Aegean Islands (Dodecanese)
Italian Islands of the Aegean
Isole Italiane dell’Egeo

LOCATION: Aegean Sea – Group of 12 islands, plus Rhodes and Castelrosso
GOVERNMENT: Military occupation and intermediate colony of Italy
POPULATION: 132,289 (est. 1936)
FIRST STAMPS USED: Turkish stamps up to 1912
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED: Overprinted Italian stamps 1912
100 Centesimi = 1 Lira

The Dodecanese are a group of twelve islands in the southeastern Aegean Sea. Although the name literally means “the twelve islands”, the group actually comprises 15 larger and 150 smaller islands, of which only 26 are occupied. They were civilized in ancient times and formed part of the base for Venetian merchants, played a minor role in the history of Classical Greece and subsequently joined the Roman Empire. They belonged to the Knights of St. John from 1309-1522 but were then conquered by the Turks and included in the Ottoman Empire. Due to their rich history, many of even the smallest inhabited islands boast dozens of Byzantine churches and medieval castles.

Aegean Islands (Dodecanese)-v2

In the midst of the Italo-Turkish War over Libya, the Dodecanese Islands were seized by Italy in April 1912, becoming Italian colonies. Italy agreed to return the islands to the Ottoman Empire according to the Treaty of Ouchy signed on 18 October 1912 but the vagueness of the text allowed a provisional Italian administration of the Dodecanese. Although there were 13 islands occupied by the Italians (12 plus Rhodes), the name “Dodecanese” remained unchanged. The occupation continued after Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 21 August 1915 during the First World War. During the war, the islands became an important naval base for Britain and France; Italy was allied with both nations during this time. The Dodecanese were used as a staging area for numerous campaigns, most famously the one at Gallipoli.

Rhodes 06

Turkey renounced all claims on the islands in the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 and the Dodecanese were formally annexed by Fascist Italy as the Possedimenti Italiani dell’Egeo. Britain attempted to capture the islands during World War II without success. After the Italian armistice in 1943, the islands were occupied by German forces. Britain finally occupied them from 1945-47 after which they were ceded to Greece.

Rhodes 07

Before seizure by the Italians, the Dodecanese had a limited postal service under Turkish control. Italian interests in the Aegean region date from the 1897 blockade of Crete and the opening of an Italian civilian post office at Canea in 1900.  An Italian fleet began occupying the archipelago in May 1912. 

Italian forces landing in the Dodecanese, 1912

Before official Italian government stamps could be released, a “Commissione del popolo” on the island of Calino decided to issue postage stamps for use on all the islands. Three denominations were released in May 1912 by this Autonomous Administration and were only used on philatelic covers with favor cancels.  A decree by the Commissioner for Civilian Affairs of the occupying forces was issued on 10 September 1912 authorizing the overprinting of two Italian definitive stamps (25c and 50c) with the inscription EGEO. These were placed on sale in the islands on 22 September.

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On 1 December 1912, a set of seven Italian stamps were issued for each of the individual islands with the Italian name of the island overprinted. These were Astypalaea (Stampalia), Kalimnos (Calimno), Karpathos (Scarpanto), Kasos (Caso), Khalki (Carchi), Kos (Cos), Leros (Lero), Lipsos (Lipso), Nisyros (Nisiros), Patmos (Patmo), Rhodes (Rodi), Syme (Simi), and Telos (Piscopi). Regardless of the overprint, all of these new stamps were valid for use throughout the Dodecanese.   Between 1912 and 1924 these stamps were used concurrently with Italian stamps.

Castellorizo 01

In January 1916, Italian stamps without overprint were issued.  Katelorizo (Castelrosso) was added to the Dodecanese in 1921, having been under French occupation since 27 December 1915. Italian stamps overprinted with the island’s name were issued on 11 July 1922.  The Italian occupation ended on 24 July 1923 when the archipelago officially became an Italian colony. On 19 May 1929, a nine-value definitive series was issued for Rhodes, inscribed with the Italian RODI.


On 20 October 1930, a set honoring Italian hero Ferrucci was issued for each island with the name again overprinted. There was also a general issue of the same set with the overprint ISOLE ITALIANE DELL’EGEO.  The 20th anniversary of the Italian takeover of the Dodecanese was commemorated with a ten-value set inscribed RODI.  There was a further issue in 1932 for the individual islands but, after that, only Rhodes was given its own stamps. For the rest, the general issues applied.

Rhodes 03

During the Second World War, the airfields of Rhodes, Cos and Leros became the main Axis bases for air raids against British forces in Egypt.  Greece capitulated in April 1941 and during the following month Italian forces completed the occupation of the Cyclades Islands.  The ousting of Mussolini during the summer of 1943 was followed by Italy’s signing of an armistice with the Allies.  On 8 September, the Germans invaded Rhodes and the occupation was completed in a matter of days. 

Simi 001

Under German military rule, the Dodecanese was administratively run by Italian civilians.  Between November 1943 and February 1945, several Italian colonial stamps were overprinted with surcharges in aid of refugees and victims of war. During this time, there were eight internment camps for Italian soldiers on Rhodes.  In October 1944, German forces evacuated Greece and their counterparts in the Aegean were cut off from sea-route supplies and mail.  Only air links were possible, thus impacting the influx of mail to and from German soldiers in the area.  As a result, rationed concessionary stamps for the German Field Post were overprinted INSELPOST (Island Post) and issued.  On 22 December 1944, Italian postal authorities made quantities of the 5c Rhodes definitive stamps available to the Germans who overprinted them with the inscription WEIHNACHTEN 1944 (Christmas 1944). 

British troops in landing craft - Dodecanese

In May 1945, the German capitulation in the Aegean was formally ratified in Berlin and a British Military Administration was established in Rhodes.  British stamps were overprinted M.E.F. (Middle East Forces) and placed in use.  The British occupation ended on 31 March 1947 and the Greeks took over.  The following day, a Greek stamp overprinted SDD (Stratiotiki Dioikisis Dodecanissou – Dodecanese Military Occupation) was issued.  Seven denominations with the same overprint were added on 21 September.  These were withdrawn on 20 November and replaced by Greek general issue stamps, beginning with the “Restoration of the Dodecanese” definitive series. 

Short Sunderland-RAF-1940'-Castelrosso

The Aegean Islands were officially annexed by the Kingdom of Greece on 7 March 1948.  The current status of the islands is that they remain a constituent part of Greece and continue to use Greek stamps.

There were a total of 116 stamps – 65 general issue, 47 air mail, and 4 air mail special delivery – issued for the Dodecanese Islands.  Of these, I have but one – a used copy of Scott #2.  Many have a high catalogue value, particularly in used condition.  As with all occupied regions, the area is an interesting one to study and I hope to add to my collection.  I will deal with stamps for the individual islands as well as the German, British, and Greek occupations in separate “Stamp Issuer” installments.

Around two-and-a-half years ago, I set out to collect A Stamp From Everywhere (ASFEW).  The first step in this endeavor was to set some criteria:  For the most part, I am collecting only those stamps listed in the Scott Catalogue.  These aren’t always actual “countries”; many towns and cities, provinces, states, colonies, and organizations have issued stamps over the past one hundred and seventy-six years.  Because of this, I usually refer to “stamp issuers” or “issuing entities” when writing about them.

A second criteria concerns my budget.  My occupation as a teacher doesn’t make me rich in any sense of the word and as an English teacher in Thailand, I earn significantly less than I would in a more developed country.  Thus, there are certain issuers which will sadly always remain out of my collection.  An example of these would be the various Postmasters’ Provisionals issued by the Confederate States (and most of those by the U.S.A. as well).

I still do not have a grand total of stamp issuers.  I’ve been working on a spreadsheet designed to help me but it is a slow process.  I decided the best way to tackle that project was to go page by page through my Scott Catalogue (6-volume 2009 edition) and list all the stamp issuing entities and their page numbers, along with a great deal of additional information.  Bear in mind that each volume of this edition numbers around 1,300 pages and is not strictly alphabetical (Åland Islands is found after Finland, for example) with some entities even appearing in two different locations based on political status (Azores appearing both in Volume 1 at the end of the A’s and in volume 5 following Portugal to cite one instance).  Fairly often, I run into the question of whether or not I should separate an entity from it’s mother listing at all.

