R. Howard Courtney

My Involvement

My interest in the stamps of Dubai began in the late 1970’s when I received an auction catalog from the stamp auction firm of Robert Lippert. The catalog contained numerous pages of printer’s waste, proofs, stamps, and who knows what else, from Dubai and the other sheikhdoms. I had never seen anything like this material previously and I found that I kept returning to the catalog as the weeks went by. The Dubai material particularly interested me but conditioned by the then current feeling in the philatelic press, I knew I should avoid it as five of the seven Trucial States (Referred to in this catalog as Sheikhdoms) relied on their stamp issues to support their governments, and the respective agents for the sheikhdoms began to flood the market with dubious issues, imperforate issues and souvenir sheets. Although Dubai was not one of those needing the revenue as badly as the others, the Philatelic Agency jumped on the bandwagon and produced a multitude of issues. These policies caused them to be negatively referred to as “sand dune issues.”

Twenty three years after the last stamp was issued for Dubai, the reputation of the sheikhdoms lived on as evidenced by an ad that appeared in the September 25, 1995 issue of Linn's Stamp News.

"A great, great stock of supurb mint, complete sets & souvenir sheets, all never hinged, from 32 different colonies!!! No Trucial States, No junk!"

The stamps of all the sheikhdoms, except Abu Dhabi, received the A.P.A (American Philatelic Association) “Black Blot” and condemnation of the F.I.P. (Federation Internationale de Philatelic). It was unanimously voted in 1967 at the F.I.P. Amsterdam Congress that the banned listings could not be shown in F.I.P. stamp exhibits. It is ironic that one of the stamps they banned was a Sharjah issue commemorating the F.I.P..

To support the F.I.P., the German Michal Catalog placed a lozenge-shaped figure next to the “banned” issues. They abandoned this practice in 1985. The Scott catalog to this day does not list all the issues under Dubai, but does list the majority of them at the back of the catalog with little information about them.

All of Dubai’s issues were “black blotted” and “banned” by the F.I.P.. While the A.P.S. black blot was never officially ended, it was allowed to die a natural death and no new listings were published after 1982. The F.I.P. ban ended in the mid-1980s when it’s rules failed to specify stamps that exhibitors were forbidden to display.

In retrospect, I think one of the reasons I was drawn to the Dubai material is because the word “Dubai” is very attractive when written in Arabic script (above in red). I had earned a Master's degree in Arabic, took many classes in Middle Eastern subjects and have a graduate certificate in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Utah. I had also lived in the Middle East (Jordan) on two occasions, where I taught at Friend's Boys School in Ramallah, and later at Bir Zeit College, in Bir Zeit. I also have done graduate work in Mesopotamian Archaeology and Persian Literature at the University of Chicago.

Because of my interest in that part of the world I found teaching jobs there. My first job was at Friend's Boy's School in Ramallah and ended in a disaster of sorts. Having just come form two months of hitch-hiking through Central America, I ended up in the American University of Beirut Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon, with a bacterial infection on my mitral valve. I was a patient in the hospital when Kennedy was assassinated. After two months of being in the hospital I returned to Ramallah to find that my health dictated that I should return to the States.

Two years later, I married and my wife and I obtained teaching jobs at Bir Zeit College (Now renamed Bir Zeit University). I taught, Anthropology, Sociology, Great Literature of the World and an English class in the affiliated high school. Both schools are in the West Bank and are now in the occupied territory.

Eventually I drove 350 miles to Michigan to the auction and bid on all the Dubai lots. With little competition I was about ninety percent successful in my bidding on all the Dubai material.

In the following days I examined the material and soon came to the conclusion that the standard stamp catalogs I had access to were of no use in making sense of what I had purchased. Even the auction house had problems describing the material. There would be a description of a particular item in one listing but they neglected to mention the same item that was found in other lots, often in multiples. Other items were not mentioned at all even when there were multiples in the grouping.

For the next few years I made lists, wrote letters (This was all before the Internet) and traded a tremendous Saudi Arabian collection for a tremendous early Dubai collection. That introduced me to the lengthy history of the Dubai postal service under the British (1909 – 1963), a subject I had known nothing about previously.

At the time, one could easily add covers from the British period to a collection, but it was almost impossible to find genuinely used stamps and covers from the 1963 -1972 period. For those who currently collect the later material, is it apparent the situation has not changed much. What has changed is that the early British period material has skyrocketed in price. This is partially due to the increased interest of Arab collectors from the Gulf area.

