Postage Stamps of Italian Colonies

by Tony Clayton


Cyrenaica <<-- : -->> Tripoli Fair Issues

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In 1923 the Italian Colony of Libya was split into two provinces, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, under two separate Governors. This arrangement ceased in 1934 when the two provinces and the Military area of Fezzan where once again merged into the Colony of Libya.

While Tripolitania and Cyrenaica issued separate commemorative and airmail stamps, definitive, parcel, postage due and express issues continued to be in the name of Libya.

1923 Propaganda Fide Issue

In 1923 the first issue of the separate province of Tripolitania was the overprinted Propaganda Fide issue. One stamp of each of the 20c and 30c values in position 17 has a notable retouch behind the head of Jesus. The 50c and 1 lire stamps do not show this flaw. 25,000 sets were issued.


20c with retouch
Sassone 1a.


The normal 20c
Sassone 1.

1923 March on Rome Issue

The March on Rome issue used the Italian set in the same colours suitably overprinted. 10c and 30c used the same design as the 50c shown, and the 1 lira used the same design as the 2 lire. 30,000 sets were issued.

50c and 2l

50c red and 2 lire brown
Sassone 7 and 9.

5 lire

The top value, 5 lire blue and black
Sassone 10.

1924 Manzoni Issue

In 1924 a set was issued to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Death of Manzoni.

In all its variants the top value, the 5 lire, is a very difficult stamp to find. As only 3750 were ever issued for each of the four colonies Eritrea, Somalia, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, one can understand why. Only 7500 of the 1 lire were issued.

The top three values are known with a rare line perforation instead of the usual comb perforation.

1 lire

1 lire
Sassone 15.

5 lire

5 lire
Sassone 16.

1925 Holy Year Issue

The six stamps issued by Italy were overprinted TRIPOLITANIA in a curve matching the frame of the design. 30,000 sets were issued.

1 lire

1 lire + 50c
Sassone 21.

1925 Silver Jubilee Issue

The 60c and 1 lira were issued in 1925; because of the airmail rate change the 1.25 lire was issued seven months later in 1926. Two different perforations are known: The 1.25 lire with perf 11 is very rare while the 60c is only known with perf 11.

As with all issues of this set, while normally without watermark the 60c and 1 lira are known with letters from the sheet edge and, even more rarely, two stamps on these sheets have a sideways crown.


60c perf 11 and 1 lira perf 13½
Sassone 23 and 26.


The very rare 1.25 lire, perf 11 and unmounted mint
Sassone 25. Image courtesy of the Italy & Colonies Study Circle.

1926 St.Francis Issue

For the first time one of the values of this set (5+2.50 lire) was printed in a different colour to that issued for Italy. Two overprint styles were used. 25,000 sets were issued.


20c green and 1.25 lire blue
Sassone 28 and 31.

1926 Colonial Institute Issue

In common with those issued for other colonies, this is a very common set of 6 values. 200,000 sets were issued.


1 lire + 5c blue
Sassone 38.

1927-30 National Defence (Milizia) Issues

In 1927, 1929 and 1930 there were three successive issues of what are known as the Milizia sets. The Colonies had some of the stamps printed in different colours to those of Italy before being overprinted. In all cases the third set is the most scarce, the top value scarcest, and properly used stamps from the colonies are harder to find than mint.

Proofs are known of the second series with the large overprint used for the first series.


Tripolitania 1927 First Milizia issue, 60 centesimi + 30 centesimi
Variety: second A missing leg at right
Sassone 40b.


Tripolitania 1930 Third Milizia issue, 5 lire + 1.50 Lire
10,000 issued
Sassone 72.

1927 Volta Issue

All three issued values were printed in colours that differed from the Italian equivalent. The 50c is known with the stop after the value. 36,000 sets were issued.


20c violet
Sassone 43.

1928 Italian African Society Issue

25,000 sets of 4 values were issued.


20+5c green
Sassone 46.

1929 Montecassino Issue

13,000 sets of 7 values were issued. Once again colours differ from those issued in Italy.


75+15c brown
Sassone 57.

1930 Prince Umberto Wedding Issue

50,000 sets of 3 values were issued.


1.25 Lire + 25c carmine
Sassone 63.

1930 Ferrucci Issue

20,000 sets of 5 postage values plus 3 air mail values were issued.


5+2 Lire postage and 5+2 Lire Air Mail
Sassone 68 and A3.

1930 Agricultural Institute Issue

The Postage set was issued almost a year late in November 1930, while the Air Mail set was issued a year after that in December 1931.

20,000 sets of 5 postage values plus 5 air mail values were issued.

1.75 Lire + 20c Postage
Sassone 75.

5+2 Lire Air Mail
Sassone A21.

1930 Virgil Issue

20,000 sets of 9 postage values plus 4 air mail values were issued on 4th December 1930. The top two values of each set were printed in recess.

10+2.50 Lire Postage
Sassone 86.

9+2 Lire Air Mail
Sassone A7.

1931 Recapito Issue

10 centesimi Concessional Letter Post
Sassone RA1.

1931 St.Anthony Issue

20,000 sets of 7 values were issued on 7th May 1931.

5+2.50 Lire Postage
Sassone 93.

1931 Definitive Air Mail Issue

Four values were issued in each of two designs, the first for values of less than 1 lire, the other for higher values.

75 centesimi
Sassone A11.

5 Lire
Sassone A16.

1933 Zeppelin Air Mail Issue

20,000 sets of 6 values in three designs were issued on the 5th May 1933. All are scarce used, and rare on cover.

12 Lire
Sassone A25.

15 Lire
Sassone A26.

20 Lire
Sassone A27.

1933 Balbo Trans-Atlantic Flight Issue

20,000 sets of 2 values were issued on the 1st June 1933. All are scarce used, and rare on cover.

19.75 Lire
Sassone A28.

44.75 Lire
Sassone A29.

1934 Rome to Buenos-Aires Flight Issue

40,000 sets of 4 airmail values were issued on 20th January 1934, using overprints on the 5 lire Air Mail definitive printed in new colours.

10 Lire on 5 Lire rose carmine
Sassone A33.

1934 Circuit of the Oases Issue

Just 5,000 sets of 5 airmail and 2 air express values were issued on 1st May 1934, using overprints on some of the 8th Tripoli Fair issues. The two top values (10+2 lire and 25+3 lire) are very scarce both mint and used.
L'Aereo Club della Tripolitania had organised a competition involving a 1,463 km circuit around Tripolitania.

5+1 Lire brown
Sassone A36.

1934 Naples Colonial Art Festival Issue

100,000 sets of 6 postage values and 6 airmail values were issued on 16th October 1934.
For some reason this very common set is valued more highly than some of the scarcer earlier sets.

60 Centesimi Postage
Sassone 98.

1934 Rome to Mogadishu Flight Issue

10,000 sets of 10 airmail values were issued on 5th November 1934.

25+2 Lire green
Sassone A56.

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Copyright reserved by the author, Tony Clayton
v10 28th March 2017
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