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...

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

British Central Africa - a closer look

1891 Scott 3 4p red brown & black "Coat of Arms"
On Rhodesia (British South Africa Company) 1891 Scott 5 
Overprinted in Black
Into the Deep Blue
British Central Africa (proclaimed 1889), on the west shores of Lake Nyassa, and nestled between Northeastern Rhodesia, Mozambique, and German East Africa, existed as a stamp issuing British protectorate between 1891-1907.

British Central Africa - Stamp World History
Used by permission
A nice map of British Central Africa is found here at Gerben's StampWorldHistory site. (Note: SWH's site is down at present, so I am including the map here. I had general permission from him to use his maps for my blog topics.)

In 1907, the territory was renamed the Nyasaland Protectorate. It is now present day Malawi (1964).

The original British Central Africa & BB Checklist post is here.

A closer look at the stamps and issues
12 Pence = 1 Shilling
20 Shillings = 1 Pound
1891 Scott 1 1p black "Coat of Arms"
On Rhodesia (British South Africa Company) 1890 Scott 2 
Overprinted in Black
Rhodesian (British South African Company) issues were overprinted "B.C.A." between 1891-1895. Altogether, seventeen stamps were issued.

CV ranges from $5 to north of $4000. But the higher denominations with fiscal cancellations are found more commonly, and sell for a fraction of the CV of those with postal markings.

1895 Scott 24 6p ultramarine & black , Unwatermarked
"Coat of Arms of the Protectorate"
A new lithographic issue proper for British Central Africa of eleven stamps featuring the "Coat of Arms" for the protectorate was released on unwatermarked paper in 1895. (Scott says the issue is typographic, but is clearly wrong.)

The designer was Sir Harry Johnston of De La Rue printers, London.

One needs to check for a lack of watermark for this stamp issue, as the next similar issue (1896) is watermarked (Wmk2, Wmk 1 sideways).

CV ranges from $10+ to $16,000!

Again, one should note that the higher Shilling and Pound denominations were used for fiscal purposes, for the most part, and fiscal cancellations (undated double circle cancel with the words "British Central Africa" between the circles, and a town name in the center) sell for much less than the CV in the Scott catalogue for postally used stamps.

1896 Scott 32 1p black , Wmk 2
"Coat of Arms of the Protectorate"
The 1896 issue, similar in design to the 1895 issue, is on watermarked paper (Wmk 2, Wmk 1-sideways).

There were eleven stamps for the 1896 issue, and CV ranges from $4+ to $26,000!

What about the "Coat of Arms" design?

I will borrow Bud's trenchant comments from Bud's Big Blue British Central Africa post....

"A motto “Light in darkness” (irony noted) is inscribed beneath a coat of arms on the 1895-96 stamps, although dropped from those that follow. Two Bantu men stand on tiger pelts holding European-style mining tools but, as it turned out, prospecting was bleak."

1897 Scott 46 4p carmine rose & black, Wmk 2
"Coat of Arms of the Protectorate"
Between 1897-1901, a fourteen stamp typographic bi-color issue, still showing the "coat of arms", but changing the frame design, was released.

CV ranges from <$1 to $2,750!

1897 Scott 45 2p yellow & black, Wmk 2
"Coat of Arms of the Protectorate"
SON: "Chinde"
Now this is interesting.

Chinde was a port for British Central Africa  on the Chinde channel in the Zambezi delta, and was located  40 miles south of Quelimane in Mozambique (Portuguese East Africa).

So why is there a BCA stamp and postmark for Chinde deep into Portuguese Mozambique territory?

Because, as part of the Anglo-Portuguese Treaty of 1891, the British obtained a 99 year concession to establish a port (Chinde) where the ships could transfer their cargoes to river steamers.

By 1922, however, the rail link between the port of Beira and Nyasaland made the Chinde concession moot, and the lease was cancelled, and the port reverted to Portuguese control.

1903 Scott 62 4p black & gray green, Wmk 2
"King Edward VII"
The first "Baldies", the King Edward VII design, arrived for BCA  between 1903-1904 with a ten stamp issue. The lower denominations were on Wmk 2 paper, while the higher denominations showed Wmk 1.

CV is $2+ to $5 for five stamps.

1903 Scott 63 6p orange brown & black, Wmk 2
"King Edward VII"
Doing a bit of sleuthing on the postmark...

Fort Johnston - BCA
I think this might be a postmark for Fort Johnston in the South Nyasa region of BCA.

Barracks at Fort Johnston circa 1895
Further sleuthing found a pic of Fort Johnston circa 1895.

1907 Scott 70 1p carmine & black, Wmk 3
"King Edward VII"
In 1907, four "Edward VII" stamps, but with Wmk 3, were prepared. Only the 1p carmine & black (above -CV $3+) and the 6p (CV $40+) were actually issued. The other two stamps (2p, 4p) were not issued, but are found in the Scott catalogue for CV $19,000! According to the SG catalogue, there are no more than a dozen examples each in collectors hands.

British Central Africa stamps were replaced by those of Nyasaland Protectorate in 1908.

Deep Blue
1903-04 Issue in Deep Blue
Five pages are offered by Deep Blue (Steiner) for the 1891-1907 stamps of British Central Africa. All of the (Scott) major numbers have a space. Because of the cost of BCA stamps, the WW collector may find a surfeit of empty spaces. ;-)

1901 Scott 47 4p olive green & violet  Wmk 2
"Coat of Arms of the Protectorate"
Out of the Blue
This little dead country could offer a lot of interesting history/postal history.

Note: Pic and map appear to be in the public domain.

British Central Africa Stamps Website
British Central Africa - Bud's Big Blue

Comments appreciated!


  1. Excellent post. Malawi is still one of the world's poorest countries, per capita annual GDP only $331.

    The motto "Light in Darkness" is indeed ironic, as you note. These stamps were very likely used only by the very small numbers of imperialists (I think that is the correct term, no?) who set about to exploit whatever resources could be stripped out of the country.

    BTW thank you Jim for putting this entire blog together, it has been very helpful in my own collecting endeavor, which like you I had suspended for some 20-30 years in pursuit of other objectives. I especially like the way you tie in historic maps and photos.