Friday, October 31, 2008

The Scarcest Stamp in Scott International Volume 1?

I just obtained a copy of Syria #106a--reputedly the most difficult to acquire stamp in the Scott International "Blue" Volume 1. Even though I'm only a third of the way towards completion, I've been searching for 106a ever since I learned how difficult the stamp would be to locate on the assumption it might take years to find. I've been checking daily on eBay and about once a week on the APS Stampstore, et al, and found a copy a few days ago on StampWants. It turns out that it only took three months so I don't know whether the stamp is more available than I thought or if I just lucked out. If any of you see a 106a for sale in the coming months, please let me know. I don't need another one--just would like to get a better feel for its scarcity.

So, what is Scott 106a? It is one of the numerous surcharges and overprints that were applied to the stamps of France after World War I for use in Syria and Lebanon.

The French Mandate issues of 1923 are part of the set Scott 104-115. The "normal" 106 is a 50 centimes surcharge on the 10c Green French Sower. The surcharge reads "Syrie/Grand Liban/50 CENTIMES." The error, 106a, prints "Syrie/Grand Liban/25 CENTIMES" on the 10c Green. (The 25c surcharge should be on the 5c Orange.) There were 630,000 of the "normal" stamps printed. I don't know whether anyone has estimated the number of 106a's that might exist. (Because of 106a I've learned some interesting facts about the pre-1940 stamps of Syria--I'll talk about this in a later blog.)

The 106a stamp has been in the Internationals at least since 1937--the earliest edition I have access to. Now what makes this interesting or frustrating, depending on your perspective, is to ruminate on why the editor of the Junior Internationals, an album marketed largely at kids, would include a space for an obscure surcharge error. As far as I have been able to determine, Scott did NOT include the error in the big "Brown" Internationals or in the Scott Speciality album for Syria! It isn't listed by Stanley Gibbons or in Michael Gebara's Syrie Liban Catalogue. While I don't know about Michel, it is Yvert & Tellier 90a. It is also covered in Alexander Kaczmarczyk's comprehensive The Postal Issues of Syria, Lebanon and the Alaouites 1919-1945.

It isn't like the "Blue" Internationals are particularly lavish in providing spaces for the various Syrian overprints and surcharges. A couple of dozen stamps cataloging under $1 each were skipped including several distinctive sets of overprints.

So how does one explain the inclusion of 106a (Scott catalog value $125, Yvert, approximately $310) when the next most expensive included stamp is $8.75 and the majority of included issues catalog under $1? Caprice, perversity, or ??? I suppose we'll never know.

FYI, if you are looking to fill those difficult spaces for stamps of the Classic era, here are some sites I've found with large selections:
APS StampStore (
Zillions of Stamps (
Delcampe International (
StampWants (
Sandafayre Auctions (

Can you recommend other sources International collectors should add to this list?

I will also use the appropriate APS circuits when I'm at the stage of needing a few stamps to complete a country or area. I'm still at the point where it is most effective to purchase large collections from eBay to build up my International a couple of thousand stamps at a time.

OK, it is not like I just scored the US 1861 series 3-cent"B Grill" for $1,035,000 or the position 36 inverted Jenny for $388,125 at the recent Siegal auction. But still, it feels good to checkoff 106a. Now that leaves only 23,000 more stamps to go.


maplewoodhistory said...

Congrats on finding that toughie! Here's a neat article from Linns on collecting the world if you haven't seen it yet.

Bob said...

Thanks. I'm really curious to find out if 106a is less scarce than I thought, or if the Internet makes it easier to find the copies that are out there.

Thanks for the link. I've been meaning to start a links section and hopefully this will get me motivated.