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...

Sunday, April 2, 2017


1896 Scott 41 2 1/2a ultramarine & red
"Sultan Seyyid Hamed-bin-Thwain"
Engraved, Wmk Rosette
Quick History
" "Earth, sea and sky, all seemed wrapped in a soft and sensuous repose...The sea of purist sapphire, which had not parted with its blue rays to the atmosphere...lay looking...under a blaze of sunshine which touched every object with a dull burnish of gold".
On Zanzibar- Richard Francis Burton -British Explorer- 1856

Sketch of Stone Town with Palace and Fort 1871-1875
Stone Town,(old part of Zanzibar Town), on the main island (Zanzibar Island) of the Zanzibar Archipelago (Spice Islands in the Indian Ocean, off the eastern African coast), was the 19th century home to the Zanzibar Sultanate, the spice trade (cloves), ivory trade, and, of a more sinister nature, the center of the Arabic slave trade. Every year, 40,000 slaves from East Africa were packed into Dhows for Zanzibar, where they were stripped, inspected, cleaned, sold, and transported to Persia, Arabia, the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. Some worked the clove and coconut plantations of Zanzibar and Pemba. The conditions were so harsh, a third of the male slaves died every year.

Zanzibar and German East Africa 1890
The British became involved for humanitarian reasons ( abolishing the slave trade by agreements with the Sultans (1822 - 1897)), and.naturally, for commerce.

Britain had recognized the sovereignty and the sultanate of Zanzibar in 1886.

But then Germany and the British Empire mutually played the East African lands like it was a monopoly board (Scramble for Africa), and, with the 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar treaty, the British had clear access to Zanzibar.

Zanzibar became a British protectorate when Ali bin Said ascended to the Sultanate in 1890.

The population was estimated at 60,000 in 1891 (17,000 slaves).

Hamid bin Thuwani was the successor Sultan in 1893, and he established a close relationship with the British - too close in the eyes of many of his subjects.

Stamps (British India-Overprinted) were introduced November 14, 1895.

Overprinted stamps from British East Africa were issued on May 23, 1896.

The Sultan Hamid bin Thuwaini was honored (posthumously) with Zanzibar's own vignette issues of 1896 and 1898.

Stone Town Palace Complex after Bombardment
Anglo-Zanzibar War August 27, 1896
Sultan Hamid bin Thuwaini died unexpectly (poisoned?) on August 25, 1896, and his nephew (the suspect), the anti-British leaning Khadid bin Barghash, moved into the palace complex to assume the sultanate.

Sheikh Khadid bin Barghash 
As Khalid had not obtained permission of the British consul to assume the sultanate, as required by the agreement (treaty) of 1886, the British issued an ultimatum for Khalid to leave the palace.

What followed was a bombardment and subsequent fire of the palace complex by the British on August 27, 1896, which lasted all of 40  minutes (shortest recorded war in history), and caused 500 to be killed or wounded (mostly as a result of the fire) among the sultan's forces, and men and women who inhabited the palace.

The British then installed Hamud bin Muhammed Al-Said as nominal head Sultan, with the British retaining the real power.

The vignette stamps of 1899-1901 show him.

Of interest, there was no further rebellion during the remaining years of the British protectorate, lasting until 1963.

Zanzibar - semi-autonomous part of Tanzania
In 1963, the protectorate was ended. There then existed a short one month constitutional monarchy, then the Zanzibar Revolution, and then the short lived three month People's Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. In April, 1964, the Republic joined with mainland Taganyika (United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar). The country was renamed the United Republic of Tanzania, of which Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous area.

1901 Scott 64 1a carmine & red
"Sultan Seyyid Hamoud-bin-Mahommed-bin-Said"
Engraved, Wmk Multiple Rosette
Into the Deep Blue
The 2014 Scott Classic Specialized 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Zanzibar 1895-1952, 238 major number descriptions. Of those, 84 are CV <$1-$1+, or 35%. Although a reasonable selection is available to the WW collector without much expense, the truth is, as a former British protectorate, interest is high, and expense is likewise for the earlier and higher denomination stamps.

To say nothing about the attraction of an exotic name and location. Zanzibar- the very name congers intrigue as the former center of the Arab slave trade and clove producer.

Stamps of India were used in Zanzibar from 1875-1895.

Stanley Gibbons lists some 108 catalogue numbers for known "Zanzibar" cancellations on various regular and official India stamps from 1865-1895.

The initial issues (1895-1896) were overprints of British India and British East Africa.

British East Africa took over responsibility of the postal service from India on November 10, 1895.

The Zanzibar stamp designs betray their British roots (De la Rue & Co.), and bear some similarities to those from the Federated Malay States, including the "Rosette" and "Multiple Rosettes" watermarks.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pies = 1 Anna
16 Annas = 1 Rupee
100 Cents = 1 Rupee (1908)
100 Cents = 1 Shilling (1935)
1896 Scott 34 2 1/2a dark blue, Red overprint
"Queen Victoria and British Lions"
Stamps of British East Africa 1896, Overprinted
I don't have any examples of the overprinted stamps of British India 1895-1896 (34 stamps), but a few are not expensive (CV $4-$6+), so the WW collector might be able to obtain some of them

The 1896 issue (six stamps) are overprinted 1896 stamps of British East Africa.

