Collectors’ Stamps From Madagascar

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The island country of Madagascar, located off the coast of Mozambique, is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. In fact, more than 90 percent of its wildlife can be found nowhere else on Earth. In many ways, Madagascar’s history is just as colorful. The first wave of settlers, thought to be originally from Borneo, came as early as 350 B.C. Following that, Arab traders began establishing port cities along its coast in the 10th century, while the first European contact was made in 1500.

More recently, Madagascar was fought over by British and French colonists, with the latter naming the island a protectorate in 1896, against heavy native resistance. Needless to say, it was a difficult occupation, though France retained control until 1960, when Madagascar was finally granted independence.

Early Philately in Madagascar

Madagascar’s complex philatelic history dates back to the 1860s, when the first French post offices opened on the island. In 1889, use of the general French issue, with special overprints and surcharges, began on the island. Around the same time, British colonizers organized runner systems between their outpost at Tananarive and the cities of Tamatave and Vatomandry, which relied on special locally printed stamps. Both these early French and British runner issues are among the most highly sought-after Madagascar collectors’ stamps, and routinely go for high prices at auction.  

Meanwhile, local stamps were being produced in Diego-Suarez, among other cities. Many of these would be brought back into circulation years later when a shortage of lower-denomination stamps took postal authorities by surprise.

Madagascar as a French Protectorate

With Madagascar becoming a formal French protectorate in 1896, new stamps were issued with the Navigation and Commerce design used by other colonies. This continued for some time, though around the turn of the century new issues were produced that rightly highlighted some of the island’s unique flora and fauna. The iconic lemur made an appearance on a 1903 stamp, the first printed specifically for use on the island.

Other notable Madagascar collectors’ stamps issued before independence include a 1930-1944 series consisting of four striking designs: Hova Woman, Sakalava Chief, Betsileo Woman and Hova with Oxen.

Post Independence

Madagascar gained its independence from France in 1958 and, shortly thereafter, began issuing its own stamps. Today, it’s the early pre-independence stamps that retain the most interest among collectors – which is not uncommon among former colonies of France and Britain.

No matter which era of the country’s history you’re interested in, collecting Madagascar stamps is fun, fascinating and potentially a good investment. Apfelbaum frequently has rare stamps from Madagascar available for sale in our online store and buy-it-now sales. Let us know if there is something in particular you are looking for and we will do our best to find it for you.