This is a difficult subject, simply because one does not see enough of this material to provide much more than a number of questions. However, I have decided to put this into print and, hopefully, between us, we can try to build up a picture of what has been happening over the past few years in Benin.
I shall organise the article roughly around the Domfil listing. I have no reason to doubt the given issue dates that stamp catalogues put forward for these stamps, other than an instinct which finds it odd that three of the five issues were made on the first day of January and the other two issues on the first of February and the first of March in various years! It rather confirms my suspicions that nobody really knows - and that probably includes the Benin Post Office!
The scans in this article may show the stamps somewhat elongated in some browsers, for which I apologize.
1986 : 75F / 70 F
Straight into the (vaguely-)educated guesswork! The stamps illustrated above perhaps come from the first printing of this surcharge and are very unusual in that the bar obliterating REPUBLIQUE DE DAHOMEY is made with a felt-tip pen, which shows through onto the back of the stamp. The rest of the surcharge is machine-overprinted. In copies I have seen, the diagonal space between the lower of the two bars obliterating the 70 F and the 'R' of 'République' is between 3 and 5 mms.
The new value, 75F, is well to the right and below the line of surcharge 'du Bénin', near the Volkswagen. Apart from the manuscript bar, the surcharges I have seen have been tidy and well-placed.
I have illustrated two examples with the manuscript bar in the scan above, both to show the variations inherent in any manual process and also as one of the stamps has a mark, resembling a circumflex, above the 'o' of 'Populaire'.
Now, compare these with the next scan:
The bar obliterating REPUBLIQUE DE DAHOMEY is now overprinted by machine and does not soak through to the back of the stamp. The new value, 75 F, is now level with the word 'République' of the surcharge. On the two examples I have seen, the spacing between the bars through the old value and the 'R' of 'Réepublique' are 1½ mms and 4 mms. There is also a marked difference in the thickness of the characters in the new value '75 F'.
I am only guessing in supposing that these surcharges came after the partly-manuscript ones shown above. There are no particularly good grounds for supposing this. It seems clear that the entire setting of the surcharge had to be re-set by the printer but did he forget the bar through 'REPUBIQUE DU DAHOMEY' the first time or the second time? Or, perhaps, though I think less likely, one of the surcharges may have been produced at a provincial centre on instruction from the postal authorities in the capital. Postmarks might shed some light on this - but I have not seen a used copy of these stamps.
1988 : 150f / 200F
Two examples illustrated, both with really primitive figures of value in the surcharge. However, there are discernable differences in the figure '1' of '150'. In the mint copy, this has no top serif, whereas the used stamp has one. An additional difference is in the bars through the old value. In the mint example, there is a thick top bar and a thinner bottom bar, whereas in the used stamps it is the reverse, with the thin bar at the top and the thicker bar at the bottom.
The used stamp is almost certainly dated April 1995 at ...CADI.......N, not shown in my atlas. I find this date quite surprising for a 1988 issue; it could possibly be 1985, as only the top of the year is visible, but that would be rather surprising too!
June 2004: Since writing the above paragraph in 2002, I have seen two further copies of this stamp. If you study the two illustrations above, you will see that the figures '5' in '150' differ, one having a rounded base, the other having an incomplete lower curve. In the other two examples I have seen, there was one of each type of '5', and the difference was more accentuated in them than in the illustrations above. Both were in combination with the figure '1' of '150' with serif. Can anyone advise whether the non-serif '1' exists in combination with the fully-rounded '5', a combination I have not seen.
1992- Two more surcharged stamps below, 125F / 100F (left) and 35Fr optd DU BENIN (right):
I have only handled the one copy of the 125 F / 100F, which I have illustrated above. Comparing it with the illustration in Domfil, I can see no obvious variations. The copy above is postmarked DASSA-ZOUME and dated 29-8-1993, I think (some doubt about the 8 and the 3!). My thanks to Fabio Coracini Ollita from Brazil for identifying the town in this postmark.
June 2004 update: More of the 1974 UPU stamps with surcharge have crossed my desk.
In addition to the one
pictured above, I have shown below (in negative to enhance the detail) two more pairs.
The right-hand pair below are additinal examples of the 35F / 125F,
the lower stamp having a variety, a distinctly smaller 'F'
after the '35' than the upper one. Note: The upper stamp has a raised stop next to the lower cross-bar of the F, not visible in the negative scan.
The Colis Postaux 50f / 125F pair, also shown below, are interesting examples of a scarce stamp. Indeed, I have just noticed, in stdying the Domfilcatalogue more closely, that the pair shown below differ from Domfil 996.197 in that they have a bar through the word 'populaire'. Presumably they must be a different issue. Note the variation in alignment of the words 'République' and 'du' in the pair shown below.
There are five more overprinted issues on 1974 issues, all listed by Domfil, none of which I have ever handled:
* 1992 35 F loco with DAHOMEY barred out and DU BENIN added.
* 1992 125f / 35F loco with DAHOMEY barred out and DU BENIN added.
* 1994 200F loco with DAHOMEY barred out and DU BENIN added.
* 1996 150F / 40F
* 1996 50f / 125F (1974 UPU carriage) without bar through Populaire (as mentioned above)
Oh, yes, and just to cheer you up, I have seen, on just one occasion, two or three of the Benin locomotives issue of 1997 (stamps are dated 1996) with surcharges, but I failed to make a note of which values. Can anyone help?
Many modern stamp issues are straightforward, even rather dull. These certainly are not; indeed, they are bordering on being a bit of a mystery. Perhaps not worthy of Sherlock Holmes' attention but I would be happy to hear of any additional information on these issues, which can be added to this article. .
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