The Philatelic Middle East Forerunners in Yemen;
Faked Overprints; A Mystery Solved

Bruce Conde

Copyright 7 July 1958
Linn's Stamp News, Sidney, Ohio USA 45365
Reprinted with permission from the July 7, 1958 issue of Linn's Stamp News
(www.linns.com.)

Publication of the photo and data concerning Herbert Bernstein's Turkish 1892 bisected 2-piaster (Scott No. 98) in the January 6 issue of Linn's has smoked out a number of additional early Ottoman forerunners of Yemen including an additional bisect of the type described.

It has also brought forth indications from both England (where Yemen collecting, perhaps due to its close connection with Aden, is apparently quite popular) and from those in contact with the American auction prices for such material, that Turkish forerunner covers of Yemen are worth approximately $50 apiece.

When suitable photos are forthcoming, these additional Yemen Ottoman Post items will be written up for this paper, but in the meantime, collectors interested in this phase of philately should consult Major T. L. C. Tomkins' "Turkish Arabia" if they can locate a copy. This "bible" of Ottoman cancellations on the peninsula of Arabia and in the Levant up to 1918 also includes Palestinian and Syro-Lebanese forerunner material.

Major Tomkins lists three types of cancels for Sana'a and three for Hodeida, rating them from "scarce" to "very rare", but there exist additional types, and possibly cancels for Taiz and Mokha. It is unlikely that there were any additional town cancels.

Mr. Bernstein, owner of the Hodeida-cancelled 1892 bisect on cover, was subsequently the recipient of another cover, with similar type cancellation, but with the town name "Makrikfuy", which he asks about, supposing it to be another Yemen small town item. This is not, however, a Yemeni or even an Arabic name. The bilingual type cancel, of a type used after 1890, is common throughout the whole Ottoman empire, in Europe and Asia Minor as well as on the peninsula of Arabia. Earlier types are in Arabic script only, and this is true of later types, when exaggerated Turkish nationalism, or Turanianism, caused a reversion to Turkish-Arabic script only.

Re. forged 4 bogash overprint varieties of Yemen, Ernest H. Smith, Northville, Mich. writes that he understands there are some 4 bogash overprint forgeries of Yemen and asks that they be described. This is a sore point with the writer and a source of disagreement between him and the publishers of Stanley Gibbons' catalogs.

The fact is that there are no known forgeries of the overprints themselves, but that the wrong type of overprint was subsequently applied to older, already canceled, stamps in order to create a supply of rather scarce overprint items no longer available in legitimate form.

To be specific, the Post Office in 1949 resurrected four of the old 1931 Berlin-printed set (1, 2, 3 and 5 bogash, Scott's basic types Nos. 9, 11, 12 and 15) and overprinted them "4 bogash" with the Type "a" surcharge, as illustrated on page 1281 (2nd column) of the Standard Catalog (1958 edition), thus creating Scott's Nos. 62-65, inclusive. There happens to be a sleeper among them—No. 63, which catalogs $6.50 mint and $3 used, the others being listed at 60c mint and 30c used, each.

When the late Yemen specialist-dealer Benjamin T. Baroody, of Beirut, began to get requests from overseas dealers for additional supplies of this set in 1950, he contacted his agents in Sana'a and ordered additional quantities.

It happened that the quantities overprinted were small, and that the "a"-type surcharge, with which the stamps had been overprinted, had, in the meantime, become worn out and discarded in favor of the new "b" surcharge (illustrated in column 3 of page 1281 of the 1958 catalog).

Unable to get any more mint copies, and finding the used ones in short supply, one of the suppliers, perhaps ignorant of the niceties of philately, hit on a brilliant idea. He would borrow the post office's 4 bogash Type "b" surcharge cliche (it was a small copper handstamp) and apply it to unoverprinted copies of Nos. 9, 11, 12, and 15!

Had the counterfeiter been more generous, he would have escaped detection. He could have purchased the four stamps mint as face (22c total), overprinted them, and got them recognized along with Nos. 66a and 67a. These two are the 1947 Mokha coffee tree stamps which had received both the "a" and "b" type surcharges legitimately during the transition period in 1949.

However, he chose to try to make more money out of the transaction by handstamping already used stamps with the overprint, and this fact led to his detection and to the branding of all supposed Nos. 62-65 with the "b"-type overprint as counterfeits.

