Collecting the stamps of Libya

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04 April 2011
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imports_CCGB_stamp-tripolitania-1931-1lire-air_40927.jpg Collecting the stamps of Libya
The story of an eight-stamp set issued in the Italian province of Tripolitania - now Libya - in 1931

Showing a horse-riding local pointing to the aeroplane flying overhead, the 1, 1.20, 1.50 and 5 lira stamps were part of an eight-stamp set issued in the Italian province of Tripolitania in 1931. In genuine used condition the stamps are often worth more than mint examples, with the 80c purple value, showing the columns of Leptis again with an aeroplane over head, catalogued at £9.50mint and £16 used.

The stamp was one of a handful of issues produced in Italy at the Italian Government Printing Works for use only in Tripolitania. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, the region was captured by Italian forces in 1911 during the Italo-Turkish War, and Italian stamps overprinted ‘LIBIA’ were then used in what was known as Italian North Africa and consisted of the three Libyan regions of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan. Later in this period specific Italian Colonies stamps were also issued.

Italy gradually asserted more control in the region before making Tripolitania a separate colony in 1927, and stamps reflecting this new status were issued until December 1934 when a merging of provinces formed the country of Libya, which remained under Italian control.

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Initially Italian stamps depicting the ‘Propagation of the Faith’ were used with a ‘TRIPOLITANIA’ overprint, followed by a handful of other Italian stamps, before a semi-postal set was issued in 1926. Airmail stamps were produced between 1931 and 1934, including our example, and the only straightforward postage stamps for the province came about in October 1934 to celebrate a Colonial Arts Exhibition held in Naples.

During the period leading up to World War Two, Italian colonial issues were again used across the now unified country of Libya – including the ‘Rome-Berlin Axis Commemoration’ stamp showing Hitler and Mussolini side by side, another stamp with huge historical significance – but the arrival of the British during the war again complicated postal matters, with British stamps overprinted M.E.F. (Middle East Forces) being used from 1943 until 1948.