I am reminded of a story told to me by M. Max Mayo, who wrote the first catalog for the Saudi Arabian material during this period. After his catalog was made available he said it became harder to buy the material. On one occasion he flew to Switzerland to an auction and was surrounded by Arabs all reading his catalog. As a result, he was not very successful with his bidding and shortly thereafter decided he needed to find a new collecting interest and sold his collection. At the time, it was undoubtedly the most extensive collection of that material in existence.

Within a few years I had amassed an interesting collection of independent Dubai material, but still had no reliable information to work with. For various reasons, in the late 1980s I sold my collection and lost all interest in stamps. Being a collector at heart (I have had collections of Persian carpets, stained glass windows, WWI posters, antiquities, autographs, antiques, jazz posters, art, etc.), I kept my notes, photostats, and correspondence for future reference in case I might need them, and a few covers.

A few years later, with nothing to do on a Sunday morning, I attended a stamp show. While wandering around and looking for something that might interest me and possibly lead me back to collecting, I found and purchased a few common Dubai sets. Once I had returned home and dug out my previous notes, I was solidly hooked again and started writing and telephoning collectors to see what they had to sell or trade.

Back in the 1970s I had been in contact with Mr. Michel Stephan (pictured below) who lived in Beirut, Lebanon. I had obtained his address from the late Bruce Conde when I told him of my collecting interests. Mr. Stephan had indicated he had a large stock of Dubai material and needed to sell some of it as this was the period when Lebanon was involved in their civil war. When I would write to him he would always answer my letters but indicated he did not have the time to deal with small orders. He would make offers of quantities of material that I could not afford, nor would I know what to do with it if I could. After I sold my collection our correspondence ceased.

Surprisingly, in the early 1990’s he sent me a letter from Morocco where he had moved to avoid the turmoil in Lebanon. I put the letter aside but did not contact him as he was again trying to sell quantities of material. In 1993, I contacted him and told him of my plans to write a catalog on the issues of Dubai. He indicated his willingness to help, stating he still had the original contract and “lots of Dubai material.” It was only at that time that I found out that he had been the Agent for the early stamps of the country and he was “The Dubai Philatelic Agency”. Mr. Stephan owned the Baroody Stamp Company that had obtained the contract with the Sheikh of Dubai, under that name. After signing the contract he created the Dubai Philatelic Agency to handle and sell the stamps. Eventually we began to do business and I would constantly ask questions about his roll in producing the material, or information regarding specific issues. He had originally led me to believe he had all the records from his time as the Agent. It was very frustrating for me as he would virtually never fully answer a question and I found that I was asking the same questions of him, years later.

Mr. Stephan eventually returned to Beirut and we continued our correspondence once he was settled, and I began to telephone him and send him FAXs when I had questions, or was looking for particular items. Remember that this was before most people had computers and email access. It soon became apparent that Mr. Stephan was willing to be of assistance, but little would be revealed, pointed questions would not be answered and specific topics were taboo. He would often state he knew nothing about a particular subject or person and eventually stated his records had been destroyed in the Lebanese Civil War. Whether this was true or not, I will never know. It certainly provided a wall which he could hide behind when I asked specific questions he didn't want to reply to. When he would tell me he didn’t remember someone’s role in the production of an item, I would ask him if he could give me the individual's address so I could contact him. His first reaction was to ask if I wanted the address to try to buy stamps from the person.

For someone who told me he was willing to cooperate and provide information, his answers were for the most part very vague. When I asked the full name of the designer of a set of stamps, the response I received was "he is a photographer in Beirut”. It was not uncommon for his partial answers to questions to have provided completely new information on the subject at hand, but not offering the information requested. That often led to the need to ask multiple questions about the same subject, which in turn, were not fully answered. In all fairness, it was also obvious to me that he did not realize the importance of documenting much of this information, nor did he want the truth to be known about some of his activities.

One area I wanted to pursue was the creation of the Dubai aerogrammes. Mr. Stephan had told me that Mr. Lorenzo had “made all the arrangements” and he knew nothing about them. That was certainly an odd response from the person who had the contract to design, print and issue all the material, since they made a great deal of money selling them to collectors. When I asked for Mr. Lorenzo’s son’s address, as I knew he had sold some stamps to dealers after his father’s death, he wrote, “I like to know why you want his address and whether you think if he has a stock of Dubai for sale especially in complete sheets of the definitives”. The subject of the definitives was not something I had even inquired about at the time. I soon realized I was not going to get much information from the one source that could provide it and the prospect of a catalog began to fade.

Mr. Stephan was a Palestinian who fled Palestine, along with many others, when the State of Israel was created. At the time he had been working at the post office and was a part-time stamp dealer. He fled to Beirut, Lebanon and worked for the Baroody Stamp Company and eventually became the owner.