As I’ve added stamps to the collection, I’ve departed from the original goal of adding a single stamp from each issuer.  It is much more satisfying to look at an album page containing a set, for example.  For certain entities, I’ve also delved into covers (FDC’s, flight covers or the occasional bit of postal history) and the odd bit of unlisted postal stationery (I tend to go for the postal cards rather than envelopes).

I am (slowly) creating self-designed album pages for each entity which includes a map, flag(s) used, and a brief overview of their political and/or postal history.  While it all seems like a lot of work, it is probably the most satisfying of all of my collections that I’ve created over the past forty-plus years. 

While I didn’t set out to collect alphabetically, I’ve found that is the easiest way to search on eBay as well as giving me a greater sense of accomplishment as I near the completion of a letter of the alphabet.

While there may be a few more “A’s” in volumes 5 and 6 of the Scott Catalogue, I am confident that I can call the letter almost complete (minus nine Confederate Postmasters who issued provisionals from places such as Anderson Court House, South Carolina and Augusta, Georgia).

The following are the “A” stamp issuers, as I have sorted them in my collection, illustrated by a single stamp from each and listing the year range they issued stamps and the number of stamps I currently have from each (minus duplicates and unlisted stamps). 

*I will probably end up re-sorting the Aden Protectorate States in the K’s and Q’s to be consistent with how I’m organizing other states and territories.

Abu Dhabi [1964-1972]: 9 stamps owned
Abu Dhabi - 1 - 1964





Aden Colony [1937-1965]: 40 stamps owned
Aden - 23A - 1939





Aden Protectorate: Kathiri State of Seiyun [1942-1964]: 6 stamps owned*
Aden - Kathiri State of Seiyun - 1 - 1942





Aden Protectorate: Qu’aiti State of Shihr and Mukalla [1942-1955]: 2 stamps owned*
Aden - Hadhramaut - 31 - 1955






Aden Protectorate: Qu’aiti State in Hadhamaut [1955-1963]: 4 stamps owned*
Aden - Hadhramaut - 30 - 1955






Aegean Islands (Dodecanese) [1912-1945]: 1 stamp owned
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Afars and Issas [1967-1977]: 4 stamps owned
Afars And Issas - 321 - 1968





Afghanistan [1871-Present]: 3 stamps owned
Afghanistan - 689 - 1964





La Aguera [1920-1924]: 2 stamps owned
Aguera, La - 14 - 1922





Aitutaki [1903-1932, 1972-Present]: 9 stamps owned
Aitutaki - 33 - 1920





Ajman [1964-1972]: 9 stamps owned
Ajman - C9 - 1965





Åland Islands [1984-Present]: 14 stamps owned
Åland Islands - 72a - 1993






Alaouites [1925-1930]: 1 stamp owned
Alaouites - C17 - 1929




Albania [1913-Present]: 2 stamps owned
Albania - 232 - 1928





Alderney [1983-Present]: 5 stamps owned
Alderney - 37 - 1989





Alexandretta [1938]: 2 stamps owned
Alexandretta - J1 - 1938





Alexandria (French Post Office in Egypt) [1899-1931]: 1 stamp owned
Alexandria - 27 - 1902





Algeria [1924-1958, 1962-Present]: 83 stamps owned
Algeria - 1 - 1924 (1)





Alsace (German Occupation) [1940]: 2 stamps owned
Alsace - N29 - 1940





Alsace and Lorraine (German Occupation) [1870-1872, 1916]: 2 stamps owned
Alsace And Lorraine - N4 - 1870





Alwar [1877-1902]: 7 stamps owned
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Andorra (French Administration) [1931-Present]: 6 stamps owned
Andorra, French - 23 - 1932





Andorra (Spanish Administration) [1928-Present]: 4 stamps owned
Andorra, Spanish - 102a - 1978






Angola [1870-Present]: 19 stamps owned
Angola - 119 - 1914





Angra [1892-1906]: 6 stamps owned
Angra - 2 - 1892





Anguilla [1967-Present]: 1 souvenir sheet owned
Anguilla - 366a - 1979 (rs)








Anjouan [1892-1914]: 1 stamp owned
Anjouan - 4 - 1892





Annam and Tonkin [1888-1892]: 1 stamp owned
Annam and Tonkin - 1 - 1888





Antigua [1862-1981]: 2 stamps owned
Antigua - 84 - 1938






Antigua and Barbuda [1981-Present]: 9 stamps owned
Antigua & Barbuda - 746 - 1984





Antioquia [1868-1904]: 6 stamps owned
Antioquia - 123 - 1899





Arad (French Occupation in Hungary) [1919]: 1 stamp owned





Argentina [1858-Present]: 3 stamps owned
Argentina - 551 - 1946






Armenia [1919-1923, 1992-Date]: 6 stamps owned
Armenia - 300 - 1922






Army of the North (Russian Civil War) [1919]: 5 stamps owned
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 Army of the Northwest (Russian Civil War) [1919]: 1 stamp owned
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 Aruba [1986-Present]: 3 stamps owned
Aruba - 266 - 2005






Ascension [1922-Present]: 4 stamps owned
Ascension - 46 - 1944





Australia [1902-Present]: 172 stamps owned
Australia - 1199 - 1991 (1)





Australian Antarctic Territory [1957-Present]: 5 stamps owned
AAT - L75 - 1986






Austria [1850-Present]: 75 stamps owned
Austria - 5 - 1850





Austrian Offices in Crete [1903-1914]: 6 stamps owned
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Austrian Offices in the Turkish Empire [1867-1914]: 6 stamps owned
Austria-Turkish Empire - 7F - 1876





Azerbaijan [1919-1924, 1992-Present]: 1 stamp owned
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Azores [1868-1931, 1980-Present]: 1 souvenir sheet owned
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So, the “A’s” portion in what I am now calling my “Stamps From (Almost) Everywhere” collection currently has some 552 stamps amongst 45 stamp-issuing entities.  The B’s appear to be about halfway completed as are the C’s and I suppose there is probably one more entity to go in the Q’s.  There are other letters in the alphabet that are nearing completion as well….


Princely State of Alwar (1877-1902)

LOCATION: A Feudatory State of India, lying southwest of Delhi
in the Jaipur Residency
AREA: 3,300 sq. mi. (8,547 sq. km)
POPULATION: 682,900 (est. 1895)
GOVERNMENT: Princely State of India


12 Pies = 1 Anna; 16 Annas = 1 Rupee

Alwar (अलवर) was a princely state in northern India.  It was named after a Khazada ruler, Ulawar Khan, who established his kingdom in the region in 1412.  Formerly spelt as “Ulwar” in British India which placed it in last position in alphabetically ordered lists, a ruler changed the spelling to “Alwar” to bring it to the top.  It became a recognized Rajput kingdom in 1771 when Pratap Singh conquered the city of Alwar and broke from under the rule of the Maratha Empire. It was ruled by the Rajput dynasty during the period of the British Raj in India. Alwar became the first Indian State to sign an alliance with the British East India Company following the Battle of Laswari in 1803.


It was named after a Khazada ruler, Ulawar Khan, who established his kingdom in the region in 1412. Formerly spelt as “Ulwar” in British India which placed it in last position in alphabetically ordered lists, a ruler changed the spelling to “Alwar” to bring it to the top. It became a recognized Rajput kingdom in 1771 when Pratap Singh conquered the city of Alwar and broke from under the rule of the Maratha Empire. It was ruled by the Rajput dynasty during the period of
the British Raj in India. Alwar became the first Indian State to sign an alliance with the British East India Company following the Battle of Laswari in 1803.

British colonial authorities ruled India with two administrative systems. About 60 percent of the Indian sub-continent were provinces and territories directly under British colonial administration – known as Convention States – while the remaining 40 percent were native Indian – Princely, or Feudatory – States under direct treaty relations with British India. Feudatory States, such as Alwar, ran their own postal systems and issued stamps which were valid only in that particular state. Convention States had an agreement with the British India postal system to handle internal postage.


Following the independence of India in 1947, Alwar acceded unto the dominion of India. On 18 March 1948, the state merged with three neighboring princely states (Bharatpur, Dholpur and Karauli) to form the Matsya Union. This union in turn merged into the Union of India. On 15 May 1949, it was united with certain other princely states and the territory of Ajmer to form the present-day Indian state of Rajasthan.

