Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Scarcity of Nigerian Stamps Part 2

In my last post I discussed the relative scarcity of selected Nigerian stamps from the pre-1914 period. But I did not discuss the scarcity of Nigerian stamps and postal history in general. What I would like to do now is to address the general scarcity of Nigeria and then to talk about overall trends affecting the scarcity of certain issues or collecting fields.

To illustrate the relative scarcity of Nigerian stamps, I would like to tell the story of how I came to choose this country. It was 2008 and I had just sold my Canada collection. I had been yearning to find an area which was rich in varieties and could offer lots of scope for the specialist, but not be so overwhelming as to be unmanageable. I wanted the material from the area to be genuinely scarce, and not merely expensive due to popularity, and yet affordable. Above all, I wanted to choose an area that had future growth potential - one in which the possibility of expansion in demand was possible, but by no means certain. I wanted to collect a country in all its aspects - stamps, proofs, cancels, different printings, covers - everything.

So rather than jump into one of the popular countries that sprung to mind - i.e. Great Britain, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Western Europe, etc, I decided to do some research. To begin with I googled a list of countries with a population of over 50 million. My thinking was that although there are some cultural differences that make collecting stamps more popular in some countries and not others, the personality profile of most philatelists is fairly similar accross most cultures. Over the years it has been my observation that most philatelists will collect the country they are from. Many will venture out into other collecting fields, but a particular country's material is almost always most popular in the home country. Thus, the population  or one country relative to all others will to some extent also dictate the relative size of the collector market. We have seen this happen with People's Republic of China, where prices for stamps are continuing to grow exponentially, as demand outstrips supply. We are also beginning to see it with India.

Once I had the list of countries, I started looking to narrow it down. I eliminated China right off the bat because it is too expensive, and I know nothing about Chinese philately, so the risk of being taken in by bogus material was just too high in my opinion. Then I considered India, but eliminated it because the scope of that country is just too vast to be able to cover it in all its aspects, and I wasn't that interested in the designs of their stamps.

Then I started looking at auction catalogues for the next year and a half to see how many large collections were offered. My thinking was that if I could spend myself broke on a particular country in nearly every auction I looked at, then I could safely conclude that while that country may have some genuinely scarce stamps, that the material for the country as a whole could not be said to be scarce, since I could buy it all the time. I also took abundance of material as an indication that it might be too overwhelming a task to try and specialize in all aspects of that country. On this basis, I discovered that I could pretty well eliminate every popular country out there - Great Britain, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, USA.

Then I was left with a handful of countries where the depth and range of material offered for sale was much more limited:

1. Pakistan
2. Indonesia
3. Mexico
4. Nigeria
5. Brazil

I found that I liked the stamps produced by all these countries, and the populations are such that all of them could become very much in demand if a strong collector base were to develop. Pakistan was the least appealing to me merely because it does not start until 1947, and I wanted a country that had some classics. All the others have a classic period and the stamps are all very attractive. Brazil is actually quite expensive, and so I eliminated it on this basis.

With the last three countries, I noticed that while I did ocasionally come accross dealer stocks of Indonesia and Mexico, as well as large collections, I almost never saw large accumulations of Nigeria. I would see the occasional set or single stamps, but generally no collections. When I considered that the population of Nigeria is larger than Mexico and the economic prospects for Nigeria are better than Indonesia, my decision was made.

So that illustrates the process that I went through to conclude that Nigerian material as a whole is scarce.

Next I will discuss trends that affect the scarcity of specific Nigerian stamps and postal history.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Scarcity of Nigerian Stamps

It feels like it has been months since my last post. I have been taking a break from posting in order to concentrate on sorting out my stamps and organizing them into some kind of order. I have been trying to sort the multiple copies that I have of most issues into different printings, papers, shades, perforation types, and so on. As part of my study, I have sought out and acquired the only literature that I can find on the subject, which has turned out to be a few journal articles, written by my fellow study circle members. In the process of reading these articles, I have come across data regarding the issue quantities of many of Nigeria's classic stamps that illustrates why this country has so much upward potential to philatelists looking to get into a collecting area that simultaneously offers breadth, depth and scarcity.

