Local stamp Issues of the Comoros[1] archipelago 1992-2002:
a goldmine still unexplored
By Olivier Bergossi, MweziNet, 10th November 2003

Partially published in "The Cinderella philatelist" Vol. 44 N°2, April 2004

Last modifications: 27th July 2004
 

 

I) A politically fragmented archipelago - historical and economic origins

In the last decade, the philatelic events coming from Comoros1 archipelago seem to become more and more chaotic, fragmentary, surprising and suspicious: plethora of local overprints with spectacular varieties, the resurgence of Mayotte stamps 85 years after the last issues, Anjouan private labels, etc

This growing instability has at once historical, economical, and political sources. It appears that the archipelago comes back gradually and irresistibly to the political structure that it had before colonisation, despite the national and international attempts to preserve the state frontiers defined by French colonisation in 1912 (the date of the abolition of the sultanates, which were under French protectorate since 1881, and of the integration of the archipelago to the Madagascar colony). Before the 20th century, the islands' territories were divided up in regions administrated by sultans. There were up to twelve sultanates in Grand Comoro (the island area is only around 1000 sq. km !), one or sometimes two in Anjouan (capitals Mutsamudu and Domoni), one in Moheli (the last queen of Moheli Ursula Salima Machamba married a French policeman and definitively quit Moheli in 1902) and one in Mayotte (The last sultan Andriantsouli sold the island to France in 1841).

The current economic situation is very bad:  Comoros is one of the poorest countries in the world, situated in an isolated region, geographically speaking, without natural resources. The only relatively dynamic areas are the capital Moroni (on Grand Comoro) on the one hand and Mayotte on the other (Mayotte refused independence in 1975, and remains under French administration, benefiting from huge French subsidies). Anjouan has unceasing failed throughout the 20th century and Moheli has stayed completely undeveloped under all the successive regimes until now. The dramatic conditions of life and the hopeless future of the youth in Anjouan and Moheli led the population to revolt in summer 1997. On this occasion, the separatist political parties took the executive power and proclaimed independence, some of them advocating the re-attachment to the former colonising nation, seeking a status similar to that of Mayotte (French territory). There is amazingly very few publications of studies or testimonies of these events. Only one book has been published to my knowledge: a photographic report of the 1997 summer events in Anjouan [2].


II) The very last years of the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros (FIRC)

1°) Chronology of the events

1989 26th November: President Ahmed Abdallah Abderemane (the "father of independence" on 6th July 1975) killed in presence of mercenary Bob Denard

1990-95: mandate of President Saïd Mohamed Djohar

1996 March: election of Mohamed Taki Abdulkarim as President of the Federal Islamic Republic of Comoros

1997 18th February - March - 14th July: demonstrations in Mutsamudu streets against Taki’s politics

1997 3rd August: Anjouan proclaims independence (never recognised by any other country), the chief of independent “ State of Anjouan ” is Fundi Abdallah Ibrahim (5th August)

1997 11th August: Moheli proclaims independence

1997 28th August: FIRC army troops landing at Moheli. They take control of the island, which consequently immediately returns to the FIRC

1997 2nd September: landing of FIRC troops in Ouani airport (Anjouan), but the operation is stopped in the suburbs of Mutsamudu and fails.

1997 26th October: referendum for independence in Anjouan

1997 September to approx. December: first blockade of Anjouan by FIRC authorities

1998 9th November: interim presidency of Tadjidine ben Saïd Massounde after the sudden decease of President Taki

1998 5th -16th December: civil war in Anjouan, destruction and raids in Mutsamudu

1999 April: negotiations in Antananarivo (Madagascar) under the auspices of the  OAU (Organisation of African Unity), between Anjouan government, Comoros political parties, and the FIRC authorities. Agreement rejected by the Anjouan delegation

1999 30th April: military coup in FIRC. The new chief of state is Colonel Azali Assoumani

1999 3rd August: a new Anjouan chief of state, Lieutenant-Colonel Saïd Abeid Abderemane

2000 27th March: start of the second blockade of Anjouan by FIRC authorities and OAU, the consequence of the failure of the Antananarivo negotiation

2001 17th February: agreement signed at Fomboni (capital of Moheli) starting the "process of reconciliation". This date can be considered as the official end of the blockade (item 24 of the agreement). The reconciliation led to a new constitution, and to the substitution of the “ Union des Comores ” (meaning Union of the Comoros) as the official name of the state instead of FIRC, validated by referendum on 2001 23rd December

2001 8th August: coup in Anjouan, the new Head of State is Major Mohamed Bacar.

2002 April - May: election of the President of the Union (Azali Assoumani) and the President of each "self-governing island" (Grand Comoro: Mzé Abdou Soulé El Bak, Anjouan: Mohamed Bacar, Moheli: Mohamed Saïd Fazul). Each island chooses its own government, its own parliament (deputies not yet elected), its own flag, etc. The present situation (July 2003) is extremely complex and unstable, with power conflicts between Union and islands Presidents, and almost monthly coup d’état attempts. No doubt that the political face of Comoros will continue to recombine in the very next years.