British colonial authorities ruled India with two administrative systems.  About 60 percent of the Indian sub-continent were provinces and territories directly under British colonial administration – known as Convention States – while the remaining 40 percent were native Indian – Princely, or Feudatory – States under direct treaty relations with British India.  Feudatory States, such as Alwar, ran their own postal systems and issued stamps which were valid only in that particular state.  Convention States had an agreement with the British India postal system to handle internal postage.


Following the independence of India in 1947, Alwar acceded unto the dominion of India. On 18 March 1948, the state merged with three neighboring princely states (Bharatpur, Dholpur and Karauli) to form the Matsya Union. This union in turn merged into the Union of India. On 15 May 1949, it was united with certain other princely states and the territory of Ajmer to form the present-day Indian state of Rajasthan.

The first stamps of Alwar State appeared in February 1877 but may have been issued as early as September 1876.  They were valid until 1 July 1902 when the postal service was taken over by the British Imperial Post.  The design remained virtually unchanged during this 25-year period and features a native dagger known as a Kandjar pointing to the right.  This is a fiendish weapon that, when squeezed by the user, the blades open like scissors inside the victim.  The state name, Raj Alwar, is written above the dagger and below it the denomination, both in Devanagari script. 

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Alwar’s stamps were printed in two denominations, ¼ anna and 1 anna, printed by lithography.  Those of the first issue were produced from a single master die for the ¼a value.  Six transfers were taken from this to produce an intermediate matrix stone and that was transferred numerous times onto the actual printing stone.  Perhaps twenty-five transfers were made from the matrix stone to the printing stone for the ¼a value, resulting in a sheet of 150 stamps each inscribed in Hindi “pav anna” (quarter anna).  There were two separate printings.

The 1 anna stamps were produced by adapting matrix stones prepared from the ¼a die to the new value by erasing the word “pav” and inserting a tiny plug bearing the word “ek” (one).  Sheets of 70 and of 150 stamps seem to have been produced in separate printings. 

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The first issue of 1877 was rouletted, but this was not always perfect and pairs are known of both denominations which are imperforate between stamps, either horizontally or vertically.  The frame lines at the left and bottom of the stamps are thick.  The ¼a was issued in various shades of blue and the 1a in several shades of brown.  Scott lists two varieties for the ¼a (Scott #1 in ultramarine and #1a in blue) and three for the 1a (Scott #2 in brown, #2a is yellow brown, and #2b in red brown).

In 1899 the design of the ¼ anna stamp was redrawn and a new master die was produced from which transfers were made to the printing stone without any intermediate matrix in ten horizontal rows of six.  In these issues, only the bottom frame line is thick and the stamps were pin-perforated 12.  In the first printing of the redrawn issues, the stamps were set further apart in the sheet.  The wider margins, averaging about 3mm, are obvious.  The color of this issue is a deep slate-blue, distinct from the paler shades of the first issue, and is listed in the Scott Catalogue as #3.

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Towards the end of 1899, a printing of the ¼a was made from a new stone in an emerald green color.  These also have wide margins but the size of the sheet and their arrangement is unknown.  They are the scarcest of all the Alwar stamps.  Although this issue was not reported until 1904, it was probably the earliest printing of the value in green, because of its similarity in spacing to that of 1899.  The only known used copy is dated 7 August 1901.  It is given the minor listing of #4b in Scott.

Between 1899 and 1901 another printing of the ¼a in emerald green was made, from another new stone, in which the stamps were set close together, with narrow margins, in eleven rows of seven stamps.  The earliest recorded postmark for this issue (Scott #4c) is 3 January 1901.  Finally, a printing of the ¼a with narrow margins was made, again from a new stone and again set close together, arranged in five rows of seven.  In this issue the stamps were printed in a pale yellowish green and are listed as Scott #4.

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Scott #1-4 occasionally show portions of the papermaker’s watermark, W. T. & Co.

The Scott catalogue assigns four major numbers and five minor numbers for shades, plus three additional minor numbers for imperforarate pairs.  I have a total of seven Alwar stamps, some of which may be duplicates.  I’m not certain if my copies of the ¼a from 1877 are Scott #1 (ultramarine) or Scott #1a (blue or steel blue as described by the Stanley Gibbons catalog), nor am I sure about the shades of the 1 anna (#2 brown, #2a yellow brown, #2b red brown – which may be the same that Gibbons calls “chocolate”).  I AM sure that none of those ¼a’s are Scott #3 as they all feature a thick left border, nor do I have the emerald wide margins stamp of 1899 (Scott #4b) which is worth US $600 in my 2009 edition of the catalogue.

Andorra Coat of ArmsAndorra Flag

Andorra (1928-Date)

LOCATION: On the southern slope of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain
AREA:  179 sq. mi.
Population:  72,766 (1 July 1996)
GOVERNMENT:  Constitutional Coprincipality
CAPITAL:  Andorra la Vella


100 Centimos = 1 Peseta/100 Centimes = 1 Franc (1928-2002)
100 Cents = 1 Euro (2002-date)

Andorra is a co-principality that had been jointly administered by France and the Spanish bishop of Urgell since 1278.  In 1993, Andorra became a constitutional coprincipality, governed by its own parliament.  It is the sixth smallest country in Europe with an area of just 181 square miles (468 square kilometers).  The capital city of Andorra la Vella is the highest in Europe, sitting at an elevation of 3,356 feet (1,023 meters) above sea level.  Stamps are issued by both France and Spain for use in the principality with Correos of Spain and La Poste of France operating side by side.  The Spanish post boxes are red and French ones are yellow. However the postal code system, introduced in July 2004, has a different format from those of either Spain or France, consisting of the letters “AD”, followed by three digits.


Andorra was created under a charter granted by King Charles the Great (Charlemagne) in return for the Andorran people fighting against the Moors with Overlordship of the territory by the Count of Urgell.  In A.D. 988, the Andorran valleys were given to the Diocese of Urgell in exchange for land in Cerdanya.  The Bishop of Urgell, based in Seu d’Urgell, has owned Andorra since then.  The principality was given its territory and political form in 1278 with the signing of the first paréage which provided that Andorra’s sovereignty be shared between the count of Foix (whose title would eventually be transferred to the French head of state) and the Bishop of Urgell in Catalonia.

With the passage of time the co-title to Andorra passed to the kings of Navarre. After Henry of Navarre became King Henry IV of France, he issued an edict in 1607 that established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra. In 1812–13 the First French Empire annexed Catalonia and divided it in four départements, with Andorra being made part of the district of Puigcerdà (département of Sègre).

andorra postcard madriu llac dels pessons

The first postal route serving Andorra seems to have been established in 1837 with couriers conveying mail between Urgell and Aix during the Carlist War in northern Spain.  Due to the difficulties in direct communication between Andorra and France, the mountain passes being frequently snowbound in the months from autumn until late spring, the Andorrans always depended on Seu d’Urgell to conduct the bulk of their business, postal or otherwise and that city was their principal point of communication with the outside world, including with their northern neighbor.

In 1877, an Andorra subject, Tomàs Rossell y Moles, was appointed postmaster and sold postage stamps of both France and Spain to be affixed on outgoing mail according to its destination.  Mail bearing French stamps were postmarked at Porté and Spanish mail received the Seu d’Urgell postmark.  Then, as now, mail destined for internal Andorran destinations were always conveyed free of charge, requiring no stamps of any kind.


At the Universal Postal Union Congress held in Paris in 1878, it was declared that that Andorra was a subordinate of the Spanish postal service although it would be another fifty years before that postal service was actually organized. France ignored the UPU stipulation and established a rudimentary postal service between Porté and Andorra la Vella in 1887, consisting of two postmen travelling by foot.  A French courier service inaugurated in 1892 continued to operate, virtually unaltered until 1931 when the present postal service came into being.

Andorra declared war on Imperial Germany during World War I, but did not actually take part in the fighting. It remained in an official state of belligerency until 1958 as it was not included in the Treaty of Versailles.

A Ministerial Decree dated 31st October 1927, created the Spanish Postal Administration of Andorra la Vella, empowering it to take all steps necessary to introduce a full postal service in the country.   On 1st January 1928 post offices were opened throughout the principality and the postal service was officially inaugurated.  At its inauguration, the Spanish Postal Administration consisted of the Head Post Office at Andorra la Vella and six sub-post offices at Canillo, Encamp, Les Escaldes, Sant Julia de Loria, La Massana, and Ordino.  Seven postmen – all Andorran residents – were hired to carry on the service within the country, while the Head Postmaster – Don Filemon Lopez y Lopez – was a Spanish postal employee. 