For example, most of the stamps issued prior to 1914 were printed in quantities of less than 50,000 for each stamp, with the 10/- purple brown Queen Victoria of Lagos being the rarest regular issue, with only 420 printed. Within this period, there are scores of higher value stamps above 1/-, that had issue quantities of 5,000 or less. Even more interestingly, the order quantities of the post offices during the period prior to 1914 were quite low, being often just few thousand stamps. So the total issue quantities were often spread over a very large number of small printings. This is a boon for the shade, paper and perforation enthusiast, who can embark on the challenge of obtaining all known printings. Because the quantity of each printing is small, obtaining a full set of all printing types is quite a challenge. It is all the more challenging because there is no comprehensive reference source that lists and describes all the printings and explains how to identify them.

Even stamps that seem to be comparatively common, such as the halfpenny green and one penny carmine Queen Victoria stamps of Lagos, whose total issue quantities were around 800,000 to 1,000,000 were spread out over a massive 35-42 printings each, between 1885-1903. As one begins to study these stamps, it becomes apparent that the vast majority of the stamps on the market date from after 1897, and very few examples seem to be printed before 1890. This means of course, that the original 1884-1885 printings are in actual fact, every bit as scarce and elusive as the earlier 1d stamps from the earlier Crown CA or Crown CC issues. However, the standard stamp catalogues do not make this clear.

You would think that a stamp that had a quantity of less than 5,000 stamps would be worth thousands of dollars, since it is difficult to imagine more than 10-20% of the original quantity surviving. Yet, many of these stamps can still be had for as little as $100, and in some cases, even less than that.

To put in perspective, how ridiculously inexpensive these stamps are, it is useful to get some perspective by looking at what more common stamps from popular countries such as Great Britain, Canada, USA sell for.

From the USA, a $5 stamp from the 1893 Columbian Exposition Issue, was issued in a quantity of 27,350 stamps and sells for anywhere from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars for a single mint stamp. Then there is this stamp from Great Britain:

It is the beautiful 1929 PUC pound. 61,000 of these stamps were issued in 1929. An average mint or used example will likely set you back at least $500 and a superb example will cost upwards of $1,000.

Or how about this stamp from Australia?

Type O3

This is the 1932 5/- Sydney Harbour Bridge stamp. 72,800 of these were issued. A canceled-to-order example will cost around $250 and a superb mint NH example will set you back about $1,000.

And lastly, this well known stamp from Canada:

This is the $5 Diamond Jubilee stamp from 1897. 15,500 were printed and while a poor used copy can be had for as little as $200, superb NH mint examples are now selling for well over $10,000.

Now let us look at similar Nigerian stamps from the same period.

First up, we have the two highest values in the Queen Victoria set from Northern Nigeria, which was issued in 1900. The total issue quantity of the 2/6d and 10/- was about the same at around approximately 8,000 stamps each - less than half of the quantity issued of the $5 Jubilee above. Yet the 2/6d can be obtained for around $100-$125 in mint condition and the 10/- is about $300-$500, which is curious given that they are both equally scarce.

Then we have this 10/- stamp from Niger Coast Protectorate. Again the total print quantity was just 5,000 stamps, which was spread out over at least three printings and three different perforations. Again, this stamp can be purchased in mint condition for $100-$200 and $200-$300 in used condition.

Last, but not least, there is the 10/- purple brown Queen Victoria stamp of Lagos:

420 of these were issued and a mint example can be purchased for between $1,000 and $2,000.

As you can see, these issues are way scarcer than any of the more famous stamps that have been issued by the more popular Western nations. However, what is also very promising about Nigeria is that it has a population base that is comparable to the USA, and its ecomomy is growing very rapidly. In addition, the restoration of democracy and the fight against corruption, are paving the way for the emergence of a middle class. With this comes the growth of popularity in hobbies involving various collectibles. It is not at all difficult to imagine what will happen to the value of these stamps if Nigeria develops a base of collectors similar to the USA, Australia, Great Britain or Canada.

