World Stamps

Stamps of the Hejaz overprinted for use in Transjordan

Apr 14, 2014, 3 AM

The last Hejaz stamp set overprinted for use in Transjordan was issued Aug. 2, 1925 (Jordan Scott 122-129). The stamp set is relatively easy to assemble, but what makes this issue interesting is the different varieties.

The Kingdom of Hejaz existed for about a decade, from 1916 to 1925. Located in the Arabian Peninsula on the Red Sea, it contained Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities in Islam, as well as the seaport city of Jeddah. At the end of 1925, the kingdom was absorbed into what is known today as Saudi Arabia.

Two kings ruled Hejaz: King Hussein (from 1916 to October 1924) followed by his son King Ali (from October 1924 to December 1925).

To the north of Hejaz was the country of Transjordan, ruled by Emir Abdullah. Since the emir was the son and brother of the kings of Hejaz, it was easier for him to borrow stamps from them than to print new ones.

In fact, it was a common practice for his government to obtain Hejaz stamps and convert them to postage, postage due and official stamps to be used in Transjordan. This custom started in 1923 and ended in 1925.

In 1925, the government of Hejaz decided that new stamps were needed. An order for a set of nine postage stamps was given to Mourafatti in Cairo, Egypt.

These stamps are known as the King Ali issues because they all contain his name. The currency on these stamps is expressed in “silver piaster.” In this article, I will use “piaster” to mean “silver piaster.”

The basic stamps range in denomination from 1/8pi to 10pi. The stamps are lithographed on white wove unwatermarked paper and perforated gauge 11½.

They were printed in sheets of 50 stamps each. The sheet format is 10 rows by five columns.

All the stamps are monochrome except for the 10pi high value, which is bicolor.

Four different Arabesque central designs were adopted for the stamps, all with inscriptions in Arabic.

Figure 1 shows the 1/8pi through ½pi denominations, which share the same design featuring a circular element in the center with Arabic for “His servant (the servant of God), Ali the son of Hussein, 1343.” This lunar year corresponds to the Gregorian years 1924-25.

The 1pi, 1½pi and 2pi stamps, pictured in Figure 2, share another design with a diamond-shaped element in the center and the aforementioned inscription.

This inscription is repeated on the 3pi and 5pi denominations, both of which depict a six-sided element in the center. Figure 3 shows these two stamps.

Figure 4 pictures the bicolor 10pi stamp with a rectangular element in the center that contains the same inscription as before, but without the lunar year.

The lowest eight denominations share the same Arabic inscriptions inside the frame. These translate to the “Post of the Hejaz Arab Government” in the top panel and “Mecca the Honored” on the sides, reading up at right and down at left.

The denomination and currency are written out in the bottom panel, and the denomination is expressed in numerals in the corners.

The 10pi has the same frame inscription as the other values, except that on the right side there is only the word “Mecca” with the words “the Honored” on the left, all reading up.

As basic stamps, these are not listed in any standard stamp catalog because many of them were stolen while being shipped to the Hejaz.

Realizing there was a security breach, the officials in Jeddah decided to invalidate those missing stamps. As a result, the government applied a control overprint to the remaining stock (Saudi Arabia Scott L160-L186).

In the summer of 1925, there was a need for stamps in Transjordan. King Ali came to the rescue, helping his brother Emir Abdullah by providing him with some of these new basic Hejaz stamps.

The printer in Cairo was ordered to overprint eight King Ali stamps with a Transjordan overprint. The 10pi denomination was not used in Transjordan.

The overprint, shown in Figure 5, consists of two lines in Arabic reading from right to left.

The top line translates to “Arab Government of the East” and the bottom line to “Year 1343.” This lunar year corresponds to the Gregorian years 1924-1925.

The set (Jordan Scott 122-129) is valued in the 2014 Scott Classic Specialized Catalogue of Stamps and Covers 1840-1940 at$16 mint in the grade of very fine and $19.70 used.

The overprint plate was designed to cover an entire sheet of the King Ali stamps. The plate contained 50 cliches. Each cliche within the same plate differed slightly from one to another, which permits plating.

It has been reported that three plates were used to overprint the stamps: one for the lowest three values, another for the 1pi and 2pi, and a third for the 1½pi, 3pi and 5pi.

However, specialists believe that the 5pi value was not overprinted using the same plate that was used for the 1½pi and 3pi. They believe that a fourth plate was used on the 5pi, as none of the plate flaws found on this denomination are found on the 1½pi and 3pi stamps, and vice versa.

The overprint was applied in red on the 3pi stamp and in black on the other denominations.

In Transjordan, the stamps were made available to the public on Aug. 2, 1925. They remained on sale for about three months and were withdrawn at the end of October. The authorities destroyed the unsold stamps.

The chart in Figure 6 gives the basic stamp color and the quantity overprinted, sold and destroyed of each denomination.

Two conclusions can be made from this information. First, only 3,223 complete sets could be assembled. Second, an enormous number of stamps were destroyed, and these could have brought additional revenue to the government.

Among the many varieties known for this issue, all eight stamps exist imperforate. There also are overprint varieties.

While a horizontal upright impression was desired, some of the perforated and imperforate stamps received a misplaced overprint, resulting in stamps with overprints that are improperly positioned.

Some stamps can be found with either one partial overprint or as many as four partial overprints. The displaced overprint also caused some of the overprint impressions to appear in the sheet selvage as shown in Figure 7.

One of the 3pi sheets was partly folded in the top right corner while being overprinted, resulting in an unoverprinted stamp in addition to the overprint being on areas of the back of the stamps and the selvage.

A perforated and an imperforate sheet of the 3pi exist with black overprint. Some collectors believe these sheets are proofs, others believe they are errors.

All the denominations, perforated and imperforate, except for the 1pi and 2pi, are found with the overprint inverted. The Scott catalog only lists the inverted overprint error on the perforated stamps as Scott 122a-124a, 126a, 128a-129a.

The 2pi stamps are known with a triple overprint. Only one sheet is believed to exist.

Perforation varieties exist as well: the 1/8pi and 3pi are known without vertical perforations. Some stamps can be found with either misplaced perforations or partly perforated.

Probably the most coveted variety is an imperforate sheet of the 3pi with a gold overprint.

This overprint was created for Emir Abdullah. Since he had no interest in stamps, the emir had the stamps separated from the sheet and presented to some of his officials. These gold overprinted stamps are very rare and almost impossible to own.

Trying to assemble a collection containing all of these varieties can test the patience and the wallet of the collector.

Luck also can play an important role. Being at the right place at the right time when these varieties come up for auction can present a chance of a lifetime.