Libya Collectors’ Stamps

Libya’s tumultuous history continues to this day, with conflict and political instability emerging as the hallmarks of the post-Gaddafi area. In a way, Libya’s history mirrors much of North Africa’s and the Middle East’s. As such, it is a fascinating object of study for philatelists.

Libya has been producing stamps for more than a century. In that time, it has been occupied by several foreign powers, undergone a military coup in 1969, and, most recently, a revolution and civil war in the wake of the Arab Spring of 2011. The West’s continued fascination with Libya speaks to both its geopolitical significance and vast oil wealth, two factors that also make it a unique area of specialization for stamp collectors around the world.

Italian Colonial Stamps

In 1912, the Ottoman Empire ceded the territory encompassing modern Libya to Italy. Libya first used Italian stamps in 1909, overprinted with “Barberia,” the Ottoman name for the region. Following the formal annexation of the area, Italian postal authorities began using the “Libia” overprinting. In 1921, the region printed the first definitive issues, with four engraved designs printed by the Italian Government Printing Works.

Italian authorities remained in charge until the end of World War II. In that time, the region produced more than 100 postal issues, many of which remain among the most sought-after rare Libyan stamps today.

Tripolitania and Cyrenaica

Until their unification with Libya in 1934, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica remained separate Italian colonies. From 1924 onward, both produced their own stamps. Though considered part of a complete collection of stamps from Italian Libya, these issues are well-printed and also make an interesting object of collection in their own right.

WWII and Independence

British forces captured Italian Libya in 1943 and continued to have a presence there until the country achieved independence in 1951. During that time, the region used British Middle East Forces (MEF) stamps, overprinted with either “B.M.A. TRIPOLITANIA” or “B.A. TRIPOLITANIA.”

The Kingdom of Libya was founded in 1951 and began issuing its own stamps that year. The Kingdom lasted until 1969, at which time the ruling government was overthrown in a military coup led by Muammar Gaddafi, and the country was renamed the Libyan Arab Republic.

The Future of Libya Philately

You can find rare Libya stamps from all eras for sale in Apfelbaum, Inc.’s online stamp store and Buy It Now sales. As of 2015, the country remains in a state of great uncertainty, with a weak centralized government and several militias and loyalist forces vying for power. What effects this will have on the market for collectible Libyan stamps remains to be seen. Hopefully, a return to relative peace and prosperity will see an increase in demand for stamps from this fascinating country with its unique postal history. 

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