Postage Stamps of Italian Colonies

by Tony Clayton


General Colonies <<-- : -->> Cyrenaica

Main Index

First Set of Libya, 1912

The two most difficult stamps of the initial 1912 set to find in mint condition are the 15 centesimi and the 5 lire.
The 15 centesimi comes with both violet and a very much scarcer blue-black overprint. The example shown sadly has the violet overprint; only seven mint examples of the blue-black are known!

15 c

15 Centesimi
Sassone 5.

The 5 lire, in common with several other denominations, comes with two types of the Libia overprint. The main differences are in the dots over the i's (Type 1 has them central, Type 2 slightly left) and the inside of the a (Type 1 is small and almost round, Type 2 is larger and elongated).

5 lire

5 lire, Type 1
Sassone 11.

These two copies of the 10 centesimi show the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 overprints.

Type 1

10c, Type 1
Sassone 4.

Type 2

10c, Type 2
Sassone 4/I.


Details of the overprints, showing the two types (I on top, II below)
The shape of the a, the top of the L and the hole in the b are actually better characters to look at.

Red Cross Issue, 1915-16

These stamps were issued during the First World War and carried a 5 centesimi premium for the Red Cross. The first two stamps, 10c+5c and 15c+5c, were issued in December 1915. When the postage rates went up to 20c in March 1916 the 15c was overprinted 20, while a new 20c+5c value was also issued at the same time.

Red Cross

Red Cross Issue
Top row: Sassone 13 and 14.
Bottom row: Sassone 15 and 16.

Red Cross

Two values are found with the scarce low overprint variety
Sassone 13c and 16c.

Pictorial Definitives of 1921

The Pictorial Definitives come with a wide range of perforation varieties, and also both with and without watermark.

The first issue had sideways crown watermark and perforation between 13½ and 14, or 14x13¼ from different parts of the same sheet. Six of this issue of 12 stamps are known with inverted centres; all are scarce but the 30c is rare and the 50c only known used.

15c inv centre

15c brown and orange with inverted centre
Sassone 25c and 25.

5c and 10c inv centre

5c and 10c with inverted centres
Sassone 23c and 24c.

15c and 25c inv centre

15c and 25c with inverted centres
Sassone 25c and 26c.

Victory Issue of 1922

In common with all the overprinted Italian Victory issues, not just for Libya but also Italy, Eritrea and Somalia, the bulk were comb perforated by a comb which gave two distinct perforations on the sheet, perforation 14 and the slightly scarcer perforation 14x13.25.

In addition some values are to be found which have been line perforated 13.5; these are very much rarer and their acquisition requires careful hunting amongst dealers' stocks.

Perf 14

Perf 14
Sassone 35.

Perf 14x13.25

Perf 14x13.25
Sassone 35l.

Perf 13.5

Line Perf 13.5
Sassone 35k.

High Value Definitives

5 and 10 lire stamps were first issued in 1921 with a sideways crown watermark and perf.13½ to 14, along with a range of lower values. In 1937 they were reissued with perf.11 on unwatermarked paper. These had relatively little use and are scarce, particularly mint. In 1940 the 5 lire with no watermark was reissued with perf.14; this version is slightly less scarce than that with perf.11.

Perf 14

Corner block of the 5 lire, perf 14, showing plate numbers
Sassone 163. Courtesy of Italy & Colonies Study Circle

Parcel Stamps of 1927 to 1937

The scarcest parcel stamps with the fasces in the centre are the 20 lire, 10 lire and 50 centesimi. Complete sheets of these values will be of the highest rarity.


Right-hand half of a complete sheet of the 50 centesimi orange
Sassone 17.

Faulty A

Pair 37 on each sheet of this issue has a faulty A on the left half
Sassone 17 (note).

Express Stamps

Overprinted Italian Stamps


25c Express, Type I overprint
Sassone 1.


30c Express, Type II overprint
Sassone 2/I.


60c on 25c Express
Sassone 5.


1.60 lire on 30c Express
Sassone 6.

Italian Colonial Design

This classic design was used by several of the Italian colonies. Rate and perforation changes give a number of varieties.


Express 1.25 Lire on 60c, Perf 14
From a complete sheet.
Lower stamp: Position 36; bottom bar at left short
Sassone 17 and 17b.

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Stamps of Italian Colonies - Libya
Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
v11 27th March 2017
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