US Stamps

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

Tip of the week: Canal Zone airmail Official stamps

October 08, 2015 10:00 AM

  • Look for misidentified examples of the 1941 Canal Zone airmail Official stamps with the 17-millimeter second line of the overprint (Scott CO8-CO12). Image courtesy of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries.

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

The Panama Canal Zone was an unorganized territory of the United States from 1903 to 1979. The territory was created by the Isthmian Canal Convention, by which the Republic of Panama granted a strip of land roughly 5 miles wide on either side of the Panama Canal to the United States in perpetuity.

The Canal Zone was abolished Oct. 1, 1979, and the land returned to Panama. The American administration issued stamps for use on mail from the Canal Zone from 1904 until the territory was abolished.

In 1941, the Canal Zone issued a set of seven airmail Official stamps (Scott CO1-CO7) by overprinting “Official” and “Panama Canal” in two lines on some of the 1931-1949 airmail set (Scott C7 and C9-C14). The lower “Panama Canal” overprint was 19 millimeters to 20mm long.

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Additionally, five stamps from the set, the 5¢, 10¢, 20¢, 30¢, and 40¢ denominations, received a variety of the overprint in which the second line was 17mm long (Scott CO8-CO12). Of these, only a few of the 30¢ stamps were sold to the public as mint stamps. The others are only known in used condition.

The 2016 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue values the 30¢ airmail Official stamp in mint never-hinged condition at $1,000. It values the set of five stamps in used condition at $855.

The stamps would be a good buy at those prices, but our tip is to look for stamps that have been misidentified as the less expensive varieties with the longer second line overprint. Don’t forget to check on-cover examples.