World Stamps

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

South Africa stamp withdrawn due to religious complaints a sought-after item: Stamp Market Tips

June 23, 2016 05:00 PM

  • The unissued South Africa 40¢ Bible Society of South Africa stamp is a good buy in mint never-hinged condition at around $650.

By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

The Republic of South Africa is not among the most actively collected countries by American collectors. Issues of the forerunner states as well as issues of the British Empire period are popular with collectors of classic stamps and British Empire collectors. 

Interest seems to drop off sharply from May 31, 1961, when the Union of South Africa gained independence as the Republic of South Africa. 

Today, most of the interest in RSA stamps comes from topical collectors. The republic has issued many stamps with popular topical themes, both before and after the fall of Apartheid.

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On Nov. 19, 1987, South Africa issued a three-stamp set (Scott 702-704) commemorating the Bible Society of South Africa, which was founded in 1820. It was meant to be a four-stamp set. However, the 40¢ stamp contained two lines of script, one in Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, and one in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. Both lines contained the word “God.” 

The stamps had already been distributed to South African post offices when complaints from Orthodox Jews about the use of the word “God” in a non-worship setting led South African postal authorities to withdraw the stamp.

A limited number of the 40¢ stamps were sold, and some were used for postage. The withdrawn stamp is popular with collectors of religion on stamps and Judaica collectors.

The 2016 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue notes but does not list or value the withdrawn stamp. Prices for the stamp in mint never-hinged condition vary widely, from about $650 up to $1,000. If you find it at the lower end of this price range, it is a good buy. Used examples rarely come on the market, but we think that they probably would sell for more than mint never-hinged examples, if offered. 

Keep reading about religion on stamps:

U.S. Postal Service responds to article about religious themes on stamps

In defense of the U.S. Postal Service: ‘War on Religion’ claim seems a stretch

Should the Rev. Billy Graham be eligible for a stamp?