West Africa Study Circle

Collecting The Gambia

In 1922 the colony launched its own series, the semi-pictorial Elephant-and-Palm set (upper picture), based on the West African coat-of-arms. This set was commissioned in 1921, but several reasons caused delays in the final contracts: the unusual formats of both pence and shilling values, loss of the metal despatch boxes, a financial crisis in The Gambia. The various values were only sent out throughout June, July, and August 1922, and issued on 1 September.


There are two watermarks: 4d., 7½d., 1/-, and 5/- with Multiple CA, and all values with Multiple Script CA. And there are several perforations: 14 line, 13¾ line, and 14 x 13¾ comb for the pence values; 14 line, 13¾ comb, 14 x 13¾ line, and 13¾ x 14 line for the shilling values.


The small numbers ordered and the unusual formats must have given De La Rue a real headache! Some are known to be rare : the 3/- slate-purple comb is the accepted rarity of the set, though just expensive, not hard to find. But keep your eyes open for the 2/- indigo on bright blue paper, 13¾ comb, and the 4d. 14 x 13¾ comb with Script watermark. And there are others. For details of the different consignments sent between 1922 and 1938, consult “The Stamps and Postal History of The Gambia” published by Christies Robson Lowe in conjunction with the West Africa Study Circle. Matching the shades to the consignments is for advanced students only.


Between 1935 and 1965 The Gambia followed the pattern of many colonies: omnibus issues, for the 1935 Silver Jubilee, 1937 Coronation, 1945 Victory, 1948 Silver Wedding, 1949 UPU etc. Other commemoratives were for events with a mainly Gambian interest: the Royal visit (Dec 1962), Self-government, and of course Independence (18 Feb. 1965). The definitives followed the general pattern too: the 1938 George VI set(lower picture) with a more natural depiction of the Elephant-and-Palm motif, the Elizabeth II set with pictures of a Barra canoe, palm-wine tapping, James Island.

1922-27 2½d.
"Elephant & Palm"
1938-46 2/-
again showing the "Elephant & Palm" from the c
olony's seal.