2°) Philatelic consequences of the cash-flow failures of FIRC postal administration

a)     Provisional local overprints

·
        Causes of the operation
From 1992 up to 1997, various local overprints appeared on Comoros stamps, presenting some common characteristics: the initial postage value is masked by a rectangular ink mark (generally black ink) and a new and smaller postage value is affixed nearby. The reason for these overprints is the chronic shortage of both usual and small postage values. The cash-flow failures of the SNPT (Société Nationale des Postes et Télécommunications - see the glossary for more information) are probably the main explanation for the lack of any new orders for stamps to foreign printers from 1992 to 1995.

At least three other French-speaking African countries have overprinted old stocks of stamps in recent years, in similar conditions: Madagascar and Bénin (for the same reasons as Comoros), and also Congo-Brazzaville (overprint "AUTORISE" or “LEGAL” during the civilian war) [3].

We have drawn up an inventory of the different types of Comoros overprints, with regards to the typography of the overprint letters and numerals, which indicates three periods.

·        First period (1992-95) – types Ia and Ib overprints
The overprints made during this period define the type I, with two sub-types depending on the shape of the rectangular obliterator: dots (type Ia) or a bar (type Ib): see Fig. II-1. The stamps were taken from the stocks of the less useful stamps with a high postage value and issued from 1981 to 1992. The principal overprint values are: 75 fc (local mail of less than 10 grams), 150 fc (letters to France and to French-speaking African countries, weight < 10 grams, before July 1994), and 225 fc (mail to the other European and African countries < 10 gr., until 9th December 1997). To our present knowledge, the first date of use of a type Ia stamp is 6th January 1992 (Scott number 796 U, Michel 1095), and 29th August 1994 for a type Ib stamp (Scott number 800 I, Michel 1067). The printing quantities are not known, except for the overprints 225 fc: they vary from 2,560 stamps (Scott 804 I, Michel 1078) to 8,000 stamps (Scott 804 J, Michel 1079).

·        Second period: types II and III 200 FC overprints (December 1996)
Some very specific sets were issued in 1995-97 (described on paragraph 3°), but the changing of tariff rates to France and French-speaking African countries (from 150 fc to 200 fc for a < 10 grams mail in July 1994) gradually caused a new lack of 200 fc values, and consequently led to the manufacture of a second wave of overprints in Dec. 1996. These overprints are classified as types II and III (Fig. II-1b). No constant varieties exist for the type II. The printing quantity varies from 5,000 to 10,000 pieces each.

·        Third period: 1997 – types IV to VI
These overprints occurred punctually during the year 1997. In this period, the stamps were mainly taken from the stocks of the 1995-97 sets. With regards to the obliterator shape, the overprints can be classified as types IV to VI, with a lot of sub-types (see Fig. II-1c and Fig. II-5), and also some casual varieties (described in Annexe 2). Some printing quantity are known: 20,000 pieces for Scott 826 M (Michel 1163), and 105,250 stamps for the overprints 200 Fc type VI (Scott 826 B + 826 C - Michel 1164 I and II).

·        Fourth period: June 2001 – type VII and VIII overprints
They affect three stamps of the 1995-97 sets (described on paragraph 3°). The bars are replaced by two horizontal and some oblique lines (see Fig. II-1d). There are no known varieties. The 300 fc / 15 fc stamp (Scott C220) has two characteristics: a blue ink, and an overprinted postage value higher than the initial value.

·        Reasons for the rarity of these stamps

Up to now, 121 overprints have been discovered (see [4] or Scott or Michel catalogues).

Except some 225 fc overprints or some of the third and fourth periods, most of them are now very scarce (some are known in only one or a few pieces). Two main reasons explain the rarity:

-         the Comoros general situation, including particular points such as a small population, illiteracy, development of a telephone (cardphone) system, low level of international trade and tourism development, no philatelists or philatelic clubs in Comoros. Hence, very few Comoros local issues or covers reach the philatelic sphere.

-          the overprints have been home-made in the SNPT offices by employees of the philatelic services, in order to answer the punctual and urgent need of stamps transmitted by the post-offices of the three islands. Consequently, some overprinted stamps were probably ordered by and delivered to a small number of the Comoros post offices, for immediate use. For instance, the stamp representing the Queen Mother, with an overprint 50 fc of type Ib (Scott # 800 A, Michel # 1058) was probably sold only in Ouani post office, in summer 1995). No examples were kept in the SNPT archives.

The French philatelic magazines were only informed of the situation in year 2001 [4] and the main stamp catalogue editors (Scott, Michel and Yvert & Tellier) in the same period, by the organisation MweziNet [1]. Consequently, no stocks exist anywhere for 90 % of theses local overprints.

·        Constant and casual varieties

The "home-made" manufacture brought mistakes during the overprint operations, which become varieties for the philatelists. According to Mrs Fatima Béramou, responsible for the overprint operations at the SNPT, the mistakes were mainly caused by the frequent power cuts in Moroni.

Two kinds of varieties exist: constants defects (i.e. appearing on all the printing), or casual defects, due to problems of inking adjustments for instance (concerning generally one or two prototype sheets). In particular, we have found in September 2000, and more recently in October 2003, in the SNPT "caveau" (vault) in Moroni several sheets with very spectacular casual defects (described in annexe 2 and Fig. II-4). Others have been discovered fortuitously in Comoros post-offices, or on covers.

Annexes 1 and 2 provide the results of the first attempt to describe and classify respectively all the constant varieties and the most spectacular casual varieties discovered up to now (to our knowledge). Some minor differences in the size or relative position of numerals and letter F exist in a few stamps of types I and III (not described in this article).

