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...

Friday, April 28, 2023

Portuguese Africa - Bud's Big Blue

Map of Vasco da Gama’s 1497 voyage to India, by Gerben van Gelder

Bud's Big Blue
Bud's Observations

If you’d like a complete collection of a stamp issuing authority, Portuguese Africa is the obvious best choice. There are only 11 stamps in all – 8 Vasco da Gama common designs and 3 war tax stamps. All are inexpensive. Portuguese Africa was, therefore, my first complete collection.

Scott #5, The San Gabriel, flagship, blue

The same set of 8 Vasco da Gama stamps were simultaneously issued for Macau, Portuguese India, Timor, Azores, Madeira, and Portugal itself. The only differences are the country names and the valuations.

Stamps with “Africa Correios” inscribed were meant for use in all African Portuguese colonies, there being no specific colony named “Portuguese Africa”. But, after they were issued in 1898, local currency fluctuations and political upheavals in the mother county left postal authorities with a large unusable oversupply; far too many stamps for collectors to buy up. Overprints to the rescue.  Country names, local valuations, and “Republica” were added on the reissues. Big Blue provides spaces for some of the overprints but omits many.

Portuguese Guinea #s 131, 139, 123, bister brown

 Fortunately, the stamps are well designed; they’re replete with history, sailing ships, mythological figures, and religious iconography. Collecting cancellations on stamps inscribed “Africa Correios” can provide additional interest. My collection has Quelimane and Mozambique cancels.

Further details are available on Gerben van Gelder’s website, Stamp World History. After van Gelder’s death his website was inaccessible for several years. Now, however, web.archive.org’s Wayback Machine has recovered his meticulous posts. Stamp collectors will benefit greatly. Van Gelder’s work is found at:


To access his Portuguese Africa comment, select the “profiles” dropdown, select “Africa”, then scroll.

Census: five in BB spaces, six on the supplement page.

Jim's Observations

Vasco da Gama left Lisbon on July 8, 1497 with a four ship fleet and 170 men. He returned with two ships and 55 men. !!!  (Many died from scurvy.) The main ships were the Sao Gabriel (San Gabriel), the flagship, and commanded by Vasco da Gama; the Sao Rafael (San Rafael), commanded by Paulo da Gama, Vasco's brother; and the Berrio (also known as Sao Miguel (San Miguel).

The ships rounded the Cape of Good Hope, spent March 2-29, 1498 near Mozambique island, and sailed north along the coast to Malindi in East Africa.

So began the Portuguese presence in Africa.

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Comments appreciated!


  1. Very interesting post and I am so glad to hear that Gerben van Gelder's site has been resurrected on the wayback site!

  2. Thanks for the compiment. We're glad about Gerben van Gelder's site, too. The Web Archive organization that makes it possible seeks contributions. I'll send them one.