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, March 21, 2018

Belgian Congo Stamps Part I - A closer look

1910 Scott 54 1fr carmine & black 
"Hunting Elephants"
Into the Deep Blue
The 2017 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Belgian Congo 1886-1939, 229 major descriptive numbers. Of those, 140 are CV <$1-$1+, or 61%. Clearly, a representative collection is available for WW collectors for minimal cost.

Original Belgium Congo Blog Post and BB Checklist is here. In Big Blue, the country's entry is under "Congo".

The Belgian Congo is an interesting country, both historically and stamp design wise.

The country initially existed (1886-1908) solely under the private ownership of King Leopold II of Belgium, as Belgium itself was not interested. The exploitation of the natives in the rubber industry became a major scandal and embarrassment. To correct the worst abuses, Belgium annexed the territory as a colony in 1908.

Between 1894-1925, some 71 bi-colored engraved stamps were released, either with pictorial designs or additionally surcharged.

Most are quite CV inexpensive, even today. And they are quite lovely.

For this blog post, we will visit these 1894-1925 stamps and their designs.

But there were also some more interesting pictorials issued between 1920-1937. They are too good to ignore, so they will be featured with the next blog post.

Let's begin...
A closer look at the stamps
100 Centimes = 1 Franc
1889 Scott 6 5c green "King Leopold II"
Independent State of the Congo
Before we get to the engraved bi-color pictorials that were first issued in 1894, let's look at the person that, with the help of explorer Henry Morton Stanley, acquired the Congo Independent State for himself: King Leopold II of Belgium.

He acquired the lands to enhance the prestige of Belgium, and, not insignificantly, enrich himself through the forced labor of natives by developing rubber plantations, and exporting ivory and minerals.

Joseph Conrad's 1899 "Heart of Darkness" novel was based on, in part, the human suffering occurring there.

The territory was named the "Congo Free State" on May 29, 1885.

He is featured on the 1886 five stamps issue, and the 1887-1894 eight stamp issue, pictured above.

Counterfeits exist for both issues.

Information on counterfeit stamps can be found on the stampforgeries.com website.

1895 Scott 15 5c red brown & black "Port Matadi"
Independent State of the Congo
The first engraved bi-color 1894-1901 issue for "Etat Independent Du Congo" consisted of thirteen stamps and six pictorial designs.

CV is <$1-$10+ for 12 stamps.

Port Matidi is up the Congo River 92 miles from the mouth, and was and is located just below where the Congo River has many rapids and becomes unnavigable. It was founded by Sir Henry Morton Stanley in 1879.

Port Matidi, on cover of trading cards from the Congo
The building (1890-1898) of the Matidi-Kinshasa Railway enabled transport of goods deep within the Congo to the Port of Matidi.

1894 Scott 20 25c yellow orange & black
"Inkissi Falls"
For the collector, the bi-colors of 1894-1898 can be confused with later issues which have the same pictorial scenes.

These 1894-1898 issue stamps are labeled  "Etat Independant Du Congo" during the era when Leopold II personally owned these lands. Later (after 1909), they will be labeled "Congo Belge" and/or "Belgisch-Congo".

Inkissi (Inkisi, Zongo) Falls
The Inkisi Falls (180 ft drop) are located about six miles up the Inkisi River, a tributary of the Congo River.

1896 Scott 27 15c ocher & black
"Climbing Oil Palms"
In 1896, two stamps with new designs were released.

The "Climbing Oil Palms" design was subsequently used on several 15 centime stamps with changing colors.

Of interest, the French Yvert & Tellier 1840-1940 catalogue use the term "cocotiers",meaning "coconut tree climbers", literally. I assume any climber of palm trees would be called a "cocotier" in French.

1909 Scott 42 10c carmine & black
Belgian Congo
River Scene on the Congo, Stanley Falls
When the colony was taken over formally in 1908 by Belgium, the country was renamed "Belgian Congo".

A four stamp issue, using four previously issued pictorial scenes, was produced in 1909.

CV is <$1-$20.

This four stamp issue is often misplaced in stamp albums.

The four stamps for the 1909 issue are only labeled "Congo Belge", in French.

But the next issue released in 1910 will have very similar stamps.  One difference is the 1910 stamps will have both "Congo Belge" in French and "Belgisch-Congo" in Flemish as labels.

Native Fisheries at Stanley Falls in 1925
Stanley Falls (now known as Boyoma Falls), was obviously named for the explorer Henry Stanley. It actually consists of seven cataracts, each one no more than 16 ft high,  extending for 60 miles along a curve of the Lualaba River.  Below Stanley Falls, the river is known as the Congo.