Canada's 12 Pence Black, one of the 'top 13 most valuable postage stamps in the world' by

For example, one of Canada's rarest stamps the 12d black above sold in New York in 2011 for $488,900 US. In 1851 51,000 stamps were printed, but only 1,450 were sold, with the rest being destroyed in 1857. Approximately 100 are thought to exist, in various states of condition today. This represents a survival rate of just under 7%. So with an issue quantity of 420 stamps, the 10/- purple brown of Lagos could easily be just as rare as the above stamp, if just under 25% of the stamps survived.

This is just a few of the scarce stamps that this country has to offer. There are also scores of scarce varieties, specimen stamps, multiples and covers that are rarities by world standards. This is a country that I believe has nearly unlimited potential for the forward looking philatelist.

Monday, January 13, 2014

London Postal History Exhibit Part 1

After almost 2 months spent moving house again and doing everything but working on my stamps, I have finally found the time to begin posting the first part of my London postal history exhibit. 

Group 1 – Covers 1-6 Lagos Covers – Universal Postal Union Rates – 1888-1903
The first six covers in the exhibit are examples of single rate letters, sent when the postal rates were regulated by the Universal Postal Union (UPU). The UPU rates came into effect on April 1, 1879. For just over 13 years, the single letter rate was 4d per half ounce. The first two covers both illustrate this rate, and were sent from Lagos to Germany on March 5, 1888 and from Lagos to Berne, Switzerland March 18, 1891. These covers also illustrate representative cross section of nearly all of the Lagos markings that were in use during the period from 1888 to 1903: from Proud type K3, K4, and K5 barred ovals, to D8, D10 and D13 CDS cancels, to R5 Registration markings. 

11.       Sent from Lagos to Munich on March 5, 1888. The 4d rate is paid with a pair of the 2d slate grey keyplate definitive. This is a slightly late use of this stamp, given that the 2d lilac and ultramarine had replaced it in March 1887. Both covers are rated “3” in red on the front, which represents the portion of the postage from Lagos to Germany. The stamps are tied with Proud type K3 9 bar oval obliterator and a strike of the Proud type D8 CDS cancel.

22.       Sent from Lagos on March 18, 1891, to Berne Switzerland. The 4d rate is paid with a single 4d lilac and black, which was the current 4d stamp at that time. The stamp is tied with Proud type K4 8-bar oval, with the narrow bars, which came into use on February 10, 1889, and the Proud type D8 CDS. 

On July 19, 1892, the single weight letter rate was reduced to 2½d per half ounce to all non UK countries, whereas that rate for the UK came into effect in 1891. The next two covers illustrate this rate change.

13.       Sent from Lagos in October 1896 to London. The 2½d rate has been paid with a single 2d lilac and ultramarine and a ½d dull green. The stamps are tied by two strikes of Proud type K5 8-bar oval. Interestingly this cover is a business reply envelope for Myerscough & Co. which were stamp dealers in London. The envelope shows a printed appeal on the top of the envelope to the sender to cover the envelope with stamps.
24.       Sent from Lagos on November 30, 1901 to Germany. The 2½d rate is paid with the same combination of stamps as the third cover. This cover is rated “2” in red, representing the portion of the postage that applied from Lagos to Germany. The stamps are tied by Proud type D13 CDS cancel. 

Registration during this period was 2d, in addition to the normal applicable postage. Covers 5 and 6 provide examples of registered single letters sent to Germany and the U.S. between 1899 and 1903. Both covers show clear strikes of the Proud type R5 registration marking.

15.       Sent from Lagos in February 1903 to Chicago, Illinois. The 4½d rate is paid with two pairs of the 1d carmine and a single ½d dull green.  
26.       Sent from Lagos on January 21, 1899 to Breslau, Germany. The 4½d rate is paid with a single 2d lilac and ultramarine, plus a 2½d ultramarine. The stamps are tied by two strikes of Proud type K5, 8-bar oval obliterator. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Off to London to the West Africa Study Circle Meeting

Again, another month has just flown by with no posts. The reason for this is that I have been working frantically to get my 12 frame exhibit of postal history ready for the West Africa Study Circle Meeting in London tomorrow. I committed to give this presentation just over a year ago. Back then the plan was to go to the UK for a week. But my life turned upside down this year, and I used all my vacation time. So I'm going to London for 1 day!! I know, it sounds crazy, but I just had to make good on my commitment.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want to share with you the experiencing of preparing a philatelic exhibit. I have been a philatelist for 36 years now. In that time I have only exhibited once - when I was 12. Back then I knew nothing about exhibiting, and I just threw together all my cheap Canadian stamps on to home-made album pages and sent it in. My exhibit was so bad, it got only a 'merit' for participation. In the intervening years, I have seen many exhibits of very high calibre and thought 'I'll never be able to do that'

