The army postal Stamp tax of 1945

With great pleasure I present Wissam Lahham as a new contributor to the historical-postal research of Lebanon. Wissam is a resercher and lecturer at the political science institute of USJ in Beirut. His contributions will be of the highest documentary value. 

Bernardo Longo

The army postal tax stamp (Yvert n 197, Michel n 1, SG n T289, Scott RA1), cedar design with Beit-Eddin palace overprint additionally surcharged “Army stamp” in Arabic (5p on 30c) is a bit illusive regarding the date when it was first used (fig 1).

fig 1

The first reported use of the above mentioned stamp appears on a cover dated 11 June 1945 (fig 2).

fig 2

The problem emerges when we know that an ordinary fiscal stamp surcharged in western an Arabic numbers (5p on 1p20, Duston 146) was used as early as the 7th of June 1945 (fig 3) and also later on several recorded covers (fig 4).


fig 3

fig 4

This discrepancy needs a clear explanation to justify the use of two different stamps: the ordinary fiscal stamp starting the 7th of june and the army stamp tax later on the 11th june.

The political independence of Lebanon achieved in November 1943 was far from complete. Many public sectors remained under the direct control of the French mandate authorities such as customs, concessionary companies and public security. The Lebanese government demanded that all administrations should be under its control especially the army. The situation was further complicated when on 14 may 1945 a body of Senegalese troops (1200 soldiers) arrived in Beirut to reinforce the French army in the country. This incident provoked a violent reaction from both the Lebanese and Syrian government considering it a direct violation of their respective sovereignty. Thus the parliament convened and voted a law to cover the needs of the future Lebanese army demanding once again that the French authorities should hand over Lebanese soldiers to the control of the government.

The law was voted on the 29 may 1945. Article 2 created a wide range of taxes to finance the army and assure that once under Lebanese authority it will have all the proper means to function adequately. Among these measures an army tax stamp was created to be compulsory on all normal and registered mail both domestic and foreign (official mail and daily newspapers were exempted). Article 8 of the law specified that all new taxes will be implemented the next day following its publication in the official gazette. The law was published on the 6 of June 1945 (fig 5 and 6) and thus it went into effect on the 7 of the same month. This fact explains why the first use of ordinary fiscal stamp was recorded on the 7 June.



fig 5 & 6

On 9 June 1945 decree number 3328 was promulgated fixing in its first article that a total amount of 7’000’000 ordinary fiscal stamp (30c value) should be transformed to serve as the newly created army tax stamp with the 5 Piasters overprint (fig 7).

fig 7

Hence, the overprinting process was only sanctioned on the 9 June that is two days after the law came into effect on the 7th. Taking into account that printing the new value on the stamps began on the 9th it becomes comprehensible that the new army stamp was first introduced later on June 11. We can conclude with certainty that post offices used the ordinary fiscal stamp from 7 to the 10 June as a contingency measure until overprinting was over and the new army stamp was delivered to post offices starting 11 June 1945. It is worth noting that Lebanese troops (5000 soldiers) were officially handed over to the government on the first of august 1945.

Wissam Lahham

The fake “Grand Zero”

This piece of paper, a copy of the uncommon redrawing of the Bay of Djounie 50 Piastres stamp reissued in 1949 originally in dark red-orange (Michel n 425), is apparently absurd with blue print, but really it is not (fig 1).

fig 1 – On the right, the enlargements of some areas affected by the most evident faults of the fake cliché used (click to see)

It is actually a print proof to improve the realization of a dangerous photo-zincography fake of the redrawing 50 Piastres stamp. It was made in blue to better observe the defects of the basic cliché in order to identify and correct the wrong parts. In fact, in addition to the stain of color in the shape of a “V” under the sailboat, other imperfections are noted above all in the external linear frames and in the inscriptions below. But let’s go by order.

In the 60s, the general well-being and therefore the desire to invest looking for a quick financial return, focused on the world of philately, hobby held by a more or less wealthy social class. One of the most interesting and lucrative forms was that of the decks of 100 used stamps (fig 2), required by the market to prepare the famous envelopes with “one hundred different stamps” of which we have all been at least once buyers.

fig 2 – An example of a decks of 100 stamps

So I said of these decks, which system is cheaper and faster than to “produce directly itself” the used stamps, without going through the chain of work including the annoying neckline in the water of the stamps? This principle was the one that pushed a group of philatelic operators of Beirut, towards the end of the 60s, to the self-production of used stamps in order to place them in the market of the decks of 100 stamps and consequently in that of the envelopes with 100 or more different used stamps.