The late stamp dealer Patrick Hudson, who had lived in Beirut, Lebanon for a while, had told me back in the early 1970’s about a Palestinian dealer in Beirut who would listen to what you were looking for in Palestine stamps and then tell you to return in a few days. In many instances he would then have the item you asked about. It turned out that he was forging stamps and covers. Patrick did not want to reveal the dealer’s name but I was persistent and he eventually stated it was the owner of the Baroody Stamp Company, i.e., Mr. Stephan.

Mr. Mosden told me that at the time Mr. Stephan fled Palestine, he was an employee of the Post Office and he took the cancellors with him to Beirut and kept them. He then laughed and asked, "Are the covers he made really fakes"? He then alluded to Palestinian overprints he, himself, had made.

Mr. Stephan had had a less-than-honorable reputation as a dealer for years and was known to traffic in forged overprints. Consequently, many auction houses in Europe and the U.S. refused to accept consignments from him. Mr. Stephan himself related that to me, as did several well known stamp firms. However, he did not mention that he was the one responsible for creating the fakes.

In the 1990s he asked me to contact a dealer who he claimed owed him money. I did not want to get involved in a dispute that did not involve me and I simply sent a letter to the dealer stating that I was asked to pass on the information. Evidently there was more to the situation that I had been told and Mr. Stephan wanted me to contact the APS and file a complaint against the dealer, in his name. I declined, but sent him the information on how to pursue the issue.

Prior to his death, he spent considerable time telling his methods of producing fake and forged items to a confidant, who is now following in his footsteps and for several years has been producing more Dubai fantasies and similar items for at least one of the sheikhdoms. The individual himself related the information regarding learning how to make the fakes from Mr. Stephan to me. Many of the items are so blatantly fraudulent, I am surprised action has not been taken against him.

During one telephone conversation he mentioned that his American agent during this period was Mr. Ezzet Mosden (pictured below), who lived in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was surprised as I had made several Dubai purchases at a stamp show from Mr. Mosden’s brother back in the 1970’s. When I had asked where he had obtained the material he mentioned that he had gotten it from his brother. I obtained his brother’s address and then contacted Mr. Ezzet Mosden and made several purchases from him. At that time neither he nor his brother had mentioned his involvement with Dubai, even though they knew I was greatly interested in the Dubai items they were selling.

Once I made contact with Mr. Mosden, I came to realize he was the key to putting things into perspective as he was very open in his correspondence and our telephone calls and related the stories behind some of the issues. Eventually I flew to Las Vegas and spent four days with him. He was very cooperative and helped me fit the myriad pieces of the puzzle together for most of the period of the Baroody contract. His candor was often shocking after the silence, half-truths and denials I had been getting from others. When talking about Mr. Stephan Mr. Mosden stated to me when I visited him, "I was double-crossed several times, even Michel Stephan was bribed by U.S. dealers such as Fatoulla and Lazar and Heishaupt, and reprinted stamps and sold issues to British dealers too. Mr. James Davis got the Innsbruck overprint. When I confronted Mr. Stephan he told me I had the Agency for the U.S. and he could sell in Beirut to anyone who came there". Mr. Mosden also stated that some of the Dubai issues only made it into the European catalogs because he was persistant and kept after them to list them.

Their partnership was at times a love/hate relationship as one would create an item and make the other buy them if he wanted them. Years later they both were concerned about the other and often asked me what I knew about the other's health and to offer my best wishes when I had contact.

When I would ask Mr. Stephan about specific instances Mr. Mosden had related to me he would deny everything or tell me he didn’t remember. Without Mr. Mosden’s assistance this catalog could not have been written.

Those who were involved in the production and sale of the early stamps have either passed away or are now in their late 70’s or 80’s. Both Mr. Stephan and Mr. Mosden passed away several years ago, and Mr. Lorenzo prior to both of them. I had wanted to get this project finished while Mr. Stephan and Mr. Mosden were still living but over the years was not able to obtain the information I needed for the later Dubai issues. Since I would not have wanted to embarrass either of them, I would have left out some of the questionable practices they were involved in, but now include in this catalog.

All illustrations are from my collection, unless otherwise stated.

The Problem

Postal service began in the Trucial States when the Dubai Post Office opened on August 19, 1909, as an Indian Branch Post Office under the direction of the Karachi Post Office in India. Indian and other merchants had petitioned the Indian Government to provide postal services due to the commercial activity in Dubai. From 1909 to 1947 Indian stamps were sold and used in Dubai, and from August 1947 until March 1948, Pakistani stamps were used as the city of Karachi was now part of the newly created country of Pakistan.

