Jordan’s UPU issue overprinted ‘Palestine’ has many varieties to pursue
By Ghassan Riachi
On May 14, 1948, following the proclamation of the state of Israel, the armed forces (the Arab Legion) of Jordan entered Palestine and occupied an area of the Palestinian territories. Jordan was able to seize the old city of Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin, and Tulkarm among others.
With full administrative control over the occupied Palestinian territory, Jordan needed stamps to serve the citizens of this area and to raise money for the government. Rather than wait the months it would take to have new stamps designed and printed for this occupied territory, the Jordanian government converted a stock of its current postage and postage due stamps by having them overprinted with the word PALESTINE in both English and Arabic.
The stamps were overprinted by typography in two countries: Amman, the capital of Jordan; and Beirut, Lebanon, by the Catholic Press.
The first of these overprinted postage and postage due stamps were issued Dec. 2, 1948.
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The subject of this column is the Jordan Universal Postal Union set overprinted with “PALESTINE” and issued in August 1949. The set comprises five denominations: 1 mil, 4m, 10m, 20m and 50m.
They are listed in the 2016 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue at the end of the Jordan section under Occupation Stamps as N18-N22. The set has a catalog value of $8.70 in the grade of very fine, both mint never hinged and used.
The basic Jordan set was issued Aug. 1, 1949, to mark the 75th anniversary of the UPU (Scott 245-249). Yacoub Sukkar, Jordan’s postmaster general between 1945 and 1947, designed the stamps. Thomas De La Rue and Co. of the United Kingdom printed them on white watermarked paper. The Scott catalog lists the watermark as No. 4.
The stamps were perforated gauge 13 by 13 and issued in sheets of 50, five columns by 10 rows.
The four lower denominations share the same attractive design. A globe with two banners containing the words “Universal Postal Union” is pictured in the center of the stamp design. Above and below the banners are the Gregorian years, “1874-1949.”
In the top part of the globe the inscriptions are in Arabic, and in English in the bottom. An image of a small envelope connects the two banners.
The central design also shows different modes of transportation for delivering mail. To the right of the globe is an airplane in flight with a ship below it. To the left is a train coming out of the mountains. A group of trees also is pictured to the left of the globe.
The name of the country is inscribed in Arabic at the top center of the frame and in English at bottom center. The Arabic word for postage appears in the top right corner, with the same in English at bottom left.
The top left corner contains the denomination and currency in Arabic with the same in the bottom right corner, but in English.
The central design of the 50m high denomination features a portrait of the ruler of the country, King Abdullah I.
The text, “Universal Postal Union 1874-1949,” appears on each side of the portrait, in Arabic at right and English at left. The inscriptions in the frame are the same as those of the lower denominations.
Prior to issuing this set, the English name of the country as it appeared on the stamps was ”Transjordan.” The UPU set was the first to introduce the new country name, “The Hashemite Kingdom of the Jordan.”
For use in the occupied Palestinian territory, the 1m, 4m, 10m and 20m stamps received a two-line overprint containing the word PALESTINE, in Arabic at top and in English below. The overprint was commonly placed in the center of the stamps.
The overprint on the 50m stamp was in a horizontal line with PALESTINE in English at left and Arabic at right. The nearby illustration shows the common placement of the overprint on the stamp.
The table gives the basic stamp color, overprint color and quantity issued for each stamp. Different shades of the overprint colors exist; they are not discussed in this column.
Overprinting the basic stamps produced an array of varieties.
Both overprints are found shifted on the stamps either to the top or bottom as well as to the left or to the right.
Among the plate flaws found are damaged letters. These allow specialists to plate the different positions of the overprints.
Also, stamps are known with a missing letter from the Arabic word PALESTINE, and stamps have been found with the word Palestine misspelled. In my opinion, the crown jewel of all errors in this issue is the omitted Arabic word PALESTINE.
All denominations are known with overprint errors. The genuine varieties, known to me, for each denomination are as follows.
The 1m stamp is found with the overprint inverted; a double overprint, both upright; double, one inverted; and double, both inverted.
While the intent was to apply a black overprint on this denomination, a red overprint is also found.
My favorite error on the 1m stamp is the omitted Arabic word PALESTINE. This error is extremely rare; two examples are known. The error is shown nearby in a block of four with three normal stamps.
The 4m stamp also is replete with overprint varieties. It is found with the overprint inverted; double, both upright; and double, both inverted.
By mistake, some 4m stamps received the one-line overprint designed for the 50m high-denomination stamp. The stamp is found with a single or double one-line overprint. It is believed that only one sheet exists of the latter.
Another error found on 4m stamps is Palestine misspelled as PLAESTINE, found either upright or inverted. Shown nearby is the upright error in a block of four with three normal stamps.
The 10m denomination can be found with the overprint inverted; double, both upright; and double, both inverted.
Overprint errors on the 20m include the overprint inverted; double, both upright; double, both inverted; and triple, all upright.
The most difficult error to find on the 20m is the omitted Arabic word PALESTINE either upright or inverted. I have seen two examples of each.
On the 50m stamp, the overprint is found inverted; or double, both upright.
Another great variety is known for the 50m: Stamps can be found with the country name misspelled as PLAESTINE, either upright or inverted.
Some of these overprint varieties are known on philatelic covers. Pictured nearby is a cover bearing five of the overprinted stamps. The 10m red stamp (in the center of the cover) has an inverted overprint. I have not seen any of these varieties on commercial covers.
Of all the overprint varieties, the rarest one that every collector of this area wishes to have is the Arabic word PALESTINE omitted in the overprint. The reason why this error is rare is that as soon as it was discovered, it was corrected.
All of the overprinted varieties have been extensively forged. Two types of fakes are known.
In the first type, the basic stamps are genuine and the overprints on them are fakes.
In the second type, the basic stamps and one overprint are genuine and the rest of the overprints are fake.
In addition, there are errors that exist only as fakes, such as the 50m stamp with three overprints.
These fakes exist as mint or used stamps on or off paper, as well as on covers with fake cancellations. Collectors should beware.
If you are looking for a challenge, try assembling a set of these stamps with all the overprint varieties.
Most of them can be found and purchased at a reasonable price; they will not break the bank.
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