French West Africa’s elusive officials


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In our regular stamp market guide, our philatelic private eye spies another stamp set that’s likely to go up in value, this time focussing on 1958 stamps from French West Africa.

In 1934 the French authorities decided to group eight colonial entities (Dahomey, French Sudan, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Upper Volta) into French West Africa. The separate stamp issues were discontinued and this arrangement lasted until 1959.

French West Africa released 103 postage stamps, one souvenir sheet, ten postage dues and 12 official or service stamps. It is a handy area to collect and the stamps are beautifully designed and printed, spotlighting various aspects of life and culture in that part of Africa.

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Stamps from Africa’s colonial era are popular with many collectors. Most of French West Africa’s stamp issues have a very strong thematic appeal which also increases the demand from worldwide philatelists.

The 1958 official stamps had a very short life. The 12 stamps have three different designs featuring African traditional masks. In fact, masks have been depicted on the stamps of many of France’s African colonies. These old masks have been brought home to Europe as souvenirs by colonial administrators and other visitors to such an extent that much of Africa’s cultural heritage can now only be admired in European museums.

The top 200-franc value represents a sizable part of the set’s value. There is much demand for this set and some dealers ask as much as £45 for it in UMM condition, which is excessive. Shopping around it should be possible to acquire a nice set for about £15-25 but make sure that it is unmounted mint. In recent years it has seen regular price increases.