Notes from the Past

Egypt's First Stamps

Egypt began 1866 with reforms in the postal system.  The change to use of postage stamps was announced in a December 21, 1865, decree as follows:
The Post Offices alone are authorized to sell postage stamps.
The postage stamps are of seven different kinds which are distinctive by reason of their colour and value, that is to say:
5, 10, and 20 paras . . .
1, 2, 5, and 10 piastres . . .
Correspondence to foreign countries must not be thrown into the (letter) box, but taken to the dispatch window . . .  Payments of the postage on letters sent to foreign countries must be effected by means of Egyptian stamps for the internal journey to Alexandria; foreign postage must be paid in the stamps of the country that is charged with the forwarding.

Although essays had been produced by a number of artists in both Paris and London, the Italian firm of Fratelli Pellas of Genoa was given the printing contract.  The frame design of the 5 piastres value was based on a rejected essay for the first Italian stamps submitted by the firm.

With the exception of the 1 piastre all the stamps were lithographed in sheets of 200, arranged in rows of twenty.  The 1 piastre is typographed in two panes of one hundred.  The colored backgrounds were overprinted in Turkish in black with 'Egyptian postage stamp' at the top, 'Egypt' in the center, and the value in paras or grousch (piastres) at the bottom.  The overprint was typographed on the 1 and 2 piastres but lithographed on the others.

A thin grayish wove paper watermarked with a pyramid surmounted by stars intended for each stamp was used for all values except the 1 piastre.  The 1 piastre is printed on thicker white, unwatermarked paper with a glazed surface.  It may have been that this paper was intended to be used on the Italian contract which Fratelli Pellas bought in anticipation.

It is believed that the stamps were perforated and gummed in Egypt.  There is some evidence that the printer did some perforation although it may have only been for tests.  A variety of perforations exist with most stamps being off center.

The stamps remained in use until withdrawn from sale August 1, 1867.  The stamps were demonitized on September 1 but were exchangeable for stamps of the second issue through October 31, 1867.

Posted August 4, 2000

Editor's Note:  I have willingly excerpted (almost plagiarized) this from Stamps Day By Day, L. N. and M Williams. Blandford Press Ltd, 1950.

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