IV. SPECIAL ISSUE FOR MOSUL, 1919

First issued: 1st February 1919
Currency: Indian rupee (16 annas = 1 rupee)
Production: Government Press, Baghdad

The vilayet of Mosul made up the northern third (approximately) of Ottoman Iraq, and was generally Kurdish in character. The region was under the control of Indian Expeditionary Force D by November 1918, and the regular British occupation issue (see previous page) was initially used there as it was in the rest of Iraq. However, following the conclusion of the First World War, the region faced an uncertain future. The initial version of the post-war territorial settlement gave it to the French, but they ended up surrendering their claim over the region to the British, whereupon it became the subject of a territorial dispute between Turkey and Britain, the former claiming it as successors to the Ottoman Empire and the latter wanting it for their own purposes. The British believed — in the end, correctly — that the region held significant oil reserves, and they felt that annexing it (and its mostly Sunni population) to Iraq would help balance out the rest of Iraq, which was mostly Shia but dominated politically by Sunnis. The dispute ended up being referred to the League of Nations for arbitration.

Anyway, while all this controversy was going on, it was decided that stamps which loudly proclaimed the region was "IN BRITISH OCCUPATION" were a touch provocative, and so they were replaced with the issue we have here. The stamps here are Ottoman revenue stamps (with some very funky designs), dug up somewhere and pressed into service with an overprint applied at the Government Press in Baghdad. "I.E.F. 'D'" of course stands for Indian Expeditionary Force D, they having control of the region during the dispute. The wording of the overprint is basically meaningless without context — which was, I assume, the intention.

The stamps lasted until sometime in 1921 when stocks ran out. Despite a resolution to the dispute being nowhere in sight, the old British occupation stamps were reintroduced to the region, and the Mosul issue was eventually invalidated on the 1st September 1922. The League of Nations, long story short, ultimately awarded Mosul to Britain in 1925. Britain had, at various points, toyed with the idea of splitting off the most strongly Kurdish parts of the region and administering those separately, but in the end the whole region was incorporated into Iraq.

The basic issue consists of the six stamps up there. There are two main varieties: first, a different version of the 1 anna value (at right) where the underlying stamp is of broadly the same design but with the monogram of Abdul Hamid II (r. 1876-1909) in the centre, instead of that of Mehmed V; and second, a different version of the 3 annas where the stamp has an orange burelage under the green printing. Gibbons gives both of these stamps major numbers, and while the 1 anna variety isn't priced as much, the 3 anna variety is a neat £65 (and infrequently appears for sale), so I'm happy to just treat it as an optional extra. Finally there exists a few 8 anna overprints on the stamp which was meant to receive the 4 anna overprint: this is no less of a variety than the two described above, I should think, but Gibbons only gives it a minor number, for whatever reason (and prices it at £2,750, so it'll never appear here).

This issue seems to have generated some interest at the time it appeared, and seemingly for a time the stamps were trading on the secondary market for inflated prices (Proud quotes an official postal notice from mid-1919 reminding readers that the entire issue can be got for face value in the Baghdad head office). Today the issue is most commonly seen mint, and almost all of the postmarks one encounters are of the neat, cancelled-to-order sort. Gibbons prices stamps on cover at a 50x multiple, which is probably some indication of how rare sincerely used specimens are.

PS I also possess a copy of the 1 anna which is a sort of off-brown colour instead of pink: seemingly leaving them out in the sun too long will do this to them. I was rather startled when I first saw this.