The first aspect of exhibiting that you will experience is the indecision of what topic you can choose that will be interesting to your fellow collectors, and that you can assemble enough material in to provide reasonable coverage of the topic at hand. When I was first thinking of what to do, two topics came to mind: one was the Queen Victoria Definitives of Lagos, and the other was the 1973-86 definitive issue. But there were two problems. In the case of the Queen Victoria issues, although I have a lot of the stamps, I am still missing some of the key rarities, and I don't yet know enough about them to write up a 144 page exhibit. In the second case, I have some fantastic material, but again, I have not studied the stamps sufficiently well to write about them.

In the end, I decided to make an exhibit of covers. This way I knew that if I covered the entire Nigerian area from 1874 to date, there would be no expectation of depth in any one issue. Furthermore, I could limit my comments on each cover to a short paragraph describing the attributes of the cover.

So I set about going through my collection of thousands of Nigerian covers to identify what to include in the exhibit. Now when you first hear that you have to compile 144 pages of material, it seems like a lot of material. But as you begin to assemble it, you invariably find that it is not much at all, and less than what you would like to include. I had to "raise the bar" several times to narrow my covers down to a selection of the best covers in my collection. I went for unusual destinations, scarce and unusual combinations of stamps (frankings), and other points if interest. When you start collecting the postal history of Nigeria, you soon realize that covers to the US or UK are relatively common, and you appreciate mail going to other destinations.

After a considerable amount of editing, I put together a 12 frame exhibit of 204 covers, that covers the gamut of different rates, destinations and issues. It was an immensely satisfying experience watching it take shape, and learning about my covers. I cannot wait to hear what the members have to say about huge covers, and how much I will learn from their feedback.

Once I return, I will begin to post the exhibit in its entirely.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Eleven More Interesting Classic Covers

I am long overdue for another post. Gosh how time flies! It is hard for me to believe that nearly two months has flown by since I wrote my last post. I have, as I write now selected all the covers that I wish to include in my exhibit at the upcoming West Africa Study Circle meeting in London. I have selected 207 covers from Lagos, all the way through a strong showing of the 1973-1986 definitive issue. This selection  includes nearly all of the covers that I have presented in previous posts, plus all the best covers from my collection. In selecting them I have focused on exotic destinations, and multi-stamp frankings, as well as famous recipients and postage due covers. 

The covers that are the subject of this post, are a small batch that I have acquired over the past few months from various sources and with one exception, all are from Southern Nigeria. However, the first cover is from Nigeria, featuring the common 1d stamp from the 1921-1936 Script Watermark Issue:

The cover is an underpaid  first class cover to Germany, franked with a single 1d carmine die 2, which has been tied by a strike of Proud type D53 or D54 Lagos hand-stamp dated October 14, 1929. The postage was supposed to be 3d, so a Proud type UP8 taxation handstamp was applied to indicate the shortpayment. The deficiency when doubled, translates into 35 pfenings, which has been indicated on the front of the cover in blue pencil. 

The next cover is a double weight cover from the German West African Trading Co. in Calabar, to Lome in Togo: 

The cover has been franked with a pair of the 2.5d King Edward VII stamps, which have been tied by a strike of either Proud type D30, D31 or D32 Lagos CDS handstamp. The cover left Lagos, and arrived in Porto Novo, Dahomey on November 7, as indicated by the receiving backstamp. It then went on to Agoue, Dahomey on November 9. There was no backstamp to indicate when it arrived in Lome. 

The next cover originates from the same organization, but this time has been sent from Calabar, and instead of being double weight, it is a single weight letter rate:

The front of this cover, like the one above indicates that the cover was to be routed via Lagos, although this one specifies that it was to be carried on a steamship, although I cannot read the second name. The cover is addressed to Anecho, Togo, and the stamp is tied by a clear strike of Proud type D15 Calabar CDS. 

