08 August 2019
Collecting modern Egyptian stamps can be challenging and rewarding with various scarcities to seek out, as our expert guide explains.
Egypt’s first stamps were released in 1866 in a calligraphic design, most values having a watermark depicting a pyramid. A year later, a forty-year run of pictorial definitives showing the Sphinx in front of a pyramid at Giza commenced, setting the tone for almost all subsequent definitive issues: the splendours of Ancient Egypt.
The fine pictorial set of 1914 (extended 1922) did include other motifs such as the Cairo Citadel and the royal palace of Ras-el-Tin on the coast at Alexandria – this was the palace from which keen stamp collector King Farouk departed in 1952 following his abdication.
Under Gamel Abd-Al Nasser the tradition of strong pictorial design of Egyptian stamps continued, although the quality of the photogravure printing declined steadily over the decades. The nadir of production quality was probably the mid-1980s, but in the early 21st century crisper, more pictorial images appeared, and first day covers on higher quality paper became available.
In recent years catalogue compilers have struggled, having to insert ‘a’ numbers for late arrivals and leaving out issues completely. Some of these ‘scarce’ issues of recent years are worth elucidating. The Ancient Egypt definitive set of 2002 has almost tripled in catalogue valuation since issue as some values are becoming elusive.
There are scarce Egyptian stamps from almost every year since the turn of the century, but 2004 has the most critical shortages. That year Egypt Post released a Prestige Booklet entitled ‘Treasures of Egypt’, which contained three panes of nine stamps and a pane of three. The issue embarrassed the Philatelic Office in Cairo, because of its cost and its weight, and also because many collector accounts did not have sufficient funds in credit to allow for it. Currently this booklet is on the market for around £50.
Information on more recent issues is sparse, and very few have reached the stamp market. Egypt Post has often experienced bureaucratic upheavals and the 2011 revolution against Mubarak’s government and ongoing protests and referendums no doubt affected its output. But recent stamp issues touch on subjects including:
- ‘The National Campaign to Save the River Nile’ (July 2015)
- ‘26th Arab Summit’ (March 2015)
- ‘150th Anniversary of Egyptian Post’ (January 2015).
For collectors looking to start on Egypt in a limited way the annual Egyptian Post Day series might be a good choice: it stretches back to the 1950s, with a variety of subjects, but the dozens of sets showing artifacts, and gods and goddesses from Ancient Egpyt are the most popular. Post Day sets of the present century are cheap; others from the 1970s and 1980s have outperformed their contemporaneous commemoratives, rising to many times face value. The key set is generally thought to be 1976, but the preceding 1975 series is much more elusive.
A popular and cheap way of purchasing stamps of Egypt is through year sets. A popular year is 1967, for its anomalous subject matter. There is a good aircraft thematic (SG910), a set of tourist stamps which appeared during the chaos of the Six-Day War, a Defence of Palestine stamp showing a map which was already ancient history; a UN Day set depicting a grazing deer, Jesus Christ, and the familiar image of Tutankhamun.