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, August 5, 2016


1915 Scott B1 15c violet/pinkish "Plowing"
Overprinted in Red
Quick History
The French Protectorate of Tunisia encompasses the years 1881-1956.

The Ottoman Empire was gradually crumbling, and Tunisia, consisting of Arabs and Berbers, was a province in that Empire, although largely enjoying autonomy. In that era, the European imperialistic powers traded the rest of the world's lands as if they were their own private chess pieces. In that vein, at the Berlin Congress of 1878, the British offered control of Tunisia to the French if they (the British) could have Cyprus. The French were already occupying Algeria, and the offer was accepted.
French Colonial Africa 1913 (light blue)
Tunisia (dark blue)
The Ottoman Empire protested, but little good it did. ( The Ottomans never officially recognized the Tunisian loss, and maintained the fiction by showing it as a "principality" on a 1905 Ottoman territories map.)

Treaty of Bardo
By May 12, 1881, French forces occupied Tunisia, and required Bey Muhammad III as-Sadiq to agree to grant a French protectorate through the Bardo Treaty. Although Tunisia was nominally independent (with France acting as a protectorate), the reality was Tunisia essentially became a French colony.

Bey (King) Coat of Arms (Husainid Dynasty)
Stamps with the "Bey Coat of Arms" were introduced in July 1, 1888.

Tunisia Campaign 1942- 43
The capital was Tunis, and the population was 2,600,00 in 1936.

During WW II, the Vichy Government was in control of Tunisia after France's defeat by Germany in June, 1940.

Gromalia Prisoner of War Camp after the fall of Tunis May 12, 1943
The Tunisia Campaign (part of the North African Campaign of WW II)  was fought between November 17, 1942- May 13, 1943, and lead to an Allied victory. The Allied troops suffered 76,000 casualties, while the Axis (German and Italian) had ~ 300,000 casualties.

Over 230,000 German and Italian troops became prisoners of war.
Present Day Tunisia
On March 20, 1956, Tunisia became fully independent from France. 

So ends our all too brief and quick history.

1918 Scott B13 15c on 25c dark blue/buff
Types of Regular Issue of 1906 in New Colors
and Surcharged in Carmine
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Tunisia 1888-1938 (-46), 336 major descriptive numbers. Of those, 221 are CV <$1-$1+, or 66%. Clearly, Tunisia is affordable for WW collectors.

During the period covered by this blog, Tunisia was a French protectorate, so naturally the stamps produced are from a French perspective. Fortunately, unlike some European countries who produced stamps for colonies (and protectorates), the stamps have mostly designs reflecting the local scenes, buildings, historical ruins, and people.  Because of that, I found Tunisian stamps to be quite delightful.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
100 Centimes = 1 Franc
1888 Scott 1 1c black/blue "Coat of Arms"
The first 1888-97 typographed eight stamp issue shows the Bey "Coat of arms". CV varies from $4+-$10+ for three stamps, with the rest @ $30+-$300+.

Note the 1888 year issue stamps (major numbers), which includes all denominations, does not have a horizontal ruled background.

1897 Scott 3a 5c green/greenish "Coat of Arms"
Horizontal Ruled Line Background
In 1897, the issue was reprinted, but with a horizontal ruled line background (minor numbers), which includes all denominations. Compare this example with the preceding one.The minor numbers are more CV expensive than the major numbers.

Note the thin numerals in the bottom central tablet for the 1888-97 issue.

1888 Scott 11 5c green/greenish
"Coat of Arms" (Design Change)
There was an additional 1888- 1902 "Coat of Arms" issue (19 stamps) with design changes. One obvious change was the thicker numerals in the bottom central tablet, but there are many other differences as well.

Note the postmark here is from "SFAX", which is 270 km (170 mi) from Tunis on the Mediterranean. The city was founded in 849 AD on the Taparura ruins, a small Roman settlement.

Be aware that the 15c blue/grayish can be found on ordinary paper (1888 Scott 15), and on quadrilled paper (1893 Scott 27).

CV ranges from $1+-$4 for twelve stamps.

1921 Scott 33 5c orange 
"Mosque at Kairouan"
Between 1906-26, a 29 stamp issue was released using four pictorial scenes. Note the engraver's name, "Puyplat", is found below the design and to the right in tiny type.

The four lowest denominations show a scene from the "Mosque at Kairouan".

