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Levant (Turkish currency)


Originally the British post offices in the Ottoman Empire used normal British stamps, but as the fluctuations in the exchange rates led to some entrepreneurial speculative purchases of stamps (since they could be returned to the post office for a cash refund) it was decided in 1884 to overprint them with the equivalent postage rate in local currency (40 paras = 1 piastre). For reasons which are not immediately apparent values under 4 piastres were overprinted solely in paras (eg "80 paras" rather than "2 piastres") until 1905.


During the 1914-1918 war all foreign post offices in Turkey were closed. The presence of these offices (run by a large number of countries) had been an intense irritation to the Turkish government, resulting as it did from a long series of concessions by Turkey demanded by the western countries (including the USA) in order to stop it becoming a world power; it was not only post offices that were run by other countries but also an extensive network of foreign-run schools and even courts and prisons! These "capitulations" were in fact one of the reasons cited by Turkey for allying with the "central powers" in the war rather than with the western European countries. All these capitulations were renounced at the start of the war in an exercise referred to by historians as the Abrogation of the capitulations.


Purely for convenience, these stamps are listed separately from those overprinted "LEVANT" using British currency: there was no difference in the places of use. Details of the offices are listed in that section.


All stamps overprinted with new value, without "LEVANT" (except the 1906 provisional)


Note: this numbering system was drawn up by the Society for the website, and may not be used without permission.


Queen Victoria

First set

1 August 1885

Levant first Turkish set 200

1 "40 PARAS" on 2d lilac

2 "80 PARAS" on 5d green

3 "12 PIASTRES" on 2/6d lilac, toned paper
(note: often described as "blued" paper, it is really a pale grey with a bluish sheen over the whole design, nothing at all like the earlier Victorian "blued paper" stamps; items offered for sale are often misidentified)

4 12p, white paper (1888)


New designs: "Jubilee" set

1887-1896

Levant 2nd Turkish set 200

5 "40 PARAS" on 2d purple on blue (June 1887)

6 "80 PARAS" on 5d purple & blue (June 1890)

7 "4 PIASTRES" on 10d purple and red (November 1896)


overprint varieties

Levant double overprint 96certificated genuine

Levant forged double overprint 72forged ("0" too small)

(images from unidentified web auction)

5 v1 40p overprint double (positions vary - more than 1 sheet existed)

5 v2 40p overprint misplaced

6 v1 80p with small "O" (printings from June 1895, row 4, stamps 1 and 7)

7 v1 4P overprint misplaced

7 v2 4P, large wide "4" (row 1, stamps 2 and 4)


watermark varieties


6 wi 80p watermark inverted


Provisional issue

25 February 1893

Levant 40 paras provisional 200

(image courtesy of Shreves Philatelics)

8 "40 PARAS" on d orange


note: this provisional was unauthorised and some feel was philatelic; most examples (including those used on piece) were produced after it was withdrawn using the original handstamp and, in the case of used copies, a postmark using the same canceller as used during the period of currency. There are numerous forgeries.


overprint varieties

Levant 40 paras provisional damage 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

The "S" got broken at an early stage, and got progressively worse; this is not a variety as such; stamps with the very broken "S" and postmarked 25 February are generally regarded as having been produced for favour after withdrawal (see note above).


8 v1 40p overprint double

Levant 40 paras provisional iverted Rossi 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

8 v2 40p overprint inverted

Levant 40 paras provisional double one inverted Rossi 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

8 v3 40p overprint double one inverted

8 v4 40p overprint omitted (in strip with normal)

 

King Edward VII

De La Rue printings, ordinary paper

1902-1905

Levant E7 ordinary paper 200


9 "40 PARAS" on 2d blue (March 1902)

10 "80 PARAS" on 5d purple & blue (5 June 1902)

11 "4 PIASTRES" on 10d purple & red (6 September 1902) & see No. 18 below

12 "12 PIASTRES" on 2/6d purple (29 August 1903) & see No. 20 below

13 "24 PIASTRES" on 5/- red (15 August 1905)


overprint varieties

Levant 1902 40 paras double Rossi 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

9 v1 40p overprint double

Levant 1902 80 small 0 Rossi 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

10 v1 80p with small "O" (rows 4 and 14, stamps 1 and 7)


stamp varieties


11 sv1 4P, no cross on crown


Change to chalky paper

1907-1909

Levant E7 chalky paper 200

14 "30 PARAS" on 1d purple & green (16 November 1909)

15 "1 PIASTRE 10 PARAS" on 3d purple on yellow (16 November 1909)

16 "1 PIASTRE 30 PARAS" on 4d green & brown (16 November 1909)

17 "2 PIASTRES 20 PARAS" on 6d purple (16 November 1909)

18 "4 PIASTRES" on 10d purple & red (20 August 1907) & see No. 11 above

19 "5 PIASTRES" on 1/- green & red (16 November 1909)

20 "12 PIASTRES" on 2/6d purple (January 1908) & see No. 12 above


overprint varieties


14 v1 30p overprint double, one albino


stamp varieties


18 sv1 4P, no cross on crown


Changed colour

16 December 1909

Levant Ed7 4d orange 200


21 "1 PIASTRE 30 PARAS" on 4d orange (ordinary paper)


Changed currency wording

1905-1910


Between 1905 and 1910 the representation of the currency was again modified to simplify rather cumbersome overprints such as "1 PIASTRE 30 PARAS" to just "1 PIASTRE", reportedly to make it easier for postal workers to read.

Levant Ed7 new values 200

22 "1 PIASTRE" on 2d blue, type I (17 April 1906)

- type I: narrow P, narrow E

note: this De La Rue stamp has a distinct ultramarine shade, compared to the Harrison print below (No. 29), but is otherwise difficult to distinguish. See also No. 27 below.

