

Monday, June 6, 2016


1912-50 Scott 2 1/3t blue "Snow Lion"
Quick History
You want to know why Tibet is a popular "country" with WW classical era collectors?

Read the 1947 Scott catalogue description....

"Tibet is a theocratic state, ruled by the Dalai Lama, and a large part of the population consists of Buddhist monks and nuns. While occasional expeditions have been able to penetrate the country- a British mission fought its way to Lhasa in 1904- it is largely terra incognita, as entry by Europeans is strictly discouraged, except in very rare and exceptional cases. Tibet's postage stamps are valid only within its own borders."

Nothing like remote turning into exotic to make collectors desire a little piece of tangible paper evidence. ;-)

Map of Tibet
Tibet is located on a high tableland in central Asia, with China to the east, Turkestan on the north, and Nepal, Bhutan, and India to the south.

The capital is Lhasa and the population is ~ 1,500,000.

Since 1950, Tibet has been under the control of China, and China has tightened the yoke, not necessarily in Tibet's favor. China has allowed Tibet to be a destination for intrepid travelers and tourists, but under some scrutiny.

1912-50 Scott 4 2/3t carmine "Snow Lion"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Tibet 1912 -34 (-50), 18 major number descriptions. Of those, none have a CV under $10. At a CV of $15-$60, there are nine stamps (50% total). Clearly, Tibet is an expensive country for the WW collector, although a mitigating factor is there are only 18 major numbers.

A larger problem is that "excellent counterfeits exist" (Scott). One will need to purchase from a reliable source, or obtain certs, or become an expert in detecting forgeries, or take one's chances. ;-) I've done the latter, which means there could indeed be counterfeits mixed in here.

One thing of note: all of Tibet's postage stamps were only valid within its borders.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
6 2/3 Trangka = 1 Sang
1912-50 Scott 3 1/2t violet "Snow Lion"
Issued in sheets of twelve in December, 1912, each stamp or cliche was hand carved. There were five values produced by typography, imperforate, and on native paper. A sixth value (1s sage green) was not released until 1950.  Numerous shades exist.

There were fourteen post offices opened up by the Tibetan government.

1912-50 Scott 5 1t vermilion "Snow Lion"
CV for the six stamp set is $40-$100. 

The stamps were also printed in shiny enamel paint (from Europe), giving the surface a glossy appearance, rather than ink between 1920-30. These varieties are minor numbers in Scott.

If one is seriously interested in the stamps and postal history of Tibet, consider joining the Nepal and Tibet Philatelic Study Circle. They have published  the Postal Himal Quarterly Bulletin since 1974. Many of the past Bulletins are available as a free download from Digital Himalaya hosted by the University of Cambridge.

Flag of Tibet 1912-50 showing Snow Lions
The national emblem of Tibet is the Snow Lion, a celestial creature - white with a turquoise mane- that represents the snowy mountains and glaziers, and symbolizes both fearlessness and joy.

1934 Scott 14 1/2t yellow
Both the 1933 pin-perf five stamp set on thin white native paper, and the 1934 imperforate five stamp set on heavy toned native paper were issued in sheets of twelve. They have this design.

1934 Scott 18 4t green
CV for the 1933 set is $95 and for the 1934 set $10+.

Tibet is a fascinating country for the WW collector, but frankly, it is specialist's territory. The counterfeits scare me, as one would need to become deeply immersed in the Tibetan philatelic specialty subject matter in order to give oneself some assurance.

Deep Blue
1934 Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has two pages for the stamps of Tibet. The spaces include the minor number 1920 "shiny enamel paint' variety issue.

1934 Scott 15 2/3t blue
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on two lines of one page shared with Tete, has 10 spaces. Coverage is 60%.

The 1940s BB editions have the same coverage.

Of interest, all of the stamp spaces require CV stamps ranging from $14-$55.

Consequently, there are five spaces with "expensive stamps" ($10+), and five spaces with "most expensive stamps" ($40-$55).

Refer to the "comments" section below the checklist for specifics.

Tibet in Big Blue

1913 (actually 1912-50)

1933 (Actually 1933-1934*)
9 or 14, 10 or 15, 11 or 16, 12 or 17, 13 or 18, 

A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1912-50 Scott 1 1/6 t green ($40)
1912-50 Scott 2 1/3 t blue ($40)
1912-50 Scott 3 1/2 t violet ($40)
1912-50 Scott 4 2/3 t carmine ($50)
1912-50 Scott 5 1 t vermilion ($55)
1934 Scott 14 1/2 t yellow ($10+)
1934 Scott 15 2/3 t blue ($10+)
1934 Scott 16 1t orange vermilion ($10+)
1934 Scott 17 2t red ($10+)
1934 Scott 18 4t green ($10+)
B) *2- BB specifies "deep ultramarine", which in the modern Scott catalogue is now a minor number (Scott 2a @ $50). But Scott 2 "blue" may be substituted.
C) *3- BB has "purple", while the modern Scott has "violet".
C) *1933-1934- I include as choices both the pin-perf 1933 issue and the imperforate 1934 issue. There are shade differences in color between the issues, but I ignored BB's specifications on color to include both issues. The 1933 issue is much more expensive ($95).

1934 Scott 17 2t red
Out of the Blue
There is a fellow in our local stamp club that specializes in the stamps of Tibet. I get the distinct impression in talking with him, though, that Tibet is not a good playground for philatelic dilettantes such as myself. ;-)

Note: Map and Tibetan Flag images appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?


  1. "There is a fellow in our local stamp club that specializes in the stamps of Tibet. I get the distinct impression in talking with him, though, that Tibet is not a good playground for philatelic dilettantes such as myself."

    That's the message I've been hearing as well. Not sure that I really care/bother if the stamps coming my way are forgeries or not (even if I can't prove them either way), as I enjoy both equally ;)


  2. Fascinating post. Based on how you described the production process, Jim, I can see how forgeries abound. Each cliche was hand carved?! Someone must've said "why stop at 12?" :)


    1. Madbaker- l think many of us would like to become more knowledgeable about Tibet's stamps, but I know I would need to spend much study on the topic to feel comfortable. Since each cliche was apparently had carved, only a close review of every stamp one comes in contact with to compare would suffice!

  3. "philatelic dilettantes" are not the only ones who need to worry.
    Several high profile auction houses have unknowingly listed forgeries. As for eBay, Delcampe etc. count on 90%+ forgeries.
    Its not just the classic ones, several stamp dealers have fashioned fakes and other groups produced large quantities of modern forgeries.
    So, enjoy the space fillers or get a good copy of the platings, a magnifying glass and a lot of patience.

  4. Stamps of Tibet brings clarity to the problem, forgery vice orginal stamps. I, in my WW collection don't really care much but in my specialized collections, I DO care and work very hard to understand what I have. To worry about possible fake stamps takes the fun out of the hobby. Forged stamps have value and can add a real interest page to my WW collection, plus some forgeries are truly rare. Kind regards David

    1. Yes, that is my attitude also about Tibet. I love the stamps even if they may be fakes.