If you were to ask the typical philatelist about collecting stamps from the continent of Africa, it is probable that he or she would be immediately reminded of the areas colonised in the scramble for Africa. These include the British Empire, the territories of France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Yet one of the most interesting and largely overlooked areas is that of Liberia on the West Coast of Africa, which along with Ethiopia, were the only two countries in Africa not to have been influenced or ruled by European masters.
The Liberian capital Monrovia (named after James Monroe, the 5th President of the USA), is on the site where the first freed or repatriated American slaves were allowed to return to Africa in 1822. Jehudi Ashmun, a religious leader and social reformer, had pre-established the Liberian colony. For the slaves, it must have represented a real chance to seize a better life of freedom and equality.
The early period of Liberian stamps is extremely attractive, and unusually was produced in London. Initially made by Dando, Todhunter and Smith, later using the skills of Waterlow and Son in 1892, typical high quality Perkins Bacon printings followed. There were also productions from the State Printing Works in Berlin, along with some issues from the American Banknote Co. and De La Rue.
The fine engraving and topical nature of the early Pictorial issues has always remained very popular amongst collectors. Along with the wide array of surcharges and other overprints to be found, this makes Liberia a highly suitable country to specialise in.