Lualaba River (In red)
Kisangani (Stanleyville) is where Stanley Falls ends
The stamp scene also shows the Stanleyville village area, now known as Kisangani. Kisangani is the third largest urban city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1915 Scott 58 5fr ocher & black
"Bangala Chief and Wife"
The 1910-1915 issue consists of 15 stamps, Of the ten pictorial scenes, all are recycled from previous issues. But the frames are new for this issue, and will show both the French name "Congo Belge" and the Flemish name "Belgisch Congo".

CV is <$1-$20+ for 14 stamps.

Camp of Bangalas, Stanleyville
The Bangala language is a Bantu language, and today is spoken or understood by about 3.5 million people. It actually is a way to communicate (lingua franca) between tribes of different ethnic groups that border the Congo River.

1915 Scott 60 5c green & black
"Port Matadi"
The last non surcharged bi-colored issue was released in 1915, and consisted of three stamps: a 5c green & black, a 10c red & black, and a 25c blue & black. None of the pictorial scenes are new.

CV is <$1.

This 1915 issue looks very similar to the same denomination three stamps of the preceding 1910 issue, except this time, the denomination is included in numeral word format above "Congo Belge".

Note the "Cinq" above the "Congo Belge" in this example.

Such is the level of detail the collector must check to properly identify these bi-colors.

1921 Scott 64 5c on 40c bluish green & black, Red Surcharge
Stamps of 1910 Issue Surcharged; "Congo Canoe"
In 1921, six stamps of the 1910 issue were surcharged in red or black.

The scene is called "Congo Canoe" in Scott, but Y&T catalogue calls the scene "Embarcations indigenes", which like better.

1922 Scott 76 25c on 40c brown red & black, Red Surcharge
On 1915 Issue Stamps; "Congo Canoe"
In 1922, five additional stamps from the 1915 issue were surcharged in black or red as shown.

CV is <$1.
1918 Semi-Postal Scott B3 15c + 20c blue green & blue
Types of 1910-15 Issues Surcharged in Red
"Climbing Oil Palms"
In 1918, nine semi-postals were created, by surcharging in red, types of the 1910-15 issues.

"Types" means the underlying stamps are produced here in a different color combination than the original issue.

Isn't this lovely?
1918 Semi-Postal Scott B4 25c + 25c deep blue & pale blue
Types of 1910-15 Issues Surcharged in Red; "Inkissi Falls"
The 1918 semi-postal surcharged nine stamp issue has a CV of <$1-$3 for seven stamps.

Here, the stamps "type" is produced as deep blue & pale blue, while the original 1915 stamp is blue & black.

1925 Scott B11 25c + 25c carmine & black
Flemish Script; "Congo Canoe"
For Colonial campaigns 1914-1918
In 1925, two stamps with new frames were issued as semi-postals. The surtax was to erect at Kinshasa a monument for those who died in WW I.

The vignette scene here had been used on prior stamps.

The two new frames differ in that one is inscribed in French, while the other is in Flemish.

Monument du Souvenir , 1927
War Memorial
This may be the war memorial that was erected in 1927.

Deep Blue
1922 Issue with Surcharges on 1915 Issue in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has 19 pages for the 1886-1939 stamps of the Belgian Congo. All Scott major numbers have a space.

1921 Scott 67 25c on 15c ocher & black
Red Surcharge; "Climbing Oil Palms"
Out of the Blue
A bit more history is gleaned by following the stamps.

Note:Internet pics, scans, and maps (Stanleyville, Luabala River, Stanley Falls, Inkissi Falls, Port Matidi) appear to be in the public domain.

Belgian Congo - Bud's Big Blue

Comments appreciated!


  1. Looks like the 5c Port Matadi says Cinq (French), not "Cinco" (Spanish)

    1. Ha-ha, I missed it. Thanks. Fixed.

    2. What were the 1918 semi-postal surcharges for on B1-10? Also, why the surcharges of 1921 #64-73 & 1922 #74-78? The Scott catalog doesn't explain.

    3. I'm away from my catalogs and collection right now. I will look into it later in the week.

    4. The 1918 B1-B10 semi-postals have a red surcharge on their stamps. I'm surprised you didn't see it in the catalog, because my Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalog clearly illustrates the surcharge. The surcharge changes as the original denomination goes up.. For instance, the 15c has a +20c surcharge, the 1fr has a + 1fr surcharge. These 1918 semi-postals are "types"; that is they differ in color compared to the 1910-15 regular issue originals.

      You are right though that these semi-postals and the regular 1921 Scott 64-73 and 1922 Scott 74-78 surcharges are not explained as far as purpose in the Scott catalog. I could speculate: post WW I fund raising or changes in postal rates, or, perhaps, gouging the collector. ;-)

    5. Thank you for researching this. I was surprised that the catalog doesn't give the reason for the surcharges. I also speculate that the semi-postals were either for the Red Cross or for a WWI welfare fund. Thanks for trying.