Oil Rivers Protectorate
In 1855 a British protectorate was declared for much of the coastal area of Nigeria apart from the region around Lagos. From 1891 a consular postal service was set up, based primarily around Old Calabar in the "Oil Rivers" area, becoming authorised post offices in 1892. The first stamps were issued in 1892, and almost immediately the authorities kept running out of particular values - or claimed to have done so to justify the production of some rather philatelic provisionals.
One further provisional overprint appeared later in 1894, but overprinting continued on postal stationery, which can therefore appear with either the "Oil Rivers" or the "Niger Coast" overprint.
All stamps are overprinted "BRITISH PROTECTORATE OIL RIVERS", including the provisionals.
Note: this numbering system was drawn up by the Society for the website, and may not be used without permission.
20 July 1892
1 ½d orange
2 1d lilac
3 2d green & red
4 2½d purple on blue
5 5d purple & blue, die II
6 5d die I
Note: the die I stamp with this overprint has been included in catalogue listings since the 1980s, but no independent references to it have been located, nor the existence of any copies documented.
7 1/- green
2 v1 1d overprint transposed ("Oil Rivers" at the top)
This was caused by a vertically misplaced overprint, so that "OIL RIVERS" also appeared in the bottom margin (at least one copy of this is recorded); very few copies escaped recall and destruction. Image from Rossi collection, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick.
5 v1 5d overprint partially double
The stamps (and postal stationery) were supplied with red waxed paper interleaving to prevent them sticking together in the damp climate, as shown in the example below: mint items often still show traces of this, and it is quite normal.
3 September 1893 provisionals
Note: most used copies of the bisect appear very philatelic, casting doubt on the need for the issue. Forgeries are also frequently offered for sale, mostly very convincing, both mint and used.
Overprint in violet
This was only used on the top row of the first sheet to be overprinted. The ink was clearly unsuitable and smudged badly, so red was used for the rest of the half-sheet and the other 3 half-sheets overprinted. Although the overprint was ostensibly done in one row of 6 at a time, it is strange to note the existence of double overprints on single copies.
8 "½d" in violet, bisected diagonally
8 v2 ½d in violet: surcharge double
for copies se-tenant with the red surcharge see below.
Overprint in red
9 "½d" in red on half of 1d lilac, bisected diagonally
No 9 v4, ie Nos 8 (pair) and 9 (pair) se-tenant, ex Rossi collection,
illustration courtesy of Warwick & Warwick
9 v1 ½d in red: surcharge reversed (line top left to bottom right)
9 v2 ½d in red: surcharge reversed and inverted
9 v3 ½d in red: surcharge double (pair with normal)
Note: this wording in catalogues presumably means "doubled on one half, still joined to other half with normal overprint", but it is ambiguous.
9 v4 ½d in red: se-tenant with surcharge in violet (vertical pair, rows 1 & 2)
Note: this wording in catalogues appears to mean a vertical pair of unsplit stamps, ie 2 complete stamps, but it is ambiguous. See illustration above.
December 1893 provisionals
The provisionals below are deemed to be highly philatelic, and some are not known used. It is alleged that in preparing the emergency issue the post master arranged for all conceivable permutations of the available fonts and colours to be tried out in various orientations, in order to see which combinations worked best. These alleged trial sheets came on the market and produced some remarkable (and highly-prized) se-tenant varieties. Nonetheless they must be regarded at best as "philatelic", and at worst as prepared purely for collectors, though some of them certainly saw genuine postal service. The quantities of some of the scarcer versions are exceedingly small (some as few as 3 or 4), and are often well outnumbered by the number of copies on the market. Forgeries abound.
On many examples of the overprints the line at the bottom is faint or almost entirely missing; these are not different types.
The first four types shown below can be found on the 2d and on the 2½d Oil Rivers overprints, types 5-8 only on the 2½d value.
"HALF PENNY" on 2d green & red
type 1, squat block capitals top line 9½mm, 14½mm line, 1½mm spacing
No. 10 (courtesy of David Allen)
10 "HALF PENNY." in violet
10 v1 surcharge diagonally down
10 v2 surcharge diagonally up
10 v3 surcharge inverted
10 v4 surcharge vertically down
10 v5 surcharge vertically up
type 2, without full stop, 13½mm line, 4mm spacing
11 "HALF PENNY" in violet
type 3, in mixed case light italics
No. 12 (courtesy of Badger Stamps)
12 "Half Penny" in violet
12 v1 surcharge diagonally down
12 v2 surcharge diagonally up
12 v3 surcharge diagonally inverted
12 v4 surcharge double
12 v5 surcharge inverted
12 v6 surcharge vertically down
12 v7 surcharge vertically up
type 4, in fancy mixed-height capitals
13 "HALF PENNY" in blue
14 ditto, surcharge in violet
13 v1 blue overprint double
"HALF PENNY" on 2½d purple on blue
type 1, squat block capitals, top line 9½mm, 14½mm line, 1½mm spacing
15 "HALF PENNY." in carmine
16 ditto in vermilion
type 2, without stop, 13½mm line, 4mm spacing
No. 17 (courtesy of David Allen)
17 "HALF PENNY" in vermilion
17 v1 surcharge diagonally down
17 v2 surcharge diagonally up
17 v3 surcharge diagonally inverted down
17 v4 surcharge diagonally inverted up
17 v5 surcharge double
17 v6 surcharge inverted
17 v7 surcharge omitted in strip with 2 normals
17 v8 surcharge vertically up
17 v9 surcharge vertically down
type 3, in mixed case light italics
No. 20 (courtesy of David Allen)
18 "Half Penny" in blue
19 ditto in carmine
20 ditto in vermilion
21 ditto in violet
20 v1 vermilion surcharge diagonally down
20 v2 vermilion surcharge diagonally up
20 v3 vermilion surcharge diagonally inverted up
20 v4 vermilion surcharge double
20 v5 vermilion surcharge inverted
20 v6 vermilion surcharge vertically up
20 v7 vermilion surcharge vertically down
type 4, in fancy mixed-height capitals
22 "HALF PENNY" in blue
23 ditto in green
24 ditto in vermilion
25 ditto in violet
23 v1 green surcharge double
23 v2 green surcharge double, one green one vermilion
24 v1 vermilion surcharge double
type 5, similar to type 1 but top line 8½mm, 16mm line, 2½mm spacing closer together.