Tower of the Great Mosque of Kairouan
Located in Kairouan, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the Great Mosque of Kairouan. Founded in 670 AD, it is one of the oldest Islamic worship places in the world.  The huge space encompasses a perimeter of 405 meters (1,328 feet).

1906 Scott 34 10c red "Plowing"
The ten stamp "Plowing" scene has both French and Arabic script, as do all of the Tunisian issues after 1906. Wheat and barley are the main cereal crops in Tunisia. Or, perhaps, this is a potato field?

1906 Scott 50 75c red brown & red
"Ruins of Hadrian's Aqueduct"
Seven stamps show the "Ruins of Hadrian's Aqueduct".

Zaghouan Aqueduct
The Zaghouan Aqueduct (Aqueduct of Hadrian) was built by the Romans in 130 AD to bring water to Carthage. Apparently, the aqueduct was restored in part in the 19th century, but now lies in ruins.

1906 Scott 52 1fr red & dark brown
"Carthaginian Galley"
The six highest denomination stamps show a "Carthaginian Galley".

Trireme Warship (Three banks of Oars)
A Galley is a ship that is propelled in large part by rowing. They varied from the Hellenistic Trireme dominant in the 7th to 4th century BC, to heavier ships used by the Roman and Carthaginian navy.

First Punic War
With the Battle of the Aegates Islands off western Sicily, Rome scored a decisive victory in 241 BC that ended the First Punic War between Carthage and Rome. Carthage was no longer the "Queen of the Seas". Over the 23 year war, Rome lost 700 ships, and Carthage 500 ships.

1908 Scott 58 10c on 15c gray/light gray, Red Surcharge
Stamps and Type of 1888-1902 Surcharged
In 1908, a four stamp set was surcharged as shown. CV is $2-$8+.

1926 Scott 68 30c lilac 
"Arab and Ruins of Dougga"
This is one of the more interesting designs I've seen, with the juxtaposition of the musician by the temple ruins of Dougga. The 1922-26 five stamp set is CV <$1/stamp.

The well preserved Roman small city of Dougga is in the countryside (where it has been left alone over the centuries), and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1923 Scott 70 10c on 5c green/greenish
"Mosque at Kairouan"
Stamps and Type of 1906
Surcharged in Red or Black
Between 1923-25, four stamps were surcharged as shown. CV is <$1.

1926 Scott 78 10c rose
"Arab Woman Carrying Water"
Another long definitive typographed pictorial series was issued between 1926-1946. The five lower denominations show an "Arab woman carrying water".

 1926 Scott 78 10c rose
With blue "SOLIDARITE" overprint
I have this blue "SOLIDARITE" overprint 10c rose in my collection, and I haven't been able to find it in the Scott catalogue. I note that a 1947 semi-postal stamp (Scott B98) has a "solidarite 1947" overprint. Does any reader have more information?

1926 Scott 83 30c light violet
"Grand Mosque at Tunis"
Nine stamps have this design. Might the illustration be for the Grand Mosque at Kairouan?  Tunis, of course, also has a well known mosque. However, the next stamp design in the issue is for the Tunis Mosque.

1945 Scott 94B 80c emerald "Mosque, Tunis"
Precanceled Specimen
Twenty-two stamps have the "Mosque, Tunis" scene. Note the precanceled specimen here.

The Al-Zaytuna Mosque (the Mosque of Olive) is the oldest in Tunis, and is known to host one of the great universities for Muslim scholars.

1945 Scott 113D 100fr carmine rose
"Roman Amphitheater, El Djem (Thysdrus)"
The Roman Amphitheater scene is on 30 stamps, generally the higher denominations.

CV for the 1926-46 issue ranges from <$1 to $1+ for 64 stamps- remarkably inexpensive.

The Amphitheater  of Thysdrus
The Roman amphitheater was built in the early 3rd century AD. in El Djem (Latin: Thysdrus). It could seat 35,000 spectators.

1931 Scott 124 3c black, New design
"Arab Woman Carrying Water"
Besides the large sixty-six stamp 1926-46 issue, there was a similar (in subject matter, but different frame) 20 stamp issue produced in 1931-34, but engraved.

1931 Scott 128 20c dull brown, New design
"Grand Mosque at Tunis"
The designs are dissimilar enough that I doubt there would be confusion between the issues.

1931 Scott 134 90c red, New design
"Mosque, Tunis"
Note that "Peroraut" is the engraver for this design. It appears that each design for this issue had a different engraver.

