The Stamps of Palestine - Part One

The Blues, or the Lithographed Issues

By Mr. Nathan Zankel, New Jersey

 This is the first in a series of articles designed to introduce Palestine stamps to collectors who do not yet collect them. For those that already collect Palestine stamps, the author briefly mentions plate and overprint varieties, and the various aspects of collecting the postal history of this period. He hopes that some of our readers will choose to broaden their collecting interests to include these also. The articles are meant to be an introduction to Palestine collecting and will not cover everything available.


When The British Egyptian Expeditionary Force occupied the southern half of Palestine (Jaffa fell on November 16, 1917 and Jerusalem was occupied December 9, 1917) they realized the civilian population had an urgent need to communicate with relatives, friends, business contacts, and financial supporters abroad.&nabs; The British allowed civilians to use the military post offices. &nabs; The fascinating postal history of this period is described in my article on the civilian use of the military post in the August 2000 issue of "The Israel Philatelist."

Figure 1. Palestine's first two stamps issues 

February 10, 1918 and February 16, 1918 respectively.


The British authorized the printing of E.E.F. (Egyptian Expeditionary Force) stamps.  Two values were initially printed:  a one piastre stamp for the foreign letter rate, and a 5 milliemes overprint on the same design for the post card and domestic rate (Figure 1).  The design included E.E.F., postage paid, and one piastre (Egyptian currency) in English and Arabic.  The stamps were printed on ungummed paper by the Egyptian Survey Office.  Imperforate plate proofs (Figure 2) of one piastre, and specimens of both values (Figure 3) were printed.  The specimens and printed stamps were rouletted.

The first stamp, the one piastre dark blue was issued on February 10, 1918, and first day covers (Figure 4) are available.  The&nabs; stamps were printed in panes of 120 stamps with an A18 control number on the lower left  corner of the pane.  A total of 209,760 of the first stamp was issued and it is listed as #1 in the Scott, Gibbons and Bale catalogs.

The second stamp was issued on February 16, 1918 in a lighter blue called cobalt blue with a 5 milliemes black overprint printed over the one piastre value tablets on the sides of the stamps.  No first day covers are known.  A total of 51,280 of these were printed in panes of 120 stamps which have a b18 control number in the lower left corner (Figure 5).  This stamp is number 3a in Scott, and number two in Gibbons and Bale.  I will use the Bale catalog numbers in the rest of this article.  Gibbons catalog numbers are similar to Bale catalog numbers.  The ungummed paper has tiny quartz-like particles imbedded in the paper.


A major overprinting error occurred on position 10 of some of the sheets No. 2.  The English overprint reads MILLILMES (Figure 6).

Additional one piastre stamps were printed in a light ultramarine color on gummed paper.  The control number was changed to C18 (Figure 7) and 338,880 stamps were printed.  These are 

numbered Bale #3.  More 5 milliemes stamps were overprinted (Figure 8) on one piastre ultramarine stamps in two printings and these are Bale #4.

The first printing had control number C 18 B, and D 18 C was used on the second printing (Figure 9).  A total of 109,680 of these were issued.


The Arabic on position 11 was damaged when the Milliemes error on position 10 was corrected.  This created another variety called Arabic Partly Missing (Figure 10).  Numbers 3 and 4 were issued on March 5, 1918.  First Day covers of both are known but are scarce.


There are several significant plate and overprint varieties on the Blues. A noticeable plate variety is the PAID variety in position 52 (Figure 11).  Overprint verities in addition to the milliemes and Arabic Partly Missing include an "open 5" in position 97 (Figure 12) and L-shaped guide markers in all four corners of the sheets (Figure 13).



Number 2, being scarcer, has a much greater catalog value than number 4.  The catalog describes the color of No.2 as cobalt 

blue and No. 4 as light ultramarine blue.  These colors are very similar.  Some of the difference can be attributed to lighter and heavier inking when the stamps were printed.  Number 2 was printed on ungummed paper which has quartz-like particles on the surface of the paper.  These can be seen at a 45 degree angle to a high intensity light source.  The quartz particles will reflect the light and "sparkle".  The particles come off if the stamp is soaked or washed.  No. 4 is gummed and the paper does not have the particles in it.  Therefore, an unused stamp with no gum and with quartz particles is a No.2.


An unused stamp with gum or no quartz particles is a No. 4.  To prove a used stamp is a No. 2 it must be cancelled between its issue date, February 16, and March 4, 1918 (Figure 14).  No. 4 was issued on March 5 and 5 milliemes stamps cancelled that day or later are usually considered to be No. 4.  It is theoretically possible to find a stamp with an overprint variety from overprint plate A1 which was used on No. 2 but not on No. 4.  I know only several instances where an expertise has been able to give certificates based on this method.


Additional information about these stamps can be found in two very good Palestine catalogs.  Both were published in 2001, so they are current.  The "Stamps and Postal Stationery of the Palestine Mandate 1918-1948" by Palestine expert David Dorfman lists watermarks, perforation and paper varieties, major plate and important overprint varieties of each set of Palestine stamps.  In addition, there is a section on postal stationery and another on Palestine Revenues.  The other catalog is "The Stamps and Postal History of Palestine Mandate 2001" published by Chariot Global Marketing (in Israel).  The editor is Palestine expert Jacques Kaufman of Amsterdam.  It includes many of the elements described above in Dorman's catalog and he has added the first attempt to price Palestine stamps on cover.  He details more varieties. A new Palestine collector will learn a lot from both catalogs.