The Spanish Administration commenced with the usage of the then current series of Spain – the 1922-1930 issue portraying the portrait of King Alfonso XIII.  Overprints of this same set of stamps, plus the 1 centimo value of 1920 and the 20c express stamp of 1925, were released on 28 March 1928 with the unoverprinted values remaining valid.  This, it is possible to find covers bearing mixed frankings of both overprinted and unoverprinted stamps. 

Two additional sub-post offices were opened later in the year, at Soldeu on 2 September and Santa Coloma on 8 October.  The name of Andorra first appeared as in integral part of the stamp design with the release of the second series of stamps in 1929.

Andorra, Spanish - 102b - 1978

Interestingly enough, Andorrans were somewhat displeased over the seizure of their postal services by the Spanish and subsequent protests led to the eventual signing of a Hispano-French agreement concerning the dual handling of the posts on 30 June 1930.  The agreement went into effect on 1 August 1930 and the French Postal Administration of Andorra was officially inaugurated on 16 June 1931 with a Head Office at Andorra la Vella and Postal Agencies at Soldeu, Canillo, Encamp, Sant Julia de Loria, La Massana, and Ordino. No changes took place in this list of post offices until the 1st January 1967 when an additional agency was opened at Pas de la Casa, on the Franco-Andorran frontier, a sizeable settlement having developed here as a tourism and winter sports center.

Andorra, French - 23 - 1932

In 1931, the French Administration of Andorra used twenty-two overprinted French stamps from 1900-29.  Like the Spanish Administration, France only used overprinted stamps for the first set; with the second set of stamps issued, the name of the country was part of the design of the stamp.

In 1933 France occupied Andorra following social unrest which occurred before elections. On 12 July 1934 adventurer Boris Skossyreff issued a proclamation in Urgell, declaring himself “Boris I, King of Andorra”, simultaneously declaring war on the Bishop of Urgell. He was arrested by the Spanish authorities on 20 July and ultimately expelled from Spain.

ANDORRA dec8011

From 1936 until 1940 a French military detachment was garrisoned in Andorra to secure the Principality against against disruption from the Spanish Civil War and Francoist Spain. Francoist troops reached the Andorran border in the later stages of the war. During World War II, Andorra remained neutral and was an important smuggling route between Vichy France and Spain.

Andorra’s tourism services an estimated 10.2 million visitors annually.  It is not a member of the European Union, but the Euro is the de facto currency. It has been a member of the United Nations since 1993.  The population of Andorra in 2014 was estimated at 85,458 and has grown from 5,000 in 1900. As of December 2014, the people of Andorra have the highest life expectancy in the world – 81 years.

Andorra, French - 458 - 1995

The 2009 Scott Catalogue for the Spanish Administration of Andorra lists 330 general issue stamps, four air mail and five special delivery stamps.  It should be noted that the majority of the Spanish Andorra stamps issued until about 1950 are poorly centered and that well-centered examples will sell for approximately twice the value listed in the catalogue.  The French Administration is a somewhat heavier stamp issuer with a total of 728 — broken down as 656 general issues, one semi-postal, eight air mail stamps, 62 postage due, and one newspaper stamp.  Most stamps of French Andorra issued from 1961 onwards also exist in unlisted imperforate and small presentation sheet varieties. My collection currently holds six of the French Administration stamps and four of the Spanish releases.

Andorra, Spanish - 102a - 1978

France - COA (1953-Date)France Flag

French Territory of the Afars and Issas (1967-1977)

LOCATION: East Africa
AREA:  8,958 sq. mi. (23,200 sq. km)
Population:  367,210 (est. 1971)
GOVERNMENT:  French Overseas Territory
CAPITAL:  Djibouti

FIRST STAMPS:  French Colonies (1883); Obock (1892); Djibouti (1894); French Somali Coast (1902)
FIRST STAMPS ISSUED:  21 August 1967
LAST STAMPS ISSUED:  5 May 1977 (Replaced by stamps of Republic of Djibouti on 27 June 1977)

CURRENCY:  100 Centimes = 1 Franc

The French overseas territory of Afars and Issas existed as a stamp-issuing entity for just under ten years but had evolved out of the original Territory of Obock and then French Somaliland before finally gaining its independence in 1977 as the Republic of Djibouti, the name under which it exists to the present day.  It is located in the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea to the north, Ethiopia to the west and south, and Somalia to the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Afars and Issas map

The French first arrived in the region during an expedition led by Captains de la Merveille of Le Curieux and Champloret le Brun of Le Diligent which sailed along the Somali coast in December 1708.  They were poorly received and five sailors were killed during an ambush when they attempted to land at Berbera.  Le Curieux and Le Diligent entered the Gulf of Tadjoura soon afterwards during which an envoy arrived in the name of the King of Adel and Zaylah, offering safe entry at the port of Zayla. The French declined the offer and sailed on to Yemen in search of coffee plants.  The next visit by a Frenchman wouldn’t occur until 1838.

In January 1839, Great Britain established a protectorate over Aden which caused French explorers to scour the entrance to the Red Sea seeking a means to counterbalance the British presence before the opening of the Suez Canal.  In October 1855 the French Consul at Aden, Henri Lambert, visited Tadjoura and then Obock the following April where he was informed that he was the first European to land there as far the natives could remember.  Later in the year, Abou Baker Ibrahim, the Sultan of Tadjoura offered the French trading rights at Ras Ali and Obock.  Not long after, Henri Lambert made the mistake of involving himself in a rivalry between the Sultan of Tadjoura and Pasha Chermarké of Zayla.  He was thrown into the sea and drowned shortly after his ship docked at Moucha on 4 June 1859.


Dini Ahmed Abou Baker, Sultan of the Afars, signed a treaty of alliance and friendship with France on 11 March 1862, ceding the lands surrounding Obock in exchange for 10,000 Maria Theresa Thalers.  For the next twenty years, the French presence was confined to the tricolor flag guarded by an elderly Danakil who received an occasional visit from a ship of the French Navy.

From  1862 until 1894, the land to the north of the Gulf of Tadjoura was known as the Obock territory and ruled by Somali and Afar Sultans, local authorities with whom France signed various treaties between 1883 and 1887 to gain a foothold in the region.  French Colonial general issues were used in the territory from 1883 with the first Obock overprinted stamps issued on 1 February 1892. 

Obock lost all importance after the settlement at Djibouti was founded in 1888 when the Côte Française des Somalis (French Somali Coast) protectorate was established.  The boundaries of the Côte Française were established between 1888 and 1901; the administration was moved to Djibouti in 1894 at which time the post office in Obock was closed.  Obock stamp issues were used in Djibouti starting in 1893 until supplies were exhausted.  Djibouti stamps were used from 1894 until they were replaced in August 1902 by issues bearing the title of the Côte Française des Somalis following the change in status from protectorate to colony. 


The construction of the Imperial Ethiopian Railway west into Ethiopia turned the port of Djibouti into a boomtown of 15,000 at a time when Harar was the only city in Ethiopia to exceed that.  Although the population fell after the completion of the line to Dire Dawa and the original company failed and required a government bail-out, the rail link allowed the territory to quickly supersede the caravan-based trade carried on at Zayla (then in the British area of Somaliland) and become the premier port for coffee and other goods leaving southern Ethiopia and the Ogaden through Harar.  The railroad continued to operate following the Italian conquest of Ethiopia but, following the tumult of the Second World War, the area became an overseas territory of France in 1946.


In 1958, on the eve of neighboring Somalia’s independence in 1960, a referendum was held in the territory to decide whether or not to join the Somali Republic or to remain with France. The referendum turned out in favor of a continued association with France, but on 19 March 1967 a second plebiscite was held to determine the fate of the territory.  Announcement of the plebiscite results sparked civil unrest, including several deaths. France also increased its military force along the frontier. 

On 5 July 1967, shortly after the referendum was held, the former Côte Française des Somalis was renamed to Territoire Français des Afars et des Issas. This was to recognize the two primary clans of people that live in the area.  The Afars are an historically nomadic people comprising about 35% of the population, and the Issas are a Somali-based clan with about 60% of the population. In the past, the two people-groups have been hostile to one another, politically, although tensions has eased in recent years.

