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Philately is still the world’s most popular and enjoyable hobby and is an interesting way to travel the globe. You cannot collect stamps without gaining knowledge about nearly anything you can think of such as geography, biography, history, culture etc


Well designed and superbly printed miniature works of art, each one tells a story with its own characteristics such as color changes, interrupted printing, perforation differences, design differences and printing errors to name a few


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Union of South Africa



12 pence (d) = 1 shilling (/-)

20 shillings = 1 pound (£)


The Union of South Africa came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unity of the 4 previously separate colonies namely the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange River Colony


Issues of the colonies were valid for use throughout the Union until they were demonetized on 31 December 1932


Undoubtedly every intention was to issue postage stamps on Union day to commemorate the event.  Unfortunately, the death of King Edward VII on 6 May 1910 necessitating the preparation of a new die showing the portrait of the heir to the throne, King George V


The time left towards the 31st May 1910 made preparation of a new die impossible


However, a 2½d recess printed Commemorative stamp was issued to commemorate the opening of the first Union Parliament in Cape Town on 4 November 1910





First Definitive Issue


It was not until 1913 that definitive stamps were issued with the Mackennal head design of King George V and in total comprised 15 values


The stamps were printed by Thos. De La Rue & Co. Ltd. of London, England using the typographic printing process and was inscribed bilingually


Basic set



Air Mail stamps


The Union’s first Air Mail stamps were issued on 26 February 1925 when a three-month Experimental Air Mail service were instituted. The issue consisted of four denominations – 1d, 3d, 6d and 9d and was printed using a lithography process


A second set of two stamps with values 4d and 1s were issued on 16 August 1929 and marked the inauguration of the permanent Air Mail service by the Union Airways (Pty) Ltd. Stamps were printed with the typographic printing process


The words “AIR MAIL” does not appear on the third issue. Upon operation of the Empire Flying Boat service in 1937, a special 1½d stamp were prepared and placed on sale in 1936 and printed in rotogravure. Under the Empire Air Mail Scheme all first-class mail was conveyed over Empire air routes at a rate of 1½d per half ounce


1925                              1929                                 1936


See more


                                                        Air Mail Stamps of the Union of SA                         Varieities: Air Mail Stamps of the Union of SA



Pretoria Pictorials


After the import and installation of a Goebel AG 930 printing machine in 1929, all Union stamps were henceforth printed by the Government Printing Works in Pretoria using the rotogravure process


In rotogravure printing a photographic glass plate is used in the production of the printing plate which is known as the multipositive. As the same multipositive is used to etch more than one cylinder, it follows that any flaw that appeared on it during the preparation stage will be repeated.  Also with each new use, ones would appear or removed. One cylinder was used to print the frame (exterior cylinder or frame plate) and a separate one for the vignette (interior cylinder or head plate)


Stamps were inscribed alternately in English and Afrikaans throughout the sheet and are preferably collected in bilingual horizontal pairs


The UNHYPHENATED “SUIDAFRIKA” definitive issue consisted of eight values and was similar in design and colors of those of the London Pictorials of 1927. The color of the 3d in later printings was changed to blue


Darmstadt trials                    ½d                    1d                    2d                    3d                    4d                    6d                    1s                    2s 6d


To see more, go to exhibit:


Made in the Union of South Africa





The HYPHENATED “SUID-AFRIKA”definitives were the last of the Union’s first series of pictorial stamps and there were fourteen denominations in total


The first stamp to appear was the 5/- value in 1933 from unscreened cylinders


Some values had a long lifespan with numerous issues and some underwent design and size changes, providing wider perforation gutters


½d             1d             1½d             2d             3d             4d             4½d             6d             1s             1s 3d             1s 6d             2s 6d             5s             10s


To see more, go to exhibit:


Made in the Union of South Africa





Republic of South Africa





Online Resources




1910 – 1919          1920 – 1929          1930 – 1939


1940 – 1949          1950 – 1959          1960 – 1969


1970 – 1979          1980 – 1989          1990 – 1999


2000 – 2009          2010 – 2013



World War II: Prisoner of War and Internment Camps in South Africa and their mail by J B R Findlay and Rory Ryan, 2003


After the start of the Second World War in September 1939 suspected ‘enemies of the state’ were interned in South and South West Africa, and their mail was censored.  Later, prisoners of war were brought to South Africa from war zones, including 97 000 Italians from north-eastern Africa.  All known camps are listed and camp marks and postmarks shown


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