The back of the envelope shows that while there is a Lagos transit backstamp, there is no receiving handstamp for Anecho, Togo. 

The fourth cover in the lot is one of my favourites. It is a registered single weight cover sent from Lagos on April 28, 1907 to Brussels, Belgium:

The cover is franked with single copies of the 4d and 1/2d King Edward VII keyplate definitives, printed on chalk surfaced paper in the first head plate die. These stamps together pay 2d registration, plus 2.5d postage. They are ties by strikes of Proud type R9, Lagos registered oval handstamp. There is a red registration transit stamp dated May 19, 1907 when the cover arrived in London. 

The back of this cover shows the transit handstamp applied in London on May 18, 1907, when the cover left the U.K. To the left of this, is a small oval receiving handstamp applied in Brussels, but unfortunately the date is missing. 

The next cover illustrates nicely how the stamps of Lagos continued to be used after amalgamation with Southern Nigeria in 1906. This cover is also a single weight registered cover, sent from Lagos on August 26, 1907 to Brussels, Belgium:

The cover is franked with a single 2.5d Lagos King Edward VII keyplate, and a pair of the 1d carmine King Edward VII keyplate definitives printed from the die A headplate. It should be noted that this was a very early use of the 1d stamps, which were issued two weeks earlier on August 12, 1907. The stamps are tied with clear strikes of Proud type R9 Lagos oval registered handstamps.  A registration label has been affixed at the London Foreign Sorting Office, and two strikes of the Proud type R5 registration marking appear in the upper left corner. 

The back of the above cover shows that it reached London on September 13, 1907 and was despatched on the same day, arriving in Brussels late in the evening. 

The next cover was a single weight envelope from the same correspondence as the second and third covers above, sent from Calabar to Lome, Togo on August 26, 1910. 

The postage was paid with a 1/2d bicoloured Edward VII keyplate, printed on chalk surfaced paper (a late use, as the 1/2d green was already in use), and two 1d carmine keyplates printed from headplate die B. All are tied with Proud type D15 Calabar CDS.

The back of the cover shows the transit backstamps quite nicely, with the cover arriving in Lagos on August 29, Porto Novo, Dahomey on August 30, and both Grand Port, Dahomey and Agoue, Dahomey on September 1, 1910. 

The next cover is a single weight registered cover sent from Lagos, on November 29, 1909 to Old Calabar:

This cover is franked with a single copy of the 3d brown on lemon, King Edward VII keyplate definitive, which was issued just a few months earlier in July 1909. It pays 2d registration, plus 1d inland postage. The stamp is tied with clear strikes of Proud type R9 Lagos oval registered handstamp. Although the back is not shown, there is a similar Proud type R9 oval registered handstamp for Calabar, which shows that the cover arrived on December 8, 1909. 

The next item is a scarce example of a commercial use of the surcharged postcard for Southern Nigeria, which is part of the same German West Africa Trading Company correspondence as covers 2, 3, 6 and 7 above. It was sent from Lagos to Lome, Togo and has been uprated by affixing a 2.5d bicoloured Edward VII keyplate, making 3d total postage. I believe that this card may be registered, as the rate for a standard postcard overseas was 1d. However, there are no registration markings on the card. It left Lagos on April 5, 1910 and arrived in Porto Novo, Dahomey on April 11.

The next cover is a single weight surface cover to the U.K, carried aboard the S.S Tarquah, sent on October 9, 1902 from Bonny River:

The cover is franked with a single carmine and sepia 1d Queen Victoria keyplate definitive, tied by a single strike of Proud type D2 CDS. The S.S. Tarquah was a commercial ocean liner that was built by Stephen and Sons Ltd. in Glasgow in 1902, so this cover was sent in its first year of service. The ship was sunk on July 7, 1917 by a German U-boat. The back of the cover shows a Chippenham receiving handstamp dated October 28, 1902.

The next cover is a single weight cover to the Funk and Wagnalls Publishing Company in New York. It was sent on March 15, 1908 from Forcados River

The postage has been paid with a strip of 5 1/2d bicoloured Edward VII keyplates printed on unsurfaced paper, and are tied by strikes of Proud type D4 Forcados CDS. 