Afars And Issas - 318 - 1968

The first stamps bearing the inscription of the newly-named territory were released on 21 August 1967 – two general issues and one airmail depicting birds.  The numbering in the Scott catalogue follow those of the Côte Française des Somalis (under “Somali Coast”, starting on page 29 of Volume 6 in my 2009 edition) and, thus, begins at Scott #310 for these 1967 issues.  The final Afars and Issas general issues were a pair (Scott #437 and 438) picturing fish and were released on 15 April 1977.  On 5 May 1977, the final airmail stamps (Scott #C104 and C105) were issued honoring the inventors Thomas Edison and Alexander Volta.

On 27 June 1977, a third vote took place. A landslide 98.8% of the electorate supported independence from France and the territory became the République de Djibouti. Hassan Gouled Aptidon, a Somali politician who had campaigned for a yes vote in the referendum of 1958, eventually wound up as the nation’s first president, remaining in office until 1999.

Afars And Issas - 319 - 1968

In all, Scott lists a total of 176 stamps bearing the Afars and Issas territorial name.  Of these, 116 are general issues, 56 for airmail and four stamps were intended for postage due.  Bearing the wonderful designs so typical of French stamps of the era, the majority range in value between US $2 and $10 in my 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue.  There are only six stamps priced at more than $20 in mint condition:  Scott #314 ($24.00), #C50 ($21.50), #C53 ($25.00), #C56 ($25.00), #C65 ($34.00), and #C102 ($24.00).  There are also imperforate varieties of many of the stamps which are unlisted in Scott.

Afars And Issas - 320 - 1968

I currently have four Afars and Issas stamps in my collection, Scott #318-321 – a set released on 17 May 1968 portraying various fortresses established in the territory by the French.  The Scott catalogue lists these as “administration buildings”.  The 20 franc value – printed in slate, brown and emerald – shows the fortress at Damerdjog while that of Ali Adde is on the 25fr in bright green, blue and brown.  Dorra Fortress – brown olive, brown orange and slate – appears on the 30 franc stamp and the 40fr value colored with brown-olive, slate and bright green shows the Assamo fortress.   These stamps are all engraved and perforated 13.  Current catalogue value for the unused set is US $7.00.

Afars And Issas - 321 - 1968

Allenstein COA-cropAllentstein Flag 1

Allenstein (1920)

LOCATION: East Prussia
AREA:  4,457 sq. mi.
POPULATION:  540,000 (1920 est.)
CAPITAL:  Allenstein

FIRST STAMPS ISSUED:  Overprinted Germany 3 April 1920

100 Pfennig = 1 Mark

Allenstein was a district in East Prussia centered upon the city of the same name (currently the Polish city of Olsztyn) which overprinted German stamps in April 1920 to publicize a self-determination vote known as a plebiscite.  The name is German for “castle on the Alle River”, construction of which was begun by Teutonic knights in 1347 and completed fifty years later.  Since 1999, the city has been the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship in northeastern Poland; the river is now known as the Łyna.


The area has changed hands numerous times throughout its history.  It was captured by the Kingdom of Poland during the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War in 1410, and again in 1414 during the Hunger War, but it was returned to the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights after hostilities ended.  Allenstein joined the Prussian Confederation in 1440 and rebelled against the Teutonic Knights in 1454 upon the outbreak of the Thirteen Years’ War, requesting protection from the Polish Crown. Although the Teutonic Knights captured the town the following year, it was retaken by Polish troops in 1463. The Second Peace of Thorn in 1466 designated Allenstein and the Bishopric of Warmia as part of Royal Prussia under the sovereignty of the Crown of Poland.

Castle at Allenstein, completed 1397 (postcard)

The astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus lived at the castle as administrator of both Allenstein and Mehlsack (now Pieniężno) from 1516 to 1521 and was in charge of the defenses of Allenstein and Warmia during the Polish-Teutonic War of 1519–21.  Allenstein was sacked by Swedish troops in both 1655 and 1708 during the Polish-Swedish wars, and the town’s population was nearly wiped out in 1710 by epidemics of bubonic plague and cholera.


The town was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1772 during the First Partition of Poland. A Prussian census recorded a population of 1,770 people, predominantly farmers, and Allenstein was administered within the Province of East Prussia. It was visited by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807 after his victories over the Prussian Army.  The town became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. In 1905, Allenstein became the capital of Regierungsbezirk Allenstein, a government administrative region in East Prussia. From 1818 to 1910, the community was administered within the East Prussia Allenstein District, after which it became an independent city.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, Allenstein used stamps of Prussia, the North German Confederation and Germany.

Many inhabitants of the region had Polish roots and were influenced by Polish culture; the last official German census in 1910 classified them ethnically as Poles or Masurians. During the period of the German Empire, harsh Germanization measures were enacted in the region.

Allenstein was captured by troops of the Russian Empire shortly after the start of World War I in 1914, but it was recovered by the Imperial German Army in the Battle of Tannenberg. The battle actually took place much closer to Allenstein than to Tannenberg (now Stębark), but the victorious Germans, having been defeated in the medieval battle of Tannenberg, named it as such for propaganda purposes.

Allenstein Postal Card circa 1898

Following World War I, the Polish delegation at the Paris Peace Conference, led by Roman Dmowski, made a number of demands in relation to those areas which were part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772 and despite their protests, supported by the French, President Woodrow Wilson and the other allies agreed that plebiscites according to self-determination should be held.  A number of disputed areas were placed under temporary League of Nations administration, pending plebiscites to determine which nation the populace wished to join.

Allenstein Foot Artillery, 1917

At the time, Allenstein had a population estimated at 540,000 mixed Germanic and Slavic people.  Although Allenstein had a sizable Slavic minority, these people were not Poles. They were Masurians who shared the Lutheran faith with the German-speaking Prussians.

The French and the British were looking for ways to strengthen the new Polish republic as a bulwark against the Soviet threat. The British and French tried to attach Allenstein to Poland, but the Germans objected strongly, so the East Prussian Plebiscite (Abstimmung in Ostpreußen) was called.  The vote in Allenstein was scheduled to take place on 11 July 1920 and was conducted by the German authorities.

Many German citizens of Polish ethnicity of the region voted for Germany out of fear that if the area was allocated to Poland it would soon fall under Soviet rule. According to several Polish sources the German side engaged in mass persecution of Polish activists, their Masurian supporters, going as far as engaging in regular hunts and murder against them to influence the vote. Additionally the organization of the plebiscite was influenced by Great Britain, which at the time supported Germany, fearing the increased power of France in post-war Europe.

Allenstein Postcard 1911

Articles 94 to 97 of the Treaty of Versailles defined the Allenstein Plebiscite Area as “the western and northern boundary of Allenstein Government Region to its junction with the boundary between the districts of Oletzko  and of Angerburg; thence, the northern boundary of the Oletzko District to its junction with the old frontier of East Prussia.” 

A five-member Inter-Allied Administrative and Plebiscite Commission for Allenstein was appointed to represent the League of Nations.  British and Italian troops under the command of this commission soon after 12 February 1920.  The local police forces were placed under the control of two British officers.  There was also a battalion from the Royal Irish Regiment and an Italian regiment stationed at Lyck (Ełk). Civil and municipal administration was continued under the existing German authorities who were responsible to the Commission for the duration of the plebiscite period.

Allenstein Postcard 001

On 18 February 1919 the Allenstein-based Commission decreed that the Polish language would gain equal rights to the German language in the region.  The Commission had to eventually remove both the mayor of Allenstein and an officer of Sicherheitswehr after a Polish banner at the local consulate of Poland was defaced; the Polish side expressed gratitude for Allied protection of Polish rights and underlined its desire for peaceful coexistence with German-speaking population.

In April 1920 during a Polish theatrical performance in Deuthen (Dajtki) near Allenstein, ethnic Poles were attacked by pro-German activists; on the demands of the Allied Commission, the German police escorted Polish actors but ignored the attackers.  There were pogroms against ethnic Poles that month in the towns of Bischofsburg (Biskupiec) and Lötzen (Giżycko), the latter of which saw Italian forces sent to protect the Polish population.  In May several attacks on ethnic Poles were reported in Osterode (Ostróda), and included attacks on co-workers of the Masurian Committee.