1931 Scott 137 1.50fr bright ultramarine, New design 
"Roman Amphitheater, El Djem (Thysdrus)"
CV for the 1931-34 issue is <$1 for seventeen stamps. But this design, which was used for the higher denominations, yields some high CVs ($10+-$50+) for the last four 3fr-20fr denomination stamps.

1937 Scott 144 1.75fr on 1.50fr, Red surcharge
Between 1937-40, six stamps were surcharged in various ways. The 1937 1.75fr on 1,50fr with red surcharge (Scott 144)  has a doppelganger- a 1938 stamp (Scott 146) that only varies slightly with the surcharge overprint script. (See Scott illustrations.)

1916 Scott B4 10c on 20c brown/orange
Type of Regular Issue of 1906 in New Colors and Surcharged
In 1916, a nine stamp semi-postal issue, using types of the regular issue of 1906 in new colors and surcharged, was produced. The surcharge was to the relief of prisoners of war in Germany.

CV is $1+-$5+ for four stamps.

1923 Scott B24 3c on 10c violet/bluish
Types of 1906-22 Surcharged
This is an interesting charity issue- I haven't seen this before. The stamp was sold for the nominal charge, but the surcharge was for a lower value, and that is what the stamp was worth, postage wise.

This is a 1923 seventeen stamp semi-postal issue using the stamps of 1906-22, surcharged.

The difference was intended to be used for the benefit of wounded soldiers.

But Scott has a note: "This issue was entirely speculative. Before the announced date of the sale, most of the stamps were taken by postal employees, and practically none of them were offered to the public"

I note the CV is the same for unused or used in the catalogue. CV is $1+-$9+ for fifteen stamps.

1925 Scott B38 2c on 10c brown & blue/yellow
"Mail Delivery"
Type of Parcel Post Stamps, 1906, with Surcharge in Black
Again, the ten stamp issue was sold at the nominal value, but for postage, only worth the lower value surcharged.

CV is <$1-$3+ for eight stamps.

Child Welfare societies were given the difference.

1920 Scott C2 30c olive green & blue
Type 1906 Scott 43 Overprinted in Rose
This 1920 single stamp air post issue was overprinted in rose. There is a minor number in grayish paper. CV is $1+.

1927 Scott C5 1.75fr + 75c vermilion & dull red
1926 Scott 51 Surcharged in Black
I must admit I really like classical era air post issues. At times I'm tempted to narrow the WW scope to that category. ;-) 

1930 Scott C12 1.50fr on 2,55fr lilac & olive brown
Surcharged in Blue
The last "classical era" air post issue was a three stamp 1930 surcharged production

CV is <$1-$2+..

1893 Scott JA13 10c black/lavender
Postage Due- Perforated "T"
During 1888-1901, the letter "T" was perforated on regular issue stamps to create postage dues. The "T" is found either upright or inverted in about equal measure.

Between 1888-1901, some 25 stamps were given this process.

CV is <$1 -$5+ for thirteen stamps.

1901-03 Scott J5 20c blue green
A design common to the French colonies for postage dues was used for the 1901-03 ten stamp Tunisian issue. CV is <$1 for eight stamps.

1922 Scott J24 1fr green 
Between 1922-49, a twenty stamp postage due set with the above design was issued. All stamps are CV <$1, save one stamp @ $1+.

1906 Scott Q9 2fr carmine & blue
"Mail Delivery"
A nice bi-color parcel post issue with a "Mail Delivery" motif was released in 1906 on ten stamps. CV is <$1-$1+.  This issue would be a great one to accumulate and study various postmarks, as they appear abundant in collections.

1926 Scott Q24 10fr dull red & green/greenish
"Gathering Dates"
In 1926, a new parcel post set of fifteen stamps was issued. "Gathering Dates" is the scene for these bi-colors.

Dates have been an important crop for Tunisia, and provides 30% of the world's export total, especially the valued Deglet Nour variety.

The Parcel Post stamp category was discontinued on July 1, 1940. 

Deep Blue
1923 Semi-postal Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 20 pages for the 1888-1938 (-46) stamps of Tunisia, and has a space for all the major Scott numbers. I found I have added quadrilled pages to accommodate the additional nicely cancelled specimens from various settlements. Unlike some colonies/protectorates, it appears Tunisia actually used their issues. ;-)

1927 Scott C4 2fr green & red/pink 
"Carthaginian Galley"
1925 Scott 55 Overprinted in Red
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on five pages, has 151 spaces for the regular, postage due, air post, semi-postal, and parcel post categories. Coverage is 45%.

