West Africa Study Circle

Collecting The Gambia

Forgeries too are not a solely Gambian phenomenon: many of the Cameos were forged by the notorious Spiro Bros and Fournier. Familiarity with the genuine stamps and with their postmarks is the best way for collectors to avoid trouble. Much more dangerous are forged postmarks on genuine stamps, including several of the “Madame Joseph” series. Again, a familiarity with the genuine article is the best safeguard. Perhaps the greatest danger is genuine cancellers used on genuine stamps but without PO authority, A number of cancellers and other postal markings are known to have been obtained from the Gambian PO without having been defaced. It is not known where they are now. Oh dear ! ..

Postal stationery is an easier field, in which collectors can spend as much or as little as they like. Proofs and essays of the Victorian cards will definitely set you back a bit, but twentieth century registered envelopes and air-letters are quite easy to get hold of. But they still include some rarities, such as KGV sizes K and I, KGVI non-specimens, and some of the post-independence issues, where it is not clear just what exists.

A rare instructional mark: MISSENT TO GAMBIA.
It is the only non-philatelic part of this cover!

A final field where it is still possible to make real discoveries is that of instructional marks (though see above the comment on unauthorised cancellers). Here again, even when it is known that the PO held certain handstamps, it is not known that they were ever used, even incorrectly. And getting hold of them genuinely used may take years of patient searching in dealers’ boxes. Count yourself lucky if you come across “TO PAY” marks, or “ON POST OFFICE BUSINESS ONLY”; and extremely lucky if you find a “DECEASED” or “MORE TO PAY”. And then there are registration labels, Spitfire Fund labels, postcards, FDCs, EXPRESS Labels, covers on Government Service

In short, The Gambia can provide something for collectors in almost every field of stamp and postal history collecting; and it has the added advantage that with such a small country, the collector's dream -- completeness- may, just may, be realised.

Bibliography
The Stamps and Postal History of The Gambia ed. O. Andrew, pub.Christies Robson Lowe ISBN 0 85397 416 0
West African Censorship: World War I and II J.J.Martin and F.L.Walton, pub.West Africa Study Circle
The 1883-97 issue of The Gambia Cameos. A Study of the Plates, Printings and Perforators. B.I.O’Hara, 44 Angelo St., South Perth WA 6151
ISBN 0 646 35313 6