Shortly before the plebiscite, pro-Polish activists decided to boycott the preparations for electoral commissions to protest unequal treatment of the Polish and German side and pro-German terror.  This allowed German officials to falsify lists with eligible voters, writing down names of dead people or people who weren’t eligible to vote.

The plebiscite asked the voters whether they wanted their homeland to remain in East Prussia, which was part of Weimar Germany, or instead become part of Poland (the alternatives for the voters were not Poland / Germany, but Poland / East Prussia, which itself was no sovereign nation). All inhabitants of the plebiscite areas older than 20 years of age or those who were born in this area before 1 January 1905, were entitled to return to vote.

During the plebiscite Germans transported pro-German voters to numerous locations allowing them to cast votes multiple times. In Allenstein, cards with pro-Polish votes were simply taken away by a German official who declared that they were “invalid” and presented voters with cards for the pro-German side.  Voters were observed by German police in the polling stations.  Pro-Polish voting cards were often hidden or taken away and Polish controllers were removed from polling stations.  A large number of ethnic Poles – out of fear of repressions – didn’t attend the plebiscite at all.

The plebiscite ended on 11 July 1920 with a majority of the voters voting for East Prussia with only a small part of the territory awarded to Poland, the majority remaining with Germany.  The results were a hugely lopsided  362,209 votes (97.8%) for East Prussia and 7,980 votes (2.2%) for Poland.  After the plebiscite, attacks on ethnic Polish population commenced by pro-German mobs saw ethnically Polish priests and politicians driven from their homes.


A total of twenty-eight stamps were issued to publicize the Allenstein plebiscite, with the first appearing on 3 April 1920.  These were German stamps overprinted with either of two styles. The first fourteen stamps were overprinted with “PLEBISCITE / OLSZTYN / ALLENSTEIN” while the second fourteen read “TRAITÉ / DE / VERSAILLES / ART. 94 et 95” referring to the Articles 94 and 95 of the treaty.   International use of the overprinted stamps ceased from 20 August 1920 and German stamps were used thereafter.


Following the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, the Poles and Jews in Allenstein were increasingly persecuted. The city was made the seat of the Allenstein Militärische Bereich by the Wehrmacht in 1933. It was the home of the 11th Infanterie Division, the 11th Artillery Regiment, and the 217th Infanterie Division.  After the German invasion of Poland that started the Second World War, the Wehrmacht established an Area Headquarters for Wehrkreis I on 12 October 1939.  It controlled the sub-areas of Allenstein, Lötzen (now Giżycko) and Zichenau (Ciechanów). Beginning in 1939, members of the Polish-speaking minority, especially members of the Union of Poles in Germany, were deported to German death camps.

Allenstein was plundered and burnt by the invading Soviet Red Army on 22 January 1945 as the Eastern Front reached the city. Allenstein’s German population evacuated the region or were subsequently expelled. On 2 August 1945, the city was placed under Polish administration by the Soviets according to the Potsdam Agreement and officially renamed to Olsztyn. Polish stamps replaced those of Germany at that time.  In October 1945, the German population of Olsztyn was expelled by Order of the City Commanders of Olszty.


The entire run of Allenstein stamps have a total value of US $49 unused, $105 mint never hinged and $91.90 used, according to the 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue.  The two most expensive single stamps are Scott #18 ($20 unused, $35 used) and Scott #4 ($5.50 unused, $9.50 used).  This is a 15-pfennig stamp in violet brown in each of the different overprint varieties which was issued some time after the initial 3 April 1920 release, replacing the 15pf dark violet shade.

Postmarked on the day of the Allenstein Plebiscite, 11 July 1920

Scott does list a few minor varieties – double and inverted overprints – and mentions that several other denominations of German stamps received the plebiscite overprints but weren’t actually issued.  These appear on the collector market from time to time and the Scott catalogue values them at between $75 hinged and $175 never hinged.


Allenstein was the stamp issuer that first attracted me to early German stamps.  I currently have sixteen stamps in my collection, four of which are duplicates.  It won’t be difficult to obtain the remaining issues and Allenstein may just be my first “complete country” (Bohemia and Moravia is close behind).


Happy Collecting!

Algeria COAAlgeria Flag

Algeria (1924-1958; 1962-Date)

LOCATION:  North Africa
AREA:  919,595 sq. mi. (2,381,741 sq. km)
Population:  39,500,000 (2015 est.)
CAPITAL:  Algiers

FIRST STAMPS:  France from 1849
8 May 1924

100 Centimes = 1 Franc (1924-1964)
100 Centimes = 1 Dinar (1964-date)

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, situated in the northern part of the continent on the Mediterranean coast.  The country was named after the capital city of Algiers, deriving from the Arabic الجزائر (al-Jazā’ir, “the islands”).  Today, the official language is Arabic, although about 40% speaks Berber and French is widely understood, being the language of choice for business and university-level education.Map of AlgeriaRemnants of hominid occupation dating to 200,000 BC have been found in the Ain Hanech region in Saïda Province and Neanderthal tool makers produced hand axes in styles similar to those found in the Levant dating to 43,000 BC.  Neolithic civilizations marked by animal domestication and agriculture developed in the Saharan and coastal regions between 11,000 and 2000 BC.  The various Northern African peoples eventually coalesced into a distinct indigenous population that came to be called the Berbers.  

Phoenician and Carthaginian settlements were established along the coast beginning around 600 BC but Berber power grew following the destruction of the city of Carthage in 146 BC.  Two Berber kingdoms were established in Numidia by the second century BC and were annexed by the Roman Empire in 24 AD.  The Romans ruled the region of Algeria for several centuries; it was one of the breadbaskets of the empire, exporting cereals and other agricultural products.  The Arabs conquered Algeria in the mid-seventh century.

Ruins at Djemila, Algeria

In the early 16th century, Spain constructed fortified outposts called presidios in the coastal regions of Algeria, taking control of several coastal towns.  Spain built a fort on one of the rocky islets in the harbor at Algiers in 1510.  Turkish privateer brothers Aruj and Hayreddin Barbarossa moved their base of operations to Algiers in 1516 and conquered the city from the Spaniards.  With the aid of a force of 2000 janissaries provided by the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Hayreddin Barbarossa conquered the whole area between Constantine and Oran in 1518; the city of Oran remained in Spanish hands until 1791.  The Ottomans ruled Algeria for the next five centuries.

Santa Cruz de Oran, Algeria

Despite usurpation, military coups and occasional mob rule, the day-to-day operation of Ottoman government in Algeria was remarkably orderly.  One major threat, however, was in the form of Barbary pirates who preyed on Christian and non-Islamic shipping in the western Mediterranean, capturing between one and 1.25 million Europeans as slaves between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Two pirate ships from Algiers sailed as far as Iceland in July 1627, raiding and capturing slaves as they went.  In 1629, pirate ships from Algeria raided the Faroe Islands.  Piracy on American vessels resulted in the First (1801-1805) and Second Barbary Wars (1815).

It is not known when postal services were first established in Algeria but letters sent by Europeans in Algiers date from 1690.  A postal marking from Spanish-controlled Oran is known from 1749.

French bombardment of Algiers, 1830

In 1830, the French invaded and captured Algiers followed by a conquest which lasted until 1848 and resulted in considerable bloodshed.   In 1834, France annexed the occupied areas of Algeria, which had an estimated Muslim population of about two million, as a colony. Colonial administration in the occupied areas – the so-called régime du sabre (government of the sword) – was placed under a governor general, a high-ranking army officer invested with civil and military jurisdiction, who was responsible to the minister of war. Marshal Bugeaud, who became the first governor-general, headed the conquest, making a systemic use of torture and following a “scorched earth” policy.  A period of pacification followed until 1871 and then a period of peace from 1872-1890 before the conquest of the Saharan oases.  Civil administration by France did not reach the desert provinces until 1902.

Biskra, Algeria in 1899

Regular postal services were introduced by France in 1830 when the military postal organization Tresor et Postes was established in Algiers.  This was opened to civilians in 1835 but still used military handstamps until 1839 after which datestamps with town names became standard.  The service expanded into the interior as French control spread.  There were 295 post offices in operation by 1880.

Initial postal services were by courier and by coastal steamboat service operated by the French navy which passed to Messageries Maritimes in 1866.  Starting in 1862, railways began slowly moving forward with the Constantine-Philippeville line opening in 1870 and Algiers-Oran the following year. 

