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Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 1961-1965 "Independence" Definitive Issue

I have been looking at the viewership statistics for the one post that I did on the 1962-63 commemoratives with some dismay. It seems that most of you are not that interested in the post-independence issues. Maybe I'm mistaken. It is indeed a pity if I am, as the post-independence period has so much to offer, as I hope the next few posts will show. Indeed, Nigeria is one of the few countries, now in the whole world, where the number of basic issued stamps is still under 1000 basic catalogue numbers. My country, Canada, which has a very reasonable new issue policy has issued over 2,400 stamps. Nigeria, in contrast had, up to 2008 still issued fewer than 900 stamps. In addition, it is one of the few countries whose stamps illustrate subject matter that is relevant to the country and its people.

On January 1, 1961, just 3 months after the country declared its independence, a new definitive set appeared to replace the previous pictorial issue. Gone are the images of Queen Elizabeth II and the Tudor Crown. Like the previous set, this one shows scenes from Nigerian life. But an important difference is that Nigeria is now portrayed through the eyes of its people, rather than from the old colonial perspective of a British possession.

The set consisted of 13 values from halfpenny up to the one pound, as with the previous issue. The values up to 1/- being produced in small rectangular format and the high values in large sideways rectangular format as follows:

1/2d Emerald green - groundnuts. This stamp exists in coils constructed from normal sheets and there are a few distinct shade varieties to be found.

1d reddish violet - coal mining. This is the first time that the coal mining industry is depicted on a Nigerian stamp. It is difficult to imagine anyone doing such a dirty and dangerous job wearing so little as the miner that we see depicted on this stamp. This stamp exists in several shades, most of which are but subtle variants of one another, as well as coils constructed from sheets and booklet panes of 6. 

1.5d carmine-red - Adult education. This is the first time that the topic of education and its importance is addressed on a Nigerian stamp. the stamp depicts a classroom in which adults and a young teenager alike are learning. This stamp exists in two shades and is quite scarce in fine used condition. 

2d Deep blue -  Pottery. This is the first time that pottery is depicted on Nigerian stamps. All of the country's  ethnic groups are highly practiced in the art of pottery. This stamp exists in at least three shades of the blue, which are quite distinct, as well as some fluorescent paper varieties. 

3d Deep green - Oyo carver. The stamp depicts a Yoruba man from Oyo State, carving a calabash. The calabash is a common, all purpose vessel used to contain food and other items. Oyo state is in the southwest corner of the country and Ibadan is the capital. This is one of the most common stamps of the 1960's and is plentiful in used condition. It exists in coils and booklet panes, and there are shades of the green, as well as different types of inks, whose differences can only be seen under ultraviolet light. 

4d Blue - Weaving. Again, this is the first time that weaving is depicted on a Nigerian stamp. There is at least one subtle shade variety to be found on this stamp. This is also one of the scarcer values of the set in used condition. 

6d Black and yellow - Benin Mask, Sword and Dagger.  This is a famous mask that was worn by the Oba, probably around his neck, during the Emobo ceremony. The pendant is said to represent Queen Mother Idia, mother of Oba Esigie, who ruled in the 16th century. The top of the mask is decorated with heads that represent the Portuguese. This is symbolic of the Alliance between the people of Benin and the Europeans

1/- Green - Hornbill. The hornbill is a family of bird that is found in Su-tropical Africa, Asia and Melanesia. They are known for their strong, downward curved bill (beak). There are over 55 species of these birds, some of which are threatened with extinction. They nest in natural cavities in trees and cliffs and they are omnivourous, eating fruit and small animals. 

1/3d Orange - Camel train. The northern Hausa traders would often come southward in convoys of camels, called camel trains. This stamp exists in booklet form and exists in at least two different shades of orange. 

2/6d Bright yellow and black - Central Bank. The central bank building is located in the central business district of Lagos. It was regarded as the model of elegance when it opened originally. In recent years, it has been remodelled, by building a 19 storey complex surrounding the original building. There are several shade varieties of this stamp, including several that can only be seen under ultraviolet light. 

Then, and 

Now. The original building is located on the right of the photograph. 