In conclusion, the subject of Comoros local overprints is very complicated and exciting, and lot of discoveries are still to come for the philatelists - the final number of overprints, or unknown varieties for instance. We have not yet obtained access to the archives of the SNPT, but it is possible that information about these overprints has remained there (issue dates, quantities, post-offices orders, …). We are also seeking all complementary information from philatelists dealing with this subject, who are invited to contact us [1].

b)     Use of SATAS postage meters

Using a postage meter is the second solution brought to deal with the shortage of stamps in Comoros. The franking machines are branded SATAS (name of a French subsidiary company of the company Neopost), but contrary to the usual use in France - i.e. reserved for clients holding an account with the Post Office allowing them to frank themselves - they are used at post-office counters for individual customers in Moroni, Mutsamudu (see Fig. III-2), and Fomboni main post-offices.

The first illustrated cancellation by a such franking machine in Moroni R.P. shows the famous Comoran "prehistoric fish" called coelacanth. It has been used during years 1992 and 1993 (see Fig. II-6a).

Let's note that during a short period (dates seen: from 10th August to 4th September 2001), a postage meter without any indication has been used in Moroni RP (see Fig II-6b).


3°) "Union des Comores" new philatelic policy

Comoros is unfortunately known to be one of the country producing the larger quantity of stamps issues per inhabitant, with thematics dictated by commercial instead of cultural considerations. Two periods are very typical for this phenomena:

-         the post-independence years (the name of the state is "Etat Comorien" between 1975 and 1977): approximately 350 stamps (sheetlets not included !) issued from 1975 to 1982 with less than 20 % related to a Comoran subject,

-         the years 1998-99: 595 stamps issued with less than 10% of the subjects related to Comoros.

This is the reality, but surprisingly the philatelic policy of years 1995-1997 is at the complete opposite: only 4 sets (19 stamps printed by the French Cartor and ITVF companies), with 100 % of local subjects (sea turtle, craft, or aromatic plants for instance: see Fig. II-7). These sets were issued exclusively in Comoros, without any parallel supply circuit from the foreign printers to the main stamp dealers. Consequently, these sets were "discovered" only in year 2001 (in the same time and ways as the local overprints), no stock exists outside the Comoros, and some of them have become extremely rare in mint conditions (for the same reasons as the local overprints).

These sets can be seen as a forerunner example of the present philatelic policy of Comoros postal authorities. Indeed, only one set of 5 stamps (+ 3 stationeries) were issued by the "Union des Comores" in 2002, presenting traditional Comoran clothes: see Fig. II-8. The 2003 issues (First Day Cover: 9th October 2003) confirm this philatelic policy.


III) Philatelic witnesses of Anjouan island secession
(1997-2001)

1°) Situation of the postal services in Anjouan

These political changes have deeply perturbed the administration in Anjouan. However, as Anjouan state has not been recognised by the UPU, the postal administration has continuously worked under FIRC official SNPT rules. In particular, only the FIRC postal stamps were used in Anjouan throughout the independence period: see Fig. III-1 and III-2. So the mail service worked correctly excepted during the two blockade periods. The name of the postal services is the only noticeable modification attributed to Anjouan authorities: SNPT has been replaced by APT (Anjouan Poste et Télécommunications).

During the two blockade periods, the mail was able to reach and to leave Anjouan via Mayotte (French island). Except for some small smuggling boats, the other ships sailing between Anjouan and Mayotte, which were likely to carry mails during the second blockade period, were the "Tratringa" (name of an Anjouan river): see Fig. III-3, "ville de Sima I" or "II", and "Twamaan" (meaning faith).


2°) Labels produced for the secessionists' propaganda

During the period of first blockade of Anjouan, or a few weeks later, unperforated labels concerning the secession were printed for an absolutely unknown “Anjouan private postal service”: see figure III-4a. They portray the map of the island, and the French flag close to the Independent Anjouan symbol (revival of the flag of the last sultan - a red right hand over a crescent moon, also in red). A tax of one French franc (currency used in Mayotte) is written on the label. It is supposed to pay the letter shipping between Anjouan and Mayotte. The background colour is either white or cream. The labels have been put on covers posted at different Mayotte post offices, in addition to a regular stamp (rate to France = 3 FF). The first and most common date seem to be the 2nd January 1998. The recipients of these covers were carefully selected: main French philatelic journals and well-known French philatelists. As consequence, the journals have published the cover information contained in the letter (a one-page text) without verification concerning the real origin of the mails and sometimes without warning about the authenticity. In my opinion, these label are pure propaganda, may be of the same origin as the postcard on Fig. III-4b.

On the other hand, the existence of letters shipping between Anjouan and Mayotte during the first and second blockade period, such as the cover on Fig. III-3, is well confirmed, but they don’t have any specific transit mark.


3°) Revenue “Etat d’Anjouan” issue

In contrast to postage stamps, revenue stamps were delivered to Anjouan secessionist administration after the 1997 events. At least one series was issued, representing the symbol of Anjouan (a white hand over a red crescent moon) placed at the centre of the map of Anjouan (in red), on various background colours. Awaiting specific investigations, two clues lead me to assume that these stamps have been printed in Périgueux (France) on 25th June 1998: an indirect witness and also the watermark of the stamps, which consists of four letters “ITVF”.