From March 1948 to 1961 the British "value only" stamps were used in Dubai (and Muscat). In 1961 the single set of "Trucial States" (as the set is known) stamps were used in Dubai and Muscat until Dubai had control of it's own issues on 15 June, 1963.

With the withdrawal of the British from the Gulf, and the creation of the United Arab Emirates in 1972, Dubai ceased to issue it’s own stamps, as did the other sheikhdoms. In his book THE POSTAL AGENCIES IN EASTERN ARABIA AND THE GULF, that deals with the postal history of the Gulf prior to the sheikhdoms issuing their own stamps, , Neil Donaldson ended the chapter on Dubai with the following two paragraphs:

"An official announcement declared ". . .a special policy for issuing attractive stamps in limited quantities according to the market demand and easily obtained at normal prices by all subscribers who comply with our sales conditions. . .".

"Unfortunately, they then allowed a philatelic agency to take control of the stamp issuing policy. . . and subsequently issues were unattractive and were not easily obtainable at normal prices! However, the error of their ways soon became apparent and, from 1965 onwards, all stamps issued by the agency were at least readily available at the Post Office. From March 1967 the Government of Dubai reassumed full control of it's stamp issues."

The last paragraph nearly sums up the totality of what was written about the philatelic history of independent Dubai during that period. I had not been able to locate any detailed literature on the stamps, aerogrammes, postal cards, first day covers, cancellations, nor any other aspect of interest to collectors, other than an extremely interesting and thought provoking article by Ken Lawrence and an article on the 1967 overprinted Definitives by S.A. Jones. Occasional articles appeared with an overview of the sheikdoms that included from a paragraph to a page on Dubai, but nothing detailed.

Nearly forty years after the last Dubai set was released, collectors still have no reference source for the 1963 - 1972 period. Items are still surfacing in the philatelic market that have not been previously seen by more than a handful of people, with many of those individuals now deceased. Often these items cannot be properly identified and appear in auction catalogs and on the Internet as “proofs”, “essays” or “trials”, when in fact they are no such things.

Over the years there emerged a body of misinformation about Dubai’s issues that has come to be accepted as fact and it is my hope that this catalog will help clarify matters.

The one response I could count on in the past when I told anyone I was writing a catalog on the stamps of Dubai was, “Why are you writing a catalog on Dubai?,” followed by laughter or a sarcastic comment. Ken Lawrence’s article best sums up my reasons.

“…most of the Trucial States issues were chronicled as they appeared. If only to provide grist for acid commentary, but philatelic scholars avoided gathering comprehensive information about them at the time when it would have been readily available, leaving a large void for today’s researchers,” and “…The stamp hobbies gradually changing attitude justifies a new look at the stamps that once were regarded as beneath contempt.”

He continues and states that his article was an attempt to begin the process.

“Many years after the last Dubai set was issued, collectors still have no reference source for the stamps, First Day Covers, aerogrammes and postal cards, other than the major stamp catalogs that are incomplete and contain numerous errors. Fortunately others have begun to document the various postal cancellations and markings that were used during this period.”

Mr. Lawrence additionaly writes,

"From today's perspective, Dubai had embarked on a pioneering adventure in issuing popular topical stamps and marketing them to collectors through a foreign philatelic agent (in Beirut, Lebanon), a practice subsequently pursued by many countires, including the United States"

My inquiries about the period in question to the Sheikh of Dubai, the Postmaster of the United Arab Emirates, and the former Secretary of the Sheikh, who was involved in the contract to produce Dubai’s first stamps, and indirectly, later issues, all went unanswered. Fortunately, the Postmaster gave my letter to a fellow collector in Dubai, Mr. Malek Omer, who, as a sidelight to his architectural business, wrote articles on stamp collecting for the KHALEEJ TIMES (GULF TIMES). He contacted me and directed me to a few collectors living in Dubai who might be able to help me.

Through the contacts provided by Mr. Omer and others, I was told that there was no one in the Post Office who was around during the period in question and that no records had been kept. Others told me that that period in their postal history was an embarrassment to the government and I would most likely not receive any help from them. I was also told that no one took the issues seriously, and no one collected them.

A great deal of information is still needed to present the total picture, but this effort will hopefully serve as a frame upon which information can be added. Rather than publish the information I have in print form, I have chosen to post it on the Internet for anyone interested to view. My intention is to add to this catalog, or make corrections as new information is provided to me by readers.


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