5/- Emerald and black - Nigeria Museum. I looked for a reference to an old museum building in Lagos, but was unable to find anything online. The bronze sculpture shown on the right is the famous Olukun Head, which was discovered in 1910, buried in a palm grove, near the city of Ife. It was sent to  the British Museum in 1948 and has been exhibited there ever since. It was originally shown as a copy, which was thought to be too sophisticated to have been produced by African hands. Modern science has since debunked this theory and shown the sculpture to indeed be genuine. There are at least two shade varieties of the green and I have seen examples printed on a highly fluorescent paper as seen under ultraviolet light. 

10/- Blue and Black - Kano Airport and silhouette of northern trader riding a camel. The airport is called Mallam Aminu Airport, and is actually named after the politician Aminu Kano. It is the oldest airport in Nigeria, and was opened in 1936. A new domestic terminal was constructed in 2011 and in 2009 the airport handled just over 325,000 travellers in the year. The airport historically had served as an important fuel stop for airlines that had long-haul flights between Europe and Africa. This much of the airmail destined for Europe and the Americas was routed through this airport.  KLM is currently the only foreign airline that serves this airport and has consistently done so since 1947.


One Pound Brown Red and Black - The old Iddo train station, Lagos. This was an updated version of the old Iddo station that opened in Lagos in 1895. This remodeled station was opened in 1958 and was fashioned after Victoria station in London. It fell into disrepair in recent years, as the Nigerian Railway Corporation went bankrupt and railway service rapidly declined. However in the past few years, the Nigerian government has resurrected the NRC and has restored railway service, building a new train station to replace this one.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The 1953-1960 Elizabeth II Definitive Issue

The next major definitive issue that appeared after the death of King George VI was issued on September 1, 1953 and featured industry scenes from contemprary Nigeria, but in the form of stylized artists drawings. It is the last definitive issue to appear before independence in 1960. Either the Tudor crown, or the Queen's portrait appears off to one corner of the design. This is a very beautiful set, and serves as one of the better examples of Waterlow and Sons' work. Of all the major printers - De La Rue, Waterlow, and Bradbury Wilkinson, Waterlow's designs have tended to be my least favourite; perhaps because their frames are usually very simple. On this set though, the designs have been integrated into the frames seamlessly, which is very pleasing to the eye. Also, nearly all values are bi-coloured, which makes the colours pop nicely.

In common with other definitive issues that preceded this one, there are some points of interest for the specialist. There are shade variations on all values, although some of these are quite subtle, requiring a fair amount of patience to separate. In addition to shades, there are quite a few variations in the paper, both in terms of the weave direction, and the reaction under long-wave ultraviolet light. There were two booklets issued for this issue, as well as coils constructed from sheets and reels. In addition to these, there are several re-entries and plate retouches that can be found, although Gibbons has been slow to list them. Finally, the entire set exists overprinted "Cameroons U.K.T.T" for use in the Southern Cameroons region prior to the 1961 plebiscite, in which this region opted to join Cameroun. This later issue was first issued by overprinting stocks of the earlier Waterlow printings, but in 1961 the printing contract was lost by Waterlow and went to De La Rue, who re-printed several of the designs.

The designs and colours, as well as some shades follow:

1/2d Black and orange - Old Manilla Currency. This stamp is also found issued in coils and booklet panes of 4. A Manilla is an arm bracelet that was worn by the Igbo peoples who resided mainly in the Calabar region of Nigeria. They were often used as a form of money and came to be known as "Slave Trade Money" by European slave traders who used them to acquire slaves for trade in the Americas. 

1d Black and bronze-green - Bornu Horsemen. The top stamp was one of the original Waterlow printings, while the bottom stamp was printed by Imprimerie Belge de Securite in Belgium late in 1958. The difference is quite apparent, both by the difference in colour, and the sharpness of the shading lines in the central vignette, which are sharp and clear on the Waterlow printing, and fuzzy on the later printing. This stamp was issued in coils as well as booklet panes of 4 stamps. 

