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Philately is still the world’s most popular and enjoyable hobby and is an interesting way to travel the globe. You cannot collect stamps without gaining knowledge about nearly anything you can think of such as geography, biography, history, culture etc

Well designed and superbly printed miniature works of art, each one tells a story with its own characteristics such as color changes, interrupted printing, perforation differences, design differences and printing errors to name a few


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Union of South Africa



12 pence (d) = 1 shilling (/-)

20 shillings = 1 pound (£)


The Union of South Africa came into being on 31 May 1910 with the unity of the 4 previously separate colonies namely the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal and the Orange River Colony


Issues of the colonies were valid for use throughout the Union until they were demonetized on 31 December 1932


Undoubtedly every intention was to issue postage stamps on Union day to commemorate the event.  Unfortunately, the death of King Edward VII on 6 May 1910 necessitating the preparation of a new die showing the portrait of the heir to the throne, King George V


The time left towards the 31st May 1910 made preparation of a new die impossible


However, a 2½d recess printed Commemorative stamp was issued to commemorate the opening of the first Union Parliament in Cape Town on 4 November 1910





First Definitive Issue


It was not until 1913 that definitive stamps were issued with the Mackennal head design of King George V and in total comprised 15 values

The stamps were printed by Thos. De La Rue & Co. Ltd. of London, England using the typographic printing process and was inscribed bilingually


Basic set



Air Mail stamps


The Union’s first Air Mail stamps were issued on 26 February 1925 when a three-month Experimental Air Mail service were instituted. The issue consisted of four denominations – 1d, 3d, 6d and 9d and was printed using a lithography process


A second set of two stamps with values 4d and 1s were issued on 16 August 1929 and marked the inauguration of the permanent Air Mail service by the Union Airways (Pty) Ltd. Stamps were printed with the typographic printing process


The words “AIR MAIL” does not appear on the third issue. Upon operation of the Empire Flying Boat service in 1937, a special 1½d stamp were prepared and placed on sale in 1936 and printed in rotogravure. Under the Empire Air Mail Scheme all first-class mail was conveyed over Empire air routes at a rate of 1½d per half ounce


1925                              1929                                 1936


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The Air Mail Stamps of the Union of SA


Varieties: Air Mail Stamps of the Union of SA




Pretoria Pictorials


After the import and installation of a Goebel AG 930 printing machine in 1929, all Union stamps were henceforth printed by the Government Printing Works in Pretoria using the rotogravure process


In rotogravure printing a photographic glass plate is used in the production of the printing plate which is known as the multipositive. As the same multipositive is used to etch more than one cylinder, it follows that any flaw that appeared on it during the preparation stage will be repeated.  Also with each new use, ones would appear or removed. One cylinder was used to print the frame (exterior cylinder or frame plate) and a separate one for the vignette (interior cylinder or head plate)


Stamps were inscribed alternately in English and Afrikaans throughout the sheet and are preferably collected in bilingual horizontal pairs


The UNHYPHENATED “SUIDAFRIKA” definitive issue consisted of eight values and was similar in design and colors of those of the London Pictorials of 1927. The color of the 3d in later printings was changed to blue


Darmstadt trials                    ½d                  1d                    2d                    3d                    4d                    6d                    1s                    2s 6d


To see more, go to exhibit:


Made in the Union of South Africa





The HYPHENATED “SUID-AFRIKA”definitives were the last of the Union’s first series of pictorial stamps and there were fourteen denominations in total


The first stamp to appear was the 5/- value in 1933 from unscreened cylinders


Some values had a long lifespan with numerous issues and some underwent design and size changes, providing wider perforation gutters


½d            1d             1½d             2d             3d             4d             4½d             6d             1s             1s 3d             1s 6d             2s 6d             5s             10s


To see more, go to exhibit:


Made in the Union of South Africa



Online Resources

The library of the Royal Philatelic Society of Cape Town indexed well over 3 000 books and, where permission have been obtained, will link electronically to the magazine you are looking for


To  visit the library click here

Contact person: Victor Millard at royalphilct@gmail.com






2024 Postal rates



1910 – 1919          1920 – 1929          1930 – 1939


1940 – 1949          1950 – 1959          1960 – 1969


1970 – 1979          1980 – 1989          1990 – 1999


2000 – 2009          2010 – 2013



1961 – 1971



World War II: Prisoner of War and Internment Camps in South Africa and their mail 

by J B R Findlay and Rory Ryan, 2003


After the start of the Second World War in September 1939 suspected ‘enemies of the state’ were interned in South and South West Africa, and their mail was censored.  Later, prisoners of war were brought to South Africa from war zones, including 97 000 Italians from north-eastern Africa.  All known camps are listed and camp marks and postmarks shown


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Opened by Censor front page

Censorship of Civilian Mail in South Africa during World War II

by Tom Mullins, February 2001


Censorship of civilian mail is an irritating but necessary procedure in maintaining National Security during any period of hostilities and can take many forms. The author was a specialist in this area and this previously unpublished article is a comprehensive  and excellent reference on the topic


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The Stampless Air Mail Letter Cards and Air Letters used by South African Troops 1941-1945

by Tom Mullins, April 2001



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The Stamps of the Union of South Africa, 1910 – 1961

Jack Hagger, 1986


The contents of the publication is grouped into 12 groups


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The SA Philatelist


Here you can view and download back copies of the SA Philatelist


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The Edwardian Stamps of the South African Colonies 1

The Edwardian Stamps of the South African Colonies

Brian Trotter, 2004


The contents of the publication is grouped into 9 groups


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Anglo Boer War Stamp Souvenirs

Birkhead and Groenewald, 2014


The Cape stamps with ‘Kuruman Besieged”, the ZAR stamps with Vryburg “VR Special Post” and the ZAR revenue stamps with “VRI” (issued at Zeerust) are rated as souvenirs since there is no record or evidence of their postal validity.  Yet these elusive items are keenly sought by collectors and their histories are part of the canvas of war


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Die Machadodorp-briefkaarte van die Anglo-Boereoorlog

Gerrit H Jonkers and Joh Groenewald, 2006


The ZA Republiek government left Pretoria ahead of the British onslaught and moved to Machadodorp, where a special Staatscourant (government gazette) was printed on the back of ZAR postcards to declare Machadodorp the seat of government.  Then followed a local postcard produced by the Staatsdrukker-te-velde (government printer in the field)


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SA Mil Abbreviations

South African Military Abbreviations and Acronyms by Jim Findlay.   South African Military Mail Study Group, 2009.  A4 format, 28 p.  R90.00


This pioneering manual lists thousands of South African (and East African) unit and other abbreviations which may be found on military mail, from the Imperial occupation (1902 on), the Union (1910), both world wars, the Berlin airlift and Korean campaign, the Border War and in peacetime.  An important key for both postal and military historians


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