23 "1 PIASTRE" on 4d orange (24 January 1910)

24 "2 PIASTRES" on 5d purple & blue (11 November 1905) & see No. 26 below


overprint varieties

Levant 1906 1p double Rossi 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

22 v1 1P overprint double

Levant 1906 1p misplaced Duloz 96

(image courtesy of "Duloz")

22 v2 1P overprint misplaced to left


watermark varieties


22 wi 1P watermark inverted

 

Change to chalky paper
and simplification of value on the 1P and 2P stamps

1908-1910

Levant Ed7 chalky new values 200


25 "1 PIASTRE" on 3d purple on yellow (24 January 1910)

26 "2 PIASTRES" on 5d purple & blue (January 1908) & see No. 24 above

27 "2 PIASTRES" on 6d purple (24 January 1910)


Provisional

2 July 1906

Levant 1p provisional Rossi 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

28 "1 PIASTRE" on 2d green & red with LEVANT overprint as well


Note: this provisional was unauthorised and is sometimes deemed to be rather philatelic.


Harrison printings

1911-1912

Levant 4 types of 1 Piastre Harrison 200


29 "1 PIASTRE" on 2d blue, type I, perf 14 (20 July 1911)

- type I: narrow P, narrow E

note: this Harrison stamp has a blue shade, compared to the ultramarine of the De La Rue print above (No. 22), but is otherwise difficult to distinguish; the shade is the same as the perf 15*14 values below.

30 "1 PIASTRE" on 2d blue, type I, perf 15 * 14 (14 October 1911)

31 1P type II squat overprint , perf 15 * 14 (March 1912)

- type II: wide P, wide E, narrow A

32 1P type III overprint, perf 15 * 14 (July 1912)

- type III: wide P, wide E, open A

Levant 4 types detail 400

type I (Nos 22, 29, 30), type II (No 31), type III (No 32)

 

overprint varieties


29 v1 1P type I pf 14, overprint double, one albino

29 v2 1P type I pf 14, overprint misplaced

30 v1 1P type I pf 15*14, overprint misplaced

32 v1 1P type III, overprint misplaced


Somerset House

1911-1913

Levant Turkish Somerset House 200

33 "30 PARAS" on 1d purple & green (22 August 1911)

34 "2 PIASTRES" on 5d purple & blue (13 May 1912)

35 "4 PIASTRES" on 10d purple & red (26 June 1912)

36 "5 PIASTRES" on 1/- green & red (1913)

37 "12 PIASTRES" on 2/6d purple (3 February 1912)

38 "24 PIASTRES" on 5/- red (1913)


overprint varieties


33 v1 30p overprint double, one albino

36 v1 5P overprint double, one albino

38 v1 24P overprint double, one albino


stamp varieties

35 sv1 4P, no cross on crown


King George V


Mackennal Head
watermark script cypher

1913-1914

Levant Turkish G5 Script wmk 200
(Note: the marginal 1P value shows the "thin pointed 4" variety - see below)


39 "30 PARAS" on 1d brown (April 1913)

40 "1 PIASTRE" on 2d blue (June 1913)

41 "1 PIASTRE" on 3d violet (Sept 1913)

42 "1 PIASTRE" on 4d grey (July 1913)

43 "4 PIASTRES" on 10d blue (December 1913)

44 "5 PIASTRES" on 1/- brown (January 1914)


overprint varieties


39 v1 30p overprint double, one albino

41 v1 1P overprint double, one albino

Levant Turkish pointed 4 200

42 v1 1P with thin pointed 4 in fraction
(note: this is not a very prominent variety, but occurs in the 1st and 7th stamp of every row, as in the above illustration - the left hand image has the thin pointed "4", the right hand image is the normal. to scale)

 


When the post offices were reopened after World War I the local currency had been considerably devalued, so replacement overprints were issued in a much larger font and with a different sterling equivalent - for example the 1913 10d stamp was overprinted "4 piastres" whereas the 1921 10d stamp bore "15 piastres".


Postwar set

August 1921

Levant Turkish G5 2nd set 200

45 "30 PARAS" on d green

46 "1 PIASTRES" on 1d red

47 "3 PIASTRES" on 2d blue

48 "4 PIASTRES" on 3d violet

49 "7 PIASTRES" on 5d brown

50 "15 PIASTRES" on 10d blue

51 "18 PIASTRES" on 1/- brown


overprint varieties

Levant 30p inverted (bogus) Rossi 72

(illustration ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

45 v1 30p overprint inverted

Note: this is usually deemed bogus but provenance obscure

51 v1 18P, short bar in fraction


Seahorses, Bradbury Wilkinson printings

Levant Turkish seahorses 200

52 "45 PIASTRES" on 2/6d brown

53 "90 PIASTRES" on 5/- red

54 "180 PIASTRES" on 10/- blue


overprint varieties


52 v1 45P, figures "45" joined (every row, stamp 2)

53 v1 90P overprint double, one albino

54 v1 180P overprint double, one albino


stamp varieties


52 v1 45P ribbed paper

53 v2 90P ribbed paper


Historical note: At the outbreak of the war in 1914 the Turkish government abrogated the laws whereby it had given up its rights to operate international posts (the "Abrogation of the Capitulations"), as mentioned above, and closed all the foreign post offices; a Turkish commemorative set was issued to celebrate this:

Levant Abrogation 200


select bibliography

 


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page last updated: 17 August 2006, 17 June 2009, 2 Sept 2010, 27 June 2011, 6 March 2013, 28 August 2013, 6 June 2014

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