Nigeria may not seem the obvious choice of country for a specialist in postal stationery. With a rather limited set of postal stationery classes and issues involved, the number of pages in the Higgins & Gage catalogue is very small. Furthermore, with most issues up to 1960 printed by De la Rue and with their high quality of work, not many varieties are found. However, when we include the precursors from Lagos, Oil Rivers/Niger Coast Protectorate and Southern Nigeria, and if we look beyond the Higgins & Gage catalogue, a whole new world is
unravelled with many possibilities of specialisation turning up, as well as many mysteries.
Possibly owing to the slim offering in Higgins & Gage, the Nigeria area does not seem to have attracted many collectors of the postal stationery in its own right. Most items encountered come from more general postal history collections and are therefore used, and it is scarce types of such items that seem to attract most of the interest on auction sites. Indeed, scarce mint items are occasionally seen on eBay and sold for prices which belie their scarcity. It is my hope that this book will be a small contribution to making the Nigeria area more popular. My interest in Nigeria stems from my childhood in the country. My father worked as a veterinarian in the Northern part from 1955 to 1972, and I spent several months each year there up to the age of 7. My memories are quite vague, and it is only the time in Kano I remember, but it left a life-long fascination with Nigeria, which was also kindled by my father's often expressed love of the country and its people. It was by discovering aerogrammes that my father sent home to his mother in the 1950s that I was introduced to the fascinating world of postal stationery.
Postal stationery allows the collector the aim of trying to achieve completeness just as when collecting stamps, but with a shorter list, and at the same time it gives the satisfaction of adding a lot of postal history content. As many areas have not been very well researched, there is a great opportunity for making new finds, and all at a price much lower when compared with stamps of similar rarity.
In 1985 I started collecting Nigerian aerogrammes, and the following year I went to London from my home in Denmark with the aim of buying as much postal stationery as possible from the stamp dealers there. Naturally, that turned out to be not as easy as expected, and living overseas I became very dependent on postal auctions and trips to Stampex and Philatex to enhance my collection; still it grew quite slowly. In the late 1990s I had almost stopped collecting as the extra wide pages supplied by the Danish Philatelic Association on which I used to mount my items could no longer be acquired. The turning point came in 2004 when my old local philatelic society in Elsinore held its 75th Anniversary exhibition, and I decided to remount and exhibit my Nigerian postal stationery collection using a computer for the entire layout. Realising that I had many gaps in my collection I started extensively using the internet to hunt down those missing items, and eBay especially turned out to be an invaluable source with its mostly good scans of items. So in a few months I filled many gaps, and to my pleasure the exhibit was very well received. Spurred by this I continued extending my collection and exhibiting in the following years. One of the challenges of collecting Nigerian postal stationery is the lack of literature apart from the Higgins & Gage catalogue. In 1992 Jack Ince and John Sacher published their tome "The Postal Services of the British Nigeria Region". Although it has been an invaluable source there are several inconsistencies in the postal stationery elements of the book, and much has happened since 1913, which was the last year they considered. In 1992 I joined the West Africa Study Circle, and through this gained further knowledge from articles and publications by Jeremy Martin and the late Neville Jones, and later on by meeting and exchanging information with other members such as Ray Harris, Rob May, Tony Plumbe, Simon Heap and Michael Wright. I have exhibited parts ofmy collection internationally at London 2010, London 2015 and New York 2016. There are many virtues to exhibiting: apart from whetting your appetite for items missing and going the extra mile in order to fill that annoying gap, you are also forced to put some kind of order in your written up pages to try to extract the salient points in the story you are trying to tell. Furthermore, at exhibitions you meet other exhibitors, jurors and guests around the frames, which has been an invaluable source of new insights. In particular, meeting Wayne Menuz and Jack Harwood in this way has played a large role in expanding my knowledge and collection. I have published a number of articles on Nigerian postal stationery, and I am grateful to the following editors for their encouragement over the years: John Gledhill (The Overprinter), Rob May (Cameo), Wayne Menuz (Postal Stationery) and Ross Pratley (Postal Order News).
