GB Overprints Society

Bechuanaland Protectorate


The area north of the Molopo River was declared a British Protectorate (reportedly at the request of the local chiefs) on 30 September 1885, at a time of tribal conflicts. The protectorate continued to use overprinted stamps of Britain, Cape of Good Hope, and British Bechuanaland until 12 December 1932 when an inscribed set was issued. The protectorate was granted self-government in 1965 and became independent as "Botswana" in 1966.

The Bechuanaland Protectorate is not the same territory as the adjacent "British Bechuanaland" but both postal services were administered from Mafeking in British Bechuanaland, and both territories used each other's stamps.

Bechuanaland Protectorate holds the record (44 years) for the country with the longest use of GB overprints (ie not counting agencies in Morocco).

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


Queen Victoria

7 August 1888

The first set was created by overprinting the contemporary stamps of British Bechuanaland. Only the ½d was on an overprinted British stamp as the other values used the unappropriated die designs, for which no ½d value existed.

"Protectorate" overprint

3 sizes of overprint: 15½mm, 15mm, 19mm

Bech Prot 1 200Bech Prot 2 200Bechuanaland protectorate 55 300

½d No 1, No 2, No 3

(image of No.3 courtesy of Ruby Stamps)

1 ½d orange "British Bechuanaland" with additional "Protectorate", 15½mm

2 15mm "Protecorate" overprint (1890)

3 19mm "Protectorate" overprint (1890)

note: although released in 1890 the 15mm and 19mm overprints were in fact trial printings for number 1 above made in 1888 and used in 1890 when stocks were short.

In the 15½mm version the "P" is noticeably higher than "rotectorate"; in the 15mm version it is level or slightly lower. All are frequently found misplaced sideways: in particular the 19mm version was too wide to fit comfortably unless the centering was spot on, as can be seen from the above image. As the size of the overprint on number 2 and number 1 appears to be identical except for the capital "P", it is tempting to interpret this is showing that the trial printing (number 2) was felt not to have an adquately prominent P, which was therefore replaced in the version used for the stamps as first issued (number 1); this could also explain why the "P" in number 1 is misplaced upwards if it used a different font which didn't quite match the other letters properly.

overprint varieties

Bechuanaland 15.5 double Rossi 72

(image ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

1 v1 15½mm "Protectorate" double

Bechuanaland 15.5 misplaced Rossi 72

(image ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

1 v2 15½mm "Protectorate" misplaced

Bechuanaland Protectorate QV dropped e 200

1 v3 15½mm dropped "e" (position 118)

There are numerous other minor varieties, but this is a very visually striking one.

2 v1 15mm "Protectorate" double

Bechuanaland 15 double inverted Rossi 72

(image ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

2 v2 15mm "Protectorate" double and inverted

2 v3 15mm "Protectorate" inverted

2 v4 15mm "Portectorate" (sic) misspelt and inverted

3 v1 19mm "Protectorate" double (various placings)

3 v2 19mm "Protectorate" misplaced

3 v3 19mm "Protectorrte" (sic) misspelt

Bechuanaland 15 Protectorrte double Rossi 72

(image ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

3 v4 19mm "Protectorrte" (sic) misspelt and double

watermark varieties

2 wi 15mm overprint, watermark inverted

4d Provisionals

In 1888 a shortage of 4d stamps was filled by overprinting "Protectorate" on a 4d provisional of British Bechuanaland (overprinted on Cape of Good Hope), and in 1889 a further provisional was created by overprinting the British Bechuanaland ½d with "Protectorate Fourpence".

August 1889

Bech Prot 4 200

4 ½d orange "British Bechuanaland" with additional "Protectorate Fourpence"

note: this was a composite 2 line overprint, it was not a "Fourpence" overprint added to number 1 above, although the font is almost identical. Examples with "Protectorate" double or inverted but "Fourpence" normal, or the whole overprint inverted and misplaced to read "Fourpence Protectorate" (with incorrect spacing), are regarded as contemporary forgeries, some of which passed through the post (Holmes p.89). The lettering of "Fourpence" is sometimes quite irregular.

overprint varieties

4 v1 "rpence" omitted (row 9/2)

4 v2 "ourpence" omitted (row 9/2)

4 v3 "Fo" 1mm lower than "urpence" (may be related to v1 & v2)

Bechuanaland fourpence inverted Rossi 72

(image ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

4 v4 overprint inverted

4 v5 overprint inverted, "ourpence" omitted (see above)

Bechuanaland protectorate misplaced 96 image courtesy of Merv Lavender

4 v6 overprint misplaced to the left

This is, of course, not to be confused with the "letters missing" varieties.

4 v7 overprint in green

note: the "green" overprint was caused on the first sheet or so by poor cleaning of the overprinting ink rollers after use for overprinting Cape of Good Hope stamps (Holmes p.89). It is therefore a very dark green mixed with black.

New composite overprint

New composite overprint "BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE" in two lines

October 1897

Bechuanaland protectorate QV set 200

The post office had a real problem locating the overprint to avoid obscuring the face value, and had to compromise on its normal policy of not covering the monarch's face.

