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, December 27, 2023

Rio de Oro - Bud's Big Blue

Rio de Oro, 1905-24 (1)
Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

What once was a Spanish colony, Rio de Oro (River of Gold), is now designated as Western Sahara on most maps, although who exactly governs the area is in dispute. Spain quit in 1974. Morocco claims authority, but the United Nations says the matter is unresolved. What is certain – there are no rivers and very little gold in the territory. Parts of it gets foggy once in a while, though. And there are wadi, stony dry river bottoms that flowed full in pre-Jurassic times.

In the mid-1400s Portuguese traders dubbed the area Rio do Ouro because the locals paid gold dust for European wares. The “river” is a misidentified saltwater inlet from the Atlantic Ocean. The Spanish kept the name, ever hopeful that riches would be found somewhere in the desert. Today, artisanal gold mining (small scale, informal, risky, and likely illegal) thrives in the area.

Alfonce XIII, a child, Scott #9 (very) dark green

Legends of forgotten gold hordes stirred the imaginations of early explorers and their royal sponsors. Endless rumors about gold rivers in unknown lands and lost cities prompted many great explorations. Gold does not corrode – an ideal scarce material to accumulate. It validates power and symbolizes immortality. It’s decorative. But, otherwise, it’s rather useless.

Warren Buffett claimed that the most valuable substance on earth is not gold, but a fleck of original gum on a rare postage stamp. He should know. He was a teenage stamp dealer.

Alfonce XIII, a youth, Scott #20 dark brown

The Oracle of Omaha, I suppose, would not recommend checking Big Blue’s Rio de Oro section for that rare fleck. The RdO stamps in our albums, usually mint, have ample gum; used examples are rarer, there being few people living in in the area. 

Alfonce XIII, a young adult, Scott #53 claret

 RdO issues began in 1905 and continued until 1922. They were followed by stamps of Spanish Sahara in 1924. All RdO stamps bear the image of King Alfonso XIII at progressive stages of his maturation, except for two revenue stamps that were overprinted for temporary postal use. Alfonso XIII was King of Spain from birth (1886) until death (1931).

Alfonce XIII, an adult, Scott #81 red

Alfonce XIII, a middle-aged adult, Scott #148 violet

Census: 24 in BB spaces, 35 on the supplement page

Warren Buffett at the APS show, Omaha, Neb., 2019 (2)

An early Big Blue user! Buffett collected stamps in a Scott’s International album during the 1940s.

(1)  Credit: Gerben van Gelder, https://stampworldhistory.com/country-profiles-2/africa/rio-de-oro/

(2)  Credit Linn’s Stamp News, Aug 11, 2019: https://www.linns.com/news/us-stamps-postal-history/warren-buffett-enjoys-aps-stampshow-in-his-hometown

Jim's Observations

The reality is there is no gold there (despite the name), and the landscape is bleak indeed, with essentially no precipitation, although fog is found along the coast.

The small port town of Villa Cisnernos (now Al-Dakhla) had to import drinking water.

Rio de Oro became part of Spanish (Western) Sahara, along with Saguia el-Hamra, in 1924.

Spain actually held on to the territory until 1975, when it was then split between  Morocco and Mauritania influence. Eventually, Morocco assumed administrative control of most of the territory.

The dispute continues. The United Nations considers the lands to be a "non self-governing territory", and has urged a referendum on independence for the Sahrawi population.

Note: My daughter works for the U.S. State Department. She is currently stationed in Amman, Jordan, and works on refugee issues. This is what she said about the Sahrawi situation: 

"Many Sahrawis were forced to flee Western Sahara in 1975-76, and remain refugees nearly 50 years later, the second most protracted displacement in the world.  Approximately 175,000 Sahrawis still live in five refugee camps near the southwestern Algerian town of Tindouf, and are almost entirely dependent on international humanitarian assistance for their survival."

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Comments appreciated!

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Cuba 1855-1878 - Update A

Cuba 1855-60 - Deep Blue (Steiner) Page 1

Into the Deep Blue

I've had an acquired Cuba country collection tucked away for awhile, and time to begin working on it! I like to slam an acquired collection against my Deep Blue (Steiner pages) main collection, and add new stamps as well as better copies. The 1855-60 Deep Blue first page is shown above, with the new stamps already added.

First Page of New Collection
(Needed stamps already moved to Page 1 Deep Blue (Steiner))

Shown above is the acquired Cuba collection first page, with the new stamps already transferred to Deep Blue. One will note that the acquired collection is housed in Scott Specialty pages for Cuba.

1855 Spain Scott 38 1r green blue "Isabella II"
Blue paper

Well, this "1 Real" stamp was on the acquired Cuba page; but, in fact, this is 1855 Spain Scott 38 (CV $15). With the Spanish colonies, one needs to be aware of possible identity mistakes.

1856 Cuba Scott 11 2r p orange red "Isabella II"
Wmk 105 "crossed lines"; Yellowish paper

A better cancel copy of Scott 11 was found (CV $16).

Second Page of 1862-1868 Cuba Deep Blue (Steiner) Collection

The 1862-68 Deep Blue (Steiner) page as presently constructed.

1864 Cuba Scott 20 1r p blue/salmon "Isabella II"

An unused copy of Scott 20 (CV $4+).

1866 Cuba Scott 24 10c blue "Isabella II"

An unused copy of Scott 24 (CV $4).

1868 Cuba Scott 31 5c violet "Isabella II"
Stamps dated "1868"

A new stamp for me (CV $7+). 

1869 Cuba Scott 41 40c dull violet "Isabella II"
Stamps dated "1869"

Another new stamp for the collection (CV $9+). 

