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British East Africa The ‘Rampant Lions’ High Values of 1897

The beautiful design for British East Africa’s 1897 definitive series was conceived by the De La Rue designers following a meeting at the Foreign Office. A portrait of Queen Victoria already in use for India’s rupee high values was given a new frame, most notable for its crossed spears and Lions rampant at each side. It was obviously well received as the stamps were issued with only minor changes from the first sample sketch, which is still in existance!

The small definitives were put on sale in May 1896 but it wasn’t until March 1897 that the design for large high value versions were approved and it was finally November before these new ‘Revenue size’ stamps arrived at the protectorate.

These magnificent higher rupee values were intended chiefly as revenue stamps, a collector wishing to obtain genuinely postal used examples of the 50r will be disappointed as they are only known in unused or fiscally used condition (although SG lists a wmk reversed example in used condition). Typically a collector will have to make do with a fiscally used example, or perhaps a mint example overprinted “SPECIMEN” (still scarce, as only 750 of each were produced for distribution throughout the UPU)

It is probable, as an essay exists, that the King Edward VII portrait would have been the only design change to these stamps after Queen Victoria died but with an agreement to merge the BEA and Uganda postal systems a completely new design was conceived and a British African design classic passed into history...

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