A controversy about the authenticity of these revenue stamps has recently appeared in the philatelic review “Timbres magazine” [6]. However, there exists an official document, dated 2nd December 2000, showing the use of the revenue stamps by the Mutsamudu Court of Justice (Fig. III-5b).

These revenue stamps were still in use in Anjouan in 2003, ie two years after the integration of Anjouan into the "Union des Comores".


IV) Mayotte

a) The evolution of Mayotte since 1975

Mayotte Island has also undergone a blockade from the Comoros authorities, just after the independence events in 1975, as it has refused to join the three other islands, preferring to stay under the French administration. One well-known philatelic consequence of this blockade is the temporary lack of 10 fc and 50 fc stamps in Mayotte post-offices between December 1975 and February 1976. The solution to this stamps shortage, adopted by the island prefect Younoussa Bamana, was to cut the remaining 20 fc, 100 fc and 200 fc stamps in 2 or 4 parts. It concerns around 1.000 pieces, from 5 different stamps, made in two stages (17th December 1975 and 16th January 1976): see Fig. IV-1 [8].

The French franc has replaced the Comorian franc in Mayotte in the last days of February 1976, until the coming of the euro currency (€) at the same date as in France (1st January 2002).

The administrative and legal situations of Mayotte in the last quarter of the 20th century (“territorial community”) were an original mixing of different origins, including the Muslim right still predominant, and also some laws from the colonial period. Nowadays, Mayotte gets clearly involved in the direction of a pure French subdivision called “département”, completely integrated to the European Union. Hence, the present political discussion in Mayotte concerns for instance the ways and delay to stop the polygamy.

In the philatelic point of view, the “territorial community” of Mayotte has adopted the French stamps from March 1976 to the 31st December 1996. Then, the Mayotte postal authorities [9] have issued their own stamps from 1997: see Fig IV-2. However, during a period of three months between the 2nd January and 29th March 1997, the using of both French and Mayotte stamp was authorized in the island: see Fig IV-3. Since 1997, Mayotte issues around 12 stamps every year, depicting exclusively local subjects.

The number of post-offices has gradually increased in the two last decades, reaching now about twenty (with three different post-office classes): see the list in annexe 3 (information from the SMPC [7] newsletters, the Mayotte postal service [9], and the reference [10]).

b) A variety of overprint on "Marianne" stamps (2003)

It seems that a postal service in mayotte made, in autumn 2003, a local overprint "MAYOTTE" on the French Marianne 0.02 € and 0.05 € stamps due to a temporary lack of these values. This local overprint is much larger than the normal "mayotte" printed in France. These stamps were sold exclusively in the Mayotte post offices: see Figure IV-4.


Figures

Figure II-1: the different types of overprint

a)     types Ia and Ib: lower-case " f " letter

b)
     types II and III: upper-case " F " letter

c)
      types IV (obliterator of bar, dots, and semicircles, different size of numerals, Printer ITVF - Périgueux - France, Michel 1163, Scott 826 M),

      type V
      type VI (it concerns the stamp Scott C215D, Michel 1117: craft and seashell initial value 225 fc)

d)  types VII and VIII: " FC " instead of " F "

Figure II-2: numeral "zero"
0 and o constant varieties (type Ib only)

a)     Scott 800 x, Michel 1058: Queen Mother

b)
     Scott 800 Q, Michel 1094, pair with the variety 0

c)      Scott 800 H, Michel 1108: 0 on tens digit

d)
     Scott 800 F, Michel 1064, shift overprint with varieties:
     0 (u: positions 4A, t: position 4B)
      o (u: position 5A)

Figure II-3: some spectacular constant varieties

a)     150 f instead of 100 f (Scott 800 y, Michel 1062 F)

b)
     225 without " f " (variety of Scott 804 M, Michel 1111)

c)
      F instead of F (variety of Scott 812 R, Michel 1167)

Figure II-4: some casual varieties (see a description on annexe 2b)

Figure II-5: type VI overprint

A complete sheet of Scott 826B, Michel 1164 I. Different sub-types exist according to the size of surcharge numerals and letter

Figure II-6:

a)       SATAS* franking machine, "Baby" trademark* without registration number, illustrated by a coelacanth (used in Moroni RP around 1992-93)

b)
       SATAS, "Baby électronique" trademark*, without registration number (it should probably be SG 1462), and without mention of the post-office (Moroni RP) in the circle, on a local registered cover with back to the sender

c)
        Official paid postmark

(* Data concerning the company and trademarks provided by Laurent Bonnefoy)


Figure II-7: 1995-97 local issues
a)     sea turtle (the 25 fc and 50 fc are scarce in mint conditions), printed by Cartor 20th April 1995
b)
     20th anniversary of independence (very rare in mint conditions): cover to Marseille (France) with a unusual postmak meaning "undelivered due to the strike"
c)
      aromatic plants growing in Comoros (the 25fc - 50fc - 100fc - 125fc and 300 fc are very hard to find in mint conditions): First Day Cover 15th December 1997

Figure II-8: the first "Union des Comores" stamp set, issued in April 2002 (printed by Cartor), showing Comoran traditional clothes:
125 fc: Mrs Zainaba Ahmed (a famous Comoran singer, see [1]) wearing a "lesso"
150 fc and 300 fc: Mrs Assoumany (SNPT Director for international philately) wearing a "sahare" (loincloth) and a "soubahyiya" (shawl).
150 fc and 300 fc: "Dragila" men's costume
Total quantity printed: 150.000 stamps and 10.000 stationeries.