Stamps of France were used for mail in Algeria starting on 16 January 1849 and were initially obliterated by dumb grille which are only identifiable as originating from Algeria when on cover.  Starting in 1852, these were replaced in 1852 by the so called “petit chiffres” (small figures), a lozenge of dots surrounding a number.  The “grande chiffres” (large figures) with new post office numbers replaced the small figures after 1863.  The numerical cancellations were replaced by circular datestamps incorporating the name of the post office from April 1876.

Algeria Scott #P1

On 8 May 1924, French stamps and postal stationery overprinted with “ALGÉRIE” were issued for the country.   Some thirty-two types were issued over the next two years.  The first stamps inscribed with the country’s name appeared in 1926, consisting of four typographed designs showing local scenes.  This series ultimately consisted of thirty-five types, ranging in denomination from 1 centime to 20 francs.  Algeria’s first commemorative stamp marked the centenary of French control and depicted the Bay of Algiers on a 10-franc value.

Postcard commemorating centenary of French control of Algeria

Following the armistice between France and Germany in 1940, Algeria continued to be governed by France.  The Allies first landed in North Africa on 8 November 1942 and the Comité Français de Libération Nationale (French Committee of National Liberation) took over the administration of Algeria on 13 March 1943.  Fezzan was captured by the Free French Forces of Chad in 1943 and used the stamps of Algeria between 1943 and 1946.


After the Second World War, dissatisfaction among the Muslim population, which lacked political and economic status in the colonial system, gave rise to demands for greater political autonomy, and eventually independence, from France. A declaration that Algeria was to become an integral province of France led to open war on 1 November 1954.  The Algerian War led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Algerians and hundreds of thousands of injuries.

Postcard from Algeria

The use of Algerian-imprinted stamps ceased during the war and French stamps were used from 22 July 1958 until 27 June 1962.  The war lasted until a cease-fire on 18 March 1962. By referendum Algeria became independent on 3 July 1962.  Locally-applied overprints reading “EA” on stocks of French stamps in a wide variety of colors and typefaces were used from 4 July 1962 until 31 October 1962.  These were replaced the following day by a set of five designs showing local scenes and inscribed “REPUBLIQUE ALGERIENNE” in both French and Arabic which was the first appearance of Arabic on Algerian stamps.

Algerian traditional music

Today, Algeria is a semi-presidential republic of 48 provinces and 1,541 communes. Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been President since 1999.  The country supplies large amounts of natural gas to Europe, and energy exports are the backbone of the economy. According to OPEC Algeria has the 17th largest reserves of oil in the world, and the second largest in Africa, while it has the 9th largest reserves of natural gas. Sonatrach, the national oil company, is the largest company in Africa.  With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometers (919,595 square miles), 90% of which is desert, Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world and the largest in Africa.


My 2009 edition of the Scott catalogue lists a total of 1605 Algerian stamps.  These are divided amongst 1388 general issue stamps, 115 semi-postals, 23 air mail releases, three air post semi-postal stamps, 74 postage due varieties, and two stamps for parcel post.  Algeria is considered to be a fairly inexpensive country to collect with the majority of issues valued at less than US $1.  The most expensive stamp listed is Scott #66, the 10-franc denomination issued in 1927 picturing the tomb of Sidi Yacoub, valued at $52.50 in 2009.


In addition to the Scott-listed stamps, French postal stationery items consisting of envelopes, newspaper wrappers, letter cards, and postal cards were overprinted “ALGÉRIE” and issued in 1924. A total of eleven different newspaper wrappers were produced for use in Algeria between 1924 and 1943, four of these were by overprinting French newspaper wrappers and two by surcharging Algerian newspaper wrappers. These were followed by postal stationery printed for Algeria in 1927. Envelopes, newspaper wrappers and letter cards were discontinued in the early 1940s.  Upon independence in 1962, Algeria issued a single postal card plus aerogrammes in 1976.  There are also the Algerian Railways (Parcel Post) issues in five pictorial designs – Gare de Philippeville, Renault Railcar, Micheline Railcar in an Oasis, Viaduct, Gare de Bone – which are unlisted in Scott.

Algeria Scott #1

I currently have seventeen stamps from Algeria, including Scott #1 – eleven of the general issues, five airmails and one newspaper stamp (Scott #1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 173, 175, 176, 179, 182, 284, C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, and P1).  With so many utilizing the French penchant for great design and the low cost involved, I would like to add more of these attractive stamps to my collection.  I still don’t have one which I would call the “perfect choice” to represent Algeria in my A Stamp From Everywhere collection.


Albania COAAlbania Flag

Albania (1913-Date)

LOCATION: Southeastern Europe
AREA:  11,101 sq. mi.
Population:  2,893,005 (est. 2011)
CAPITAL:  Tirana

FIRST STAMPS:  Turkish, from 1870

40 paras = 1 piastre or grosch; 100 qint = 1 franc (1913-1947)
100 qint = 1 lek (1947-1965)
100 older = 1 new lek (1965-date)

Albania is a republic in southeast Europe, bordering on the Adriatic Sea.  Formerly part of ancient Epirus, it was defeated by the Turks in the 14th century and became a province in the European portion of the Ottoman Empire.  A national hero, Scanderberg, rose up about 1443 and liberated Albania from Turkish control until the siege of Scutari in 1478.  During the period of Turkish control there were seven post offices in Albania each with its own special hand-stamp.  Frequently the hand-stamps were only used as arrival marks, and stamps were applied at the office of delivery.

Albania Map 1

Italy, as part of its policy of expansion in the Mediterranean opened post offices in Albania in 1902 which used Italian stamps overprinted ALBANIA and in Turkish currency. Offices were opened at Durazzo, Scutari and Valona. The first issue was replaced in 1909 by a further issue overprinted for each of the towns.

Albania did not take part in the first Balkan War in 1912-13, but declared its independence on 28 November 1912. This was confirmed by the Treaty of London, which ended the war.  The country issued its first stamps in October and November 1913 with overprints on various Turkish adhesives. The overprints featured a double-headed eagle and the legend SHQIPËNIA. “Shqipënia” would be the first of a large number of variations of the country’s name on Albanian stamps over the years. The first permanent series was released in December 1913, inscribed SHQIPËNIE E LIRË.


However, the new country was to suffer immediate problems. Overrun by German, Serbian, Montenegrin, Greek, Bulgarian, Italian, French and Austrian troops during World War I, foreign forces remained in Albania until 1921.  Essad Pasha set up his own regime and issued stamps for central Albania. The Greeks also issued stamps in 1914 for Epirus and Northern Epirus, which they had occupied. To try to bring peace, the Dutch were asked to send a detachment of police. These used their own special stamps at their headquarters in Koritza. The Montenegrins had occupied Scutari. Postmarks of SCUTARI-SKADOR are found on the stamps of Montenegro and Albania. 

Stamps of this time included many different overprints, plus different inscriptions for the name of the country, including SHQIPËNIË, POSTA SHQYPTARE, POSTE SHQYPTARE, REPUBLIKA SHQIPTARE, and REP. SHQIPTARE. Others have no inscription at all, and may be identified by the prominent double-headed eagle.

The country fell into a state of anarchy when the prince and all members of the International Commission left Albania. Subsequently General Ferrero in command of Italian troops declared Albania an independent country. A constitution was adopted and a republican form of government was instituted which continued until 1928 when, by constitutional amendment, Albania was declared to be a monarchy. The President of the republic, Ahmed Zogu, became king of the new state.


On 7 April 1939, Italy invaded Albania. King Zog fled but did not abdicate. The King of Italy acquired the crown. Stamps were issued almost immediately and were overprinted ‘Constituent Assembly 12 IV 1939 XVII’. This referred to the body who offered the crown of Albania to the King of Italy. The figure XVII refers to the 17th year of Fascist rule in Italy.  Italy did not enter World War II until June 1940.  After the fall of France it used Albania as its base for the invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940. The Greeks counterattacked and soon overran almost half of Albania. They issued stamps overprinted for southern Albania on 10 December 1940.

When Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941, it returned the control of Albania to Italy. However, when Italy surrendered in September 1943, Germany immediately assumed the occupation of Albania. Stamps were again issued. These were from the Italian occupation overprinted.

