World Stamps

Gabon Shell stamps hard to find

Jan 13, 2015, 7 PM

Gabon Shell collectors are serious about their hobby, and so are shells-on-stamps topical collectors. The two groups often overlap.

The former French colony of Gabon on the west coast of Africa lies on the Gulf of Guinea between Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Congo. Stable government, oil reserves and a lack of tensions between the four major ethnic groups have made Gabon attractive to foreign investment and development. It enjoys one of the highest standards of living in sub-Saharan Africa. Since gaining independence in 1960, Gabon has had a robust stamp-issuing policy.

Some stamps were produced with no advance notice to dealers or catalog editors, only to be discovered years later when they began to turn up in used kiloware mixtures. One of the best of these is the 1995 set of four Shell stamps and souvenir sheet of four (Scott 879-881 and 881a).

The set and the souvenir sheet are seldom advertised or sold and are unvalued in all conditions in the 2015 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue.

A souvenir sheet in mint never-hinged condition recently sold in an online auction for $210 after strenuous bidding.

We believe the souvenir sheet is a good buy at up to $200. The set of four stamps is well worth $100 to $150 in mint, never-hinged condition.

A Linn’s editor did not find this week’s recommended stamps on

Tip of the week

United States One of the more fascinating recent additions to the Scott Specialized Catalogue of United States Stamps and Covers is the postal counterfeits section.

Postal counterfeits differ from philatelic forgeries in the purpose for which they were made. Counterfeits are intended to defraud a postal administration of the price of postage. Forgeries are intended to defraud collectors.

The 2015 Scott U.S. Specialized catalog warns that possession of counterfeit stamps is technically illegal. This doesn’t seem to deter the many collectors who find them fascinating. Most postal counterfeit stamps are far more valuable than the usually common genuine stamps they were patterned after.

Although many are quite pricey, you can still get your toe wet in counterfeit collecting with some of the more common and affordable examples.

Look for the 2¢ carmine George Washington postal counterfeit stamp listed as Scott 634(CF2). The Scott U.S. Specialized catalog values it at $20 in used condition.

The Scott editors warn, with more than a touch of irony, that collectors should obtain a certificate of authenticity “that the item in question is a genuine counterfeit” from a recognized expertizing service.

The Scott 634(CF2) counterfeit is easy to spot because it is offset (totally flat printing) rather than engraved, so expertizing isn’t really necessary for this one.

Unused examples are common enough, but genuinely used examples are really quite scarce. Covers used in the right time period also are pretty scarce. — H.G. & R.M.