Figure III-1 (a) and (b): Anjouan independent
(a) cover from Anjouan to France (Resting Post) - rate 300 fc.
Date: departure Sima (8-9-99), transit via Mutsamudu, arrival Troyes (15-9-99).
The Sima post office employee has not cancelled the stamp: forgetfulness or political action ?

Comoran stamp (issued by SNPT): French team during the 1998 French football world cup.
French stamp: it corresponds to the resting post tax.
(b) cover from Anjouan to France (Resting Post) with Back to Sender - rate 300 fc.
Date: departure Ouani (28-11-2000), arrival Troyes (12-12-2000).
Return to Sender: Troyes (30-12-2000), transit via Moroni (13-3-2001).
Comoran stamp (SNPT local issues 1995-97): aromatic plants (cinnamon 200 fc), craft and shell (15 fc x 4) and sea turtle (10 fc x 4).

Figure III-2: Anjouan independent
Cover from Mutsamudu to Moroni (Grand Comoro).
Local postage rate (125 fc), Registered (+ 500 fc) with acknowledgement (+ 500 fc) + Back to sender (postmark "Retour à l'envoyeur").
Use of a SATAS franking machine
Appending of the "Moroni cabine" postmark, in the cover back 7/10/99 when arriving (delay 7 days) and on the recto when sending back to Anjouan 25/11/99.

Figure III-3: second blockade of Anjouan
Cover from Switzerland to Domoni (Anjouan) via Mayotte (end of year 2000).
Relay-address: a PO. BOX in Mayotte, for transit via passenger and freight ship "Tratringa".
Document from S. Haupaix, published in "Bulletin de la SMPC", n° 23, Mai 2001 [7]

Figure III-4: propaganda label on cover (a) and propaganda postcard (b)
The cover has been sent in Dzoumogne post-office (Mayotte) the 16th April 1998.
The propaganda labels and postcards are described in the French postcards catalogue Neudin.

Figure III-5: revenue "Etat d'Anjouan" issue
There is at least 5 revenue stamps in this series: 100 fc yellow background, 500 fc salmon pink background, 1.000 fc brown background, 2.500 fc bright green background, 5.000 fc dark green background.

Figure IV-1: Mayotte blockade in 1975-76
A quarter of stamp (representing the mufti Saïd Omar Ben Soumeth) on a cover cancelled in Dzaoudzi on 29th January 1976.

Figure IV-2: the first Mayotte stamp “ylang-ylang flower”, on a FDC postcard created by the SMPC club, dated 2nd January 1997 [9].

Figure IV-3: combination of French and Mayotte stamps on a registered cover, postmark from the Mamoudzou Postal Service, last date permitted 29th March 1997.

Figure IV-4: a cover with the stamp overprinted "MAYOTTE"

Glossary

FC or fc = franc comorien (Comoran currency)
FF = Franc Français (French currency before euro €)
50 fc = 1 FF before devaluation occurring on 12th January 1994
75 fc = 1 FF after devaluation
1 € = 6.55957 FF
FIRC = Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros (in French RFIC: République Fédérale Islamique des Comores)
ITVF = Imprimerie des Timbres et Valeurs Fiduciaires (French Government Printing Office)
OAU = Organisation of African Unity
R. P. = Recette Principale (main Post Office)
SATAS = a French company making franking machines
SNPT = Société Nationale des Postes et Télécommunications (Comoros postal and telecommunications company)
Address: BP 5000 - Moroni - Union des Comores
Responsible for International Philately: Mrs Jacqueline Assoumany (see Fig. II-8).

References - websites

[1] Website http://www.comores-online.com : more than 3.000 pages about Comoros and Mayotte, managed by MweziNet (a non-profit French organisation dedicated to the promotion of the Comoros archipelago).
Address:
MweziNet,
4 quai de la marine
93450 L'île Saint-Denis
FRANCE
E-mail:           mwezinet@comores-online.com
The direct address of the Comoros philatelic pages:
http://www.comores-online.com/collections
For more information about Mayotte, see also www.mayotte-online.com

[2] Pascal Collot “Anjouan un parfum d’ylang-ylang”, photographs of Jean-Paul Duarte, ed. Plume & Pomme – Besançon (France) –2000, ISBN 2-914207-08-5. Can be ordered via ref. [1]

[3] About Madagascar overprints, see Timbres Magazine, octobre 2000, p 105
about Benin overprints, see L'écho de la Timbrologie, n° 1717, mars 1999, p 78-80 and Timbres Magazine, n° 37, juillet-août 2003, p 88-91
about Congo-Brazzaville overprints, see Timbroscopie, n° 177, mars 2000, p 30-31

[4] Timbres Magazine, n° 10, février 2001, p 105-106
Timbres Magazine, n° 19, décembre 2001, p 123

[5] Timbroscopie, n°154, page 74
Le Monde des Philatélistes, n° 526, février 1998, p 6
L’écho de la Timbrologie, n° 1705, février 1998, p 58
Via, un nouvel enjeu, n° 107, janvier-février 1998, p 49 and n° 115 décembre 1998 – janvier 1999, p 43

[6] Timbres Magazine, n° 6 octobre 2000, p 105, n° 8 décembre 2000, p 104, and n° 13 mai 2001, p 123.

