A never issued stamp from an occupied Ethiopia by way of Switzerland

How should we think about a never issued, though officially sanctioned stamp. Well, by discussing the situation that brought it about. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

The visuals of this stamp are disappointing to me. A nurse helping out on a stamp is perhaps a good way to draw sympathy for the plight of the Ethiopian people. The style of the stamp is very reminiscent of French or Portuguese stamps from their then African colonies. This is just wrong. What made Ethiopia so special and the then circumstances so tragic is that Ethiopia was the one area of Africa never to have been conquered by the Europeans. This was only to suffer an invasion by a second string Africa player Italy at the end of the colonial period. This was not the time to issue stamps that matched the style of African colonies. The printing was done in Switzerland however and in this philatelists opinion, too much of the design work was seceded to them.

The stamp today was never issued. although Scott has given it issue A39. Versions were issued in 1945, about 10 years after printing with a red V for victory. There are also versions with surcharges and mistakes in overprints. A unissued stamp like mine without overprints is worth $1.25 according to the Scott catalog.

Haile Selassie assumed the title of Emperor of the Ethiopian empire in 1930. There was an interesting period before that where there was an Empress, his mother, and an himself an Emperor with a regency. His mother tried to stage a coup and have him removed but the palace guard was loyal to Haile Selassie and he was able to become sole ruler. It was an expansionist empire that succeeding in taking over the Arab African Sultanate of Jimma  after the death of their Sultan. This was accomplished militarily and his army also put down several uprisings in the early years. There were also Ethiopian designs on the Italian area of Eritrea, which would have gave Ethiopia an outlet to the sea.

In 1935 Ethiopia was invaded by Italy. Allegedly the purpose was to avenge an Italian defeat in an earlier war and to end the practice of slavery in Ethiopia. Fighting went on for about 8 months but Ethiopia eventually was conquered and Haile Selassie went into exile, first in Jerusalem, and later in England.

Haile Selassie made an impassioned plea for his nation at the League of Nations where Ethiopia was a member and therefore entitled to mutual defense if attacked. Large European nations were in no way willing to go to war with powerful Italy, ignored Ethiopia’s plea, and recognized Italian sovereignty. Italy did indeed end the widespread slavery in Ethiopia and started a project of modernization including road building and 30 thousand colonists.

Once World War II broke out, Italy’s time in Ethiopia was numbered. A British and South African force invaded in 1941 and quickly defeated the Italians. Haile Selassie was again recognized as Emperor of Ethiopia and ruled until ousted in a coup in 1974. Eritrea was given to Ethiopia after the war. Interestingly though Haile Selassie was removed by coup, his son took his throne 3 times. Kind of. First in the early 60s there was an attempted coup while his father was traveling abroad. He signed accepting the throne under duress but returned power to his father when he returned. The military coup that replaced Haile Selassie announced that his son would be recognized as Emperor upon his return. His son chose not to return and the monarchy was abolished 6 months later. When the later communist regime appeared weak in 1989 the son self proclaimed himself emperor from London. His proclamation was not recognized in Ethiopia and he did not return. Haile Selassie died in confinement in his palace in 1975 and his son died in 1997.

Haile Selassie is thought of as the Messiah of God by the Rastafarians mainly in Jamaica. The Emperor was always a member of the Ethiopian arm of the Coptic Egyptian Orthodox church. He did not condemn the Rastafarians allowing them a village in Ethiopia but dispatched Ethiopian bishops to the West Indies to try to bring then into line with church teachings.

Well my drink is empty and again I am confronted with a fake stamp. That does not mean it did not tell a good story. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.