Scott #1s

Scott #1s was the title of a series of sixty-one articles that ran in the American philatelic publication Stamps between January 1999 and October 2003.  Quite simply, it told the story behind the first stamp issued by every country in the world, according to the Scott series of catalogs – ultimately, the series ended some way short of its target, a victim of the magazine’s faltering circulation and ultimate cancellation.


The philatelic history of Aden, a small British enclave on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula, is inextricably tied up with that of India.  For, not only was Aden considered a part of British India for close to 100 years, from 1839 to 1937, it was also serviced with Indian stamps, arguably establishing Aden’s number one as simply the earliest known Indian stamp to bear the correct postmark.

The first shipment of these, contemporary half and one anna stamps, were placed on sale in Aden on October 10, 1854; two months later, a supply of 2 and 4 anna stamps arrived.  The earliest known usage, however, dates from some five months later, in March, 1855.  Aden was the Bombay Presidency’s post office #124, and this numeral will be present on all Aden mail dated prior to 1872.  Thereafter, a new series of cancellations saw Aden designated B_22 (22 alone from 1878), before the numbering system was finally abandoned in 1887.

Indian stamps remained in use in Aden until 1937; British stamps were also accepted, primarily for military mail (carried free until 1854, these now cost 8 pies, or one penny).  Emissions of neighboring Yemen also appear to have been tolerated for a period following their introduction in 1926.  In 1937, however, Aden finally became a Crown Colony within the British Empire, and on April 1 that year, it was granted its own first stamps, in the name of the newly crowned King George VI.

Recess printed by De La Rue of London, and denominated in Indian coinage of pies, anna and rupees, Aden’s first issue was a set of twelve engraved definitives, picturing a native dhow, or sailing vessel, within an ornately  designed frame, which itself includes two ornamental daggers, one on either side of the central frame.  All twelve stamps in the series were perforated 13×11.5, and carried the multiple crown and script C.A. (Crown Agents) watermark which is common to so many Empire stamps of the period.

The colony’s name appeared in English above the design, and in Arabic below, with the value expressed (in  English numerals) in the two lower corners.  Aden number one itself, then, is the lowest denomination in the series, a half anna stamp printed in light green.  As such, it is also the lowest valued stamp in the entire set, with a current catalog price of 35c mint, 25c used.  There also exists a considerably scarcer, and much sought after specimen example, with the word SPECIMEN perforated into the stamp.  It is, however, rarely seen separated from the full set of twelve.


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