5 ½d orange

6 1d lilac

7 2d green & red

8 3d purple on yellow (1898)

9 4d green & brown

10 6d black on red

Changed colour

25 February 1902

Bech Prot 11 200
(temporary illustration)

11 ½d green
note: unlike IR Officials and Army Officials this stamp was only printed with the non-fugitive organic ink, so should not come up as a blue stamp.

All subsequent issues are overprinted "BECHUANALAND PROTECTORATE"

King Edward VII

De La Rue low values, Somerset House 1s


Bechuanaland protectorate E7 set 200

12 ½d dark green (March 1906)

13 ½d pale green (November 1908)

14 1d red (April 1905)

15 2½d blue (29 November 1904)

16 1/- green & red (December 1912)

overprint varieties

Bechuanaland E7 dot after P Rossi 72

(image ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

15 v1 2½d small "full stop" after "P" in "P.rotectorate"

16 v1 1/- overprint double, one albino

King George V

Watermark crown

September 1912

Bech Prot 17 200

17 1d red die II

stamp varieties

17 sv1 1d no cross on crown

Watermark script cypher

July 1913 unless otherwise stated

Bechuanaland protectorate G5 script set 400d 700p

18 ½d green

19 1d red (April 1915)

20 1½d brown (Dec 1920)

21 2d orange die I

22 2d orange die II (1924)

23 2½d blue

24 3d violet

25 4d grey

26 6d purple, chalky paper

27 1/- brown


note: although apparently issued in 1913 the early "yellow orange" version of the 2d (with no control) used up to 1913 does not appear to have been used for overprinting, only the changed colour of reddish orange which was released in November.


2d dies

bech Prot 2d dies 400

2d: on die I the inner frame line is near to the central design, in die II it is in the middle of the white gap.

overprint varieties

21 v1 2d die I overprint double, one albino

26 v1 6d overprint double, one albino

watermark varieties

21 wi 2d die I watermark inverted

24 wi 3d watermark inverted (discovered in 2007)

Seahorses, Waterlow printings

Waterlow printings are exactly 22mm wide, with a normal top tooth (see illustration below)


Bech Prot 2s6d Waterlow 200

28 2/6d brown (January 1915)

29 5/- red (1914)

overprint varieties

28 v1 2/6d overprint double, one albino

29 v1 5/- overprint double, one albino

stamp varieties

28 sv1 2/6d re-entry (row 2/1)

Seahorses, De La Rue printings

De La Rue printings are 22mm wide, with a wide top tooth and smaller perf holes (see illustration below)


30 2/6d brown (July 1916)

31 5/- red (August 1919)

overprint varieties

30 v1 2/6d overprint double, one albino

30 v2 2/6d overprint treble, two albino

31 v1 5/- overprint double, one albino

stamp varieties

30 sv1 2/6d re-entry (row 2/1)

Seahorses, Bradbury Wilkinson printings

Bradbury Wilkinson printings are 22¾-23 mm wide, with a normal top tooth (see illustration below)


Bech Prot 5s BW 200

32 2/6d brown (July 1923)

33 5/- red (July 1920)

overprint varieties

30 v1 2/6d overprint double, one albino

30 v2 2/6d overprint treble, two albino

31 v1 5/- overprint double, one albino

31 v2 5/- overprint treble, two albino

stamp varieties

30 sv1 2/6d re-entry (row 1/2)

Seahorse design types

Seahorse types detail 400

5s (top) Waterlow, 2/6d (middle) De La Rue wide tooth, 2/6d (bottom) Bradbury Wilkinson (wider design)

Watermark block cypher


Bechuanaland protectorate G5 block set 400d 700p

note: 1st 6d is chalky paper, 2nd 6d is ordinary paper; the shades should not be relied on to identify the type of paper.

34 ½d green (1927)

35 1d red (August 1925)

36 2d orange (July 1925)

37 3d purple (October 1926)

38 4d grey (October 1926)

39 6d purple, chalky paper (December 1925)

40 6d, ordinary paper (1926)

41 1/- brown

overprint varieties

37 v1 3d overprint double, one albino

watermark varieties

35 wi 1d watermark inverted

37 wi 3d watermark inverted

37 wi v1 3d watermark inverted, overprint double one albino

note: it is reported that all 3d wmk inverted have the overprint double one albino

41 w1 1/- watermark inverted

stamp varieties

38 sv1 4d printed on gummed side

Postage Dues

January 1926

Bechuanaland protectorate pds 400d 700p

The post office had a problem finding enough white space on the 2d value for the overprint to be visible and legible, so (presumably reluctantly) had to partly obscure the face value.

42 ½d orange, watermark block GvR cypher, sideways inverted

43 1d red, watermark script GvR cypher, sideways, chalky paper

44 2d black, watermark block GvR cypher, sideways

watermark varieties

44 wi 2d watermark sideways inverted

note: 44wi only recorded in Temple Bar auction 49, November 1998, block of 4

Overprinted definitives and postage dues were replaced by inscribed sets on 12 December 1932.

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page last updated: 31 December 2009, 4 March 2013 

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