In 1944 a guerilla leader, General Enver Hoxha, drove German forces from the country and proclaimed Albania to be a democratic republic on 22 November 1944. In January 1945 definitive stamps from the Italian occupation were further overprinted for the new republic.  Stamps in 1945 were issued inscribed QEVERIA DEMOKRATIKE E SHQIPNIS. In 1946, the new appellation REPUBLIKA POPULLORE E SHQIPERISE was used, first as an overprint, then as an inscription on new stamp issues. This was subsequently shortened on some stamps to a variation of RP E SHQIPERISE, SHQIPERIA, SHQIPËRIJA, etc.


In January 1946, a communist people’s republic was proclaimed. At first it appeared that Albania would become a satellite of Yugoslavia, but it maintained its independence, under Hoxha’s repressive regime. In 1960, because of the Soviet Union’s de-Stalinization campaign, Albania broke with the Soviet Union and aligned its foreign policy with that of the People’s Republic of China. In 1978 China’s liberalization brought a break between that country and Albania. From 1978 to 1991, Albania was one of the most economically undeveloped nations in Europe and one of the most isolated nations in the world.

In 1991, Albania held its first multi-party elections and became a Socialist Republic on 29 April 1991 with an elected President and a new Constitution. Since 1991, with the collapse of communism in Europe, Albania has instituted a democratic republican government. Economic reverses in 1997 threatened the country with a return to the anarchy that has characterized so much of its history.  Rioting broke out in January 1997 following the collapse of a number of pyramid investment schemes. Anti-Government protests were followed by open rebellion and a State of Emergency was declared in March. The attacks on the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo by the Serbs led to a general move by the refugees into Albania.


As of 2011, the capital, Tirana, was home to 421,286 of the country’s 2,893,005 people within the city limits, 763,634 in the metropolitan area.[ Tirana is also the financial capital of the country. Free-market reforms have opened the country to foreign investment, especially in the development of energy and transportation infrastructure. Albania provides a universal health care system and free primary and secondary education.  The country is an upper-middle income economy with the service sector dominating the country’s economy, followed by the industrial sector and agriculture.

By my count*, there are a total of 3229 Albanian stamps listed in the 2009 Scott Catalogue.  Of these, 3064 are general issues, 40 semi-postals (the charity going mainly to health-related organizations such as the Albanian Red Cross), 79 airmail stamps, three special delivery stamps and 43 postage dues.  The early issues tend to be priced quite high.

I have exactly one stamp from Albania in my collection. Scott #1057 was released on 25 August 1967, the 80q value in a set of eight portraying regional costumes.  This stamp shows a man and woman from Dropullit. 


*Yes, I am attempting to physically count all the stamps in the 2009 scott catalogue,  look for a blog article highlighting my reasons and methods for such an undertaking (and a look at the spreadsheet I’m developing to track stamp issuers and their emissions).

Ajman COA 1Ajman Flag

Ajman (1964-1972)

LOCATION: Oman Peninsula, Arabia, on Persian Gulf
AREA:  100 sq. mi. (260 sq. km)
Population:  4,400 (est. 1970)
GOVERNMENT:  Sheikdom under British protection

LAST STAMPS ISSUED:  1972 [those issued after 18 December 1965 are unlisted in Scott]

100 Naiye Paise = 1 Rupee (1964-1966); 100 Fils = 1 Dinar (1966-1972)

Ajman is the smallest of seven emirates, centrally located on the western coast of the present-day United Arab Emirates in eastern Arabia.  It is the smallest of the emirates by area and had an estimated population of 4,400 in 1970.  Today, the population is more than 360,000.  Ajman City is the capital and the port is situated down a short creek.  The emirate is bordered by Sharjah and is only 10km away from Dubai in the south and Umm al Quwain in the north.


British influence in the region increased in the early nineteenth century.  Following the capture of Ras al Khaimah by a British force, the sultan of Sharjah sighed the General Maritime Treaty with Great Britain on 8 January 1820, surrendering the towers, guns and vessels of Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain and their dependencies.  Ajman initially refused the primacy of the sultan of Sharjah but capitulated in 1823.  A British maritime survey in 1822 had noted that Ajman had one of the best backwaters on the coast and was a small town with a single fortified building, the ruler’s house.

Postcard from Ajman

Ajman town and its date groves were attacked by the Bani Yas tribe in 1831.  Forces from Ajman subsequently attacked Sohar and Muscat which prompted a British naval force being sent to curb the raids in 1832.  Ending conflicts between Sharjah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Ajman, a Maritime Treaty was signed in 1835.  Forces from Al Heera invaded Ajman in 1840 which prompted further reprisals and another Maritime Treaty between the Trucial sheiks and the British in 1843.  A “Perpetual Treaty of Peace” was entered into by the coastal sheiks on 4 May 1853; a further treaty bound the Trucial States to Britain in 1892.

Ajman as seen from the air

In 1948, the British Postal Agencies in Eastern Arabia were set up to provide postal services to countries in the region with mail processed in Dubai using stamps issued for the Trucial States.  The first post office in Ajman was opened on 29 November 1963 by the Agencies.  The first stamps inscribed with the individual emirate name of Ajman were issued on 20 June 1964.  The sheikdom released 64 stamps – 46 general issue, nine airmail, four airmail official, and five official stamps – in 1964 and 1965.

On 5 July 1966, Ajman opened a post office in its small dependency of Manama.  The first Manama issue appeared soon afterwards and the two postal agencies released thousands of stamps designed solely with the worldwide collector in mind.  As these had little to no postal validity, the Scott catalogue does not list any Ajman stamps released after December 1965, nor any of the Manama issues.  To identify these unlisted stamps, the Oh My Gosh website is useful.  I believe that the Michel and Stanley Gibbons catalogues list some of these disputed issues, but I don’t have the pertinent volumes available to check.

Ajman - Scott #C3 - 1965-11-15

Ajman agreed to join the independent United Arab Emirates on 2 December 1971 and the UAE took over postal operations on 1 August 1972.   Ajman stamps were allowed to be used for postage until the following April. Numerous Ajman-inscribed stamps continued to be released throughout 1972 and beyond but these weren’t recognized as valid by the government.  In addition to the sixty-four listed in Scott, it has been estimated that an additional six to seven thousand different Ajman stamps came onto the philatelic market between 1964 and 1972.  It’s been reported that the Ajman postmaster, without consulting the government, sold “exclusive” stamp-printing contracts to at least two separate agencies during this time.

Ajman - Scott #C9 - 1965-12-18

The majority of the Scott-listed stamps are valued at less than US $1 with the most expensive being Scott #18, priced at US $4.30 in my 2009 edition of the catalogue.  Most of the postally-disputed unlisted stamps are considered to be practically worthless but can offer nice additions to certain topical collections.  It is probably impossible to aim for completeness, however…

Scan_20150130 (75)

I currently have twenty-nine stamps from Ajman in my general worldwide collection, one of which will be earmarked for my A Stamp From Everywhere album.  I own all nine of the Scott-listed airmail stamps, C1-C9.  The first six values were released on 15 November 1965 and the remaining three high-value stamps appeared on 18 December 1965, about two weeks after my birth.  I also have twenty tiny unlisted airmail stamps picturing various countries’ military uniforms and carrying the date 1972, along with the inscription “Ajman State and its Dependencies.”


Following a rare-in-July day without mail (possibly due to the heavy monsoonal rains we experienced all day), I received a single envelope containing a single stamp which happened to be a new addition to my A Stamp From Everywhere collection – French Andorra.  I also recently obtained my first stamps from the Spanish administration of the co-principality and so will be putting together a “Stamp Issuers” installment detailing its history and stamps.


The French Andorran stamp is Scott #458, released on 4th November 1995 to mark the tiny enclave’s entry into the Council of Europe.  I’m always a sucker for flags on stamps!  (As you will soon see, I’ve recently created a set of flag stamps for the Muang Phuket Local Post.)

The stamp was ordered from a dealer in the Netherlands but was mailed in Belgium.  The envelope is covered with eight copies of Scott #B875 , a semi-postal released on 11 September 1971 to raise money for the Wallonia Festival, and one copy of Scott #734 which was released on 31 January 1970 for the Ghent International Flower Exhibition.  The latter stamp was also featured in a souvenir sheet of three released on 25 April 1970.

I love receiving mail that looks like this envelope; it’s a nice bonus when ordering stamps from other collectors and dealers.

Happy Collecting!