[7] SMPC is the main philatelic club in Mayotte, created in the occasion of the resumption of Mayotte stamps (1997).
Address:
Société Mahoraise de Philatélie et Cartophilie (SMPC)
BP 1000
97600 Mamoudzou, île de Mayotte
FRANCE

[8]
Timbroscopie, n°4, juin 1984

[9] La Poste, Direction de Mayotte, BP 83, 97000 Mamoudzou, Mayotte

[10] Le Monde des Philatélistes, n° 470, janvier 1993, p 46-47


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[1] Comoros is a small volcanic archipelago consisting of four islands located to the north of the Mozambique channel (Grand Comoro, Moheli, Anjouan, Mayotte, from west to east). The overall population is less than 1 million inhabitants. The population is very homogenous, sharing the same religion (Islam), traditions and language (Swahili dialect), with minor variations from one island to another. For a detailed description of Comoros, see [1].
 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ANNEXE 1
List of the Grand Comoro, Anjouan, and Moheli post offices opened during the period 1992-2003. All the Comoros postmarks are of the same type as the usual French ones: circle of diameter 2.8 mm
.

The last column " % of covers " indicates the percentage of covers with stamps (ie not including the franking machines in Moroni RP, Mutsamudu RP and Fomboni RP) sent from the different Comoros post-offices (Mayotte not included) between 1998 and 2002 (deduced from 800 covers with Return to Sender). If we include the covers with a franking machine mark, the percentage of Moroni RP reaches approximately 85 % of the overall Comoros letters (Mayotte not included).

The recipient is in Metropolitan France at 73.4 % (an important diaspora from Grand-Comoro lives in the cities of Marseille, Dunkerque, and Paris and suburbs), in Indian Ocean Islands (La Réunion, Mauritius, Madagascar) at 11.7 %, Comoros at 4.0 %, Mayotte at 3.6 %, African and Arab countries at 3.8 %, USA + Canada at 1.8 %, rest of the world at 1.7 %.

island post-office description of the postmark situation in August 95 official nomenclature July 1997 closing date official nomenclature April 2003 comment % of covers
Grand Comoro Moroni RP MORONI RP COMORES         MORONI RP RFI COMORES open off-class   off-class RP = "Recette Principale"
also MORONI CABINE RFI COMORES (this postmark is put  nearby the stamps on registered covers in transit via Moroni)
73,0
  Moroni annexe MORONI ANNEXE RFI COMORES     postmark seen until August 92      
  Moroni Port MORONI PORT COMORES       ? open on 9th June 2003, replacing the old MORONI CD  
  Moroni Badjanani MORONI BADJANANI COMORES open 1st class   3rd class two types of cancellation 5,8
  philatelic shop   see Badjanani see Badjanani   5th class no specific cancellation - The office forms part of the Moroni Badjanani post-office  
  Moroni Volo-Volo MORONO VOLO-VOLO COMORES       hors classe first stamps received on 7th August 2000 0,5
  Mitsamiouli MITSAMIOULI COMORES open 2nd class   1st class   4,3
  Foumbouni FOUMBOUNI COMORES       FOUMBOUI RFI COMORES open 2nd class   2nd class Warning: possible confusion with FOMBONI (Moheli island) 2,2
  Mbéni MBENI RFI COMORES open 3rd class   2nd class   4,2
  Ouzioini OUZIOINI RFI COMORES open 4th class   5th class   1,0
  Ivembéni-Maouéni IVEMBENI-MAOUENI COMORES       6th class open in May 1999 0,0
  Hahaya (international airport) HAHAYA RFI COMORES open postal agency after Sept.97   re-opening 1st April 2003, with a postmark HAHAYA COMORES (acronym "RFI" removed)  
  N'tsaouéni N'TSAOUENI RFI COMORES open postal agency after Sept.97   present postmark NTASOUENI COMORES  
  Koimbani (K)OIMBANI RFI COMORES   postal agency still open in Dec. 99 ? re-opening on 2nd January 2003,
new postmark KOIMBANI RFI COMORES
0,0
  Mitsoudjé MITSOUDJE RFI COMORES   postal agency after Nov. 97 ? re-opening on 2nd January 2003,
new postmark MITSOUDJE COMORES
0,0
  Singani SINGANI RFI COMORES   postal agency still open in Sept. 99 granting (suspended)   0,0
  Mtsangadjou MTSANGADJOU RFI COMORES   postal agency after Sept. 97 granting (suspended)    
  Chindini ?   postal agency ?   postmark possible but never seen  
  Dembéni DEMBENI COMORES       ? opening on 2nd January 2003 0,0
  Iconi ICONI COMORES       ? opening on 2nd January 2003  
  Bandamadji Domba ?       granting (suspended) postmark possible but never seen  
  Chezani ?       granting (suspended) postmark possible but never seen  
  Moidja ?       granting (suspended) postmark possible but never seen  
  Bangoi-Kouni BANGOI-KOUNI RFI COMORES       granting (suspended) seen on August 1989  
Anjouan Mutsamudu RP MUTSAMUDU RFI COMORES*    MUTSAMUDU COMORES           MUTSAMUDU RP PAR EST RFIC   MUTSAMUDU CAB RFI COMORES open 1st class   outstanding class * two different cancellations with the same text exist
RP = Recette Principale
PAR = Poste Automobile Rurale?
CAB = cabine
3,8
  Mutsamudu Missiri MUTSAMUDU MISSIRI RFI COMORES open postal agency ?   open near January 1991 (1st date seen: 7th January 1991)  
  Domoni DOMONI RFI COMORES                     DOMONI COMORES open 2nd class   3rd class   1,8
  Ouani OUANI RFI COMORES open 3rd class   3rd class   0,4
  Sima SIMA RFI COMORES open 4th class   4th class   0,0
  Mrémani MREMANI RFI COMORES open 5th class   5th class   0,1
  Tsembehou TSEBEHOU RFI COMORES open postal agency ?   mistake on the village name Tse(m)behou in the postmark text  
  Mramani MRAMANI RFI COMORES open postal agency ?      
  Bambao Mtsanga ? open postal agency ?   postmark possible but never seen  
  Bandrani ? open postal agency ?   postmark possible but never seen  
Moheli Fomboni RP FOMBONI RFI COMORES             FOMBONI RP COMORES              open 1st class   1st class RP = Recette Principale
Warning: possible confusion with Foumbouni (Grand Comoro)
2,3
  Nioumachoi NIOUMACHOI RFI COMORES open 4th class   5th class   0,1
  Miringoni MIRINGONI RFI COMORES         seen on summer 1993  

