VII. KING FAISAL I - EMERGENCY OVERPRINTS, 1932

First issued: 1st April 1932
Currency: Iraqi dinar (1,000 fils = 1 dinar)
Production: Government Press, Baghdad


 King Faisal in October 1932, celebrating Iraq's accession to the League of Nations. (  Library of Congress  ) 

King Faisal in October 1932, celebrating Iraq's accession to the League of Nations. (Library of Congress

So as we saw on page V, the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1922 had a duration of just four years, and would thus expire at the end of 1928 (remember that the Treaty was only ratified in December 1924). The Treaty also contained a promise on Britain's part that they would advocate for Iraq to join the League of Nations, and the idea seems to have been that, by the end of 1928, Britain would have Iraq's membership of the League all squared away, and Iraq would be running so smoothly that Britain could just let the Treaty fall away and allow Iraq to stand on its own two feet. 

Of course this ambition went unrealised: although Iraq had managed to get itself a basically functioning government, the country's political dysfunctions and weak economy were obviously apparent. Neither the League nor Britain felt that Iraq was ready for independence in 1928, and so the British kicked the date down the road to 1932. The Treaty was still due to expire in 1928, however, so a new treaty on much the same terms as the old one was signed in December 1927, with an end date of 1932.

By the end of the 1920s Iraq was functioning a little better, and the 1929 general election saw a change of government in Britain. The new government took a dimmer view of Britain's involvement in Iraq (and the seemingly endless expenses it generated) than the outgoing one, and made it clear they intended to abide by the 1932 date. Regardless, the abandonment of the 1928 date caused so much nationalist outrage in Iraq that a second postponement may never have been politically feasible. 

So everybody sat down again and eventually came up with the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930. This was a more substantial agreement than the 1927 one, and was intended to govern the two countries' relationship after Iraq became independent (that this would take place in 1932 was re-affirmed). 1932 duly rolled around, Britain was able to convince the League of Nations to set aside whatever lingering concerns it may have had, and Iraq was admitted to the League on the 6th October 1932. The Mandate was set aside on the same date, the 1930 Treaty came into force, and Iraq was now officially an independent country. The 1930 Treaty was a genuine advance on the previous ones: Britain surrendered all of its formal powers over the internal workings of Iraq, although Iraq agreed to "full and frank consultation... in all matters of foreign policy", and Britain reserved the use of certain military facilities in the country. The military alliance remained and the details were expanded on: Iraq now conceded to Britain the use of "all facilities and assistance... including the use of railways, rivers, ports, aerodromes and means of communication" in the event of "war or the imminent menace of war".

Reaction to the Treaty in Iraq seems to have been fairly mixed: many nationalists saw the powers reserved to the British as a vehicle by which they could still control the country, although the fact that Iraq was now in the League of Nations was of course received positively. Naturally Britain expected that, in addition to its formal rights under the Treaty, it would also maintain a great degree of unofficial influence over Iraq, but we'll see in the coming pages how far this influence actually ran in practice.

 1½ anna stamp of the 1923 issue with official service overprint, adapted for use in 1932. Care was taken that, where possible, the new-currency overprints should be placed onto the old-currency stamps which provided the same service. Pre-1932,  1½ annas was the rate for mailing a basic-weight letter within Iraq, and after the currency change the rate became 8 fils. Evidently it was thought more appropriate to use obsolete stamps of the correct rate, rather than 1931 stamps of an incorrect rate.

1½ anna stamp of the 1923 issue with official service overprint, adapted for use in 1932. Care was taken that, where possible, the new-currency overprints should be placed onto the old-currency stamps which provided the same service. Pre-1932, 1½ annas was the rate for mailing a basic-weight letter within Iraq, and after the currency change the rate became 8 fils. Evidently it was thought more appropriate to use obsolete stamps of the correct rate, rather than 1931 stamps of an incorrect rate.

One consequence of Iraq's independence was that it was freed from its links to the Indian monetary system, and was able to establish its own currency. This actually happened half a year before Iraq became independent — on the 1st April 1932 the rupee was replaced with the Iraqi dinar, with 1 dinar being equivalent to 11 rupees.[1]

Naturally a change in currency meant a change in stamps, and Bradbury Wilkinson were instructed to provide a new set of stamps for Iraq, of identical design to the 1931 issue but denominated in dinars and fils rather than rupees and annas. I have no idea what then happened, but evidently somebody goofed somewhere, and as April approached it was clear that the new stamps wouldn't be ready in time for the currency change. The hard-working employees of the Government Press in Baghdad might have hoped that their days of executing hastily-devised stamp overprints were long behind them, but they found themselves charged with taking all the unissued Indian currency stamps and modifying them accordingly, for use until the proper Iraqi currency stamps arrived from England. These went on sale on the date of the currency change, except the 2 fils and 4 fils, which didn't appear until the 21st April, for whatever reason.

These overprints are actually pretty good, considering the circumstances, although the Gibbons catalogue lists a cornucopia of inverts, missing parts, double impressions etc. — all of course priced prohibitively. On a more practical scale, you can see from the above pictures that the position of the overprints drifts around between stamps and the spacing between "fils" and the figure of value varies.

As can be seen, there was also some use made of the old pictorial issue to make up the numbers: the 20 fils overprint was put onto the 1931 4 annas, but the 25 fils overprint had to go onto the 1923 4 annas. Interestingly ("interestingly"), the official service stamps seem to have had shortages in different areas: there were enough service-overprinted 1931 4 annas to meet the need for both 20 fils and 25 fils overprints, but the printers had to resort to the 1923 issue for other values (as can be seen on the right).

The new fils stamps arrived not too long after these stamps went into circulation, and they were issued on the 9th May[2] — so these overprints were current for only about five weeks. The issue of the proper fils stamps however doesn't seem to have led to these stamps being invalidated: presumably it was thought fair to let people use up such stocks as they'd gathered in April. Like the 1931 issue, this one is again a little fiddly because of its short period of currency: these stamps don't appear incredibly often but, as with the previous issue, the lower values are fairly cheap when you can actually find them. The whole set is up here, save the ½ dinar, which I have won at auction and am waiting very patiently for the seller to ship out to me. The 1 dinar is very expensive (at least by my standards), and doesn't appear for sale so often, but in an act of Caligulan decadence I went and bought one anyway.


[1] A dinar was a valuable sum, being divided up into 1,000 fils. This appears slightly peculiar to somebody accustomed to decimal systems (e.g. myself), but it wasn't without precedent —  the Egyptian pound was at this time divided into 1,000 milliemes.

[2] Except, again, the 2 fils and 4 fils, which weren't issued until an unspecified date in June. The significance of these two values I couldn't even begin to guess at.