Third Page of 1869-1873 Deep Blue (Steiner) Collection

The present look of Deep Blue Cuba 1869-73.

1871 Cuba Scott 50 12c red lilac "Espana"

A better copy of Scott 50 (CV $10). This color is often found faded.

1873 Cuba Scott 55 25c gray "King Amadeo"

This is the Scott major number color (gray), which was added to Deep Blue.

1873 Cuba Scott 55b 25c lilac "King Amadeo"

Note the minor number (Scott 55b) color - lilac. Comparing collections is a good way to note color shade differences.

Fourth page of 1874-1878 Deep Blue (Steiner) Collection

My Deep Blue Cuba 1874-78 page now. 

1877 Cuba Scott 75 1p brown "Alfonso XII"

I added the 1877 1p brown (CV $ 12).

1878 Cuba Scott 78 12 1/2c brown bister
Stamps dated "1878"

This is a new shade - brown bister (CV $1+).

1878 Cuba Scott 78a 12 1/2c olive brown
Stamps dated "1878"

Note the olive brown (Scott 78a) shade ($1+)

Out of the Blue


We will continue with the next post.

Comments appreciated!

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Rhodesia - Bud's Big Blue

Arms of The British South Africa Company (BSAC),
featuring commercial interests – gold, farming, exports, and wild animals

Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Few people, no matter how famous they are, have a country named for them. Cecil John Rhodes did, but only for about 85 years. His charter company, The British South Africa Company (BSAC), named the 440,900 square mile swath of south-central Africa after their boss. Rhodes himself, it’s said, preferred to name it Zambezia (after the Zambezi River) rather than Rhodesia, but yielded to the popular opinion of Europeans who had settled there.  

Settlers waiting to board a mail coach, Bulawayo, Rhodesia, circa 1896 (1)

The BSAC operated in much the same way as other crown charter companies. At the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, European nations drew boundaries of control over Africa without native Africans’ knowledge, consent, thought or opinion. The “scramble for Africa” ensued, but European governments often lacked sufficient funds for exploiting African resources, and they were loath to raise taxes to do so. Instead, they relied on private companies that could raise the funds needed by giving investors hope of grand future profits.  These companies had broad powers of government – including building roads and railroads, taxation of residents, law enforcement, and postal services as well as the discovery, extraction, and export of valuable resources.

Rhodesia, Scott #55, violet and salmon

Some charter companies failed, but BSAC profits from gold, diamonds, and other resources did, in fact, make Rhodes one of the world’s richest men. However, his dream of building a railroad from Cape Town to Cairo, by which the British would dominate Africa, was never achieved. Rhodesia was to be a major link in that railroad. 

The stamps in Big Blue’s Rhodesia section are all inscribed British South Africa Company; some of them bear the BSAC arms. The same stamps were overprinted “BCA” and used in British Central Africa. 

British Central Africa, Scott #5, dark blue

The word “Rhodesia” appears first on stamps as an overprint on a 1909 issue, although the BSAC had made the name quasi-official in 1895. 

Rhodesia, Scott #85, cobalt blue

“Rhodesia” is inscribed, along with BSAC, on the ever-popular “double head” stamps of 1910, 17 values replete with many color variations and curious flaws. A commemorative-cum-definitive issue, its debut coincided with the Royal Visit of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught who were substituting for the newly crowned King George V and Queen Mary. The new king could not attend because of the death of Edward VII (6 May 1910).

Rhodesia, Scott #115, bright blue and carmine

These were followed by a final definitive issue (1913) featuring the new King in naval uniform. 

Rhodesia, Scott #128, carmine rose and blue

The area designated as Rhodesia continued under BSAC control until the 1920s when the part south of the Zambezi River became Southern Rhodesia, a self-governing colony in the United Kingdom. BSAC handed control over to the white settlers, the postal authority included. See Big Blue’s Southern Rhodesia section.

Rhodes was known for his unrestrained racism toward native Africans, a sad tradition that continued throughout Rhodesia’s history. The overburdening effects have continued long after the colony became independent and renamed Zimbabwe in 1980 – residual white privilege, economic upheaval, food insecurity, inadequate sanitation, and poor medical care. In post-colonial times, Rhodes’ legacy has been attacked and his memorials defaced, literally. Surprisingly, his burial site in Zimbabwe, an increasingly awkward tourist attraction, has thus far escaped damage.

Decapitation of Rhodes’ statue, Table Mountain, South Africa, 2020 (2)

And yet, Bantu people have long-suffering resilience. This was the overwhelming impression my wife and I had when we visited Zimbabwe a few years ago. She had received a grant to study the works of Zimbabwe’s women sculptors who were emerging on the world art scene, particularly that of Agnes Nyanhongo and Colleen Madamombe. Their much-sought-after art depicts themes of buoyant womanhood – marriage, motherhood, gracious beauty, hard work, proud bearing, and survival at all odds. As a counterpoint to the BSAC’s rampant, male-dominated exploitation of Bantu tribal lands, which echoes throughout Rhodesian philately, this post concludes with pictures of Shona sculpture in our collection.

“Proud Woman” by Agnes Nyanhongo

“Where are you, boy” by Colleen Madamombe

Happy Happy.” By Colleen Madamombe

“I love my baby” by Agnes Nyanhongo

Census: In BB spaces 53, tip-ins 14, on supplement pages 40.

1 – National Archives of Zimbabwe

2 – Reuters via https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8522465/Statue-British-colonialist-Cecil-Rhodes-beheaded-South-Africa.html

Jim's Observations

Wow! I had the privilege of seeing those art works when I visited Bud several years ago. Incredible!

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Comments appreciated!