New Provisional Yemen Surcharge

Bruce Conde

Copyright 14 October 1957
Linn's Stamp News, Sidney, Ohio USA 45365.
Reprinted with permission from the October 14, 1957 issue of Linn's Stamp News

Everything we have said in the past about the ugliness or illegibility of types "a", "b", "c" or "d" of Yemen's habitual 4 bogash surcharge on postal paper of the South Arabian mountain kingdom pales before the newest application of that overprint.

By June, 1957, supplies of the 4 (5) bogash Bab al-Yemen official stamp used without overprint began to run out. The handsome 4 (5) bogash flag stamp had previoulsy been exhausted, and the APU set, with its half-million extra copies of the 4 bogash value remained secure in its sealed boxes in Sana'a awaiting its fate.

Under the circumstances, and still without authorization from the Postmaster General in Taiz to apply a 4 bogash surcharge to vast quantities of unneeded values in Sana'a vaults, Sana'a "discovered" a quantity of "previously overprinted" 2 bogash stamps of the 1947 French-printed Mokha coffee tree set, and promptly released the stamps for ordinary use.

At first glance the new overprint looks like Scott's # 67a but with the overprint applies on its side, horizontally instead of vertically. Closer inspection, however, shows that the only similarity between it and the "b" type surcharge on No. 67a is that the "Y" of "Yemen" is about 2mm up from the bottom frame instead of almost resting on the frame line as in the type "a" surcharge.

The clearest copies of the new montrosity which, for reasons of chronological continuity, we shall have to list as type "e", show that the overprint makers' art in Sana'a has hit a new low. Most copies are smudged, so that nothing at all is legible on them, and the net impression is that of dashes or slugs marked on an electric eye card file.

"Clear" copies show the letters "Ye" in the lower left corner of the overprint when held vetically (if, indeed, it is merely a vertical overprint applied horizontally), then a blank space where the "m" ought to be. Following the blank space is an "e" with a shapeless smudge after it which we assume represents the "n".

Bad as it is, the English is the only part of the surcharge which can be read—with a little imagination and previous experience with "b"-type overprints. The place where the Arabic figure 4 ought to be, in the center, is an elongated blob of ink, and to the right of it, and almost touching the right margin, is a similar blob, where nothing at all appears on any of the other types of overprint.

Across the top (which is totally lacking a frame line) two or three smudges of ink appear irregularly. On the other types two distinct Arabic words ("Barid al-Yemen", or, "Yemen Post") can be read, or their habitual shape can be traced in this place.

On the new "e"-type surcharge there is a distinct frame line measuring 12½ or 13mm across the bottom under the "Yemen" and another along the right side measuring 14mm. The left side has two rather feeble pieces of frame line, and, as noted above, the top is missing.

Yemen "e-A" 4bgs on 2bgs overprint

The above description is for the average copy appearing in the post, as illustrated above as variety "e-A".

On a full sheet which I picked up at the Taiz post office recently, however, I noted that many of the stamps show a distinct vertical line or slug 5 or 6mm long to the left of the center slug or supposed figure "4", and sometimes some additional "dot and dash" lines half way between the 5 or 6mm slug and the left frame line.

On these same copies, however, the right frame line is, like the top, missing, and the place where "Barid al-Yemen" should appear across the top has a mysterious-looking contraption in the right corner in which a faint similarity to the four Arabic script letters of "Barid" might be read, but where "al-Yemen" should be, to the left, is only a circular smear or ball of ink.

Yemen "e-B" 4bgs on 2bgs overprint

A copy with the (5mm) extra center slug but not showing the further "dot and dash" lines is illustrated above as variety "e-B".

There are the only two varieties of the "e"-type surcharge noted to date in Yemen on commercial mail and in post office stock. Unlike its "c"-type forerunner, which is extremely rare, with scarcely a half-dozen copies on cover or piece known to have survivedm and no mint copies at all in existence, this "e"-type will be very plentiful in used condition and undoubtedly scarce mint.

The "d"-type, by the way, a modification of Scott's No. 82B (on the 1 bogshah of 1951) is moderately scarce, while 82B itself is extremely common.