GB Overprints Society

British Postal Agencies in Eastern Arabia


These stamps were issued for use in post offices in the Gulf other than Bahrain and Kuwait (though they were valid there). In 1951 and 1953 they were expressly sold in Kuwait due to local shortages of "Kuwait" overprints.

A postal service was operated in the Gulf by the Indian postal administration in Bombay from 1884. With the independence of India in 1947 responsibility passed to the British GPO on 1 April 1947, though the postal services remained under the control of Karachi, transferring from Indian to Pakistani administration in August 1947 until the GPO was ready to take over on 1 April 1948. For this reason the previously overprinted Indian stamps were replaced by overprinted GB stamps in 1948. Bahrain and Kuwait continued with overprinted stamps, but the rest of the area now adopted currency surcharges on British stamps but without a country name.

Note: Originally primarily used in Muscat these issues have often been listed under that name in catalogues. Other variants of the country heading in catalogues include: "Muscat and Eastern Arabian Agencies", "Muscat and Dubai and Arabian Gulf Agencies", or (eg in some American listings) "Oman". The current designation in the UK is "British Postal Agencies in Eastern Arabia", since it more accurately reflects the wide usage in Muscat (1948-1966), Qatar (1950-1957), Abu Dhabi (1960-1964), Dubai (1948-1961).

Although superficially the overprints look exactly the same as those used for the Bahrain and Kuwait issues, there is an interesting situation with the George VI 1½ annas stamps. The top half of the sheet uses a figure "1" which is slightly shorter (3¼ mm) than in the bottom half of the sheet (3½ mm); although this means that they exist in equal numbers, se-tenant pairs (ie vertical pairs across the middle of the sheet) are extremely elusive since sheets were commonly split in half before sale. Interestingly on the equivalent surcharges for other Gulf territories, the Bahrain issue uses only the tall version of the fraction, and Kuwait uses only the short version; this may tell us something about the order in which the overprinting plates were set up. It also proves that it is not the case (as sometimes suggested) that the three issues were printed from the same printing plate with "Bahrain" or "Kuwait" swapped or omitted (though this may the case for the QE issues; see note on "fonts" under the Queen Elizabeth definitives).

All stamps are overprinted with value only, with no country name.

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

King George 6

Definitive set

1 April 1948

BPAEA G6 1st set 200

1 "½ ANNA" on ½d pale green

2 "1 ANNA" on 1d pale red

3 "1½ ANNAS" on 1½d pale brown, type I: 3¼ mm "1" (top half sheet)

- type I: the bottom of the large figure "1" is opposite the bottom part of the top line of the small figure "2"

4 1½a, type II: 3½ mm "1" (bottom half of the sheet)

- type II: the bottom of the large figure "1" is almost half way down the small figure "2"

5 "2 ANNAS" on 2d pale orange

6 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d pale blue

7 "3 ANNAS" on 3d pale violet

8 "6 ANNAS" on 6d purple

9 "1 RUPEE" on 1/- brown

10 "2 RUPEES" on 2/6d green, Arms

overprint varieties

BPAEA G6 fraction types 400

3 v1 1½ Annas, vertical se-tenant pair both sizes

se-tenant pairs are scarce as sheets were normally torn in half.

8 v1 6 Annas, overprint mostly omitted Row 20/2

Silver Wedding

26 April 1948

BPAEA G6 Silver wedding 200

11 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d blue

12 "15 RUPEES" on £1 blue

Olympic Games

29 July 1948

BPAEA G6 Olympics 200

13 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d blue

14 "3 ANNAS" on 3d violet

15 "6 ANNAS" on 6d purple

16 "1 RUPEE" on 1/- brown

overprint varieties

BPAEA G6 R1 Olympics double overprint 200
The additional overprint slants slightly so its position varies according to the position on the sheet
(illustration from unidentified auction)

15 v1 R1 overprint double

UPU Centenary

10 October 1949


17 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d blue

18 "3 ANNAS" on 3d violet

19 "6 ANNAS" on 6d purple

20 "1 RUPEE" on 1/- brown

Changed colours and designs

3 May 1951 (4a 1950)

The colour of the low values was changed to retain conformity with UPU requirements; the release date of these and the new high values was to coincide with the Festival of Britain.