Returning to our 50 Piastres stamp that was the star of this production (yes! there are many other fakes, products at the same time with the same purpose), it was intended to compose valuable decks of 100 used stamp that served to whet the appetite of the buyers. We can therefore observe what was the final product (fig 3 and 4) and we must admit that it was very high quality, proportional to the professional skills of the producers (unfortunately today these “artists” have disappeared giving way to squalid individuals without every scruple and art, ready to sell their mothers too for some banknote).

fig 3 and fig 4 – Fakes 50 Piastres “Grand Zero” accompanied by their inseparable false cancellation of Beirut

Now let’s look at the few and substantial differences with the original (fig 5).

fig 5 – The original 50 Piastres “Grand Zero” stamp

The paper of the latter is whitish and compact, while in the false ones it is creamy with small flaws in the pasty composition. The printing of the original was made with the so-called “offset” system, i.e. with the reproduction of the original print left by the copper cylinder on a rubber cylinder and from this on the sheet of paper. The fake was produced with typographic printing of excellent workmanship. The color is almost similar except in the original is dark red-orange while in the fake is dark reddish-orange (scale translated by Michel Farbenfuhrer in German). The perforation is almost similar 11½ X 11¾ in the original, 11½ X 11½ in the fake, where there are also small differences in the diameter of some holes. Where to observe the most indicative differences? But as already mentioned! in the writing below: they are clear and regular in the originals, confused and irregular in the fakes (fig. 6). It remains to be added that you will never risk to meet this fake stamp in mint condition: they were all made “used” for the decks of 100 stamps, through a cancel of Beirut also fake.

fig 6 – The lower area of the stamp where the differences in printing are the most obvious

fig 7 – A scarce block of four

To conclude with a little cool in the mouth, here is a rare original block of four mint (fig 7) and the large multiple of this stamp that I know used on envelope

fig 8 – The cover with tree copies of 50 Piastres “Grand Zero” and a 12½P castle stamp (2½ Piastres are in excess)

made with a horizontal pair and a single stamp sent from Beirut on 8 June 1950 to fulfill the required rate of 160 Piastres for weight up to 30 grams to USA (fig 8).

Bernardo Longo



This article was published by the author in the Vaccari Magazine n 44 of November 2010.

To talk about a particular cancellation of the Austrian Levant used in Beirut, it is necessary to start from a summary analysis of the postal seal and cancellations used by the foreign offices operating in the Lebanese city (Fig.1). It concerns precisely the wavering interpretation and representation, transcribed from the Arabic, of the toponym Beirut: بيروت . From 1845 the Austrian Lloyd agency used the Italian “BERUTTI”, characterized by Venetian assonance, while the consular post office started with the German “BEYRUT” in 1850, to make it uniform, returning in 1865, with the Italian-Venetian ” BERUTTI “. We then passed to the “BEIRUTH”, with the “H” final, in 1876 (but we will see to shed light on the real initial intent), to apparently arrive at “BEIRUT” in 1877, return to “BEIRUTH” always in 1877, and finally finish with “BEIRUT” from 1893 to 1914. The French and English offices kept the transcription steady, respectively in “BEYROUTH” from 1845 (with an interlude without “H” from 1854 to 1866) and “BEYROUT” from 1873. The Egyptian one from 1870, considering that in Arabic the vowels “e” and “o” do not exist, transcribe it phonetically literally in “BAIROUT”. In the Russian post office, since 1857, the transcription “БЕИРУТЪ” was used constantly; it can be translated into “Beiruth”, keeping in mind that, in Cyrillic, the sign “Ъ” (the final “H”) does not correspond to a letter but to the hardened accentuation of the preceding one. The German office, since 1900, simply and constantly adopted the transcription “BEIRUT”. It should be remembered that all these post offices, except the Egyptian that closed in 1872, officially ended on 30 September 1914.


Fig. 1

But we return to the cancellation, the one that the Austrian office started to use from 1876 (Fig.2). Unlike of the previous one, in the date also reported the year, and I do not think it was exclusively a dictation of the U.G.P. agreements, entered into force from 1 July 1875, but rather an adjustment, because in the offices of Constantinople and Alexandria their use is already known in 1874. Observing it, at first sight eye immediately catches an anomaly in the alignment of the fonts respect to the date and a disproportion between the width of the “H” and that of other fonts.

Fig. 2

So far nothing exceptional, if it were not that, in two envelopes that I have see, the final “H” is incomplete, accentuating its disproportion with the other fonts, almost disappearing (Figs. 3, 4 and 5).

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Precisely “almost to disappear”; but in 1879 it disappeared really (Fig.6), so much so that the cancellation was set aside and rarely used and was replaced by a new type of “Bastoncino” fonts comprising the merited final “H”. I believe that the anomaly in the alignment is to be interpreted as a manipulation that took place when the work was finished. The postmark, in fact, was coined with the word BEIRUT well centered compared to the date that was mobile, but, for reasons I do not say anti Italians but maybe pan Austrian, at the last moment was given an order to add the final “H”. The addition, on the already finish steel part, probably occurred by nailing the “H” font (inserted in an hole caused) (Fig.7). This leads one to believe that the font was molten and worked in soft metal, so it could not withstand long the stresses inflicted by the Postmaster Joseph Berhaupt. And what happened, that is the wear and detachment of the “H”, led the catalogs and collectors to consider it as a different type (as in reality it is from a certain date onwards).

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Very short and conclusive geopolitical note of the period: before the agreements of the Triple Alliance of 1882 (Germany, Austria and Italy), between Italy and Austria there was not good blood. Austria did not properly consider Italian unity, achieved in his opinion, politically and morally opportunistically; the irredentism of the cities of  Trento and Trieste was also maturing, a thorn in the side of the Habsburgs, symptomatic of future events of war. Italy, in its turn, identified in the very Catholic Austria the old and new enemy from which to look, especially for its ostentatious support for the papal restoration project on the former territories of the church in central Italy regions. In short, the times of “Berutti” and the old Levant coats of arms, inherited from the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice, were ending; it was the period when Austria needed an “H”, even at the cost of nailing it.

Bernardo Longo