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...

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Persia - Bud's Big Blue

Naser al-Din Shaw, Scott #59, buff, red and black

Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

Most folks don’t give stamp borders a second thought -- the little lines that, along with the perforations, show where one stamp stops and another begins. Many modern designs do away with them altogether.

But nearly all of Big Blue’s stamps have clearly defined borders, frames, or edges. On some it’s a single line.  On others the frames become works of art in their own right, sometimes reflecting the culture of the issuing country more clearly than the central vignettes do. The display on Big Blue’s Persia pages, with the foremost examples of extravagant borders, resembles an art gallery. Such frames are privileged windows into the supreme ideal; at least the depicted shahs hoped so.

Scott #s 1, 2, and 4

The elegant borders begin with Persia’s first stamps (above), often called the bāqeri issue for reasons that remain unclear. The design is based on an essay by Albert Désiré Barre (1818-1878), the chief engraver at the Paris Mint. He also designed the French Napoleon III series (1863-70) which bears a coin-like resemblance to the first Persian stamps.

Barre essay, mid 1860s (1) and France Scott # 29, bronze green on pale blue

For Persia, Barre added flowing arabesques, Farsi calligraphy, and a classical symbol of Persian royalty for the central image (a sword wielding lion and a sun with a man’s face). Lion and sun images continue, either together or separately, throughout early Persian philately. I regard my three bāqeris as reprints, if not outright forgeries. When compared to expertized examples, many minor variations show up. Moreover, Scott Catalog warns that forgeries far outnumber genuine examples and provides a description of the reprints.

Scott #461, gold, orange and bister brown

Subsequent issues have more elaborate borders – naturalistic wreaths (oak and olive branches), furled banners, gold outer frames, crowns, additional calligraphy, and even more extravagant arabesques. All, from the most primitive of them to the most flamboyant, are symmetrical surrounds of central clichés.

Mohammed-Ali Shah Qajar, Scott #445, gold, vermilion and black

From 1881 onward “Postes Persanes” and values recognizable to Europeans were inscribed, a result of the designs being produced mostly in France and Austria, and of Persia’s entry into the Universal Postal Union (1877). Consistent with the tradition of cultural blending apparent in Persia’s classical sculpture, Persia’s stamps borrow designs from sources assistant as Europe and Mongolia. This confluence is apparent in Scott 571 that shows part of the ruins of the Apadana at Persepolis. King Darius sits on a throne holding a lotus blossom in his left hand, attended by crown prince Xerxes I (in Hebrew known as King Ahasuerus) who married the biblical Esther (possibly, but debated among scholars).

Scott #571, silver, blue and rose

“A Ruler on His Throne” (2)

Persian cultural hybrids continue in the works of Rabee Baghshan, a contemporary Iranian digital artist. She salvages the frame surrounding the sitar player from stamps featuring Ahmed Shah Qajar, Scott #s 667-689. The befogged men standing behind the musician hold Coca Cola bottles. (3) Titled “Woman Stamp 2”, it is part of a series. A limited-edition print is available for $2300, approximately the value of my Persia collection shown below. 

“Woman Stamp 2,” 2021, multicolor,
 and Ahmed Shah Qajar, Scott #677, red and brown 

Many articles have been written about Persian stamp forgeries, so many that I have trouble keeping up with experts’ findings and debates about them. I have, however, started a forgery jail at the end of the Persia supplement pages. It’s a work in progress.

Census: 412 in BB spaces, 11 tip-ins, 258 on supplement pages

(1) http://farahbakhsh.com/IranStampHistoryEn/IranStampHistory.html

(2) https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/ancient-near-eastern-world/what-a-lotus-in-the-left-hand-means/

(3) https://www.artsy.net/artwork/rabee-baghshani-woman-stamp-2

Jim's Observations

In the classical stamp collection world, Persia is known for it's beautiful designed stamps, as Bud's post above shows so well. 

But even more so, Persia is known for the forgeries that are quite abundant. In fact, most Persian stamp collections are discounted heavily, as the assumption is there are many forgeries : Alas, often true.

For me, I have a love/ambivalent relationship with the stamps of Persia. I generally really like the stamp issues. But I know one has to be quite aware of forgeries. Yet, I enjoy the challenge!

My blog link below shows some of the more common genuine/forgery differences.

Note: Bud's "Persia" post is found under "Iran" in Bud's Big Blue Post Index.

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Comments appreciated!


  1. Hey Bud (and of course, Jim!),
    I won a Persia lot in an auction last week—I didn’t overspend on it, since I’m assuming that all of the overprinted stamps aren’t the Real McCoys, but I was able to fill over 80 stamps for Persia in my '47 BB that I didn't have!

    I’m also looking at your images and my new '23 Scott Classic when I’m entering them into my BB-- using your images as a reference as it's very helpful in ID'ing the stamps, and I’m wondering if the stamp you have in 174 is actually 175. My ’47 calls for the 2c Brown, and I think you have a 3c violet in that space. In your version, it might be the 3c instead of the 2c, but I figured if it’s not, that you want to get it correct.

    In that lot I bought, there is an extra 2c if you want it!

    Thanks to the both of you guys for all you do for us!

    1. Ray - good pickup. ;-) Yes, 174 (rather than 175) for the space. We will see what Bud says.

    2. Yes, definitely it's an error. Many thanks for catching it. And thanks for helping me correct it.