World Stamps

Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

Stamps to look for from the South African Republic

February 25, 2017 07:00 PM

  • The 1895 South African Republic 1-penny Coat of Arms, Wheat Field, and Railroad stamp (Transvaal Scott 165) is in demand and a good buy at the 2017 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 value of $2.40 in unused original gum condition.

Stamp Market Tips — By Henry Gitner and Rick Miller

Stamps listed under Transvaal in the 2017 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 were issued by three different political entities. 

The Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic, also known as ZAR) was founded Jan. 17, 1852, by Afrikaaner pioneers (also called Boers, which means farmers) in southern Africa. It was also known as Transvaal because it was across the Vaal River. ZAR issued its first stamps in 1869. 

In 1877, Great Britain announced its annexation of ZAR to the British Empire and issued stamps for the territory by overprinting ZAR stamps “V.R. Transvaal.” British authorities also issued a set of Queen Victoria definitives inscribed “Transvaal Postage.”

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After diplomatic protest and peaceful resistance failed, the First Boer War (1880-81) broke out. The British were soundly defeated and eventually forced to renounce their claim of suzerainty over the territory. Stamps of the ZAR returned in 1882. 

After the discovery of gold in the ZAR, Great Britain began a military build up and launched the Second Boer War. In addition to British troops, colonial troops from British South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada helped to defeat the Boers in a bitter, bloody, and costly war. 

The British again issued ZAR stamps overprinted “V.R.I.,” and a number of locally produced stamps were issued until British rule was consolidated. This brought about the Transvaal Colony (1902-10) with Edward VII definitives inscribed “Transvaal.” In 1910, Transvaal became a province in the Union of South Africa.

One of our favorite early pictorial stamps was issued by the ZAR on Sept. 6, 1895, in the Second Republic period. The 1-penny stamp depicts the ZAR coat of arms, a wheat field, and a railroad train (Transvaal Scott 165). This stamp is also popular with topical railroad and coats of arms collectors.

The Scott Classic Specialized catalog values the stamp in unused original gum condition at just $2.40, and it is easily worth catalog value. Examples in mint never-hinged condition are a good buy at $5. The vertical pair imperforate between error (Scott 165b) is also a great buy at the catalog value of $150 in unused original gum condition.  

For a real challenge, look for the 1900 local Wolmaransstad overprint (Scott 245). The Scott Classic Specialized catalog values it at $200 in  unused hinged condition. Good forgeries of the overprint exist, and the stamp must be expertized. Nonetheless, it is easily worth catalog value or more.