The Bornu horsemen are warriors from the northern Hausa peoples. They appeared frquently in the Northern towns like Kaduna in 1959 when the Northern regions were granted their autonomy, as shown in the following photograph capturing the festivities

1.5d Groundnuts. We know them as peanuts of course. Groundnuts are a major staple in Nigeria and are widely used in cooking. Nigeria is one of the largest producers of groundnuts in Africa, and fresh groundnuts are quite unlike the stale peanuts that you or I are used to eating in North America. 

2d Black and yellow-ochre or ochre. The top stamp is the yellow-ochre from the original September 1953 printing, while the stamp below is the ochre shade from the August 1954 printing. This stamp is known with a  major re-entry in which the steps of the terracing on the mountainside show distinct doubling. I have yet to find one as they are quite rare. 

Tin mining has been one of the country's largest industries in the early years of the country's history. In recent years though, there have been environmental concerns raised over the pollution of the country's waterways, as well as radioactive waste that results from the mining process. Historically much of the mining has taken place in the region of the Jos plateau. 

2d Slate-violet, grey, blue-grey and slate-blue - This monocoloured stamp, printed in Belgium replaced the bi-coloured 2d in July 1956. It is the most complicated stamp in the set, with two major die differences, numerous plate flaws and shades. The slate-blue and grey shades were available only in Nigeria and for this reason they are quite a bit scarcer than the other shades. This stamp was issued in coils and booklet panes of 4 stamps. 

3d Black and purple - Jebba Bridge and River Niger - The top stamp was printed by Waterlow, while the bottom stamp was printed by Imprimerie Belge de Securite in September 1958. Like on the 1d, the main difference is in the clarity of the shading lines of the central vignette design. You can also see clear differences in the purple colour as well. This stamp was also printed in booklet panes of 4. 

4d Black and blue - cocoa industry. Nigeria is the fourth largest producer of cocoa in the world. The goverment had hoped in between 2011 and 2015 to double annual production to 700,000 metric tons per year. 

6d Orange-brown or chestnut and black - Ife Bronze. The top stamp is the original 1953 printing, while the bottom stamp is from the August 1954 printing. This bronze sculpture currently resides in the British Museum in London. I saw it when I visited the museum in 2010. It is a sculpture of the head of the king of the Ile-Ife peoples around the 12th century A.D. it is thought that Ile-Ife is the city that the Yoruba peoples originated from and was a thriving civilization between the 9th and 12th centuries. The city is 218 km northeast of Lagos. 

 1/- Black and maroon - timber industry. Timber historically was one of the country's largest industries, although now most of the wood produced is consumed locally, and poor management of the re-forestation process has resulted in demand placing much pressure on the sustainability of the industry in Nigeria. 

2/6d Black and green or deep green - Victoria Harbour. The top stamp is from the original 1953 printing, while the bottom one is from the August 1954 printing. The difference between the two is very subtle, but if you look closely you will see that the green colour on the top stamp has a yellowish cast, wheras the bottom stamp does not. Victoria Harbour is the main port in the city of Lagos, not to be confused with Victoria Harbour in Victoria British Columbia, or in Hong Kong. The stamp depicts prawns and bananas on the frames - two common food staples in the country. 

5/- Black and red-orange - palm oil industry. Palm oil is mostly used in cooking, and gives the foods made with it a very rich flavour. It contains a large amount of saturated fat, as evidenced by the fact that it is a solid at room temperature. It is also used by confectioners in the making of chocolate to give it a smooth, rich taste.

10/- Black and red-brown - hides and skins. This continues to be a thriving industry in Nigeria to this day, with Fulani traders coming to Lagos to sell cattle as well as hides in the local markets. 

 One Pound black and violet - new and Old Lagos. The bottom image is a view of Lagos from the mid 1800's before European settlement, and top image is a contemprary view of Lagos that is nothing like it appears today:

And here you have it - the two main post war definitive sets that appeared prior to independence in 1960. So now you have seen most of the issues from Federated Nigeria prior to independence, except for those issued between 1914 and 1936, which will be the subject of my next post, and most of the issues after independence.

Although you have seen the Queen Victoria issues of Lagos, I have not yet shown you the issues of the other territories that eventually became Nigeria, like the Niger Coast Protectorate, Northern Nigeria, The Niger Company Territories, and Southern Nigeria.