Gabon's Postal Stamps
Gabon, in West Africa, has been an independent country since 1960. Like many colonized countries, Europeans are primarily responsible for the establishment of its present borders. Before that, a loose collection of Pygmy and Bantu tribes inhabited the area. Later, Gabon was home to several prosperous city-states, such as the Kingdom of Orungu, which existed alongside and traded with Europe outposts in the region.
The Portuguese began exploring Gabon’s coastal waters in the 15th and 16th centuries, though it was the French who eventually established the strongest presence in the region. In 1849, Libreville — now the country’s capital — was founded. Gabon became a French territory in 1885 following the Berlin Conference which divided up most of the continent between colonial powers.
Stamps in French Gabon
Mail service came to Gabon in 1862 with the establishment of the Libreville post office. In 1886, the territory released its first stamps, which were overprinted French colonial issues with the inscription “GAB.” In 1889, a set of 15c and 25c stamps were issued. These were typeset locally and are identifiable by the inscriptions “Gabon-Congo/POSTES” and “Republique Française.” Today, these rank among the most sought-after collectors’ stamps from Gabon.
Between 1891 and 1904, postal administration in the region was handled by authorities in French Congo, and stamps from that territory were used.
Gabon attained a measure of autonomy is 1904 and at that point began printing its own stamps. Initially, these were overprints of the famous French “Navigation and Commerce” series, though in 1910 new designs were commissioned for the country. These highlighted Libreville and Gabon’s Fang people, and were inscribed with either “CONGO FRANÇAIS,” “GABON” or “AFRIQUE EQUATORIALE.”
In 1932, a short-lived definitive series was printed consisting of three designs and 24 values. Depicted were a raft on the Ogooué River, the explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, and the village Setta Kemma. These are among the more valuable collectors’ stamps from Gabon, in part because the territory became part of French Equatorial Africa shortly after they were issued.
Gabon formally achieved independence from France in 1960, though the country declared itself a republic two years earlier and resumed printing its own stamps shortly after that. Since then, Gabon has produced a mix of definitive issues depicting the country’s people, places, politicians and symbols, and commemorative stamps designed to appeal to the collectors’ market. Many of these are highly attractive and worth investigation in their own right.
Collecting Gabon Stamps
Like many colonized countries, Gabon’s stamps provide a unique and insightful way of seeing its history in context. The country's philately will appeal to anyone with an interest in West African history or French colonialism in general.
If you’re interested in starting or adding to a collection, Apfelbaum, Inc. can help. We routinely have rare Gabon stamps for sale in our online store. Browse our inventory online or contact our office directly for assistance.