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...

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Turkish Classical Stamp Bath Too Hot? Ten Helpful Hints

Complicated? Ten Hints to Help!
Into the Deep Blue
The Ottoman  stamp era is quite attractive to many WW collectors, but talk about all the confusing surcharged/overprinted stamps!

From 1865-1917, I count 656 overprinted/surcharged stamps! And Scott does little in the catalogue with few additional illustrations to make it more lucid.

And reviewing Turkish holdings in feeder albums- as well as my own! - shows rampant mistakes in stamp space placement.

And, of course, most WW collectors do not understand Turkish with the Arabic script.

All of this can be discouraging.

I can't guarantee all the Turkish stamp placement conundrums will be solved, but here are ten helpful (and basic!) hints....

Hint 0
Before we begin with the formal ten hint list, here is hint 0, perhaps the most important of all!

Life will be much easier for the WW collector of Turkish stamps if the collector becomes familiar with the numbering system. Be aware that  the "0" (dot) is often placed after another number, -say the 5, which will then make the number "50".

Hint 1
Crescent and Star Surcharged
1865 Scott 12 5pi carmine & 1867 Scott 18 5pi rose
The earlier 1865-1876 regular and postage due issues show the Crescent and Star, symbols of the Turkish caliphate. Almost all of the stamps are overprinted/surcharged. The characters at the top and sides translates roughly to "Ottoman Empire Posts" The bottom character denotes the surcharged denomination. The issues (1865,1867,1869,1874-75,1876) all have (sometimes slightly) different overprint characters. Note the (top and sides) character differences between the 1865 and 1867 issue stamps? (The bottom character will change with denominations.) One doesn't need to read Turkish Arabic script, just pay attention, and match the script to the correct issue.

Hint 2
Seal of the Ottoman Empire
Turkey...or Eastern Rumelia?
Turkey 1884 Scott 67 10pa green & pale green
Eastern Rumelia 1884 Scott 16 10pa green & pale green
Be aware that Eastern Rumelia can sneak into a Turkish collection, and vice-versa. Definitely have seen it in feeder albums.

Hint 3
Seal of the Ottoman Empire
Regular Issue...or Postage Due?
1886 Scott 74 5pa black & pale gray
1888 Scott J36 20pa black
Is the stamp a regular issue or a postage due? Sometimes the only major hint is the denomination.

Hint 4
Tughra in Arch Shaped Frame
1905 Issue...or 1906 "Discount" overprint issue?
10pa dull green, 20pa carmine, 1pi blue
Between 1901-1909, there were nine issues. These issues were overprinted/surcharged extensively in 1915-1917. It is helpful if the collector becomes familiar with the looks of each 1901-09 issue, so the 1915-17 surcharged/overprinted stamps can be properly placed.

This is the 1905 issue, with the "arch shaped frame".

But what is that horizontal flat "C" blue overprint on the 20pa carmine? (I've purposely placed some stamps in a mistaken space for "teaching" purposes for this blog post.)

From Scott....

"Stamps bearing this overprint were sold to merchants at a discount from face value to encourage the use of Turkish stamps on foreign correspondence, instead of those of the various European powers which maintained post offices in Turkey. The overprint is the Arab "B" for "Behie", meaning "discount"".

These "discount" stamps were initially issued, beginning in 1906. The "discount" overprint can be found also on a number of further surcharged/overprinted issues, so one needs to look for it to correctly identify the stamp.

Hint 5
Tughra and Inscription in Circle
1908 Issue....or 1909?
1909 Scott 153 20pa carmine rose
1908 Scott 135 & 136 1pi bright blue & 2pi blue black
The 1908 and 1909 "Inscription in Circle" stamps truly cause confusion with identification.

The 20pa carmine is a 1909 issue, while the 1pi bright blue & 2pi blue black are 1908 issues.

Let's take a closer look....

1908 Issue
The script inside the bottom half of the circle fills in completely, and the script to the right of the Tughra (which is actually part of the Tughra) is wider and fatter.

1909 Issue
The script inside the bottom half of the circle is separated from the circle edge, and the script to the right of the Tughra (again, actually part of the Tughra) is more narrow and thinner.

The 1909 issue reflects the Tughra and "Reshad" of Sultan Mohammed V.

Hint 6
On 1901 Domestic Issue
1915 "six pointed" or 1916 "five pointed" star
Overprint Issue?
5pa purple, 10pa green, 20pa carmine
In 1915, many previous issues (1892,1897,1901,1905,1906,1908,1909,1913) were overprinted with a crescent and star. The star is "six pointed" for the 1915 overprinted issues. If one has a "five pointed" star among the 1915 overprinted stamps, it doesn't belong there, as the "five pointed" star overprints were issued in 1916!

Hint 7
1916 "five pointed" star Overprint Issue
On 1905... or 1906 "Discount" Issue?
20pa carmine, 1pi bright blue, 2pi slate
In 1916, many previous issues (1892-98, 1897, 1901,1905,1906,1908,1908-09,1913,1916) were overprinted with a crescent and star. The star is "five pointed" for the 1916 overprinted issues.

Shown here are, at first glance, stamps that were issued in 1905.

But placed here, "by mistake" is a "discount" 1pi bright blue stamp (See the red horizontal flat "C"?), that is a 1906 stamp issue. The lesson here is one needs to carefully examine the stamps for the "discount" marking, as it may be difficult to see.