The last item is another scarce commercially used example of the 1/2d surcharged postcard from Southern Nigeria, sent from Lagos to Halberstadt, Germany, on April 8, 1908:

The card has been uprated to 1d by affixing a copy of the 1/2d green Edward VII keyplate definitive, printed from headplate die B. The stamps are tied with clear strikes of the Proud type D24 Lagos CDS

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Plate Block Collecting

I am going to veer off the topic of the last couple of posts and show you another aspect of Nigerian philately that is particularly satisfying over the longer term: the collecting of plate blocks. Plate blocks for the colonies of the British Empire is not a prominent field largely due to the fact that the blocks are very scarce and because the standard catalogues do not list them - so collectors do not know what exists. Because of this, it is possible to obtain some very scarce material for a fraction of what they should be worth based on their scarcity.

As an example, I illustrate a 1/- orange Queen Victoria, crown CA plate block that I acquired several months ago on e-bay:

This stamp was issued in 1885 and represents the highest of what at the time were low-value definitives. So in North American terms, this would be the equivalent of a 10 cent stamp from that period. I have not seen any data on what the issue quantity was, but I do know from a German publication that the print quantity of the bicoloured 1/- black and green that replaced it, and was in use from 1887 until 1903, was 26,220. Given that this stamp was in use for less than three years, is seems probable that the quantity was probably between 12,000 and 18,000. The stamps were printed in sheets of 60, so the number of sheets would probably have numbered between 200 and 300. There were two plate markings on each sheet - one at the bottom and one at thee top, so there would have been 2 blocks per sheet. Thus the total number of blocks printed was probably somewhere between 400 and 600 blocks. How many have survived? Its anyone's guess, but I would suggest that 5% of the original quantity would be high, and that would be just  20-30 blocks! How much do items that scarce sell for at auction when the country is US, Great Britain, or Australia for example.

I paid $296 for this block of 12. The stamps are all never hinged. The gum is a bit suntanned, which is normal for this issue, but the paper is still bright and fresh. Stanley Gibbons prices a hinged  mint single at 14 pounds. While they do not price never hinged stamps, a reasonable premium for this time period would be about 200%, so each stamp in the block would have a notional catalogue price of 42 pounds. Thus the singles would notionally catalogue 42 x 12 = 504 pounds. So I paid 58% of that notional value, ignoring the exchange rate between dollars and pounds. Without any premium for being never hinged, Gibbons would value the singles at 168 pounds, so I paid roughly full Gibbons for hinged singles. This is a phenomenal bargain. Can you imagine being able to buy a 10 cent US Banknote plate block of 10 never hinged for the price of 10 hinged singles? I doubt it.

Most Nigerian issues were printed in relatively low quantities, and plate blocks were not generally saved,  so that now they are all scarce, even for the very common stamps. So this area of collecting offers a considerable amount of potential for the patient collector.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Six More Interesting Covers...

In this post, I will show you six interesting covers that I have recently acquired. I have not yet decided whether or not to enter all of them into my November exhibit, but I thought that I would show you all of them and see if any of you can offer any comments on them:

This first cover is my favourite. It features a complete souvenir sheet from the 1986 Insects issue, but with an added twist: the sheet is mis-perforated, with the horizontal perforations missing and the vertical perforations shifted in such a way as to bisect each stamp in the sheet. Most of the Nigerian stamps from the mid 1980's to the early 1990's exist mis-perforated and completely imperforate, from what were probably stocks of printers waste that somehow got out to the public. The backstamps indicate that the cover reached Vienna on July 8, 1992, which is just under six years after the issue came out. By western standards this is a very late usage that would almost certainly place the cover in the philatelic category. However, late usages of commemorative stamps are not unheard of in Nigeria, judging from the number that I have come across that are not philatelic. It would appear that Nigeria does not have the same withdrawal and destruction policy for unsold remainder stocks that the western countries have: stamps remain on hand at the post offices until sold. Because new issues are likely stacked on top of old sheets at the post offices, it is quite possible to have late usages that result from a stamp not being sold until well after its issue date. 