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ANNEXE 2
Exclusive lists of Comoros local overprint varieties

2a) the constant varieties

description of the variety type of overprint overprint / initial postage value Scott number overprint  (before overprint) Michel number overprint  (before overprint) position on the sheet
numeral: column number + letter: line number  (1A = top left of the sheet)  example: 5B = line 5, column 2
Thin "zero":   u = units
t = tens   u+t = 200
comment
150 fc instead of 100 fc Ib 100 fc / 375 fc 800 y (variety of    800 D (689)) 1062 F (variety of 1062 (881)) position 1D (see Fig. II-3) no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
225 without f Ib 225 fc / 375 fc variety of 804 M (748) variety of 1111 (952) position 4A (see Fig. II-3) no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
F instead of F and small 2 III (gold) 200 FC / 375 fc 812 v (variety of 812 R (709)) variety of 1167 (897) positions 1C, 2C, 3C, 5C seen           (see Fig. II-3) also on line 4 ? 
             
thin "zero" 0 Ib 50 fc / 450 fc 800 x (variety of 800 A (607)) 1058 (740) u (see Fig. II-2)  
idem Ib 100 fc / 350 fc 800 C (648) 1061 (809) u seen  
idem Ib 100 fc / 375 fc 800 D (689) 1062 (881) u: 4B, t: 5A 5B 5E, u+t: 4D no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 100 fc / 400 fc 800 F (618) 1064 (757) ? never seen but likely (the casual varieties shift and inverted overprints exist with the variety 0)
idem Ib 100 fc / 400 fc 800 G (773) 1065 (979) t and u seen  
idem Ib 150 fc / 250 fc 800 I (740) 1067 (944) u  
idem Ib 150 fc / 375 fc 800 J (709) 1069 (897) u: 1A 3E 4A no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 375 fc 800 K (748) 1092 (952) u: 3B 3E 4C 5D no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 L (634) 1071 (787) u: 5B 5D seen  
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 M (650) 1072 (814) u: 4B 4D no other on the sheet (20 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 P (795) 1103 (1001) u: 1A 3E no other on the sheet (15 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 Q (C165) 1094 (779) u: 1A 4A 4B (see Fig. II-2) no other on the sheet (20 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 R (C177) 1096 I (801) u: 5B 5D no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 S (C181) 1097 (805) u: 1C 2E 3D 4C no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 T (C185) 1098 (846) u: 5B 5D no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 U (C191) 1099 (852) u: 1A seen  
idem Ib 150 fc / 500 fc 800 V (C212) 1100 (937) u: 1A 4A 4B 1A: corner with date of printing, no other on the sheet (20 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 200 fc / 300 fc 804 A (741) 1074 (945) u: 1A u+t: 3E 4A no other on the sheet (25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 200 fc / 300 fc 804 C (771) 1076 (977) t seen  
idem Ib 200 fc / 300 fc 804 D (C180) 1106 (804) u: 1C 4A 4D 5B t: 4B A prototype sheet includes the mistake overprint 020 fc / 450 fc (see annexe "casual varieties")
idem Ib 200 fc / 300 fc 804 E (C190) 1107 (851) t: 1A 1B 2C 3C 6A 7C u: 10A no other on the sheet
(30 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 200 fc / 450 fc  804 F (520) 1077 (628) t seen  
idem Ib 200 fc / 450 fc inverted overprint 804 F (520) 1077 (628) u: 1C 4A 4D t: 2C 4B positions taken with regards to the overprint
no other on the sheet
(25 stamps/sheet)
idem Ib 200 fc / 450 fc 804 G (762) 1109 (967) t see also the casual variety, including 0 for units, in position 1A
idem Ib 200 fc / 450 fc 804 H (C162) 1108 (776) u: 4D, t: 1A 2B and u+t: 1C seen (see Fig. II-2)  
idem Ib 200 fc / 300 fc red overprint 804 R (C161) 1105 (775) u+t seen  
             
small round o Ib 100 fc / 400 fc 800 F (618) 1064 (757)   never seen but likely (the casual variety "shift overprint" exists with the o, in the position u: 5A): see Fig. II-2
small round o Ib 200 fc / 300 fc 804 D (C180) 1106 (804) u: 5A  
small round o Ib 200 fc / 450 fc inverted overprint 804 F (520) 1077 (628) u: 5A  