note: examples with the full stop not showing properly look like the later version, but the latter is only recorded in vermilion.
No 27 (courtesy of David Allen)
26 "HALF PENNY" in taller letters, in black
27 ditto in blue
28 ditto in blue-black
29 ditto in carmine
30 ditto in green
31 ditto in vermilion
26 v1 black surcharge diagonally down
26 v2 black surcharge diagonally up
26 v3 black surcharge inverted
29 v1 carmine surcharge omitted in pair with normal
30 v1 green surcharge diagonally down
30 v2 green surcharge diagonally up
30 v3 green surcharge double
31 v1 vermilion surcharge vertically up
type 6, full stop misplaced to before the "Y"
32 "HALF PENN.Y" in vermilion
32 v1 surcharge double
32 v2 surcharge diagonally up
type 7, mixed case heavy italics
33 "Half Penny" in blue
34 ditto in carmine
35 ditto in green
36 ditto in vermilion
36 v1 vermilion surcharge diagonally inverted (up/down not recorded)
36 v2 vermilion surcharge diagonally up
type 8, small italic capitals
No 37 (courtesy of David Allen)
37 "HALF PENNY" in green
38 ditto in vermilion
Note: the need for these higher values was highly questionable, especially the issue of 1/- surcharge on the 2d at the same time as 1/- stamps themselves were being used for the 20/- surcharge.
There are 3 subtypes of the "One Shilling" overprint:
Type (a): "n" of "One" lines up with the "ll" of "Shilling"
Type (b): "n" of "One" lines up with second "l" of "Shilling"
Type (c): "n" of "One" falls between the two "ll" of "Shilling"
39 "One Shilling" on 2d green & red surcharge in black, type (a)
40 ditto type (c)
41 surcharge in vermilion, type (a)
42 ditto type (b)
43 surcharge in violet, type (a)
44 ditto type (b)
Note: as catalogues and other listings and study papers do not distinguish the above types when discussing varieties, they are listed with two numbers below.
39/40 v1 black surcharge diagonally up
39/40 v2 black surcharge inverted
39/40 v3 black surcharge vertically down
39/40 v4 black surcharge vertically up
41/42 v1 vermilion surcharge diagonally down
41/42 v2 vermilion surcharge diagonally up
41/42 v3 vermilion surcharge inverted
41/42 v4 vermilion surcharge vertically down
41/42 v5 vermilion surcharge vertically up
43/44 v1 violet surcharge diagonally down
43/44 v2 violet surcharge diagonally up
43/44 v3 violet surcharge diagonally inverted down
43/44 v4 violet surcharge diagonally inverted up
43/44 v5 violet surcharge inverted
43/44 v6 violet surcharge vertically down
43/44 v7 violet surcharge vertically up
45 5/- on 2d green & red, in violet
45 v1 surcharge diagonally down
45 v2 surcharge inverted
45 v3 surcharge vertically down
45 v4 surcharge vertically up
46 10/- on 5d purple & blue, in vermilion
46 v1 surcharge diagonally up
46 v2 surcharge inverted
46 v3 surcharge vertically down
46 v4 surcharge vertically up
47 20/- in violet on 1/- green, in black (Dec 1893)
48 ditto, surcharge in vermilion
49 ditto, surcharge in violet
49 v1 violet surcharge inverted
June 1894 provisional
A large figure "1" handstamped on the left or right half of a bisected 2d green & red. There are many forgeries.
Whether or not this provisional was needed, a large number appear to have survived on rather philatelic-looking pieces. The overprint is reported to have been made from 3 different carvings by hand on blocks of wood.
50 "1", 12mm on half of 2d
51 "1", 4¾mm on half of 2d
52 "1", 3¾mm on half of 2d
50 v1 12mm surcharge double (either half)
50 v2 12mm surcharge inverted
51 v1 4¾ mm surcharge se-tenant with 3¾mm
In 1893 the protectorate was enlarged and renamed "Niger Coast Protectorate". The dies for stamps ordered with the country name inscribed had unfortunately already been engraved, so Waterlows simply engraved the new country name over the old one, looking like an overprint but not being one. This set was issued on 1 January 1894, though clearly the previous overprinted stamps continued in use, as is shown by the June 1894 provisionals.
page last updated: 11 March 2007, 5 May 2011, 6 March 2013, 7 March 2016
gbos: GB Overprints Society