BPAEA G6 2nd set 200

21 "½ ANNA" on ½d orange

22 "1 ANNA" on 1d blue

23 "1½ ANNAS" on 1½d green, type I: 3¼ mm "1" (top half sheet)

- type I: the bottom of the large figure "1" is opposite the bottom part of the top line of the small figure "2"

24 1½a, type II: 3½ mm "1" (bottom half of the sheet)

- type II: the bottom of the large figure "1" is almost half way down the small figure "2"

25 "2 ANNAS" on 2d brown

26 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d red

27 "4 ANNAS" on 4d blue (2 October 1950)

28 "2 RUPEES" on 2/6d green type I

- type I: "2" level with "RUPEES" and bottom bar

overprint varieties

23 v1 1½ Annas, vertical se-tenant pair both sizes

se-tenant pairs are scarce as sheets were normally torn in half.

For illustration of this variety see under the first set above.


Later printing


BPAEA G6 R2 types detail 400

29 R2 type II

- type II: "2" slightly above "RUPEES" but both are noticeably lower than the bottom bar

this appears to have been an emergency printing, as the Queen Elizabeth "castle" set was released shortly afterwards. Mint copies are extremely scarce as the difference in overprint was not noticed at the time of issue.

Queen Elizabeth

Watermark Tudor Crown E2R

5 December 1952 unless otherwise stated

BPAEA QE Tudor 200

30 "½ ANNA" on ½d orange (31 August 1953)

31 "1 ANNA" on 1d blue (31 August 1953)

32 "1½ ANNAS" on 1½d green

33 "2 ANNAS" on 2d brown (31 August 1953)

34 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d red

35 "3 ANNAS" (in blue) on 3d violet (18 January 1954)

36 "4 ANNAS" on 4d blue (2 November 1953)

37 "6 ANNAS" on 6d purple (18 January 1954)

38 "12 ANNAS" on 1/3d green (2 November 1953)

39 "1 RUPEE" on 1/6d blue (2 November 1953)

Fonts: On the 2a and 3a the word "ANNAS" is 15.8 mm long, with a small "S", on the 4a and 12a it is a mere 14.4 mm, also with a small "S", but on the 1½a it has an enormous "S" which pushes it to a massive 16.5 mm in length; there is no obvious reason for this. This is also the case on the Bahrain and Kuwait overprints, confirming the suggestion that the same underlying plates were used for all of the issues, merely changing the name for each printing batch.


10 June 1953

BPAEA QE coronation 200

40 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d red

41 "4 ANNAS" on 4d blue

42 "12 ANNAS" on 1/3d green

43 "1 RUPEE" on 1/6d blue

Watermark St Edward's Crown E2R
Low values and Castles high values (Waterlow)


BPAEA QE EdE2R part set 200BPAEA QE Castles type 1 200

BPAEA QE EdE2R wmk error 96

A few used copies of the 1½ annas with this watermark, and a single mounted mint copy, are known, all with the typical centering to top left shown in this example (scan from unidentified auction).

44 "1 ANNA" on 1d blue (4 March 1957)

45 "1½ ANNAS" on 1½d green (1956?)

note: it appears that only one sheet of this was printed (as the known copies all show the same slight centring to top left, see above), the rest of the batch using Tudor watermark paper, despite there being a GPO press release at that time stating that 87,323 of them had been printed in the EdE2R print run.

46 "2 ANNAS" on 2d brown (8 June 1956)

47 "2½ ANNAS" on 2½d red (8 June 1956)

48 "3 ANNAS" (in blue) on 3d violet (3 February 1957)

49 "4 ANNAS" on 4d blue (9 December 1956)

50 "6 ANNAS" on 6d purple (10 February 1957)

51 "1 RUPEE" on 1/6d blue (2 August 1956)

52 "2 RUPEES" on 2/6d brown, type I (23 September 1955)

- type I: "2" level with "RUPEES", bars 7 mm long

53 "5 RUPEES" on 5/- red, type I (1 March 1957)

- type I: clean cut letters, squarish ends to the letters

overprint varieties

53 v1 R5 overprint inverted

BPAEA QE R5 spaced 5 300

53 v2 R5 with spaced 5 (first printing only, row 8 stamp 4, ie 3rd up from bottom right)

stamp varieties

53 sv1 R5 major re-entry above crown (row 8, stamp 1)

Later printing

February 1957

BPAEA QE R2 types 300
Waterlow type I, type II and De La Rue type III (the difference is hard to see on scans)

BPAEA QE R5 types 300

Waterlow (above), De La Rue (below); the differences are not marked - the longer top bar in the first example is an individual variation and not a means of differentiating the printings. The shade and clarity of the printing on the underlying stamp is a better indicator in this case.


