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, December 4, 2018

Bulgaria 1879-1901 - a closer look

1879 Scott 1 5c black & orange
"Lion of Bulgaria"; Wmk 168; Laid paper
Into the Deep Blue
The 2017 Scott Classic 1840-1940 catalogue has, for Bulgaria 1879-1901, 71 major descriptive numbers. Of those, 29 are CV <$1-$1+, or 41%. However, the first two issues - the 1879 and 1881 "Lion of Bulgaria" stamps  (11 stamps) are desirable but more expensive. Raising the CV between $6+ - $40 for major numbers would yield seven stamps for these classic issues. All in all, a not very expensive country for WW collectors.

Bulgaria (Yellow) 1899
The original post on Bulgaria with the BB checklist is here.

A post on the 1902 "Battle of Shipka Pass" issue and the forgeries is here.

For a closer look at Bulgarian issues, we will split the coverage into two posts.

For this entry, we will do an overview of the 1879-1901 era. The next post will focus on the 1901-1920 issues.

A closer look 1879-1901
100 Centimes = 1 Franc
100 Stotinki = 1 Lev (1881)
1879 Scott 4 50c black & blue
"Lion of Bulgaria"; Wmk 168; Laid paper
I should mention at the outset that Bulgaria was nominally a principality under the Sultan of Turkey when the first issue (1879) was produced. However, the Treaty of Berlin (1878) affirmed the autonomy of the Principality of Bulgaria. In 1885, Bulgaria was joined by Eastern Rumelia. Formal independence from Turkey was recognized in 1908.

The first five stamp typographic issue was released May 1, 1879, and featured the "Lion of Bulgaria". The bi-colored stamps were denominated in Centimes/Franc.

CV ranges from $40 to $200.

Laid paper & Wmk 168
The 1879 issue (5 stamps), the 1881 issue (6 stamps), and the 1882 issue (7 stamps), all with the "Lion of Bulgaria" design and Perf 14 1/2 X 15,. are on horizontally laid paper, and with Wmk 168 (Wavy lines and EZGV in Cyrillic).

1881 Scott 7b 5s black & yellow
"Lion of Bulgaria'
The April 10, 1881 six stamp issue, necessitated by a change in denomination to Stotinki/Lev, is also bi-colored.

There are minor number shade differences for a denomination recognized in the catalogue. Shown above is Scott 7b "black and yellow", while the major number is "black & orange".

1881 Scott 9a 15a carmine & pale green
"Lion of Bulgaria"
CV for the six stamp 1881 issue is $6+-$20 for five stamps.

1882 Scott 16 25s blue & pale blue
"Lion of Bulgaria"
The December 4, 1882 seven stamp bi-colored "Lion of Bulgaria" issue is in different color combinations compared to the same denomination for the 1881 issue. There should be, therefore, little confusion between the issues.

Remarkably, the CV for the 1882 issue is only <$1-$1+.

1885 Scott 23 1s gray violet & pale gray
1886 Scott 25 1s gray violet & pale gray
The 1s gray violet & pale gray stamps of 1885 and 1886 differ in subtleties.

Scott 23 -25 Closeup
Five letters vs four
The 1885 Scott 23 has 5 (Cyrillic) letters in the lower left oval.
Then, the 1886 Scott 25 has 4 letters at the same location in the oval.

The CV is $9+ and <$1 respectively.

1885 Scott 24 2s slate green & pale gray
1886 Scott 26 2s slate green & pale gray
Likewise, the 2s slate green & pale gray of 1885 and 1886 deserve close inspection.

Scott 24-26 Closeup
Note differences in last letter for the left three letters
Note the last letter of the left three letters in the oval is "A" for the 1885 Scott 24.
In contrast, the last letter for the 1886 Scott 26 is "b" with a cross bar in the upper half.

CV is $6+ and <$1 respectively.

1889 Scott 33 15s orange
Wove paper; Unwmk
We now switch over from laid paper to wove paper (unwatermarked) for the ten stamp 1889 issue.  The "Lion of Bulgaria" is a much smaller vignette with this design.

Scott lists five different perfs for this issue (10 1/2, 11, 11 1/2, 13, 13 1/2), but gives no further information.

There are also many shades that can be found for the issue, although Scott gives no information on this either.

CV is <$1-$1+.
1894 Scott 39 10s red
Pelure paper
The 10s, on wove paper for the 1889 issue, can also be found on pelure paper, issued in 1894.

1896 Scott 42 3 l black & buff
In 1896, two more Lev denominations (2 l, 3 l) were issued. Scott notes that the paper is watermarked "Coat of Arms in the Sheet", but I found nothing on my my two example stamps. Scott states that stamps from sheet edges show no watermark.

1896 Scott 45 15s purple
"Coat of Arms"
In 1896, a four stamp "Coat of Arms" issue was released. This issue was to commemorate the baptism of Prince Boris. (He reigned as  Tsar between 1918-1943.) 

CV is <$1-$1.
1901 Scott 54 15s yellow green
"Cherry Wood Cannon"; Lithographed
For the 25th anniversary of the Insurrection of Independence of April, 1876, a a two stamp issue release was prepared.

"Cherry Wood Cannon" Close-up
It was lithographed (forgeries exist), but I find the design particularly appealing. During the uprising, the Bulgarians used 52 cherry wood cannons against the Ottomans.

1901 Scott 56 10s on 1889 50s green
In 1901, the 1889 issue 3s bister brown and the 50s green were surcharged "5s" and "10s" respectively. CV is $1+.

I should mention that surcharges on 19th century Bulgarian stamps has also been the playground of forgers. Specifically, the eight stamp surcharged issues of 1884 and 1885 (in black, carmine, or vermilion), Scott 19-22, which have high CVs ($80-$2,000) have been extensively forged.

Postage Due 1896 Scott J6 50s blue
The only other category of stamp (besides regular issues) that existed during the Bulgaria 1879-1901  era was the postage due.

This illustrated postage due design was used on three typographic stamp denominations (5s, 25s, 50s) for the 1884 issue (Large Lozenge Perf 5 1/2 to 6 1/2), the 1886 issue (Imperf. - shown above), and the 1887 issue (Perf 11 1/2).

CV for the three stamp Imperf 1886 issue is $10+-$20.

1887 Scott J8 25s lake
Perf 11 1/2
And here is an example of the 1887 Perf 11 1/2 issue.

CV for the three stamp issue is $6-$10+.

Scott J8 closeup
30 Horizontal Lines
Check out the horizontal lines - 30.

1892 Scott J11 25s lake
In 1892, the 5s and 25s were redrawn and issued. The perf is @ 10 1/2 or 11 1/2.

Scott J11 Closeup
Redrawn - 24 Horizontal Lines
There are 24 horizontal lines ( not including the upper horizontal frame line of the same thickness).

Scanning the stamp makes it much easier to count!

1896 Scott J17 30s green
Perf 13
Finally, a smaller format postage due three stamp issue (with some design changes) was released in 1896.

CV is a modest $2+-$3+.

Deep Blue
1882 Issue "Lion of Bulgaria" in Deep Blue
Deep Blue (Steiner) has six pages for the 1879-1901 stamps of Bulgaria. All of the major Scott numbers have a space.

1901 Scott 53 5c carmine
"Cherry Wood Cannon"; Lithographed
Out of the Blue
Hope you enjoyed this overview.

Next up are the 1901-1920 issues...

Note: Map scan appears to be in the public domain. The links to Bulgarian forgeries is to the Stamp Forgeries of the World website. Thanks to Morten Munck (Denmark) for creating this resource.

Comments appreciated!


  1. Recent article on Cherry Cannon forgeries