In addition to this fact, the total postage paid was 3.5 Naira, which is consistent with other registered covers from this period. So it would appear to be a commercial cover. It is the first of only two covers that I have come across that feature commercial usage of a Nigerian souvenir sheet. Philatelic or not, this cover is simply spectacular in my humble opinion. 

Here is a commercial cover sent from Lagos to Nicosia, Cyprus on February 1, 1967. Cyprus is a fairly exotic destination in that I have not seen very many covers from Nigeria to Cyprus, which makes it a cover of interest. The 1/6d first class airmail rate was paid with two pairs of the 4d Hydrological Decade issue, which came out on February 1, 1967, making this a First Day Cover! Additionally, there are no markings to indicate that it is a First Day Cover, and the haphazard arrangement of the stamps on the envelope supports the notion that it was not sent as an FDC, making it far more collectible. Finally, it is unusual to see covers from this period paid with a large number of low value stamps, given the relative abundance of 1/3d and 1/6d stamps with which to pay the rate. 

This cover from Zaria to Central African Republic is interesting to me for three reasons. The first is the destination - the first cover in thousands from this issue to the Central African Republic. Secondly, it is franked with 8k of postage, which seems quite low for an airmail cover sent on December 10, 1974, when first class airmail rates were 18k. The 8k is paid with three low value stamps - a mixture of the photogravure and lithographed definitives. The 1k and 5k are lithographed, while the 2k is the photogravure printing. The explanation for the low rate of postage appears to come from the missing backflap and the note below "Air Mail" in the upper corner that reads "card only". It is likely that the 8k represents an unsealed rate, with the backflap being removed from the envelope by the sender after inserting the card. 

I like this cover sent from the Swiss Embassy in Lagos to Basle, Switzerland on October 30, 1975 mainly because of the combination of lithographed definitives that pay the double airmail rate of 36k The 12k and 7k values are not common on cover, so to get both on the same cover is quite nice. 

For this registered cover that was sent from Aba to London on April 30, 1973, I show both sides to illustrate the many points of interest. The first is that it is a mixed currency cover, in that the 74k  postage rate has been paid with five 1/3d Crown Bird stamps, and single 10k and 1k photogravure definitives.  The currency change from Sterling to Naira took effect on January 1, 1973, and so for a time, stamps of the old Sterling currency were accepted for use, rounded down to their nearest equivalent rate. For this purpose, 1/- was taken to equal 10k. Here, the five 1/3d stamps adds to 6/3, which would convert to 63k. The addition of the 10k and the 1k, making the total postage 74k. I think that the registration rate during this time was 20k, or at least that is what my study of many dozens of registered covers from this time seems to suggest. The first class airmail rate to the UK was 18k per ounce, so a three ounce cover would cost 18k x 3 = 54k. Add the registration fee of 20k and you get a total rate of 74k. So I think that this is a triple weight registered cover to the UK. The 1/3d from the NSP&M definitive issue is not a common stamp in used condition, so a cover with franked with five copies is quite a nice find. 

The back of the cover provides a nice illustration of multiple backstamps and how these backstamps can show the route that a cover takes. Although there are several strikes, there are really five different handstamps on the back of this cover:

1. The company chop in violet, which although not clear, appears to read "Nmar Bros. Company, Aba Nigeria. 
2. An Aba skeleton postmark, dated April 30, 1973 (not listed in Proud).
3. A Port Harcourt oval registered cancel dated April 30, 1973 (slightly different from Proud type R14).
4. A Lagos oval registered cancel dated May 3, 1973 that is similat to Proud type R51.
5. Red London registered receiving stamp dated May 5, 1973

All of these stamps indicate that the cover made the entire journey from Aba, a town 39 miles northeast of Port Harcourt, which is itself 270 miles east, southeast of Lagos, to London in 5 days. The longest portion of the journey was the 270 miles from Port Harcourt to Lagos!

This last cover is a an official First Day Cover featuring the values of the 1965-1973 Wildlife Issue that were released on May 2, 1966. FDC's of this issue are seldom seen - this is the second one I have seen in almost four years, the first one slipping through my fingers on e-bay. I like this cover especially because it has been signed by the designer of the stamps, Maurice Fievet. 

As always, I welcome your comments on these covers, as I am keen to learn as much about them as possible.