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New Stamps Discovered on Historic Cover

By Vincent Green

This is my favourite item of postal history so far in 2014! It’s a rather grubby envelope sent on the 18th December 1976 within Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.

Or rather the Central African Empire, as just 2 weeks before on 4th December President Bokassa, an admirer of Napoleon Boneparte had named himself Emporer Bokassa I of the Central African Empire!

There were no stamps prepared for this constitutional change and the issues of the CAR continued in use until March 1977 when overprints applied in London altered the name on the remaining stocks of CAR stamps.

But is that true? This cover suggests that there was an attempt to produce new overprints locally, just a few days after the CAE was proclaimed!

Each of the 3 different CAR stamps bears a primitive “Empire / Centrafricain” 2- line overprint + a thick bar obliterating “Republic” on the stamp beneath.

How fascinating to imagine the conditions these stamps were produced in! Perhaps there was a Postmaster using his childhood “John Bull” printing kit had been told to alter his stock of CAR stamps, or were they simply trials that failed? Certainly the quality of the overprints was so poor that they decided to wait 3 months for better overprints to arrive from England and these local overprints have been unknown to philatelists since!

These stamps may be the only known examples. Certainly being tied to an authentic, fully dated non-philatelic cover gives them great postal history significance. The story of Bokassa, one of Africa’s more eccentric rulers and his “Empire” could not be better illustrated.


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