GB Overprints Society

British East Africa Co


In 1887 the British government transferred the administration of what is now Kenya from the sultan of Zanzibar to the British East Africa Association. In 1888 it was renamed the Imperial British East Africa Company. A postal service was set up in 1890 and 3 stamps of Great Britain were overprinted with the name of the company/territory and surcharged in Indian currency because of continued strong Indian trading influence.

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

Queen Victoria


23 May 1890

BEA 1a 400d 150pBEA 1 anna 96BEA 4 annas 96
(images of 1A and 4A ex unidentified web auction)

A noticeably different font and layout for the top 3 lines was used for the half anna, the reason for which is not recorded.

1 "HALF ANNA" on 1d lilac

2 "1 ANNA" on 2d green & red

3 "4 ANNAS" on 5d purple & blue

overprint varieties

1 v1 ┬ŻA middle cross bar of "F" omitted (one copy known: reportedly in the Royal Collection)

BEA 4 annas 2nd setting 72

(image ex Rossi, courtesy of Warwick & Warwick)

3 v1 4A "BRITISH" further left: "B" over "S" etc (all stamps in column 2, left hand image in the pair above), the normal position on the 4A is between the "S" and "T"

Unfortunately (it is alleged) the entire remaining stock was soon bought by the agent of stamp dealer Whitfield King, and unoverprinted Indian stamps had to be used from late July, followed by an inscribed set on 14 October 1890. The inscribed set was slightly revised in January 1895 to include "Ld" (Ltd) in the name, but in July it was renamed "British East Africa" and came under direct UK control as a British protectorate. Later it became independent as Kenya, operating initially under a joint postal administration with Uganda and Tanganyika.


British South Africa Company

Proposal for Stamps

Easton's book about De La Rue (p.749) contains an interesting extract from a letter of 17 June 1890 from De La Rue to the British South Africa Company about their proposed stamp design, which suggests that "... If your directors are not prepared to incur the initial expense entailed in having special surface-printed Stamps, we would suggest that English Stamps overprinted with the name of your Company should be employed. Such stamps have been adopted by the East Africa Company, and can be obtained at a very moderate charge through the English Government." Easton adds: "There is no further correspondence, and the contract went to another London House." Two copies of an essay on the 1d lilac are known, in the same format as the BEA overprint but without the new currency part.

BSA essay

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page last updated: 30 July 2007

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