GB Overprints Society

Levant (British currency, "Levant" overprint)

The area administered by the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire was known politically and philatelically as "The Levant" (after the French word meaning "rising", ie the "East where the sun rises, as seen from the western Mediterranean"). An international restrictive treaty forbade the Turkish administration from operating international mail, so post offices were opened throughout the empire by a wide range of countries - Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia, even Poland and Romania. This treaty was known as the "Capitulations" (ie where the Ottoman empire capitulated its rights to operate international mail). With the outbreak of World War I Turkey declared this treaty void on 30 September 1914, an act referred to as the "Abrogation of the Capitulations" (further details on the Turkish currency listing).

The "British Levant" postal area is normally used only to refer to the offices which, after an "unoverprinted" period, used overprinted stamps as well as (occasionally) unoverprinted ones: Beirut (Lebanon) 1873-1914, Istanbul (Turkey) 1857-1914,1919-1923, "Stamboul" sub-postoffice 1884-1896, 1908-1914, Salonica (Thessaloniki, Greece) 1900-1914, Smyrna (Izmir, Turkey) 1872-1914, 1919-1922. British post offices in other parts of the Turkish Empire (eg Cairo, Alexandria) did not use overprinted stamps and tend to be listed in catalogues as "GB used abroad" rather than as part of "British Levant".

All stamps overprinted "LEVANT" without new value.

These stamps were intended to be affixed directly to postal matter by the post office officials, and were not normally sold to the public, so they did not need to have a currency overprint but instead were merely overprinted "Levant". The ½d and 1d values were used primarily for printed matter (but were commonly sold for use on post cards), and the higher values were for parcels; the latter explains the high proportion of used examples which have very ugly and heavy cancellations (many "fine used" are either cancelled to order or forged postmarks).

Purely for convenience, these stamps are listed separately from those overprinted in Turkish currency: there was no difference in the places of use.

Note: this numbering system was drawn up by the Society for the website, and may not be used without permission. The numbers in this section follow on from those with an overprint in Turkish currency.

King Edward VII

De La Rue printings, ordinary paper

15 August 1905

levant sterling Ed7 200

55 ½d green (& see No. 14)

56 1d red

57 1½d purple & green, & see No. 11 below

58 2d green & red, & see No. 12 below

59 2½d blue

60 3d purple on yellow

61 4d green & brown

62 5d purple & blue

63 6d purple

64 1/- green & red, & see No. 13 below

Change to chalky paper

6 March 1908

Levant sterling Ed7 chalky 200
(1½d & 1s temporary pictures)

65 1½d purple & green, & see No. 3 above

66 2d green & red (date of issue not recorded), & see No. 4 above

67 1/- green & red, & see No. 10 above

Harrison printing

The Harrison printing has more background engraving behind "AGE" and "& REV" (see below) but can be difficult to distinguish from the De La Rue printing above.

Feb 1912

Levant sterling Ed7 Harrison 200

68 ½d green (& see No. 55)

Levant Stg halfpenny DLR and Harrison 400

top: Harrison printing

bottom: De La Rue printing

Note: for the 2d further overprinted "1 Piastre" see under the Turkish currency overprints.

King George V

Downey Head, watermark crown, Die IA

die IA: ½d heavy beard, 1d mostly unshaded lion


Levant Stg Downey IA 200

69 ½d green (12 September 1911)

70 1d red (1 January 1912)

overprint varieties

69 v1 ½d, distorted "N" (rows 2 & 12, stamp 10)

70 v1 1d die IA overprint double, one albino

70 v2 1d, distorted "N" (rows 2 & 12, stamp 10)

Die II

die II: ½d light beard, 1d shaded lion


Levant Stg Downey II 200

71 ½d green (19 March 1912)

72 1d red (24 February 1912)

overprint varieties

71 v1 ½d die II, distorted "N" (rows 2 & 12, stamp 10)

72 v1 1d die II overprint double, one albino

72 v2 1d die II overprint treble, two albino

72 v3 1d die II, distorted "N" (rows 2 & 12, stamp 10)


Mackennal Head, watermark script cypher

July 1913

Levant Stg Mackennal first set 200

73 ½d green

74 1d red

overprint varieties

73 v1 ½d, watermark double, one inverted (caused by pressure from another sheet, not a true watermark)

73 v2 ½d, distorted "N" (rows 2 & 12, stamp 10)

74 v1 1d, distorted "N" (rows 2 & 12, stamp 10)

Further issues after the resumption of the British post office in Constantinople after the war


Levant Stg Mackennal 2nd set 200

75 2d orange die I

76 3d violet

77 4d grey

78 5d brown

79 6d purple, chalky paper

80 1/- brown

81 2/6d brown (Bradbury Wilkinson printing)


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page last updated: 7 August 2006, 6 March 2013, 7 June 2014

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