West Africa Study Circle

Collecting Gold Coast and Ghana

 

Mail to the coastal area, known originally as the Gold Coast, is known from the late 18th century. The first stamps were issued in the colony in 1875. British protectorates of the Ashanti and Northern Territories were incorporated into the colony in 1901. The Western third of the former German colony of Togoland was administered from the Gold Coast under League of Nations mandate from 1922. It became a UN Trust Territory in 1946 and was incorporated in 1957 into the newly independent Ghana.

There is good range of Gold Coast material displayed by a WASC member on the website of the Victoria Stamp Club (Canada) at http://www.vicstamps.com/displays/gold_coast/table_contents.html

Philip Quirk's presentation on Ghana postmarks to the February 2017 meeting is here.

European traders visited that part of the coast of West Africa that became known as the Gold Coast for hundreds of years before a British Colony was formed. Christopher Columbus is said to have been part of a Portuguese expedition that built a fort at Elmina in the 1480’s. The British, Danish and Dutch all followed suit with fortified ports. Local tribes perpetuated long-held feuds by raiding each other’s territories to supply the burgeoning slave trade. Trade dropped dramatically following the Abolition Acts and first the Danish and then the Dutch sold their interests to the British who were able to consolidate. Most European activity had been concentrated on the actual coast but gradually military expeditions into the interior spread the territory claimed by the British. A very limited number of early letters survive from missionaries and senior military personnel. Many of these were carried by favour on naval and merchant vessels, which regularly called at the ports along the African coast.

The British had tended to trade with the Fanti tribe while the Ashanti tribe had dealt more with the Dutch and didn’t take kindly to their withdrawal. There was a series of Ashanti wars culminating in an especially harsh campaign in 1873/4. Correspondence from the officers involved in these campaigns and later short uprisings is particularly scarce.

Postal services between coastal towns had been organised for some years before the Colony was created in 1874 when stamps were ordered from the Crown Agents and first delivered in 1875. A simple portrait of Queen Victoria’s head surrounded by “Gold Coast”, “Postage” and a value became the standard design for the next twenty-five years (fig.1). Various changes of perforation, watermark and colours provide interest to the specialist collector. Certain stamps were re-issued in new colours to fall in line with the Universal Postal Union’s standardised scheme. Gradually, the range of values was increased from 1/2d to 2/-. The higher values are seldom seen on letters and were probably intended for fiscal rather than postal use. The plates from which these issues were printed sustained some damage over the years and there are regular flaws offering another field of study.

Fig.1
This is SG1, issued in 1875

 

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