There are only three "expensive" stamps required (see Comments section).

Overall, BB does a nice job for a "representative" selection for Tunisia. One could argue that the semi-postal 1918 surcharge stamps (Scott B12-B14), the semi-postal 1923 surcharged stamps (Scott B20-B28), and some of the 1888-97 perforated "T" postage stamps could of had spaces, perhaps.

The 1926-46 long definitive pictorial set spaces is, of course, short, as the post 1940 issued stamps (33 stamps) are not given a space. But, a number of them do have a space in the Part II 1840-49 International album.



9,10,11,12,13,14,15* or 27,



Next Page







Next Page




Next Page

Postage Due


Air Post





Next Page

Parcel Post






A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1888 Scott 3 5c green/greenish ($10+)
1888 (Scott 4) 15c blue/grayish ($30)
1888 (Scott 24) 1fr olive/olive ($10+)
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) *15 or 27- the 15c blue/grayish: non-quadrilled vs quadrilled paper.
D) *64 and *71- 20c on 15c violet: quite similar surcharges, and can be confused - the 64 has "20c" while the 71 has "20".
E) *81- error in description in BB. BB states for 25c gray green (Scott 81) "like 1c"- the A10 design.. In fact, the design for the 25c gray green is "like 15c"- the A11 design. 
F) *143- not 145
G) *144- not 146
H) *1906- the '69 BB loses six spaces (Scott Q4-Q9) compared to the 40s BB editions.
I) *1926- the '69 BB loses six spaces (Scott Q14-Q19) compared to the 40s BB editions.

1930 Scott 121 50c on 40c deep brown
"Grand Mosque of Tunis"
Surcharged with New Value and Bars
Out of the Blue
Tunisia is one of my favorite French sphere stamp countries. The issues are generally inexpensive, but fascinating, and worth further study.

Note: Maps and image pics and scans appear to be in the public domain.

Have a comment?


  1. Agree with you that Tunisia is one of the most interesting of the French colonial realms to collect (all of French North Africa I find that way - Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia). Checking my Maury not able to find that "Solidarite" overprint you ask about. It is the same font as the 1947 Solidarity Semi-Postal (Maury 341), so perhaps it was a test priniting of the overprint? Nothing said of it in Maury. Perhaps one of the French experts at stampboards knows more.

    1. Gene- Yes, all of French North Africa- Morocco in particular, are very nice indeed!

  2. Jim

    You really dug into Tunesia - nice post.

    Michel - yes, Michel - has a note on the Solidarite issue. The stamps were issued for fiscal use to support the poor. A sort of luxury tax. They were affixed to cinema tickets and the like. Michel states they have no philatelic value....

    1. Leave it to the Germans to be the most thorough. ;-)

      Thanks Gerben for uncovering the puzzling overprint, and, as it turns out, an interesting use of the stamp.

  3. I live in South Africa so I have chosen the most northern country in Africa for a complete stamp collection. The stamps are beautiful and it is not an impossible target to collect each and every stamp. Any guide as to the best album to use will be appreciated.

    1. I agree that Tunisia is an interesting country to collect.

      I would think that a French oriented album would be best, but I am in the dark, as you, if one exists. Certainly the Steiner pages- Deep Blue- would work for a general collection - but they are based on the Scott catalogue. Since you are from South Africa, perhaps SG catalogues are the favorites? Obtain a SG catalogue for Tunisia and use that to organize the collection either with an album, or in a stock book or pages?

  4. Is there a book on tunisia stamps/postal history? I am interested in starting a Tunisia Postal Stationery exhibit.



    1. Hi Steve

      No doubt there is, or at least journal articles covering aspects of Tunisia.

      I don't have specific knowledge about what is available, unfortunately.

      One would have to inquire at the APS Research library, or other Stamp Research Libraries.

      ...Or Specialty societies (French?).

      Good luck with your endeavor!


  5. The “SOLIDARITE” overprint was applied in 1937 to the postal issues of 1927 in black, blue, or red. By far the most common of these is No. 78 overprinted in blue. These stamps were used to collect a special tax for the relief of drought victims, and are rightly considered revenues.

    1. Thanks for the great information on the "SOLIDARITE" overprint. Along with Gerben's post (above), we have much more on this issue.

  6. The “SOLIDARITE” overprint was applied in 1937 to the postal issues of 1927 in black, blue, or red. By far the most common of these is No. 78 overprinted in blue. These stamps were used to collect a special tax for the relief of drought victims, and are rightly considered revenues.