In his March 2020 “Worldwide in a Nutshell” column, Bob Lamb introduced us to the short-lived nation of Biafra and its philately. This sad and violent breakaway from Nigeria had a brief existence from May 1967 to January 1970. Both the economic and human wreckage left in its wake are shown dramatically in the postage stamps that were issued by a rebel postal authority trying to establish communications both domestically and internationally.
The Scott catalog lists 32 different stamps and varieties for “The Republic of Biafra” (its official name). In the more specialized Stanley Gibbons Commonwealth & British Empire Stamps 1840-1970, 57 major and secondary varieties are listed. The APEX Reference Collection has a nearly complete collection of these stamps. Click here to explore our complete collection in pdf format.
But there are numerous other scarce variations and errors that resulted from hurried and sometimes panicked printing and distribution of Biafran stamps. Moreover, postal authorities were anxious to raise desperately-needed foreign exchange funds. They did two things to accomplish this. Several Biafran issues were only sold abroad to collectors and never distributed internally.
Also, postal authorities at several local post offices cancelled large numbers of unused stamps for sale to collectors. Such “cancelled to order” (CTO) stamps are relatively easy to find. Indeed, many CTOs are more common than legitimately used stamps. And stamps on legitimately mailed commercial covers are very hard to find.
If you want to learn more about the varieties of Biafran stamps, I urge you to consult an article published in Cameo, the journal of the West African Study Circle. “Biafra: Second Anniversary of Independence” by Massimo Galvani is a profusely-illustrated exploration of these interesting stamps.
For further reading, I recommend you examine Biafra: the stamps, history & postal history of the rebel state during the Nigerian Civil War by Dudley Prestedge. There is a copy available in the APRL.
When you visit the American Philatelic Center, stop in and see our entire 1,400-volume Reference Collection. The APEX Biafra Reference Collection is located in the Scott Specialty Series “Independent Countries of Africa” volume filed under Nigeria.
Note: the American Philatelic Center is closed to visitors from March 17, 2020, to April 13, 2020. However, you can tour the Reference Collection virtually and see its great resources here.