Hint 8
1915 "six star" overprint stamps
On 1913 "General Post Office, Constantinople" stamp issue
Regular issue ...or Semi-Postal?
10pa blue green & 1pi ultramarine
Semi-postal stamps were also created with an overprinted crescent in 1915 with a "six pointed" star or in 1916 with a "five pointed" star. The illustration here shows the "six pointed" 1915 variety.

But the crescent for semi-postals always is filled in with script. !! Note the 1pi ultramarine stamp does not belong here, as it is a "regular" 1915 issue.

One other "gotcha"- notice the "additional overprint" on the 10pa green? This is another example of a "discount" stamp, which has its own catalogue number.

Semi-Postal Crescent overprint: reads "For War Orphans"
Note the filled in script inside the overprinted crescent, which makes this a semi-postal stamp.

Hint 9
1901 Tughra in Oval Foreign Issue
Regular or Newspaper?
5pa bister, 10pa yellow green, 20pa magenta, 1pi violet blue, 2pi gray blue
Turkey also issued many newspaper stamps. From 1901-1917, most of the newspaper stamps produced were similar to regular issues, except they had a dense discrete script overprinted on them.

The 5pa bister and the 10pa yellow green illustrated above are newspaper stamps, and do not belong here among the regular issues.

Close-up of the Newspaper Script Overprint
Newspaper stamps can be found with many additional overprints/surcharges, but if they have this script, then one knows to place them in the Newspaper section pages of the album.

Hint 10
"Arms and Tughra of El Gazi Sultan Abdul Hamid"
1917 Overprinted or Surcharged on Preceding Issues
On Stamps of 1892-98, Red Overprint
Scott 477 20pa violet brown, Scott 478 2pi brown orange
Finally, in 1917, this characteristic overprint or surcharge was applied to preceding issues (1865,1867,1870-71,1874-75,1876,1880-84,1881-82,1884-86,1886,1888,1892-98,1901,1905,1908,1908-09,1913, 1916 regular issues, and postage dues and newspaper stamps).

I don't know why, but the overprint reminds me of an apple. ;-)  (BTW, the "star" is always a "five pointed" star.)

1917 Scott 505 20pa carmine, black overprint
On 1906 "Discount" stamp with blue overprint
1917 Scott 544 10pa green & pale green
Overprinted in Black on Eastern Rumelia 1884 Scott 16
Here are a couple more examples of the 1917 "apple" overprint.

Note, in this case, the overprint was applied to a "discount" 1906 20pa carmine stamp.

And remember "Eastern Rumelia"? Well, if one finds the "apple" overprint on an Eastern Rumelia stamp, it is actually catalogued as a Turkey stamp. ;-)

One other cautionary note: Scott states, with the "apple" overprint, forgeries abound.

1865 Scott 11 2pi blue
Crescent and Star, Symbols of Turkish Caliphate
Out of the Blue
I now feel ready to tackle the classical Turkish stamps - the "Turkish bath" does not seem quite as hot. I hope you do too.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Hello, Jim! Last year I had the opportunity to see a large portion of Turkey, and to know 'live' its history. Stamp collecting it's a smart way to deepen this knowledge, and your hints are more than useful. I haven't yet such stamps in my collection, but I hope that someday this situation to change. Regards, Catalin

    1. Turkey is on my bucket list - I have not yet visited there. I am a bit jealous! ;-)

      Thanks for the kind words!

  2. Hey Jim,
    You post is very timely for me. I just bought a moderately large collection of Turkish stamps from Dr. Bob. Having fun sorting them out!

    1. Chris- Have fun with the "Dr. Bob> collection!

  3. Actually 11 hints since you started with "Hint 0" :>)

  4. On the 1908-1909 issue difference, looking at the small inscription to the right of the main tughra is the true identifier. The 1908 issue, which has more complicated inscription, is the pseudonym/honorific of Sultan Abdul Hamid, "El-Gazi," while the 1909 issue has the honorific of Mehmet V, "Reshad". The change was due to the Revolution of 1908 in the Ottoman Empire and its aftermath which would result in the forced abdication of the absolutist Abdulhamid II and his replacement with the more liberal Mehmet V.

    1. Gene- Thanks for the history insight that the revolution of 1908 resulting in a new Sultan is evidenced by the tughra for the 1909 issue.

  5. Nice work here. Now I'll again review my Turkey collection.
    (See my note under Turkey) kind regards David

  6. I recieved several more feeder collections. I am working twards specializing in Turkey. I note there is plenty of good material available. Some dealers in Turkey it's self are anxious to sell nice material. Your "hint" blog is very nice I also find many stamp placement errors in my collections. I am still trying to find out if the military stamps really were ever used or did scott cave. KR David

    1. Turkey is a great country to sub-specialize in - lots of material, and much to learn - have fun!

  7. The overprint you called an "apple" has many names, "beetle" and "bull head" seem the most common. However I rather like your "apple" I have not found yet any information on forged OP of the apple. However in due course I will as I joined the USA Ottoman stamp society.
    Kind regards. David

  8. Hello any boby know something about a blue stamp....big blue 10 ...circle W. Blue stamps....cash value 10 mills....thanks for your time and help guys.....please email me