Commonwealth Country Catalogue for Southern & Central Africa
By Stanley Gibbons. 389 pages, 17 x 24 cm format. Published by Stanley Gibbons, 2014. 2nd edition ISBN: 13 978-0-85259-917-4. Currently out of print, unknown when new edition is expected.
Reviewer: Peter Thy
The general collector of British southern Africa will be well served by the standard catalogs. These are well researched and regularly updated to allow the most recent stamps to be included. If you specialize in any of the southern African territories, you will probably be looking for one of the more specialized catalogs. There are two catalogues that come to mind. Most specialist collectors will prefer the Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth Country Catalogue for Southern & Central Africa. The latest is the 2nd edition from 2014. Another catalog that is a strong competitor to the Gibbons catalog and widely used in South Africa is the South African Stamp Colour Catalogue (known as SACC). The most recent edition is the 36th edition for 2019-20. The Stanley Gibbons country catalogs are the extension of their Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps 1840-1970 (latest edition, 2020) and used the listings of this catalog until 1970 as their foundations. Included are South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland (now Eswatini), Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Also included are all the pre-independence territories including Stellaland, Bechuanaland, Basutoland, British Central Africa, Nyasaland, South West Africa, British South Africa Company, Cape of Good Hope, Griqualand West, Natal, New Republic, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Zululand, and the Rhodesians. Also included are the South African Homelands and Mozambique among much more, particularly related to the Boer War activities. The catalog is comprehensive – in addition to stamps, it includes officials, booklets, postage due stamps, postal fiscals, telegraphs, Frama labels, and military franks. The listing is comprehensive without being specialized and includes an extensive explanation section. The prices are given in Sterling pence and pounds for fine condition.
The southern African area has a complex philatelic history reflecting social and military upheavals into relatively recent times. This is clear if the tables of contents are studied in both the Gibbons and the South African catalogs. Collectors of southern Africa have thus over the years produced quite a large number of philatelic and postal history studies and books. The earliest of these is the volume titled Africa published by the (Royal) Philatelic Society of London already in 1895. Three other philatelic books have been published by the Royal: H.R. Holmes on the Bechuanalands in 1971, P. van der Molen on Swaziland in 2013, and Trotter, Hoffman, and Flanagan on the British South Africa Company in 2021. In addition, there are numerous philatelic and postal history studies that cannot be mentioned here because of space limitations. There is, however, a series of South Africa Union and Republic catalogs published since 1952, variously known as the “Handbook Catalogue,” that only momentary culminated in 1986 with S.J. Hagger’s handbook catalog published by the Philatelic Foundation of South Africa. These catalogs and their Republic continuations have been the foundation for the South Africa Colour Catalogue and are still the source for more specialized information. The Philatelic Research Library of the American Philatelic Society is a good source for many of these titles. Enjoy collecting southern African stamps and postal history – there is a lot of enjoyment and good stories to be found if one looks into the details beyond the standard catalogs.