The illustrated 2 1/2a dark blue above has a bit of an interesting personal history. I bought it as part of a lot of British East Africa. When I was putting it into the album for British East Africa, I noticed the overprint. !

1896 Scott 44 4 1/2a orange & red
"Sultan Seyyid Hamed-bin-Thwain"
Engraved, Wmk Rosette
The first issue for Zanzibar protectorate with their own design is the fifteen stamp set of September 20, 1896.

All of the Zanzibar designs up to 1944 were printed by De la Rue, London.

This issue is distinguished by the Wmk. 71 "Rosette" watermark.

CV is <$1-$9+ for ten stamps.

1898 Scott 58 2a red brown & red
"Sultan Seyyid Hamed-bin-Thwain"
Engraved, Wmk Multiple Rosette
The 1898 issue (ten stamps) has the same design as the 1896 issue, except the watermark is Wmk. 47 "Multiple Rosette".

CV is <$1-$3+ for all the stamps in the set.

Hamad bin Thuwaini of Zanzibar
The stamps issues of 1896 and 1898 showing Hamid bin Thuwaini are actually posthumous, as he died "suddenly" on August 25, 1896.

Wmk. 71 "Rosette"; Wmk. 47 "Multiple Rosette"
The "Rosette" and "Multiple Rosette"watermarks can also be found on issues of Malay and States (Example: Johore).

1899 Scott 66 2 1/2a ultramarine & red
"Sultan Seyyid Hamoud-bin-Mahommed-bin-Said"
Engraved, Wmk Multiple Rosette
After the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, the British installed Shekh Hamoud bin Mohammed Al-Said as Sultan. 

A seventeen stamp set had the lower twelve values on "Multiple Rosette" paper.

The higher Rupee values (five stamps) were in a larger format design with a "Rosette" watermark.

Sheikh Hamoud bin Mohammed Al-Said
The Sheikhs that were enthroned with the consent of the British until the protectorate ended in 1963 served several purposes.

For one, it was cheaper for the British to "govern" the country as a protectorate then to assume all the expenses of a crown colony.

And the Sheikhs, as Sultans, were much more acceptible to the local population, which were used to Sultan rulers. They, perhaps, weren't exactly "puppets" of the British, but close.

1904 Scott 80 1a rose red
"Monogram of Sultan Ali bin Hamoud"
Ali bin Hamud, the oldest son of Sultan Seyyid Hamoud-bin-Mahommed-bin-Said, succeeded him upon his death in 1902.

In 1904, a fifteen stamp set (two formats- larger for the Rupee values) with the monogram of Ali bin Hamud was issued.

CV is <$1-$2+ for nine stamps.

1908 Scott 103 12c violet
"Sultan Ali bin Hamoud"
A vignette issue of Ali bin Hamoud was released on fourteen stamps (three designs, larger format for Rupee values) between 1908-09.

CV is <$1-$2+ for seven stamps.

Note the value denominations are now Cents/Rupee rather than Annas/Rupee.

There were also six stamps showing "Palace of the Sultan" for the highest Rupee values produced in 1908. CV is $190-$1,300!!!

Sultan Ali bin Hamoud 1907
Ali bin Hamoud was the eighth Sultan of Zanzibar, and ruled until 1911, when he abdicated (because of illness) in  favor of his brother-in-law Khalifa bin Harub.

He kept the styles as Sultan, however, and was addressed as "His Highness Sultan" until his death in 1918.

Of interest, and perhaps reflects the times, many of these titular rulers of the day seem to garner a vast array of Honors/Medals.

Sultan Ali bin Hamoud received...
1902- King Edward VII Coronation Medal
1905- Special Class of brilliants of the Nishan-e-Osmanieh of the Ottoman Empire
1905- Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy
1905- Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle. 1st Class of Prussia
1911- King George V Coronation Medal

1913 Scott 124 12c violet, Wmk. "Multiple Rosette"
"Sultan Khalifa bin Harub"
As mentioned, Ali bin Hamoud abdicated in 1911, and his brother-in-law, Khalifa bin Harub became Sultan.

In 1913, a twenty-one stamp issue with three designs was issued.

The lower values have the vignette of the new Sultan.

The issue is distinguished by the "Multiple Rosette" watermarked paper.

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

The higest denominations (seven stamps) have a "Dhow" design in bi-color. CV is $170-$1,000!

1922 Scott 144 8c violet/yellow
"Sultan Khalifa bin Harub"
Wmk 3 "Multiple Crown and C A"
The 1914-22 fourteen stamp issue, identical to the 1913 issue for the two lower designs, is on British Crown Agent Wmk. 3 "Multiple Crown and C A" paper.

CV is <$1-$5 for nine stamps.

