One of the great joys of dealing in stamps and covers is buying an auction lot and working through the individual items. Invariably I will find some very interesting items and a careful look at any stamps with a legible postmark is very high on my agenda.
I recently worked through an ex-dealers stock and came across a couple of items from British Levant. My first impression was that the stamps were not in great condition and that they would be going into a bulk lot for auction on my Ebay shop (https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/newtonhallstamps).
However, the post marks on two of the items drew my attention. Referencing my copy of Stanley Gibbons Part 1 prices for the 40 paras on 2½d lilac and 80 paras on 5d dull green are nothing special:
The fact that both values have got easily identifiable cancellations does change things somewhat. The 40 paras overprint has a Beyrout (Beirut) British Post Office post mark. The 2½d lilac overprint cancelled with a British Post Office Beyrout post mark is listed as Sg Z43 with a catalogue value of £12.00.
The 5d dull green 80 para overprint is clearly a rarer beast. Catalogued as Sg Z138 it is valued at £95 when cancelled with a British Post Office Constantinople post mark. The image shows a particularly good example and clearly reads ‘British Post Office Constantinople JA 7 90’.
British Levant is a term used for issues used in the former Ottoman Empire. Arrangements for setting up British Post Offices in the area were included in the Treaty of Balta Liman signed between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain in 1838. However, the system dis not start to operate until 1857 when a post office for civilian use was opened in Constantinople in September 1857. This replaced the Army Post Office which had been open since June 1854.
In total there were five British Post Office’s opening in the Ottoman Empire. The Beirut Post Office opened in March 1873 and closed on 30 September 1914 with the post office in Constantinople closing on the same day. It did reopen on 4 February 1918 finally closing on 27 September 1923.