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first issues > countries > libya, cyrenaica, tripolitania, fezzan and ghadames



including Cyrenaica and Tripolitania

and Fezzan and Ghadames

- Occupation -
Changes of Administration

Italian colony 3, a-b

earliest issue
  Nov 1915 Sc1 SG1 1912 Sc2 SG2 xxx

perf 14, crown wmk

Description Date Scott SG Mi Y&T  
Overprinted on stamps of Italy
1 centesimi brown 1915 1 1      
2c orange-brown 1912 2 2      
other values 5c to 10 lire 1912-22 3-16 3-16      

Italian Office in Benghazi
Italian Office in Tripoli
1901 Sc1 SG169 1909 Sc2 SG171

The late Floyd A. Walker (FICC#14) in his article, The First Issues of the Middle East Countries [1] writes, "LIBYA is more complicated [than the previous entries, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon]. There's the Italian Colony of Libya (#1), plus the various French occupation issues of Fezzan and Ghadames, the Italian offices in Tripoli and Benghazi, the independence issue (#102) and the issue marking the Libyan Arab Republic (#366). All together you will need a dozen stamps to cover that bit of Middle East real estate."

Gibbons [2] lists Libya in its Africa Since Independence sequence which is guiding the organisation of the FICC Categories, hence the switch from the Middle East to Africa. Gibbons original listing for the area under Italy [3] begins in 1901 with an Italian Post Offices numbered SG169 and SG171 because it follows on from Italian POs in the Turkish Empire (SG1-168), but it starts again at SG1 for the Italian colony (Scott lists the Offices under Italy).

Scott [4] and the FICC catalogue entry begins in 1912 with overprints of Italian stamps for the colony, though the Sc1 was issued in December 1915, making the earliest issue Sc2, SG2.

1923 Sc1 SG1 1923 Sc1 SG1

The area now known as Libya was under Turkish control from C16th. Italy declared war on Turkey in September 1911 and took the coastal town of Tripoli, which Turkey ceded a year later as it was distracted by the Balkan War. Italy named it Libya, spelled "Libia", and spent the next twenty years taking the interior. In June 1927, Libya was divided into two, Cyrenaica and Tripolitania and in December 1934 they were reunited.

Libya became a kingdom in December 1951. The Libyan Arab Republic was established in September 1969 and its name prefixed by “People’s Socialist.” in 1977.


BMA Trip
GB Middle East Forces
GB BMA Tripolitania
Fezzan and Ghadames
1942 Sc1 SG-M1 1948 Sc1 SG-T1 1946 Sc-1N1 SG 1949 Sc-2N1 SG 1949 Sc-3N1 SG

From 1943 and after WW2 until 1951, most of Libya was under British Military Administration and used stamps overprinted "M.E.F.", Middle East Forces. Note that several versions of these exist, overprinted in London and in Cairo with small differences in the type: Gibbons describes the SG-M1 as 14mm long with oblong stops. Variants can be 13.5mm long with square or round stops. There were also specific issues for Tripolitania denominated in Military Administration lire (M.A.L.).

France also occupied the areas of Fezzan and Ghadames and stamps were issued individually and collectively.


24th December 1951

Africa 4

Kingdom, for use in Tripolitania
Kingdom, for use in Fezzan
Kingdom, for use in Cyrenaica
1951 Sc102 SG151 1951 Sc112 SG166 1951 Sc122 SG131

Libyan Arab Republic
People’s Socialist Libyan Arab Republic
1969 Sc366 SG444 1977 SC655 SG742

Previously an Italian colony, following occupation by British troops during and after WW2, Libya became a kingdom in December 1951. The Libyan Arab Republic was established in September 1969, King Idris being deposed by army officers. In addition to the new revolutionary issues, both Scott and Gibbons note that existing stocks of stamps were used with the word "Kingdom" obliterated by crayon and felt-tip.
Scott states The name was prefixed by “People’s Socialist.” in 1977: Gibbons refers to the new designation as "Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya".

Sources: ScS [4], SGP1 [5], SGP8 [3], SGP13 [2], Journal v10n4pp9-11 [1].

Image from David Olson, colnect, Delcampe, ebay.

FI ref: 363, 419, 539, 540, 592, 617 Page credit: NB

Page created 20 Sep 2016 Page updated 03-Aug-2017