1922 Scott 161 6c violet/blue
Wmk. 4 "Multiple Crown and Script C A"
Finally, the 1921-29 issue of twenty-two stamps is on British colony Wmk. 4 "Multiple Crown and Script C A" paper.

If you need a refresher on the British Crown Agent watermarks, check out Gilbraltar.

CV is <$1-$4 for fifteen stamps.

Sultan Khalifa bin Harub
December 9, 1911 - October 9, 1960
Khalifa bin Harub reigned as the ninth Sultan of Zanzibar until 1960 - some 49 years!

The Sultan's palace is now a museum, and one floor is dedicated to his long rule.

1926-27 Scott 185 3c yellow orange
"Sultan Khalifa bin Harub"
"CENTS" with Serifs
Between 1926-27, an eleven stamp set with a somewhat older Khalifa bin Harub was issued.

CV is <$1-$3 for ten stamps.

1926-27 Issue
"CENTS" with Serifs
Note the "CENTS" script is with serifs.

1936 Scott 208 50c claret
"Sultan Khalifa bin Harub"
"CENTS" without Serifs
A 1936 issue has the lower eight values with a similar design to the 1926-27 issue.

CV is <$1 for the lower eight values.

1936 Issue
"CENTS" without Serifs
The 1936 issue design has the "CENTS" without serifs.

1936 Scott 209 1sh yellow green "Dhow"
The 1936 issue middle denominations (four stamps) illustrates a "Dhow", which is identical in design to the middle denomination issues of 1913, 1914-22, and 1921-29.

But the 1936 issue is valued in "Cents/Shilling" rather than "Cents/Rupee".

1936 Scott 215 20c red violet & black
"Sultan Khalifa bin Harub"
25th Year Anniversary Reign
Also in 1936, a four stamp commerative issue honoring the 25th year reign of Sultan Khalifa Bin Harub was released.

1944 Scott 220 50c Prussian green
"Dhow and Map Showing Zanzibar & Muscat (Oman)"
200th Anniversary of the Al Busaid Dynasty
The House of Al Bu Said has ruled through the Sultanate of Oman from 1744 to present, and the Sultanate of Zanzibar from 1856-1964.

For the 200th anniversary of the Al Busaid dynasty, a four stamp issue was produced in 1944.

1946 Scott 223 30c ultramarine
1936 Scott 206 Overprinted in Red
Victory of Allied Nations in WW II
A two stamp overprinted issue was released in 1946 for the victory of the Allied Nations in WW II.

1936 Postage Due Scott J20 20c green, Typograhed
Wmk 4 "Multiple Crown and Script C A"
A very functional postage due set of six stamps was issued in 1936.

CV is $2+-$10+.

Deep Blue
1936 Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has fifteen pages for the stamps of 1895-1952 Zanzibar, and all the Scott major numbers have a space.

1936 Scott 217 50c red orange & black
"Sultan Khalifa bin Harub"
Big Blue
Big Blue '69, on two pages, has 66 stamp spaces. Subtracting for the 24 stamps post 1940-52 in the Scott 1840-1940 catalogue not covered in BB, yields an overall  coverage of 31%. Not too bad for a representative album for a popular British protectorate. Most of the issue spaces stop well short of completeness, but Zanzibar's higher denominations tend to be expensive ($hundreds). 

There are five spaces that require a CV $10-$30+ stamp, but none cross into the "most expensive" (CV $35+) category.

As typical, there is competition for a BB space from multiple watermarked varieties.


38 or 56,39 or 57,40 or 58, 41 or 58A,42 or 59,43 or 60,44 or 60A,




120 or 141 or 156,121 or 142 or 157,158,159,122 or 143 or 160,161,144,
123,145,124 or 163,164,125 or 146 or 165,126 or 167,


Next Page


Postage Due


A) Expensive stamps ($10 threshold):
1936 Scott 212 7.50sh blue ($30+)
1926 Scott 213 10sh brown & green ($20+)
1936 Scott J21 30c brown ($10+)
1936 Scott J22 40c ultramarine ($10)
1936 Scott J23 1sh gray ($10+)
B) (    ) around a number indicates a blank space choice.
C) *1896-98 - choices are Wmk 71 vs Wmk 47
D) *1913-22 - choices are Wmk 47, Wmk 3, Wmk 4.

1944 Scott 221 1sh dull purple
"Dhow and Map Showing Zanzibar & Muscat"
Out of the Blue
My life bucket list includes a visit to Zanzibar. Well, I can dream, can't I? ;-)

Note: Maps, pics, portraits appear to be in the public domain.

Comments appreciated!

Carved Door in Stone Town


  1. Interestingly, Freddie Mercury of the rock group Queen was born and raised in Zanzibar. His parents were from British India and they moved to Zanzibar so his father could work at the British Colonial Office. Freddie lived there until his mid-teens.

    1. Well, I didn't know that. or perhaps forgot about it.

      Thanks Chris.

      Are you a classic Rock fan?

    2. Yeah, most of my teen years were in the late 1970s :-)