54 R2 type II

- type II: "2" slightly higher, bars 6½ mm long

Castles, change to De La Rue printing


55 "2 RUPEES" on 2/6d brown type III, (June 1960)

- type III: bars 7 mm long, aligned with right of "S" - see illustration above

56 "5 RUPEES" on 5/- red type II (27 January 1960)

- type II: rougher and bolder letters, rounder ends (see illustration above, the difference is not very obvious)

Change to decimal currency

100 naye paise ("new pies") = 1 Rupee

1 April 1957

BPAEA QE np EdE2R 200

The position of the values varies so as to cover up the original value; the "20" had to be higher to remain visible against the dark background, and presumably the "NP" on the 1 np and 40 np is higher than on the 15, 25 and 50 np to more fully obscure the words "five", "six" and "pence" wheras on the latter it had to be low to cover up the original value. Plus of course the extra bars on the 50 np and the different layout on the 75 np. Considerable thought must have been put into these factors!

57 "1 NP" on 5d brown

58 "3 NP" on ½d orange

59 "6 NP" on 1d blue

60 "9 NP" on 1½d green

61 "12 NP" on 2d brown

62 "15 NP" on 2½d red, type I

63 15np, 2½d type II (diadem top line complete) (April 1959)

64 "20 NP" (in blue) on 3d violet

65 "25 NP" on 4d blue

66 "40 NP" on 6d purple

67 "50 NP" on 9d green

68 "75 NP" on 1/3d green

Deliberate changes in shade

66a 40np reddish purple (original printings)

66b 40np claret (March 59)

2½d type I and type II

Wilding 2.5d types 300

In die I (left) the top of the central cross is incomplete, in die II (right) it is complete; there are other less obvious differences due to the change in the tilt of the portrait within the frame (see below). On the above scans you can see that the right vertical line of the central cross points to the left of the right-hand edge of the "knot" in the top of the wreath in die I, whereas in the die II it points to the right of it; the portrait has been rotated about 0.3mm clockwise. The left side of the main central cross is also much more distinct on die II.

The bottom of the portrait shows further features of the increased tilt, though it is often obscured by the surcharge:

Wilding 2.5d types bottom 1200

The back of the Queen's neck points to the middle of the second leaf (from the bottom) in die I, and at the bottom of the leaf in die II. The right-hand edge of the dark border on the shoulder of the dress points to the red line in a "knot" in die I but to the middle of the knot in die II. The thick red line on the left of the dress points to the edge of a leaf in die I and to the gap between two leaves in die II. And so on...

Scouts Jubilee Jamboree

1 August 1957

BPAEA QE scouts 200

69 "15 NP" on 2½d red

70 "25 NP" on 4d blue

71 "75 NP" on 1/3d green

Watermark multiple crowns
Castles (De La Rue)


BPAEA QE np crowns 200BPAEA QE crowns castles 200

72 "1 NP" on 5d brown (30 August 1960)

73 "3 NP" on ½d orange (21 June 1960)

74 "5 NP" on 1d blue (8 April 1961)

75 "6 NP" on 1d blue (21 June 1960)

76 "10 NP" on 1½d green (8 April 1961)

77 "12 NP" on 2d brown (21 June 1960)

78 "15 NP" on 2½d red, type II (26 April 1960)

79 "20 NP" (in blue) on 3d violet (28 September 1960)

80 "30 NP" on 4½d brown (8 April 1961)

81 "40 NP" on 6d purple (28 September 1960)

82 "50 NP" on 9d green (8 April 1961)

83 "75 NP" on 1/3d green (8 April 1961)

84 "1 RUPEE" on 1/6d blue (8 April 1961)

85 "2 RUPEES" on 2/6d brown (8 April 1961)

86 "5 RUPEES" on 5/- red (8 April 1961)

BPAEA QE R5 fonts 300
De La Rue wmk Edward's crown E2R (left), wmk multiple crowns (right)

- different font from earlier 5 Rupee overprints, and much longer bars

Note: the multiple crowns watermark 2½d stamp was on a cylinder with slightly more rotation than that referred to for die II (ie it is from "multipositive C") 

Qatar ceased to use these issues when it had its own stamps in 1957, other offices ceased over the years until the Muscat office was finally closed on 29 April 1966. Copies of these stamps with alleged essays for "Ajman" "Fujairah" (sic) and "Umm al Qaiwain" (sic) are bogus.

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page last updated: 31 December 2009, 21 Sept 2011, 6 March 2013

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