In 2009 I started to systematically record not only scarce items of Nigerian postal stationery but also items where different printings resulted in variations regarding indicium, colour and imprints. I wish to thank Ray Harris, the late Robert Nelson, the late Fritz Kemme, Wayne Menuz, Rob May, Jeremy Martin, Tony Plumbe, Graeme Murray and Stanley Field for supporting the research by supplying scans or photocopies of their holdings. I also thank my countryman Lars Engelbrecht, juror and previously the Secretary of the FIP Postal Stationery Commission, for his support and encouragement since I first exhibited in 2004, in bringing my knowledge to a higher level and planting the seed that has finally resulted in this book. Jeremy Martin and Graeme Murray have very kindly allowed me to use their unpublished notes on Nigerian postal stationery, and thanks are due especially to Ray Harris for letting me extensively use information published in his 2016 monograph "Aerogrammes ofNigeria 1948 to 2000". Rob May and Ray Harris have generously supplied a number of necessary sources of information such as Post Office Guides, Year Books etc.
In 2015 the Great Britain Overprints Society published "Overprinted British Postal Stationery" by John Gledhill. I had supplied much information (mainly based on my articles in The Overprinter) and scans for the Oil Rivers/Niger Coast chapter, and I wish to thank John for pointing out further varieties not noted by me and now included in this book. In this connection I also wish to thank Alan Huggins for allowing me to use his numbering system from his 1970 publication.
I have extended the definition of postal stationery to cover international reply coupons and postal orders. Regarding postal orders I wish to thank Jack Harwood, John Gledhill, Mal Tedds and Edet Akpan for their help in expanding my knowledge as well as my collection, and furthermore for allowing me to use and reproduce part of their published work. Regarding reply coupons I thank Wolfgang Leimenstoll, Jack Yao and Andre Hurtre for their assistance in this area fairly new to me.
Nigerian postal stationery was also used in British Cameroons, and I thank Marty Bratzel for his assistance, and for letting me use contents, including maps, from his and the late Bob Maddocks' 1994 book "The Postmarks and Postal History of the Cameroons under British Administration 1916-1961" and the 2007 Supplement. A special area included here concerns Nigerian postal stationery distributed through the UPU - often overprinted "SPECIMEN" but not always. I wish to thank James Bendon, author of the 2015 book "UPU Specimen Stamps 1878-1961", for his comments and reviewing ofmy text.
Most items shown in this book are from my own collection, but acknowledgement is due to Ray Harris, Tony Plumbe and Rob May for allowing me to display items from their collections. I also thank the families of the late Jack Ince and John Sacher for allowing me to use images shown in their 1992 volume.
I am grateful to Paul Skinner from the British Library, and Barry Attoe and Douglas Muir from The Postal Museum for their invaluable assistance, and for giving me permission to show items from their archives. Finally, I could not have written this book without the patience ofmy wife Jane and daughter Mette who put up with me spending those days away in London, and also all the time searching for and gathering the information and actually putting words to paper. I thank them enormously.
And finally, I wish to thank Ray Harris yet again without whom this book would not have been possible.
Supplement to the Preface
Sadly the final sentence of the author's preface is more relevant than he had hoped. Several years ago my friend Peter discovered that he had cancer, which he was told was terminal but with a prognosis that gave him good time to work on this book. Despite a range of treatments, partly experimental, and some periods of respite, Peter's health did gradually worsen and I promised him that I would complete the book if that became necessary. We had discussed it a lot during his writing, as much of its content matches my own interest as a specialist in Nigeria. Living in England I was able to enjoy working with Peter when he came over for exhibitions and research, and more recently I undertook some of the visits to archives under his clear instruction. I was also tasked with proof reading, which was a comparatively easy task as Peter's English was good, though quite colloquial at times. The book showed the care which I know he put into everything he did. Sadly his final deterioration came much more quickly than his family or I had expected. I was very grateful to be able to visit him at home for a few days in October 2021, taking advantage of a relaxation in covid restrictions. I recognised that he was tired and in discomfort but we did not know how quickly afterwards he would pass away. We discussed what was still left to be done, perhaps the last 10%, and in typical Peter fashion he had created computer files describing it very clearly, listing the items where he still had queries to be followed up, and exactly how the individual chapters should be co-ordinated. He also trusted me to complete a few areas, especially in relation to aerogrammes. Peter died just two weeks after I left him. I have tried to maintain his standard and I hope I have done him justice in the book's completion.