The facts about this case were discovered jointly by the writer and Michel Stephan, general manager of the Baroody Stamp Co., Ltd., in 1954. While writing up the two types of overprint for "Scott's Monthly Journal", the writer had access to Baroody's vast stock of thousands upon thousands of Yemenite provisionals. He was struck by the relative scarcity (a few hundred copies) of the 1949 Nos. 62-65 set, and by the surprising clarity of the "b" overprint (which he had provisionally listed as authentic) and the fact that several were inverted and double, a most rare occurrence for Yemen provisional overprints.

More careful examination revealed 1935 postmarks on a number of these supposed 1949-surcharged items! Furthermore, no mint copies were ever known to exist.

The "b"-overprinted items were struck from the list and Scott was advised to list and illustrate both types of overprint in order to avoid further such chicanery. Stanley Gibbons, reticent about going into too much detail about non-British items, declined to list two types of surcharge, although cautioned that the omission might lead to the successful sale of counterfeit overprints on the British market.

Later correspondence with Gibbons has indicated a possible change of attitude about listing the two types, and it would not be surprising to see Gibbons follow Scott in this matter in subsequent editions of Part III of the Gibbons Catalog.

On January 4, 1958, the Iraqi parliament finally ratified the Arab Postal Union Convention, thus leaving Yemen as the only signatory whose association with the union has not yet been formalized by ratification. It was supposed that Iraq had not issued APU stamps for political reasons only, but this is now known to be incorrect, and we may look forward to a possible Iraqi uniform APU issue in the near future.

The mystery of who shares the 15-piaster violet brown stamp of Lebanon's 1957 Arab "Kings and Presidents" series with handsome Lebanese President Camille Chamoun has finally been solved (Linn's of November 4, 1957).

Despite press reports that Major General Abdul Hamid Ghalib, Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon (who deputized for President Gamal Abdul Nasser at the November 1956 meeting of Arab Kings and Presidents in Beirut) had been honored on the stamp in lieu of his absent President, the Post Office Department has definitely confirmed that the picture is that of Sudanese Prime Minister and acting Chief of State Abdallah Khalil.

This was in line with the Department's decision to show only actual Chiefs of State who personally attended the Conference, to the exclusion of deputies who represented the Kings of Yemen and Libya and the President of Egypt. This applied even though the Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister represented his father at the meeting.

This means also, of course, that the "eight o'clock man" on the big diamond-shaped 100-piaster high value of the series is to be identified as Abdallah Khalil. The high value, when held in its correct "diamond" position (with the word "Liban" at the bottom of the diamond), shows Chamoun at the top, or 12 o'clock position, and then, clockwise, Hosein, Kuwatly, Feisal, Khalil, and Saud.

January mail coming from Beirut is provided with a new and attractive, and very appropriate, postal tax stamp to replace Scott's No. RA-11 of 1956. The latter was issued on the heels of the disastrous earthquake which devastated the South Mount Lebanon area. It showed a woman and her two children ruefully looking at the ruins of their destroyed stone house, and its 2½pi. tax was applied to the reconstruction and relief fund of the victims of the earthquake.

Under the energetic guidance of Lebanese Deputy Emile Bustany, as the responsible official in charge of reconstruction activities, great progress was made in getting the homes of the earthquake victims rebuilt, and the work is steadily going on today.

Lebanese tax stamp

The central design is taken up with an almost finished house. In front of it two men, presumably the architect and the contractor, are examining a mammoth plan, laid out like a carpet, with the second story and its staircase outlined as in an architect's drawing.

As the stamp is for internal use within Lebanon and the Arab Postal Union area only, it is inscribed with the country name "Lubnan" in Arabic script only, in upper right. The "Earthquake Fund" designation in Arabic in the upper left.

The bilingual Arabic and foreign figures of value occupy lower right and left, respectively, with the minute superscription of the Saikali Press in lower right margin. The entire background of the stamp is in the form of a masonry wall, and it is printed in dark brown, but in a horizontal instead of a vertical format, in contrast with No. RA-11.

This stamp, whose face value is slightly less that 1c U.S., is obligatory on all first-class letter mail and airmail destined to points in Lebanon and the Arab Postal Union countries, but is not compulsory for foreign mail or other classes of postal matter. It must be used by Lebanese and foreigners alike, thus the foreign figures of value at lower left.

(Questions of general interest about Middle East Philately addressed to Bruce Conde, Taiz, Yemen, will be answered in this column, but the writer cannot undertake additional direct correspondence at this time. Requests for philatelic services will be passed on to reputable Middle East dealers.)