 

2b) the main casual varieties

type of overprint overprint / initial value overprint description Scott number overprint  (before overprint) Michel number overprint  (before overprint) place and date of the discovery comment
Ib 100 fc / 400 fc inverted overprint note after 800 F (618) 1064 (757) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 1 single sheet seen (25 stamps), including the variety 0 on position 1C
Ib 100 fc / 400 fc shifted overprint 800 F (618) 1064 (757) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 1 single sheet seen (25 stamps), including the variety 0 on positions: u: 4A, t: 4B, and o on pos. 5A (see Fig. II-2)
Ib 100 fc / 375 fc shifted overprint 800 D (689) 1062 (881) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 including 0 for u: 4B, t: 5A 5B 5E, u+t: 4D
Ia 150 fc / 375 fc inverted overprint 796 Q (697) 1068 (889) Internet auction, Febr. 2003 cacelled Domoni, 5th August 98
Ia 150 fc / 375 fc double overprint included one inverted note after 796 Q (697) 1068 (889) Domoni post-office, August 1995 1 single sheet seen (25 stamps): see Fig. II-4
Ia 75 fc / 300 fc quintuple overprint 796 J (708) 1059 (896) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Oct. 2003 1 sheet seen
Ib 150 fc / 500 fc bar and new value inverted note after 800 R (C177) 1096 II (variety of 1096 I (801)) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 2 sheets with light overprint,  including one with a shifted overprint, with the variety 0 on positions u: 5B 5D
Ib 75 fc / 800 fc inverted overprint  note after 800 B (C192) 1089 (853) on cover's fragment cancelled Mutsamudu, March 1995, see Fig. II-4
Ib 150 fc / 600 fc misplaced overprint (right instead of left) note after 800 W (716) 1104 (904) ? a stamp of the sheet exists with a shifted overprint, see Fig. II-4
Ib 150 fc / 375 fc shifted overprint and mark hand-made by a blue pen above the initial value 800 K (748) 1092 (952) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 including the variety 0
Ib 200 fc / 450 fc inverted overprint 804 F (520) 1077 (928) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 including the variety 0 (on units)                     not yet seen with normal overprint
Ib 200 fc / 300 fc 020 fc instead of 200 fc note after 804 D (C180) 1106 F (variety of 1106 (804)) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 1 unique stamp exists (it has the variety 0), in a prototype sheet, see Fig. II-4
Ib 200 fc / 450 fc 2 bars including one under the overprint value 804 G (762) 1109 (967) Mutsamudu post-Office, August 1995 including the variety 0 (on units), see Fig. II-4
             
III 200 fc / 300 fc overprint with gold + black obliterator 815 y (variety of 815 M (589)) 1165 II (variety of 1165 I (709)) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 2 prototype sheets seen, with 10 stamps including this variety by sheet (on 20 stamps/sheet)
II 200 fc / 300 fc inverted overprint note after 815 Q (C150) 1149 (745) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 2 sheets seen (25 stamps/sheet), see Fig. II-4
II 200 fc / 425 fc normal overprint adjacent to double overprint adjacent to triple overprint 815 W (641) 1143 (821) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Oct. 2003 1 sheet seen, with 5 stamps of each variety
II 200 fc / 350 fc normal overprint adjacent to stamp without overprint 815 R (626) 1140 (765) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Oct. 2003 only 1 pair seen
II 200 fc / 350 fc oblique overprint 815 R (626) 1140 (765) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Oct. 2003 8 stamps including 4 stamps adjacent to a normal overprint, on 1 sheet
II 200 fc / 300 fc normal overprint adjacent to stamp without overprint 815 Q (C150) 1149 (745) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Oct. 2003 3 pairs seen
III gold 200 fc / 350 fc double overprint 812 Q (598) 1166 (725) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 1 single sheet seen, 5 stamps/sheet
             
VI red 200 fc / 225 fc (red overprint) inverted overprint note after 826 B (C215 D) 1164 I (1117) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 1 single sheet seen (25 stamps)
VI 200 fc / 225 fc (black overprint) double overprint note after 826 C (C215 D) 1164 II (1117) "caveau" SNPT, Moroni, Sept. 2000 1 single sheet seen (25 stamps), see Fig. II-4

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

ANNEXE 3
Mayotte post offices having at least one postmark (period 1990-2003):

Accoua, Bandraboua (closed aroud 1993), Bandrele, Boueni, Chiconi, Chirongui (open in 1988), Coconi (open in 1992), Combani (open in 1992), Dembeni (open in 1992), Dzaoudzi (closed on 31st December 1996), Dzoumogne (open in 1992), Kani-Kele (also a postmark Kani-Keli), Koungou (closed on 31st December 1998), Mamoudzou, Mamoudzou Service Postal, Mamoudzou-Kaweni (open in 1995), Mtzamboro (open in 1988), M’tsangamouji, M’zouazia, Ouangani, Pamandzi (open in 1996), Passamainti (open in 1994), Poroani, Sada (open in 1988), Tsingoni.