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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Putting Nigerian Stamps on the Map

I have been collecting stamps for almost 34 years now. In that time, I have specialized in the stamps of Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Commonwealth King George VI and many more. For 32 of those years I struggled to find a collecting area that could sustain my interest. For as long as I could remember, I have wanted to write a philatelic work - to contribute in some lasting way to this fantastic hobby.

Two years ago, I started collecting the stamps and postal history of Nigeria and what an amazing area! What is so amazing about it? Well, I love detail - papers, shades, watermarks, perforations, errors, cancellations etc. I also love a challenge, and so my stamps have to have some scarcity factor. This is why I would not stick to the major industrialized countries - I found the material too expensive for how un-scarce it actually is.  Nigeria has it all. First, there is the fact that until 1914, it was several separate colonies and protectorates: Niger Coast Protectorate, Lagos, Niger Company Territories, Northern Nigeria, and Southern Nigeria. All of the issues of these territories were printed in the UK by two printing companies: De La Rue and Company and Waterlow & Sons. Both companies experimented with different inks, resulting in shade varieties, while Waterlow's perforations exhibited several different gauges, resulting in upwards of 5 types of a basic stamp.

In 1914 all of the above mentioned territories formed Nigeria as we know it today. Nigeria is the 8th most populous country on earth, and one of the wealthiest countries on earth. One would expect its stamps to be popular with collectors given its stature on the world stage. Sadly, this has not been the case historically. However, what this means to the budding specialist looking for a rich, fertile field to study, is that Nigeria is replete with affordable and scarce material. Most of the collector interest historically has been focussed on the colonial material up to independence. However, even these issues have not received anywhere near the attention that they deserve.

But where the country really gets interesting and exciting is after independence in 1960. Some of the sets issued are the most complicated that I have ever studied and some of the material is very scarce, while at the same time being completely affordable. There is also the hope and promise depicted on these issues associated with the birth of a new nation and its continual growth and improvement.

As I got more and more interested in this area, I knew what I had to do: publish a book that would show other collectors what could be done with this fantastic country. Put it on the map so to speak. But, it is taking me far longer to research the stamps than I expected. So I decided that I had better start with a blog. I also want to hear your comments and your ideas, as my work progresses.

So over the months and years to come, I will try to share the discoveries I make as I study the stamps of this country. Right now, I am working on the first Kobo-Naira Definitive issue that came out in 1973. This issue was reprinted until it was replaced in 1984. This issue is without a doubt the most complicated I have ever studied, given that it was only out for just over 10 years. Of course countries like the UK have the Machin Heads, which are in their 44th year now, so in terms of complication, it is hard to beat. But this little set from Nigeria has everything a detail freak could want:

1. Different printing processes: photogravure and lithography.
2. Numerous shade varieties of virtually every colour used to print the stamps.
3. Fluorescent paper varieties.
4. Different paper types, in terms of texture and thickness.
5. Different gums.
6. Watermarked and unwatermarked, as well as watermark varieties.
7. Fluorescent inks that appear the same under normal light as non-fluorescent inks.
8. Clean cut and rough perforations.
9. Different printing orders of colour (i.e. black on blue versus blue on black).
10. Design detail differences.

Anyway, I think this is long enough for a first post. I'm off to go study some of the 30K value and pull out the ultraviolet lamp. I'd love to hear your comments.

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